Women, TV and Feminism: The Bold Type (Review)

Aisha Dee "The Bold Type." Photo Credit: Gina Pace

People enjoy stories they find relatable. This is why representation is a big deal today; everyone wants to see someone who looks like them on TV. It creates a sense of belonging and depending on the role and how they are portrayed, it makes them feel valid, particularly for minority communities. Where people all over the world are watching – hoping to see versions of themselves and the possibilities of what they can be, the Bold Type creates a huge umbrella for women, millennials and a plethora of other communities within these spaces. 

The Bold Type is a 5-season long TV series focused on Kat, Jane and Sutton. These women figure out life, career, and personal relationships as three different, independent, daring women. There are a lot of women-centered themes in this story. I’d explore and interpret them based on the message I think the series is trying to convey with how they portray these women. 

Fashion closet, now!

From the get-go, the three ladies huddle together in the fashion closet as soon as any of them summons a meeting. There, they share and solve problems from the minutest discomfort to making life changing decisions. No one is ever too busy for the other. When one needs the other, they almost always abandon everything else and huddle. They Uber to places and use Find my Friends to help each other at the shortest notice. 

While it is impossible to always be there for anyone that way considering the fast paces of most workplaces and the fact that life generally doesn’t work that way, the message of support and friendship is loud, bold and very positive. These ladies never show envy towards each other despite the fact that they are at different stages in their careers. They all make each other better.

This is a rare representation of female friendship. Usually, female friendship stories are told in a way that sells the idea that women fight for men. They disregard the actual concepts of support, platonic soulmates and the partnership gotten from friendships. It also fosters the patriarchal idea of validating a woman by the man she is with. The Bold Type’s focus of prioritizing female friendship and sisterhood couldn’t be more beautiful.

B for Bold!

A common theme here is doing really bold, independent stuff. Sutton starts off as an assistant and continuously steps out of her comfort zone to better career opportunities. She shoots her shot at love daringly and sticks to her values and personal mantra even when everyone else thinks it’s ridiculous. 

Kat stands up for causes she believes in all through the series even when it lands her in trouble too many times. She also explores her sexuality proudly. She appears in board meetings several times to defend an unusually bold step she has taken, or to challenge a rule she believes is discriminatory or non-feminist.  

Jane on the other hand starts a writing career by writing about the things that scare her the most, taking on projects that she finds most challenging and speaking up when she believes she is right. She also handles her diagnosis of the BRCA mutation in the most mature way. 

There are many things that portray these women as the bold type. They  take charge of their lives, make mistakes and grow. If “I love the woman I am becoming” had a face, it’ll be these women.

There is a beautiful revolution regarding doing things the way you want them done as opposed to how they are supposed to be done; doing you versus what you are expected to do. Sutton embodies this powerfully when she decides to have her wedding on her own terms, choosing the traditions she wants to stick with and the ones she just doesn’t like.

The message is pretty clear – women should get to be the authors of their lives, not the slates upon which traditions must be imprinted.

Let’s talk sex!

As a media outlet centered on women, Scarlet (the media company where the women work) sure does a lot of sexual liberation advocacy. There is an open attitude towards conversations about sex. In fact, there are free sex toys lying around the office as souvenirs. Jane and Sutton even have vibrators that look identical. Sex toys are portrayed as regular items girls should have like make up, or like a toothbrush.

It also explores sexual adventures through the other characters. There’s Jacqueline, their boss, who also shows interest in sex toys and getting her freak on. She is depicted as an attractive older woman trashing the idea that women have an expiry date for sexual activity. Jacqueline encourages her employees to have adventures on their own terms and create interesting  stories. 

Speaking of sexuality, the cast includes Kat who is discovering herself as a Bisexual woman , a gay man as the fashion stylist and an interesting introduction of a muslim lesbian. What makes this interesting is that this kind of diversity within minorities is not usually covered in the media. 

Let’s talk about dressing!

In spaces where feminism is not understood or accepted, feminists are usually portrayed as lonely angry cat owners. To many people, women with multiple piercings are wild and a woman is supposed to dress a particular way to be thought of as responsible. The Bold Type says ‘bullshit!’ to all of that. The women of the Bold Type are attractive, responsible women who flaunt multiple piercings, dress elegantly and publicly identify as feminists. There is also Andrew, a proud, proud, proud crossdresser. These characters are interesting, well-rounded individuals who continuously make meaningful contributions to the development of their society and what they choose to wear does not make them any less of who they are. 

Speaking of contribution, there is a huge way storytelling through social media plays a role in changing norms. And this is continuously illustrated in the Bold Type. The ladies influence change in all kinds of issues from starting conversations about sexual violation, helping former inmates with opportunities to work, climate change initiatives and challenging the corporations that profit off these issues. 

Everyone has access to these tools for storytelling. How the stories are told and who is telling them makes all the difference. It determines how an entire population of women see themselves and the opportunities they have access to in their careers, relationships and lifestyles and that is exactly what the Bold Type stands for.

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