In Times of Sickness and Sexism

Well behaved women rarely make history

I was sick all weekend. Speaking to my dad about it, we laughed over how being sick is something that I’m a pro at. Ever since I was a toddler, it was never the ‘sniffles’, rather it was the ‘fever/vomiting/hallucinating/sleepless night/every parent’s worse nightmare’ kind of sickness that I would get. As a child, I would always try to do too much and make my illness drag out longer because I wouldn’t rest. However as I got older, I resigned myself to crying on the couch or on my bed and cuddling with my cat. My mom would make me tea and I would wait for the storm to pass.

When my mom went back to work and I was still too young to stay home alone, she would take me to my grandmother’s. She’s one of my best friends for many reasons (more on that later), one of them being that we share the belief that a little tequila can go a long way in case of an illness.

As I started traveling, I soon realized that being ill away from home is exponentially worse. It means no one to make you tea, or watch bad daytime tv with you, no pets to cuddle with, no mom to make you soup and bring you meds…and definitely no abuelita who sneaks you tequila while abuelito isn’t looking.

This weekend I had to endure one of toughest weekends I’ve had here in London because I was alone in bed with no one but Netflix to keep me company. So, as  I made my own tea and tried a combination of different meds…I caught up with Scandal and ended up actually loving the depth of the varied  female characters. Setting Olivia (Kerry Washington) aside, who made me a bit upset throughout the 3 seasons, there are some amazingly strong female characters sprinkled throughout.

There’s Abby (Dabby Stanchfield), who is a brilliant, powerful lawyer. She is witty, loyal, a survivor and fearless in so many different ways. Then there’s Mellie (Bellamy Young)- who I didn’t understand at first, but now that I’ve seen more of her character’s depth she has really grown on me. I mean, she graduated at the top of her class at Harvard Law and she is incredibly smart. She calls herself a ‘political animal,’ and puts forth this hardened persona, yet she is so beautifully flawed. While I don’t agree with a lot of her sacrifices, she is another survivor. Then there was Josie Marcus (Lisa Kudrow) and her amazing speech against sexism. Overall, I can’t wait for Season 4 of Scandal and it’s definitely not just because of Jake Ballard (Scot Foley) and his scintillating eyes, but more so because there’s nothing I find more inspiring than stories about strong women who persevere.

Well after Scandal I was actually able to be a bit productive. I took a couple ibuprofen and I updated my CV, then when I couldn’t go to sleep I stumbled back onto Netflix- mostly because I didn’t want to sleep alone. Thinking of Robin Williams’ passing, I went in search of Aladdin, a movie that my brother and I watched countless times growing up.

Instead I stumbled upon The Hunchback of Notredame. When I was growing up, I watched way more of Aladdin and this was probably because my brother, being four years older was a tyrannical ruler of the living room tv and considered The Hunchback of Notredame  to be a ‘girlie’ movie.

As I watched The Hunchback of Notredame again for the first time in maybe 15 years (I realize that’s far too long), I realized why I had enjoyed it so much in the first place. Although Esmeralda isn’t the title character, her story  has always fascinated me. She’s not a traditional Disney princess, rather she’s more of a heroine: beautiful and fearless. Watching it as a twentysomething year old, I see her as someone who embraces her sexuality as much as she embraces her morals. She speaks up against tyranny and even rescues Phoebus- her supposed ‘knight in shining armor’ when he falls into the Seine. She isn’t afraid to be herself whether that entails being kind when everyone else is flinging tomatoes at Quasimodo, or standing up to Judge Claude Frollo even when she faces being burnt alive at the stake.

I realized that I enjoyed The Hunchback of Notredame as a young girl for the same reasons I enjoy watching shows like Scandal and Orange is the New Black, now; because as a girl of whatever age, watching fearless female characters is empowering.

After this past long weekend of illness, I’m glad to be feeling better and even though I wouldn’t have taken a weekend off otherwise, I think I definitely needed the rest…and the inspiration.

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