This week on Feminist Flashback Friday, we catch up with another Hawksian heroine, fast-talking journalist Hildy Johnson, played by Rosalind Russell, in Howard Hawks’s 1940 hit His Girl Friday.
Who Is She?
Like almost all Hawksian women, Hildy is sharp as a tack and spits out witty, sassy jabs at the drop of a hat. Talking a mile a minute and unwilling to settle for anything less than what she wants, Hildy is another in a string of admirable women created by Howard Hawks.
One of the top reporters for her newspaper, Hildy has decided that she’s has had enough with the working life and would rather marry the man she loves and settle down into peaceful matrimony. This doesn’t bode well with her editor and ex-husband, Walter, who is unwilling to let her leave his paper or his life.
Convinced to tag along on one more story, Hildy and Walter embark on a screwball adventure to cover a big story during which time Walter works to convince Hildy to cancel her wedding and Hildy works to do the best damn job she can do because she’s a professional.
What Makes Her a Badass?
Hildy is a great example of the working woman who is equally comfortable being a working woman and a homemaker. She revels in the fact that she has the luxury to choose between working or being a homemaker or doing it both.
While most movies that feature strong working women nowadays tend to rely on the age-old idea that a woman is constantly torn between her career and her family, Hildy is a shining example of why that need never be the case and reminds us that more often than not (especially in this day and age) a woman is more easily able to juggle both.
Hildy is also a shining example of the fact that even back in 1940, she was representing a whole subsection of women who not only worked, but who would easily give up their careers for family or even vice-versa. Therefore, she’s an early example of a woman’s right to choose how to live her life.
Working full-time and raising a family is difficult, by all means, but there are many ways that society (and feminism) have made this lifestyle easier for both men and women. But there is this idea that floats around that says that women are not good feminists if they give up a successful career in favour of domesticity, when that is one of the most anti-feminist things one can say.
Choosing to work or choosing to be domestic is a privilege granted us by feminism and many fail to realize that fitting into society’s idea of a traditional woman is not an insult nor something to be avoided. If that is who you are, then power to you.
Although Hildy eventually does choose her career over her marriage in the end, the fact hat she is able to not only make that choice, but to unashamedly change her mind is what makes her someone to look up to.