Celebrating Broad City’s Down-To-Earth, Fierce Feminism

By Andreea Voicu

Broad City‘ may have ended 3 months ago but I for one haven’t stopped thinking about it or mourning its loss. It was one of my favorite shows on TV and a huge part of that is owed to the way it depicted feminism in a unique, refreshing way. While there are similarities between ‘Broad City’ and other shows following female friends in the big city, such as ‘Girls’, the former’s particular brand of feminism is like a spoonful of caramel balsamic swirl ice cream – it takes you by surprise at first but you’ll never enjoy boring vanilla ice cream quite the same ever again.

So, what brings the flavor (can you tell I’m craving ice cream?) to ‘Broad City’s feminism? Where to start? From fearlessness to realness and relatable-ness, let’s delve into the series’ most show-stopping qualities.

Eccentric Realness

‘Broad City’ is so down-to-earth it often stops you in your tracks. It looks at everyday feminism and doesn’t shy away from the nitty gritty of being a 20-something outspoken and uncensored feminist in NYC. Perhaps the best thing about ‘Broad City’ is that it doesn’t try to be feminist. It just is.

If you’re not comfortable with explicit mentions of all kinds of sex, pubic hair, poop, orgasms, and basically the entire female anatomy, ‘Broad City’ will make you shut off your TV faster than you can say “ohnothisisthedevilsplaything.” If you’re like me and you’re not bothered by these things, even more so, you thoroughly enjoy the humor with which they’re portrayed, you’re going to want to watch it on repeat.

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But for the realness that ‘Broad City’ brings to the table, there’s also an eccentricity there – the perfect sprinkles to finish off this delicious feminist ice cream cone (okay, this is the last one, I promise). Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, but particularly Ilana, are often delightfully eccentric, and the situations they encounter, while relatable, make for excellent comedy. The show uses humor and ridiculous situations to shed light on important issues related to women’s health for instance, like when Abbi pees out a condom which leads to the two friends having a serious conversation about the importance of safe sex.

It’s a Woman’s (Sex) World

Sex positivity is a central theme of the show, with a clear focus on female pleasure. We look at sex from a woman’s point of view, and trust me, these women are not afraid to experiment and take control of their own sex life. The show doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that’s true when it comes to sex as well.

It strikes a perfect balance between sex as a pleasurable experience for the woman and those awkward, unsatisfying sexual encounters that are part of reality as well. ‘Broad City’ is not afraid to push the envelope when it comes to sexuality but the result is absolutely natural and down to earth, just like the topic of sex should be on television. 

Female Friendship at Its Best

By this point, I’m acutely aware of the fact that every single thing about ‘Broad City’ is “my favorite” but this is a favorite as well, so sue me: female friendship. To put it in simple and extremely millennials terms, Abbi and Ilana’s friendship is goals. While Ilana’s attachment toward Abbi can sometimes all-consuming bordering on unhealthy, their friendship is overall, a great example of healthy female friendship.

Abbi and Ilana are each other’s biggest champions, they support each other no matter what, and they would do anything for one another. They are so comfortable with each other that they feel safe discussing the most intimate aspects of their lives (in an often show-and-tell kind of way), and they help each other grow. What more could you possibly want in a best friend?

Someone to talk to while on the toilet? Check. Someone to help you carry a couch around NYC for an entire night? Check. Someone to unclog your toilet when your crush drops by? Check. Someone who worships your ass on a daily basis? Yasss, queen! The list goes on and on. 

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The ending deserves a special mention here because I’m not going to lie, I feared the show would go the unnatural-attachment-leads-to-trouble route when it came to Abbi’s going away and Ilana’s ability to cope with this. Luckily, it didn’t, and as hard as it was for the two friends to stop living in the same city, they ultimately aced it and showed us that true friendship is not conditioned by distance and that if you put in the work, you can preserve the relationship.

Self-Love and Celebrating the Female Body

Loving yourself is just as important as loving your best friend in ‘Broad City’. Unlike Ilana, who always seems to be extremely confident in her own skin, Abbi does struggles with some insecurities. However, those insecurities don’t define her or render her incapable of recognizing the beauty of her body and celebrating it. She has many moments of genuine confidence and she also grows more confident as time goes by, often with the help of her biggest champion, Ilana.  

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Not just the protagonists’ bodies but all female bodies are celebrated in ‘Broad City’. The show pushes women forward in many ways, and showing a variety of bodies all worthy of being celebrated is just one of those ways. Another involves activism.

Championing Powerful Women

‘Broad City’ also dabbles in a more active type of feminism every once in a while, like it does when none other than Hillary Clinton makes a cameo and our two protagonists volunteer for her campaign. Powerful women who are not afraid to be called “nasty” for the sake of bringing about positive change are celebrated in the show.

This goes hand in hand with the show calling out sexism every chance it gets in the most assertive and scandalous of ways. Has a man ever told you that you should smile more? The next time that happens, take a page from Abbi and Ilana’s no-bullshit book and serve them with this reply. 

via GIFER

These are two fearless women who will take no one’s crap and who do what they want, when they want it. They are unapologetically themselves, they make the first move, they have agency in every aspect of their lives, and they turn gender stereotypes on their head. Their lives may be messy but they embrace and enjoy the messiness.

Queer Narratives

Finally, the last thing I want to bring up is the inclusiveness ‘Broad City’ demonstrates via its queer narratives. Ilana is out and proud as a pansexual woman and Abbi is on a journey of discovering she also likes women and wants to see where that might take her. She explores her sexuality tentatively, as opposed to the loud Ilana, and that’s how we get to see two different representations of queerness in one show.

It would have been all too easy for the show to have its two main queer characters hook up, and it wouldn’t have been completely unforgivable or impossible to understand why, but thankfully, that’s not where they decided to go and I love that. While it showed us that a friendship as close as theirs and an acknowledgement that they’re both attracted to women can lead to blurred lines, it made a point of focusing on the fact that actual, real female friendship between two queer women is possible without them turning to lovers.

Abbi and Ilana are soulmates and their bond is as strong as it can get. They are partners in everything they do, and I’m pretty sure even if and when one or both of them get into a serious relationship, their bond won’t change. 

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Unapologetic Feminism

‘Broad City’ is called ‘Broad City’ for a reason (and “broad” is slowly becoming one of my favorite words ever). As Ilana Glazer said, broad “is this full woman – she knows their stuff, knows who they are, knows what they want and their limits, and is doing the best they can.” I don’t know about you but being a broad sounds pretty damn good to me.

While ‘Broad City’ isn’t perfect (shocking, I know), in that its feminism can sometimes be one-dimensional, it’s doing a pretty amazing job at showing its viewers that feminism can be down to earth, raw, and matter-of-fact while also being unapologetic, militant, and bringing about change.

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Andreea is the Lead Editor of Geek for the Win, a geeky website dedicated to movies & TV, fandoms, comic books, superheroes, and pop culture. She has an MA in American Cultural Studies, where she graduated with a paper on representations of mental illness in contemporary television series. Her BA paper also looked at contemporary TV series, but with a focus on feminism and femininity. She enjoys writing about popular culture tropes, representation, mental health, and feminism. You can get in touch with her on Twitter @andreeaa_voicu.

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