Broad City Feminism

My favorite scene from Broad City is when Abbi, blissed out on painkillers and weed after having her wisdom teeth pulled, hallucinates a larger than life Bingo Bronson in the Gowanus Whole Foods, knocks over entire displays of food, and spends over $1,000. I think of this scene as a small feminist victory. For a long time cultural representations of women were limited to archetypal figures—the beautiful temptress or the faithful wife—but not women who had the same inner life or consciousness as men. Broad City extends these representations by showing women can actually be funny, i.e. it was time for a woman to knock shit over in the supermarket.

Gender roles are reversed within the opening moments of the show’s first episode. We see Abbi playing with a sex toy, Ilana talking about masturbation, and Lincoln asking Ilana to define their relationship and her saying it’s purely physical. Abbi and Ilana talk openly about their pooping schedules. We witness hair removal, and Ilana’s work email is mindmyvagina.com. They watch porn, and they love sex and aren’t ashamed to show it. Broad City relishes in the human body.

Abbi and Ilana’s connection is emotional. They meet their sexual desires elsewhere but derive a deeper satisfaction from their friendship, which feels erotic without being sexual. Deep platonic love: this is a refreshing alternative to the stale narratives that have been recycled over and over again over the years of the heartbroken girl meeting the heartbroken boy; heteronormative romantic love that fails. Our archetypal construction of how romantic love relates to friendship is tied to an outdated patriarchal agenda.

Abbi and Ilana also used their leverage to promote Hillary Clinton, who made a cameo appearance in the third season in which they pledged to vote for her. It’s no surprise in this episode that her campaigners answer the phone and ward off haters who associate feminism with witchcraft; who think that Hillary is manipulative and trying to control them. The episode couldn’t have felt more relevant in the wake of the most recent election cycle, but it’s also one for the ages; at the end of the day the show is trying to depict a new vision of femininity, and a new way for women to be with one another.

Make no mistake, we have work to do in our culture, but shows like Broad City help chip away at the enormous gender disparity we still face—taking bold steps forward to new cultural representation we so desperately need to move beyond the old archetypes of femininity. And most importantly, when Abbi hurls a jar of manuka honey across Whole Foods, I’m roflmao.

–Jaclyn Alexander

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