The BBC Woman’s Hour Power List of influential women has been released. And for 2016, it highlights “the seven women who’ve had the most impact on British women’s lives over the past seven decades”. You might think there would be a raft of amazing women to choose from. And that it would be incredibly difficult to narrow the list down to seven. But no. Woman’s Hour decided to give one of the spaces on the list to a fictional character, Bridget Jones.
A fictional character
The very idea that a fictional character was chosen over the very real achievements of women over the last seven decades is insulting. And if Bridget Jones is to be a lauded (a questionable presumption in itself), why not choose the character’s creator Helen Fielding instead?
Unsurprisingly, many took to Twitter to lambast the decision:
#whpowerlist What a fantastic way to completely undermine the achievements of so many hard working woman. Beaten by a fictional character.
— KAL (@CheeeeseeGromit) December 14, 2016
— Matthew Terry (@cloudchamber) December 14, 2016
#whpowerlist Bridget Jones. A fictional woman obsessed with weight gain and bagging a chap. Seriously????
— Sharon Lee (@lee_slee) December 14, 2016
A questionable list
But even without the inclusion of Jones, many have questioned the list – especially the fact it is topped by former PM Margaret Thatcher:
How can Thatcher even be on your list? The truth about Orgreave isn't out but we can guess her part in it. Her power was malign #whpowerlist
— Sue Munroe#FBPE (@suem2204) December 14, 2016
— Sophia Elahi (@AmaraSophia) December 14, 2016
But others pointed out that, as divisive as Thatcher is, there is no denying her influence:
Not surprised at all that Thatcher is at the top of the #WHPowerList. What's happening right now is a consequence of her complete failure.
— Gareth Brading 🌹 (@gbrading) December 14, 2016
But seriously, Bridget Jones?
Any list is going to court controversy. We’re never going to all agree on who should be on them. For example, Germaine Greer’s inclusion was also criticised due to her transphobic comments – and rightly so. But equally, her influence on women and feminism over the last seventy years is immense.
Including a fictional character at the expense of female authors who have had a massive impact over the last seventy years, however, is a different matter. Even if Helen Fielding had been included (or J K Rowling, as many Twitter users suggested), there would be justifiable criticisms. But at least they are influential people responsible for their own creations.
Bridget Jones’ inclusion is a kick in the teeth to women who might have been included; women fighting for equal pay; equal representation; LGBTQ rights. For women fighting against rape culture; women who are fighting the prevalence of gendered clothing and gendered toys. For women who are fighting the very real everyday sexism that exists in our society.
Yes, let’s celebrate a self-obsessed fictional character instead. That sounds just about right for the post-truth world of 2016.
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