As we wait for Parks and Recreation’s final season, we recall 12 of its most slyly subversive, gender moments.
Leslie Knope, you wondrous unicorn queen. Ever since Amy Poehler’s plucky alter ego on NBC’s Parks and Recreation took our screens by storm with her unique brand of earnest positivity and determination in the spring of 2009, we’ve been hooked on her every move.
Week after week, year after year, we’ve watched faithfully as the small town public servant championed everything from gay penguin marriage to safe sex for senior citizens in her hometown of Pawnee, Indiana. But her enthusiasm was most contagious when it was directed at smashing the patriarchy. While “the man” is currently withholding the final chapter in Parks and Recreation for a mid-season debut instead of airing this month with other fall stalwarts, here’s 12 of our favorite Leslie Knope feminist moments to tide us over.
When a little girl was turned away from the all-boy Pawnee Rangers, she turned to none other than Leslie Knope. Leslie then took it upon herself to found the Pawnee Goddesses, an all-girl scout troop that has puppy parties, puts on puppet shows about the Bill of Rights set to Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA,” uses loosely-structured craft time to make Gertrude “steins,” and even lets boys into the club, because they’re not down with gender exclusivity. In their words, the troop is “freaking awesome.”
When she is elected city councilwoman, Knope makes sure to inundate her new office space with images of smart and powerful women. She even includes a picture of herself, because a little self-love goes a long way.
Knope gets things done. Whether it’s putting on an elaborate Harvest Festival, catching a pesky teenage vandal, or spearheading a controversial town merger, this optimistic politician follows through on everything she pledges, for better or worse.
After Leslie’s election to city council, this Season Five callback to Season One was particularly satisfying.
When organizers asked Leslie Knope to judge their yearly Miss Pawnee pageant, they clearly didn’t know what they were getting themselves into. This strong woman wasn’t about to cast her vote for the prettiest airhead, and created a custom score card featuring categories like “knowledge of herstory” and “the Naomi Wolf factor.” So when her fellow judges forced her hand and the “pretty girl” beat the “smart girl,” Knope didn’t only speak up for the “Susans of the world,” she supported the winner and made a stand for sisterhood.
Every single woman has dealt with being talked down to on account of their gender, and Leslie is no exception. Never one to hold in her thoughts or feelings, Leslie always puts her detractors in place.
Leslie Knope has never been one for knocking down her fellow females. Instead, the fiercely loyal friend and ally makes sure to shower her sisters in praise, stick up for them when they’re being discriminated against, and relentlessly encourage them to follow their dreams.
Her best friend in the world is Ann Perkins (Rashida Jones) and Leslie just can’t get enough of her. Leslie’s batshit, creative compliments for her bestie manages to be both absurd and utterly sweet. There’s even a website for them.
And of course, we can’t forget about Galentine’s Day, Leslie’s favorite holiday.
She’s set her mind to it and she’s going to achieve it. Every Parks and Recreation viewer is just waiting for that sweet, sweet moment when President Knope is sworn in as waffles and miniature horses rain down from the heavens.
“We’re a nation of dreamers and it is my dream to build a park that I one day visit with my White House staff on my birthday. And they say, ‘President Knope, this park is awesome. Now we understand why you are the first female President of the United States.’” –Leslie Knope (Season 1, Episode 2)
Every man that Leslie Knope has dated has recognized her for the vivacious goddess that she is, but it took Ben Wyatt, the goofy, nerdy, uptight accountant from Indianapolis to really sweep her off her feet. Ben has sacrificed for Leslie’s professional goals (and vice versa), supported her through a tough campaign, and is just as amazed at her optimism as we are. Every woman deserves a relationship founded on trust and parity and Leslie Knope is no different. Plus, when they role play she plays strictly intelligent, respected women.
When tasked with the job of educating the STD-ridden senior citizens of Pawnee on safe sex, Leslie encounters resistance from the Society for Family Stability Foundation and a very antiquated city law that forbids any type of sex-ed that veers from abstinence-only messages. Leslie rebels and defiantly puts condoms on bananas. When she’s formally disciplined for breaking the law, Leslie takes it like a boss.
“Look, we all want the same thing, right? We want fewer unwanted pregnancies and fewer STDs. Why don't we use every weapon that we have? I know that most of you don't agree with me on this, but I'm going to fight very hard to change your minds, and until then, I will take this censure, and I will wear it proudly, like a badge of honor.” —Leslie Knope, (Season 5, Episode 4)
Leslie is a middle class, fairly youthful white woman, but she surrounds herself with equals of all ages, races, and classes. When she sees her white, male counterparts benefitting from the archaic societal pecking order, she’ll call them out.
When Pawnee’s first female city councilor meets with Leslie to talk about the government’s long standing boys-club reputation, Leslie decides to do something about it. She starts a commission for more females in city government and when none of the departments send women as their representatives the problem becomes that much clearer. Leslie puts the sanitation department on blast for being the worst offenders, and after she’s met with the claim that the job requires a level of physical labor that “the average woman can’t handle,” Leslie jumps at the chance to prove everyone wrong. It’s easily one of her finest moments, and definitely not the first time she’s challenged cocksure men.
Knope doesn’t claim to know everything, or succeed at everything. She sometimes comes across as naive and tends to steamroll others. She’s definitely made a lot of mistakes, but rarely misses an opportunity to learn from them. Sometimes she is tempted to use the B-word. Sometimes she victim blames her own husband. Leslie Knope is a work in progress, and that’s why we love her.
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