Am I still a Feminist for liking Little Women?

by Ellie Fulcher

Warning: Major 152-year-old spoilers.

“Little Women is white women’s Black Panther” – Sarah Hagi

I had never seen or read Little Women but when I saw Greta Gerwig: the inventor of women, was remaking the classic, I was OBSESSED.  It is the first film I’ve watched that made me feel that people like me have universally existed through time and space.  Often my resistance with old timey texts is that I just don’t understand the character’s 18th century lives enough to care.  After watching I felt I wanted to talk to someone.  Someone who had more background on the film than watching “Saoirse Ronan and Timothee Chalamet are really in love” compilation videos underscored by Ed Sheeran on YouTube. AKA someone who had actually read the book.  So I messaged my friend Anna.

Anna and I met in English class by alphabetical coincidence of a terrible year 10 teacher’s seating plan.  I listened and became friends with Anna as she read the love section of our anthology whilst we were supposed to be annotating conflict poems. Anna would talk about Boys, the band Peace and books, I would daydream and nod along thinking about how clever it all was.  

“I first read Little Women in Primary School I think I was about 10. It took me a while to get into it, but once I started I really enjoyed it reading about these girls and their aims and dreams.  I really like that all the girls have their own dreams be that in a job sense or finding love and family, and none of these things seem less or more important or valid.” Anna says.

This is the same way the film warmed my heart by the energy that comes with a gaggle of women, I felt empowered by the depiction of talented women and sisterly love that felt familiar to me.  The relatability.  I am a Jo with a Meg rising; I too love flat caps, red capes and have a daughterly devotion to Laura Dern. My sister is just like Amy and my aunt is Marmee.  I ask Anna who she thought she was most like. “When I did the quiz I got Beth. But I think I could be like Meg mixed with a bit of Jo.” I would have thought that if Anna was anyone it would be Amy. I say this and then get scared that, that might be rude and I don’t mean it to be. “I like Amy a lot but I don’t know if I’d be willing to marry for money, maybe that’s because I don’t have to, but I deffo have her annoying streak. I watched a video called: Amy being baby for 3 mins and I connected.”

Anna was the first person I knew who called themselves a Feminist and actually knew what that meant.  I would say it, in a generalised equality way, but Anna practiced it and was conscious of a feminist world even sat in that year 10 class.  She spoke about Little Women with such a consideration of the circumstances. My feminism has hopefully developed as I’ve learnt more.  I thought I was doing the same as Anna sat in the cinema being overwhelmed by the talent and ownership of four independent and individual sisters.

Then enters the Lawrence Boy.

Timothée Chalamet galloped onto the screen and 1800’s Lanky high fashion stole my heart. From then on, I spent the whole film wanting Jo to disregard her feminist pursuit of spinsterhood and marry the boy who proposed on the hill. Jo March is my Jennifer Anniston, Laurie is Brad and Amy, Angelina. All we need is a SAG awards style reunion to change everything.

(Brad and Jen at the SAG Awards. If I was an Amy, then I would have used my artistic abilities to edit Jo and Laurie’s face on to Brad and Jennifer’s.)

As a 21-year-old who’s never been in a relationship but has been on women’s marches, campaigned against sexual harassment and owns a series of t-shirts with ‘you go girl’ style phrases, I was so confused by my want for Love over female independence.

Can I be a feminist and in pursuit of 1800’s marriage? Would Jo and Laurie be happy and together in today’s society? Is Marriage for women still nothing more than an economic proposition? Is Timothée Chalamet hotter than equality? Have I watched When Harry met Sally too many times?

So I ask Anna, am I no longer a feminist for wanting Jo to marry Laurie?

 “Now they (Jo and Laurie) could be together without marrying. I think Jo stands against marriage not against love. I want to sing myself down the wedding aisle. It will be lit. I don’t think it’s about money it’s about publically declaring your love for someone.”  Yeah Jo – listen to Anna. 

“Marriage is built off of an oppressive institution, in a sense of we’re essentially being sold. I don’t think it’s totally equal. I think the bit that seems its oppressive is more the actual ceremony than the marriage that follows. The wedding shouldn’t be oppressive because that’s just abusive.”

Anna is of course right. The stakes of marriage just aren’t them same. My relationship to love can never be the same as Jo’s because of the complexity of female History. I can separate marriage from the oppression, because 2020 marriage isn’t as oppressive? But relationships still exist within the patriarchy?  I ask Anna how she would feel about love if it was 1800 rules.

“I think I would still care about love but also back then you probs not gonna end up with someone you love and want, like as a woman. But also a lot harder to survive independently, like unless your rich basically. So my viewpoint on marriage would change.”

“tbh I question my own behaviours when I start liking people.”

What sort of behaviour do you start to question?

“I can’t say if someone cheated on me, I wouldn’t take them back. I would tell my mates to ditch and leave (kind of my feminist self) but when it’s me I’ll justify people’s actions.” Anna says this and my heart sinks.

I am the friend who always has the ditch and leave chat with their friends, like a good little feminist does. But is it right? I’ve probably said those words to Anna and never considered that maybe that’s not what she needs to hear, maybe feminism and love is more complexed than ditch and leave.

I suddenly feel the weight of my naivety as Feminism stops being a set of rules I subscribe to. Feminism can’t be un-emotional, at least not for me. Feminism needs to be messy, intersectional and heartfelt, constantly changing and evolving. It needs to work for every individual. I am a feminist, A feminist who longs for Jo to marry Teddy, and for Greta Gerwig to win an Oscar, and most importantly for my friend Anna to be happy as she sings herself down the aisle.

This was a guest contribution from Ellie Fulcher. Ellie is a Writer, Improviser and Facilitator in London. She is obsessed with pop culture, new writing and comedy. She is on Twitter and Instagram @elliefulcher.