This week, I want to touch base with someone I’ve been watching for years and years, but whom I never really considered to be anything worthy of note until just recently. She’s one of the protagonists in my favourite Hitchcock film and is played by the perpetually lovely and appropriately named Grace Kelly. I’m of course talking about Lisa Fremont from the 1954 thriller, Rear Window.
Who Is She?
When we first meet Lisa, she’s the beautiful high-society girlfriend of our main protagonist Jeff (James Stewart), who is holed up with a broken leg in his rear-facing apartment and spends his time spying on his neighbours out of boredom. Lisa is a model and looks and acts the part, but she’s also spunky and bold.
Even though she’s a beauty queen by profession and carries herself as women at the time were expected to, she still doesn’t succumb to societal pressures (too much). She wants to go with Jeff when he’s assigned to photograph war-torn or uncivilized places for work, but it’s Jeff who keeps telling her that she won’t be able to manage. Instead of taking his sexist criticism to heart, Lisa carries on being insistent about her wants.
Why Is She A Badass?
Near the beginning, we see Lisa suggest spending the night with Jeff—something pretty risqué at the time since Jeff’s landlady didn’t even allow overnight guests of the opposite sex—but Lisa is unconcerned. Later on, when she becomes involved in Jeff’s theory that his neighbour murdered his wife, Lisa takes charge and, despite Jeff’s insistence, goes over to explore. She breaks into the supposed murder’s apartment to find clues to confirm Jeff’s theory and when she’s caught by the neighbour, she cleverly manages to escape in the nick of time.
All the while, Jeff is forced to watch helplessly as Lisa practically risks her life—by choice—and it’s likely that Jeff’s worry stems equally from concern for his love as it does from his sexist ideas of what women can and cannot (or should not) do. And Lisa proves him—and possibly even the audience—wrong time and time again.
Why Does She Still Matter Today?
Talk to any anti-feminist troll (n.b. Don’t actually.) and you’ll soon see that the ignorant among us equate being a feminist with being unfeminine. The idea that a woman can be traditionally feminine and be a feminist is something that we’re still trying to make people understand in this day and age despite the fact that women like Lisa—both fictional and not—have been disproving that myth for decades.
Lisa is a reminder to those people who don’t think feminism can equal femininity that that’s hogwash—that feminism has nothing at all to do with femininity. It’s a political movement and it doesn’t give a damn if you prefer pants to skirts or if you love to wear lipstick or play sports. More than that, Lisa is a reminder for those of us who once equated feminism with unfemineinity or struggle with marrying our chosen femininity with our politics. You don’t have to choose between the two, Lisa reminds us. You can be a graceful goddess and a badass babe all at once if you want. You can be a girly girl one day and embrace your masculinity the next if you want. And most importantly, despite who you decide to be, it has nothing at all to do with your stance on gender equality.