Elle Woods as a traditionally femme feminist

Legally Blonde is a film about sorority girl Elle Woods whose boyfriend breaks up with her in senior year of college. He reasons that he needs someone more "serious" to fit in with his future political career: "I need to marry a Jackie, not a Marilyn." Out of spite, Elle applies to Harvard Law and gets in. The film powerfully highlights the concept of identity politics as it deals with gender stereotypes and the struggle of being taken seriously as an overtly feminine woman in the male-dominated world. Despite never claiming to be a feminist film, the narrative does not fall prey to old portrayals of women - showcasing a reclamation of "girl culture," which strongly resonates with the purposes of third-wave feminism.

I believe Legally Blonde is a perfect example of how after the 70s movement of women completely rejecting everything feminine to protest the tyranny of female appearance and be taken more seriously, there needed to be representation in the media of how you can be traditionally feminine and still be a competent professional and a feminist, a novel idea for its time. Elle was happiest surrounded by women, in spaces alive with a sense of community and nurturing energy, traits typically associated with femininity and while stereotyping only females as nurturing is problematic, embracing these qualities isn't something to be ashamed of. This was also reminiscent of Judith Butler's concept of how becoming a man or a woman is also a loss, that femininity is gained through losses and having to uphold and attain certain characteristics, however, it isn't something that should make one completely despise everything feminine and I belive Elle Woods can be interpreted as doing that; keeping her identity intact while also fighting stereotypes. At Harvard, she is ridiculed because of her looks and naive behavior, seen as nothing more than the cliched ditzy blonde. However, despite the stereotyping and discrimination, she struggles not to lose her identity, accepting the lawyer in her while still holding onto the femininity that makes her uniquely Elle Woods. She uses her specialized knowledge to figure out the Brooke Windham case and stands up against harassment by a male professor to prove that she is more capable than the males objectifying her.

Elle has inspired many women, including me, to become lawyers, assuring them that there's nothing wrong with having a 'pink phase' or being typically feminine. Legally Blonde sets vital precedence in identity politics and feminism by embodying how traits and esthetics seen as traditionally femme are powerful in their own right and created a precedent in media about overtly feminine protagonists, establishing Elle Woods as a feminist icon ahead of her time.


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