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The Great ‘Gilmore’ Rewatch Party Vol. 1

Brave soul that she is, Arieanna over at GilmoreNews.com has, as promised, begun her journey to rewatch Gilmore Girls from the very beginning, generously using The Gilmore Girls Companion, in part, as inspiration for discussion.

Lorelai the Feminist

In this, her first discussion question, she’s spared no time in going right to the heart of the whole series with this one: Is Lorelai a feminist? Though ostensibly a no-brainer, this question is actually a pretty hard nut to crack for a number of reasons.

First, feminism is arguably a philosophy solely defined by its opposition to something else: patriarchy, or a male-dominated society. If you don’t feel held down by the system, you can’t, strictly speaking, define yourself as being against it. While suggesting that men and women are completely on equal terms anywhere in the world would be daft, so, too, is the suggestion that Lorelai is held down by a male-dominated society.

Though Lorelai has brushed up against male pig-headedness and its controlling ways — Richard and Christopher being the two biggest embodiments of these — her life as we’ve seen it has been relatively free of these things.

(One memorable exception is the way Taylor treats her when she protests the Dragonfly Inn’s new street name in “Welcome to the Dollhouse” (6.6). To get the street name changed, she agrees to make a donation to the historical society. “And then he said, ‘Good girl,’ and patted me on the head,” she tells Sookie and Michel. Of course, regular viewers know that Taylor treats everybody this way.)

Seldom is it male chauvinism that gets in Lorelai’s way; usually it’s the stupidity of the people around her, male and female, and her own struggles with discovering what it is she wants out of life.

In effect, most of her emotional angst derives from that privilege of the American middle class: choice paralysis. She literally has so many opportunities open to her throughout the series, from selling the Dragonfly and traveling the world as a consultant (5.20), to starting a new life with the newly wealthy Christopher (7.7), most of her time is spent fretting over what she actually wants to do with her life. This is not a female problem, it’s a human one. And frankly, it’s a nice problem to have.

Emily the Feminist?

Perhaps the more intriguing question is this: “Is Emily Gilmore a feminist.” Emily, after all, lived through a time when feminism as we know it came into being, when women’s rights in America truly were under the gun.

She went from her parents’ home to her marital home with Richard, never once knowing independence. She always lived her life the way she was taught to, supporting Richard by organizing his social life and making sure he had everything he needed. Though she took a certain pride in this, it was also a situation that virtually ignored the things that she wanted out of life. (This all came to a head in 6.9, “The Prodigal Daughter Returns.)

Over the course of the series, Emily made great strides in finding a sense of independence, often with Lorelai’s help. Though many feminists may have gnashed their teeth when she finally went back to Richard following their estrangement, it was never suggested that she did so because the patriarchy demanded this. She could’ve divorced him and lived very comfortably on the proceeds of that split.

No, what we saw was that Emily truly loved Richard. Though it’s impossible to argue that she ever enjoyed the freedom her daughter did, it can certainly be suggested that she learned from Lorelai to value her own worth in a male-dominated society, which may be what feminism is all about.

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