Leslie Knope, you magnificent goddess.
I recently finished binge-watching all seven seasons of Parks and Recreation on Netflix, and I'm not sure how to handle myself now that my time in Pawnee, Indiana has officially ended. While witnessing the entire Parks and Recreation department battle Pawnee's everyday mishaps was entertaining, nothing could possibly top watching Leslie Knope tackle the patriarchy. She clashes with Pawnee's conservative, small town mentality on multiple occasions, but is still determined to fight for what she believes in, whether its advocating safe sex for senior citizens or backing a controversial gay penguin marriage.
Leslie Knope is the feminist icon we so desperately need. She's spunky, optimistic, and driven. She doesn't let anything interfere with her goals. She's a politician whose passion for her position in government is contagious. She strives to solve Pawnee's problems without breaking her code of ethics, which can be a slippery slope in politics. She isn't afraid to fail, and when she fails she accepts it with grace and dignity.
The writers of Parks and Recreation could have modeled Leslie as a female version of Michael Scott from The Office. She could have been more interested in receiving the admiration of her peers than doing her actual job. In the first season of the series, Leslie has a few Michael Scott-esque moments. However, it is always evident that she is passionate about her job, and she earns the respect of her peers, male and female alike.
My favorite quality about Leslie is the fact that she values women. Shortly after her election as city councilwoman, Leslie christens her new office by hanging a wall of inspirational women. These smart and powerful women range from Condoleezza Rice to Madeleine Albright to Sally Ride. Leslie even includes a picture of herself on the wall, remarking, "I am big enough to admit that I am often inspired by myself."
Leslie also celebrates the women in her life. She is indefinitely supportive of all her friends, making sure to shower them with compliments and encourage them to follow their dreams. She loves her friends so much that she created her own holiday, Galentine's Day. Every February 13th Leslie brings all her gal pals together and celebrates her relationship with each and every one of them. Galentine's Day is a great excuse to honor your girlfriends, eat waffles with whipped cream, and live by the motto "Hoes before bros. Ovaries before brovaries. Uteruses before duderuses."
Another great feminist milestone for Leslie is found in the season 4 episode "Pawnee Rangers." After a little girl is denied membership to the all-boy Pawnee Rangers troop, Leslie takes it upon herself to organize the Pawnee Goddesses, an all-girls troop that throws puppy parties and has puppet shows about the Bill of Rights. The best part? The troop even lets boys join because gender exclusivity is not awesome. This entire episode is a not-so-subtle message that highlights the importance of giving young girls the opportunity to be independent, intelligent and strong. The episode also stresses the significance of not forcing young children into predetermined gender roles. The boys join the Pawnee Goddesses, make crafts and eat candy, while some of the girls opt to join "The Swansons," Ron Swanson's group that focuses on wilderness survival skills.
The greatest thing about Leslie Knope is that she never straight out says she is a feminist; her actions do all of the talking. Remember when she collected trash for a day, all in the name of feminism? After she confronts the sanitation workers for virtually not having a female representation in their department, she is met with the accusation that the average woman cannot handle the level of physical labor the job requires. Leslie responds by taking the opportunity to work as a trash collector for a day. Although she naturally is faced with some obstacles and a sabotage attack, Leslie successfully completes her route, forcing the sanitation department to hire more female employees.
I'm well aware that Leslie Knope is a fictitious character. However, through Amy Poehler's enthusiasm and witty inclusion of feminist principles, Leslie is brought to life. Leslie Knope is the complete embodiment of feminism; she doesn't treat feminism as a fad diet that will fade in a few weeks. Through her actions she demonstrates that feminism is good for everyone. Is political, social, and economical equality for all genders really too much to ask for?