February 5, 2013

An American Tragedy: Saying Goodbye to Pant Suits and Night Cheese

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Early last Friday morning, I was mental checklist-ing as usual (coffee, toothpaste, pants) and losing the battle against winter hair-frizz, until the caffeine hit the nerve-firing gas pedal and it occurred to me: Tragedy of all tragedies, on this day, I would say goodbye to my two favorite women.

One’s a television character and one is arguably the most powerful woman in the world, but bear with me: The two aren’t unrelated. It’s a little Kennedy-Lincoln conspiracy-esque to imply there’s a sad symbolism to their synchronized departure, but I can’t help but feel a distinct sense of parallelism in the roles that have been filled by Liz Lemon and Hillary Clinton.


Liz Lemon –– the character played by, written by and based on the SNL experiences of Tina Fey –– has spent seven years  turning women’s television presence into a whole new game. Lemon is a quirky woman who isn’t a “manic pixie dream girl,” a single woman who “works on her night cheese” rather than crying into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, a city woman who isn’t (in her own words) “an oversexed New York nympho like those sluts on Everybody Loves Raymond,” and above all: a nerd who is not uncool.

Hillary Clinton turned women’s politics on its head starting, arguably, back in 1969 with her commencement address to Wellesley College, after which she received a seven-minute standing ovation from the students she had been leading in civil rights, anti-Vietnam and gender-equality activism for four years (What you up to, freshman?) And for the hoards of middle-aged women at the rallies in her first Senate race, she was a second act in the life of the American woman.


Jokes about Lemon’s clothes are centered around Lemon’s proclivity towards Spanx, her shoes that prompt the question, “When is your cult committing suicide?” and the infamous Night Cheese Snuggie. The self-mocking is triumphant in nature, though, as a farewell season episode celebrates Lemon marrying boyfriend Criss (James Marsden) in her Princess Leia costume to much critical approval.  Gail Collins wrote that “one of [Clinton’s] unheralded contributions to the cause of American women in politics was to wear exactly the same outfit every day during her first campaign for Senate.” And Jezebel lovingly describes her “‘YES I AM WEARING A PANTSUIT BECAUSE IT COVERS MY BODY CAN WE PLEASE JUST DO SOME POLITICS NOW’ fuck-off attitude,” which may not have been cool at the beginning of the decade, but is sure cool now (Texts From Hillary?) It’s becoming less and less necessary to brush your hair or wash your sweatshirt before someone will listen to you.

Feminist role models:

Sady Doyle coined the term “Liz Lemonism” to define the tendency to “boil feminism down to an excuse to complain about certain issues only as they pertain to [your] own personal life.” But Salon’s Rebecca Traister argues that “Liz Lemonism, far from being a meager and imperfect version of feminism is 30 Rock’s satire of that very phenomenon. The limitations of Lemon as a gutless self-interested semi-feminist are jokes that appear in the series almost every week.” Season Four’s “TGS Hates Women,”centered around the issues of the Olivia Munn controversy and a website resembling Jezebel.com, is one of the boldest-ever examples of network confrontation of feminist issues.

And Fey got some crap for being more interested in solidarity than picking the best candidate when, during the the height of her “I Look Sort of Like Sarah Palin” influence, she appeared on Weekend Update to openly endorse Clinton, explaining that “bitches get stuff done.” But if you don’t like Hillary in 2013, that’s what takes some serious explaining. After just one term, the President has gushed in a 60 Minutes interview that “Hillary will go down as one of the finest secretaries of state we’ve had.” Clinton’s approval ratings have been consistently and exceptionally positive, she dealt handily with the Republican committee who hoped to slay her over Benghazi, her “smart power” approach to foreign policy has set the direction for the department and there’s already a PAC gunning for a 2016 Presidential nom. She says she’s not looking for it, but come on guys, we owe her a solid.

I didn’t want to see them go, but man did I love watching them leave –– with a tearful St. Elsewhere goodbye from Lemon and a parting shot final address from Clinton in which she vehemently labeled global gender equality “the unfinished business of the 21st century.”  Leaving for class with “I will never forget you rural juror” replaying in my head, it was a bittersweet feeling. Bitches got stuff done and in the words of Sarah Schneider, “All we have to do is not make it awkward for them.”

Original Author: Kaitlyn Tiffany