Why Elaine Benes from 'Seinfeld' is my feminist role model
Like many other millennials, I grew up on Seinfeld. I laughed as a young kid watching the sitcom with my Dad every night, but now that I am (sort of) an adult I appreciate the show even more. I get the jokes because similar scenarios have happened to me. I have met many people who remind me of characters from the show, and the older I get, the more I find myself relating to the characters as well. But out of all of the Seinfeld cast, the one who inspires me most is Julia Louis-Dreyfuss’ character Elaine Benes. Here’s why.
She’s as open about her sex life as any of the male characters.
Elaine goes through a number of relationships on the show. She had a lot of sex (in and out of relationships), talked about it, but never made a huge deal out of it. She was also safe about it – her methods of birth control were brought up on a few different episodes, and she refused use the cheap-looking condoms Kramer once brought an abundance of back to his friends.
Having a sex life and being open and honest about it is a completely healthy part of adulthood, and Elaine was really the first woman to show me this. And the best part? Elaine is never portrayed as somehow more promiscuous than her male counterparts, just for having a healthy sex life. Lainey taught me that having sex out of wedlock, or even out of relationships does not in any way make you abnormal. It makes you a woman who runs her own life the way she wants to run it.
She’s totally mastered the friendship with an ex
Jerry and Elaine dated for a long time, but the way their relationship played out over the nine seasons made that easy to forget at times. They didn’t act the way society has taught us most exes act. There was no fighting, no jealousy issues—and they talked to one another about their dating and sex lives a lot, even asking for advice at times. This is another healthy way of living in the adult world that Elaine Benes taught me first. I think it is completely healthy and sane to be close friends with an ex, depending on the circumstances. In fact, some of my exes are my best friends now. Sometimes you just work better as a friend than as partner. And that’s OK.
She took her job really seriously
Elaine was a badass boss lady who was never dependent on a man in the working world. We watched her go through a few different careers over the course of the show, most of them involving working in some type of office setting and wearing business-professional attire. Elaine did have mainly males as bosses, but in several instances (such as her time spent at The J. Peterman Catalog), she was quite high-up in the company and made a lot of big decisions. This included hiring and firing people, which definitely requires a tough-as-nails chick to do.
She was totally independent
The sitcom lasted nine glorious seasons and none of the four main characters (including Elaine) were ever married or had any children. Each of them lived alone for the entire duration of the series. All of the other shows I was watching around the same time (Friends, Full House, The Wonder Years, etc.) had special two-part episodes for weddings or births at least once or twice. To keep a female character interesting and relatable without either of those big life events happening to her was edgy and awesome, and it taught me from a young age that getting married and having kids are not requirements of being a woman.
Her style is all her own
Elaine also helped teach me to always be myself and not care what other people think about me. A prime example of this was her amazing dance moves. She was made fun of for her dancing skills (or lack thereof) by her friends and co-workers alike in several different episodes, but she just kept on doin’ her thang.
So thank you, Larry David, for giving us the greatest feminist role model of all time. I, for one, would be lost without her.
[Image courtesy NBC]