Kit Steinkellner
May 20, 2014 8:28 am

Make no mistake: Zosia Mamet, the staggeringly talented actress known for her breakout role Shoshana Shapiro on HBO’s Girls, is a feminist. But when it comes to the idea of uniformly “leaning in,” she has some strong opinions. In an essay published in Glamour (Mamet has an every-other-month column in the mag), the A+ actress has some A+ thoughts on expanding the definition of “success” for women. As she puts it:

“We are so obsessed with “making it” these days we’ve lost sight of what it means to be successful on our own terms. As women we have internalized the idea that every morning we wake up, we have to go for the f–king gold. You can’t just jog; you have to run a triathlon. Having a cup of coffee, reading the paper, and heading to work isn’t enough—that’s settling, that’s giving in, that’s letting them win. You have to wake up, have a cup of coffee, conquer France, bake a perfect cake, take a boxing class, and figure out how you are going to get that corner office or become district supervisor, while also looking damn sexy—but not too sexy, because cleavage is degrading—all before lunchtime. Who in her right mind would want to do that? And who would even be able to?”

She goes on to praise the ideals of the feminism (“Feminism was meant to empower us as women, to build us up for fighting on male-dominated battlefields”) and is also clear-eyed regarding some of the unintended consequences of the movement (“It gave us female role models like Hillary and Oprah and Beyoncé and in the process implied that mogul-hood should be every woman’s goal. We kept the old male ideas of success: power and money. We need new ones!”)

This is such a fresh perspective and a much needed take on our culture’s limited perspective (or as Mamet awesomely puts it “old male ideas”) on success. We, as a society, do place a premium on fame and fortune. We celebrate external success over personal happiness. We cheer on those who sacrifice their personal lives for their career. We judge those whose accomplishments we do not deem “big” enough. So what is big? Making x number of dollars? Having x number of people know your name? Mamet’s right, this is such a small-minded way to quantify the value of a woman’s work, her time, her life. We need to encourage each other to define “success” and “happiness” for ourselves rather than accepting prescribed definitions. “Success” isn’t a “one size fits all” idea. We need to embrace all the many, many, many sizes success comes in.

Mamet sums up her sentiments and closes her argument beautifully. Take us home, Zosia:

“Success isn’t about winning everything; it’s about achieving your dream, be that teaching middle school or flying jets. And no matter what we as individual women want, no matter what our goals, we have to support one another.”

(Photo via HBO)