Nora Ephron and Feminism

I choose this title because we’ve lost yet another feminist author who managed to speak to just about everyone: Nora Ephron. I haven’t felt so bereft about the death of a writer since bidding farewell to Wendy Wasserstein.

Her death has gotten me worried about who speaks to feminism. I’ve read my high-brow feminists: Judith Butler, Nancy Fraser, Seyla Benhabib, Iris Marion Young, Gloria Anzaldúa, bell hooks, and more. But who can I think of who gives us a voice of feminism that is accessible whether or not you’re pursuing a degree in Women’s Studies?

The genius of Nora Ephron lies in her humor. The LA Times quotes her as having said, “When they write the history of the feminist struggle in America, I always wonder how this lunch will exactly fit in. We are definitely the best-dressed oppressed group.” Only someone who is well-aware of the privileged white-lady baggage of the movement comes up with a bit of sass like that.

She didn’t take feminism seriously, and that’s what made her powerful. The moment you start taking a movement seriously is the moment when you stop allowing it to move forward.

So who do we have? Who is our voice of humor about the way we live now as women?

The ladyblog, of course, but ladyblogs lack that essential component of any worthwhile movement: how do you talk to the people who don’t give a shit? How do you get someone to pay attention to a line like this, uttered by Meryl Streep in Silkwood,  I remember in high school her saying, ‘Now what’d you want to take that science class for? There’s no girls in that science class. You take home ec, why don’t you? That’s the way to meet the nice boys.’ ‘Mom,’ I said, ‘There ain’t no boys in home ec. The boys are in the science class.'”

Nora Ephron managed to avoid those accusations that are weighed against our most vocal feminist allies. While I’m sure she was called it at some point, she didn’t carry the name of man-hater or bitch. Not that there is anything wrong with those, but the fact that she avoided these names on a regular basis speaks to her ability to wrap up a powerful message in a pretty package that  demonstrated how we might want to treat women.

I mean, who else let everyone know that half of us are faking it?

So who is telling people who don’t give a shit about how women live now? Zoe Archer, of course, is amazing and deserves a place. And there have been a cadre of characters waving some sort of feminist flag: Brennan in Bones is very woman-positive, Buffy, of course, and Felicia Day’s creation in The Guild have a lot to say about the way women live now. Mad Men, which has a bunch of female writers, says a lot about feminism today even though it reflects on an earlier time. And let’s not forget Liz Lemon and Leslie Knope.

We have lots of voices, and we need to recognize them for what they’re doing to talk about feminism outside of that high-brow, hoity-toity stuff that a lot of us get introduced to as feminism. Feminism can be funny, clever, and able to speak across life experience.

If there’s anything that Nora Ephron taught us, it’s that.

By [E] Sally Lawton

My food groups are cheese, bacon, and hot tea. I like studying cities and playing with my cat, Buffy.

5 replies on “Nora Ephron and Feminism”

One of my favorite parts of Sleepless in Seattle was when Meg Ryan and Rosie O’Donnell ended a phone call by saying “I love you” to one another.  Such a simple thing, but so beautiful.  How often in movies/books do you see those words spoken by two unrelated people who aren’t romantically involved?

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