There's a lot of criticizing things that could be and have been said about Freeform's latest tv show The Bold Type, that chronicles the lives of three young women (played by Katie Stevens, Meghann Fahy & Aisha Dee) at a fictional, by Cosmo inspired, New York based magazine called Scarlet. Framed as a feminist series by the network, it's been judged as one by critics. Instead of solely focusing on where it's falling short, #girlcrew's Steffie takes a page from The Bold Type's 'support not tear down' attitude and makes a (modest) case for the show.
It doesn't accurately reflect what working at a magazine is really like. The women are all too dressed up. They talk about men too often. It's 'light' feminism. Sure, I get it. It's easy to be critical, and while there's nothing wrong with it either, I'd prefer to talk about the times The Bold Type does pass the Bechdel test or how it shows female mentorship.
When I watch the show in our living room, my roommates openly make fun of the show. I understand that the acting could be better at times and that the writing isn't up to the gold standard of current television, but at least it's relevant. In it's first few episodes it's already taken on topics like immigration and online harassment. Since I've been working as associate producer on a documentary about the latter for almost a year now, I'm especially happy to see it being touched upon in pop culture, because portraying it and talking about it, can only help in combatting the problem.
To those who say it should dig deeper, I'd say they should remember they're watching a 40 minute network drama and not a two hour long documentary. It doesn't mean it can't be serious or challenge stereotypes, but it also means it's limited. It's meant to be entertaining. It's supposed to be fun and light, without being careless, so it will show these girls dating or chatting over coffee. And it's fiction about a women's magazine, so it will embellish and glamourize its employees. That Carrie Bradshaw lived in Greenwich Village off her column money didn't make sense either, but that didn't delegitimize Sex and The City as a groundbreaking show for its era.
And don't forget that until last year Freeform still went by the name of ABC Family. That should tell you something about the core of the network, but also about the changes it's trying to make. It's the network that currently broadcasts teenage dramas about demons, but also once wrote history with an Switched at Birth episode that was almost entirely in American Sign Language. Needless to say; they're trying to find their voice.
The same goes for The Bold Type itself. It might not have figured out everything yet, but it is clear on that it wants to be inclusive and positive. It's making a case for women supporting other women, by portraying friends who help each other out in the workplace and a boss who's a mentor to them instead of just the picture of a scary woman in a leadership role. So far it's shown a lesbian Muslim artist fighting to stay in the country and a young woman testing for the BRCA gene. It's also had scenes in which a personal assistant negotiated for fair compensation for her job and another in which one of the leads was honest and vocal about what she wanted out of a relationship.
These things may seem small, but they're still part of issues women deal with. And what's so wrong with dressing up (this a question coming from me, who often gets told I can't be feminist because I'm always wearing dresses- maybe the point is that I choose to do so, and that it shouldn't be about that)? Not every woman is the same, and they're not trying to imply that this is what every woman should look like. And showing them talk about men doesn't keep them from then talking about owning their sexuality or participating in a 'breasts are not a crime' protest. There's not just one way to be a feminist, or to represent feminism (or femininity for that matter).
Give it some time to grow and remember that while it might not be everyone's version of feminism, it does resonate with some women and it's still better than the alternative- not talking about these topics at all. So maybe for now the fact that, in its own way it is advocating for women's rights and trying to create and promote strong female characters, should be enough. Even if it comes with a little more lipstick.