Whelehan, IM, Did Bridget Jones Really Liberate Us?, Contemporary Literary Criticism: Excerpts from Criticism of the Works of Today's Novelists, Poets, Playwrights, Short Story Writers, Scriptwriters, & Other Creative Writers, Gale Literature Resource Center, Hunter, Jeffrey W (ed), Detroit, United States, pp. 4pp. ISBN 0787679879 (2006) [Research Book Chapter]
Reprinted from "Did Bridget Jones really liberate us?" Herizons 16:1 (1 July 2002), 26-29, which is in turn an excerpt of the book "Overloaded: Pop Culture and the Future of Feminism" (Women's Press, 2000), ISBN-10: 0704346176.
While men are in crisis, many women continue to flick through the glossies and self-help manuals in an attempt to find their own problems, their own complex identities, reflected there. If some male commentators are suggesting that women, in their will to power, have taken a little bit of men's essential selves with them, women are recognising that 'having it all' demands some complex navigation between what is seen as masculine and what is seen as feminine.
The world of work and public life is so steeped in its masculine image and language that it is difficult for women not to become infected, and as a result be perceived as unhealthily 'masculine' for simply trying to do their work as well as a man. This conflict is echoed out in the film Working Girl (1988), where Sigourney Weaver's ruthless and competitive management style is set against Melanie Griffiths' softer reconciliation between her drive for professional recognition and her sexually alluring style of dress--an antidote to the shoulder-padded 'power-dressing' of the early eighties. In fact, this 'unsisterly' conflict is played out as an unseemly battle over the one glittering prize that indicates you've really 'arrived'--getting the man.
Good men are hard to find, if the common-sense aphorisms of popular culture are to be believed; in fact any available men seem to be in short supply. Belief in this 'fact' shapes the agenda for women's magazines. Having a career is all well and good, but not if it is at the expense of finding Mr. Right. All warn implicitly that the heady days of youth, glamour and social freedom are all too soon replaced by the lengthy twilight of terminal single status.
The 'singleton' is, perhaps, the elder sister of the ladette. Once the 'snogging and shagging' of the early years are over and she has reached a certain level in her career, the biological imperative to 'nest' takes over. It is only then that the singleton realises her success in other fields has been at the expense of the one thing that 'really' matters--finding a man. The singleton par excellence is, of course, Bridget Jones.