How "Little Women" Embraces Femininity

In a culture where feminists feel the need to compare themselves to men, "Little Women" rejoices in the joys and the struggles of being a woman.

By Maddy Bandowski2 min read
Photo: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures/Little Women

I’ve never been a girly girl. Instead of Barbies, my sisters and I made forts out of sticks in the woods. I guess I’d be considered a “tomboy”, but does this mean I’m not feminine? I don’t think so, but oftentimes the media portrays womanly attributes as weak. They encourage women to be more like men. Many of the heroines we see on the silver screen are either domestic cream puffs or overtly masculine females.

Many of the heroines we see on the silver screen are either domestic cream puffs or overtly masculine females.

Out of curiosity, I went to Google and searched for “movies starring women.” These are some of the titles I saw: Wonder Woman, Hunger Games, Atomic Blonde, Mad Mac: Fury Road, Charlie's Angels, and Kill Bill. As much as I like most of these films (Katniss is my spirit animal), they're not representative of most women. Most of these women are just females exhibiting the masculine quality of brute strength. There are so few films that truly embrace being a woman; however, Little Women is one of those rare gems that celebrates womanhood for what it is.

Celebrating Domesticity

While each March sister desires to make her own way in the world, none of them ever forget how important family and home are. The March girls bring joy wherever they go. They bring noise – the good kind: laughing, giggling, and words of thanks and welcome. They know how to make a house a home, even when it’s not their house! Laurie, Mr. Lawrence, and Mr. Brooks gather around the sisters like a hearth fire, soaking in the warmth they provide. The contrast between the big empty mansion next door and the crowded yet cozy house is not only visual, but metaphorical. For the March sisters, home is wherever you make it.

Career or Family?

Most of the time I don’t like it when directors add something to the movie that wasn’t in the book, but there is one scene in Little Women that beautifully demonstrates how women have different hopes and dreams. It's Meg’s wedding day and instead of congratulating her sister, Jo begs her not to marry Mr. Brooks. She tells Meg she should be an actress on the stage and they should run away, but Meg gently interrupts her with what I think is the best line in the whole film: “Just because my dreams are not the same as yours, doesn’t mean they’re unimportant.” Women need to hear this more.

Just because my dreams are not the same as yours, doesn’t mean they’re unimportant.

Some women want to enter the workforce, but some want a home and family, and others want both. It's disheartening when feminists shame women who want to be wives and mothers. A wife or mother is just as important as a writer, professor, or CEO. It was refreshing to see that each sister was unique and had different lessons to learn, but their choices were deemed equally important.

Let Women Be Women

I love how director Greta Gerwig explored both the joys and the struggles of being a woman. It never came off as whiny or indignant. Instead, the movie shows women who know hardship and meet it with grace and strength. Jo, the most boyish of the sisters (and the one I most identify with), doesn’t have any thoughts of marriage or domestic life. She’s a writer and she wants to be known by the world. The funny thing is when she goes to New York and begins writing for a sensation magazine, she chooses to write anonymously.

When her friend Professor Bhaer asks to see her work, he expresses disappointment because it’s terrible. Jo is a wonderful writer, but she's wasting her talent. She's hiding behind a facade, writing stories that she thinks people want to read. She caters to the masculine world she enters instead of gracing it with her own ideas. She thought the world wouldn’t care about domestic struggles and the things women care about, but she was wrong. She tried being a man, when she needed to be a woman.

It's when she truly embraces her femininity that she writes her greatest work yet. She doesn't give up her boyish quirks or outspokenness. She simply discovers there's true beauty in being a woman.

Closing Thoughts

This newest version of Little Women has a joyous feel. It revels in its characters' lives with excellent performances and gorgeous cinematography. Greta Gerwig has brought life to this timeless tale and made it relevant for every woman, no matter her dreams in life.