Does happiness for women depend on men?
Many women think so, as does most of society. And Bridget Jones is no exception. When we meet Bridget Jones blowing out her birthday candle alone at 43, abandoned by her friends who are happily coupled and raising families, “All by myself” plays in the background and only a girls’ weekend and a tussle with a stranger in a yurt (who she leaves before he can disappoint her) is enough to get her out of her funk.
She repeats the “love him and leave him” routine with a divorcing Mr Darcy. After the emotional trauma a lifetime of dating without success, Bridget is not surprisingly unable to trust men, views sex as a physical consolation, and has stopped hoping for anything better. It seems that even in film, happiness for women is inseparable from the need for a man.
As both men collaborate to carry Bridget to the hospital on foot because a Pussy Riot (a feminist group reminiscent of Femen which was represented by Mr Darcy, a human rights lawyer), Bridget Jones has had enough of women’s rights
and can’t wait to go have a baby, which has brought both men to her feet after years of searching, waiting, and trying miserably to be happy when single.
It’s not about the baby
It’s interesting to note that the impending motherhood implied in the title, while something Bridget wants deeply, is far from the star of the show. We see that she likes her godchildren but nothing that shows particular longing for a baby. Though Bridget talks to her bump and realizes that even if her fumbling potential fathers aren’t up to the job, she will just pick up and carry the load herself, the baby is just a plot device to see Bridget finally get a man, and a baby to boot despite her age. A real Hollywood happy ending, fulfillment of Bridget’s wildest dreams.
playing into the patriarchal notion that this is what happiness for women looks like. And therefore sells;
But after a few weeks’ reflection, I find it deeply troubling and a bit off. The title, “Bridget Jones’ Baby,” would be more accurate as “Bridget Jones’ Baby Dad(dies) Drama.”
Singledom as a subversive state
The most subversive thing that could happen would be for a woman to be happy without a man or a baby. Because of course, happiness for women is about men, marriage and motherhood. Bridget clearly is not happy, and her peers who are, come across as slovenly, sexually insatiable, emotionally immature female Peter Pans. Luckily nature took its course and biology gave Bridget her destiny, as the film would have it.
Even worse, Mr Darcy, who’s been chased by Bridget for the better part of a decade, only comes around when there’s a baby involved. Though he claims to want to be there for Bridget regardless of her fetus’ paternity, it took a more vulnerable life form than Bridget alone to bring out his better instincts. He only does the right thing because she’s pregnant and needs to be saved.
So when Pussy Riot blocks Bridget from the hospital, one way of seeing it is that today’s feminism is too strident and tasteless and blocks women who want to assume more traditional roles, which will actually make them happy. To be honest, the only reason I went to see the movie is because of this article I saw criticizing this particular scene. When I first heard about it, I was rather sympathetic to Bridget, thinking that some feminists don’t respect women’s choices when they are less out of the box, and perhaps om some happiness for women does depend on fulfilling traditional roles.
Make your own ending
I’ve struggled mightily with the feeling that perhaps if I am so independent to be happy without the two principle ingredients of adult womanhood as its currently constructed, I must be selfish, defective, or lying to myself. The things that I enjoy and give me a fulfillment (such as solo backpacking style travel to off-the-beaten path locations) must be a poor substitute for a more domesticated care taking existence. Something must be wrong with me, if I realize I can live happily without a man and a baby if it comes down to it. I fear that I don’t deserve to be loved, if I don’t need it, if I won’t sacrifice myself for it. Somewhere along the way, I don’t deserve children if they do not become my sole reason for being, if they haven’t already inspired my whole life leading up to having a family.
A real happy ending worthy of the 21st century would be a story of a not so sad, mostly happy single girl who is open to receiving love and care from men even though she doesn’t need it. Even better would be to see a man who loves such a woman, and not only when he thinks she needs him.
Gloria Steinem says
“ A women needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.”
But maybe a woman can want a man like she wants a sunny day, and a man can love a woman who has found her own inner light.
Sadly, Bridget Jones’ Baby is a poor substitute for self-actualization, and we leave Bridget just as we found her- dependent on her relationship with a man and child (who just happens to be a son) for happiness.
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