What is it that makes certain ideologies finally take hold in society? Right now there’s finally been a social climate shift that places the emphasis on believing women who accuse men of sexual assault and harassment, rather than blaming the women or not believing them at all. It’s also becoming more widely accepted that a woman’s appearance is no one’s concern but her own – how she dresses, how she does wears her hair, whether or not she wears makeup – these are all factors that women are judged by in a misogynistic society. Finally, in 2018, it seems like more people are realizing that how someone presents themselves is up to them, and them alone. This is a concept that feels like it should be obvious, but unfortunately for so many years it hasn’t been. So what changed?
Is it about a few important, well-respected people publicly supporting the new ideology? Or is it a large number of everyday, average people all deciding at once to start voicing their support for it? It feels like it has to be a combination of both, but then why does it seem to take so long for certain ideas to catch on?
This post is a bit all over the place, I’m thinking through it as I write it, so I’ll try to explain my thought process here. Last night I discovered that Hulu has every episode of 7th Heaven and you bet your sweet ass I started watching immediately. The last time I had seen some of those episodes was when I was about 8-10 years old, a pretty formative chunk of my adolescent years. I can say with confidence that some of the stuff I watched on that show taught me really important life lessons, melodramatic story lines aside.
Just to be clear, I’m not claiming that 7th Heaven was a perfect show. An article I came across on Ranker.com provided a few examples of when the show didn’t get it quite right. However, this post is focusing on one episode in particular in which the writers definitely nailed it, in my opinion.
The episode I watched (S9 E6 – “Fathers”) involves Ruthie wearing makeup for the first time. Her mother, Annie, asks her if she’s wearing it for any reason in particular, knowing that most often young girls are influenced by what society has told them they should look like in order to gain the attention of boys. She reminds Ruthie that she looks good with or without makeup, but she also doesn’t freak out and make Ruthie wipe it all off, which was a pleasant surprise given how psychotic of a mother Annie Camden can be. Her dad also notices the change in her appearance and tells her she looks “good, beautiful even, and many years older” – all neutral, fatherly comments to make. (Not going to discuss the Stephen Collins child molestation allegations because I don’t have enough info on it, and that’s also not what this post is about).
I kept waiting for the dialogue to seem overwrought or problematic, but it never did. The writers on this show were woke as f*ck, and recognized that it’s a woman’s choice whether or not she wears makeup and that it’s her prerogative to have a reason for wanting to look a certain way or not – a reason which she need not divulge to anyone if she doesn’t want to.
This show aired over 10 years ago, and many of the ideas expressed are only just now seeming to be the “norm” or the accepted views when it comes to women and their appearance. I could probably write an entire dissertation breaking down how 7th Heaven’s writers approached difficult and complex topics like this, but I already wrote a 30 page thesis my senior year so I’ll leave that one for someone else to tackle.
I’m not saying that they handled every topic perfectly – in fact, please enjoy this clip of Eric Camden (the dad and local reverend) freaking the HELL out over finding literally one joint in his oldest sons room. It’s so funny, I’ve looked this clip up on Youtube randomly over the years because it’s just that good.
Regardless of your stance on pot, is that not the most over the top reaction you’ve ever seen? “DON’T YOU DARE WALK OUT THAT DOOR!!!” Love it.
To refocus on the point of this post though, TV shows and other pop culture can have a strong influence on societal opinions. Maybe a sociologist would better be able to explain why it takes so long for a widespread change to really take hold – it just seems confusing to me how individuals can hold certain ideologies for their entire lives, but it seems to take people in power, or at least in the public eye, to shine a light on these ideologies in order for them to become normalized and widely accepted.
I’m aware that this is kind of a weird post, but it’s just something that popped into my head, and I felt like it was time to break up a few of my book posts, too. If anyone has any thoughts on this, or just wants to share some of their favorite 7th Heaven mems, pls feel free to leave a comment.
As always, thanks for reading,
1 thought on “7th Heaven might’ve subconsciously taught me a little bit about feminism”
Dear Kate, I totally agree with what you said in this article and I’d like to add that there was another interesting episode of 7th heaven that dealt with similar issues. It’s the 9th episode of season 5 (“Tunes”). Ruthie is dressed like the singers of a band and says she is dressed “sexy” while not knowing what it means because she is 10 and so Annie tells her that women should be able to dress the way they want to, and then tells her about men having bad attitudes towards women, while also explaining to her that by mimicking the way she has seen women dress on TV she is taking her own individuality away because the way you dress is a way to express who you are. Other parts of the episode were interesting and somewhat feminist too but that moment was particularly striking because it was a lesson told to a child, like we were while watching that TV show. I hope my comment does not bother you and maybe brings you back to watching that episode. Best, Romane.