12 Posts of Christmas: Cristina Yang as Feminist.

In the spirit Christmas, I’ve decided to revisit some of my favourite posts of the year in the twelve days leading up to December 25th.

It’s no secret I love underdogs and Grey’s Anatomy, so what better way than to combine the doctor drama with one of its most dramatic doctors, Cristina Yang, in a post about—what else?—feminism? The original post is here.

When it comes to “likeable” female characters on TV, you might think of Buffy Summers. Or Rachel Green. Or the Gilmore girls. But Grey’s Anatomy’s Cristina Yang probably isn’t one of them.

She’s abrasive, unfeeling, career-driven, ruthless and selfish. Everything a woman shouldn’t be, according to patriarchal norms.

Perhaps she could be more like the ousted Izzie Stevens, who was bubbly and sexy and baked cookies. Or the virginal and highly-strung April Kempner, whom Cristina praises for having “virgin super powers”, enabling her to be super-organised.

But I like Cristina just the way she is. She’s got her eye on the prize, won’t compromise her personal beliefs or goals to be liked or for a man, and she’s got “tiny little genius” hands that enable her to roll with the big guns.

This is why Cristina Yang is one of the only “feminist”—or “strong female”—characters on television. Nay, in all of fiction.

For one thing, she refuses to rely on her looks or her feminine wiles to get ahead. In “This is How We Do It” in season seven, she rejects Owen’s compliment about her beauty, saying, “If you want to appease me, compliment my brain.”

And in last week’s final, we saw Cristina exercise her right to choose, and schedule her second abortion on the show, after much (mostly solo) deliberation. While excluding the opinion of her significant other and father of the future child wasn’t the most respectful thing to do, ultimately it came down to her choice, and she chose to terminate the pregnancy.

In season two, Cristina divulges that she’s pregnant to Dr. Burke and, again, makes the decision to get an abortion on her own. Whereas a character like Izzie seems to serve the pro-life agenda (she gave up her own baby for adoption when she was a teenager growing up in a trailer park, and convinced a HIV-positive woman to carry her pregnancy to term), Cristina resists the societal pressures to tap into her maternal instincts and give birth to a child she does not want.

Regardless of whose agenda could be seen as being served by Cristina’s character, she acts without fear of what other people will think of her.

As a person, no matter what gender, it is seemingly second nature to want others to like us, and to portray our best selves to them. Just look at the ritual of the date or the job interview. That Cristina defies this action (though we have seen her star struck when meeting surgeons like Tom Evans, and Preston Burke for the first time) makes her not just a feminist character, but a truly humanist one.

There are people in this world who challenge us, grate on us, and whom we genuinely don’t like or approve of. But that’s what makes the world go around. Cristina Yang being one of these kinds of people, and being portrayed to us as a whole person on television, with hopes and dreams and trials and tribulations and relationships and a career and no desire for children, and not just as the bitchy mother-in-law who lives off her husband’s money and needs a good fuck, is truly a sight to behold.

Related: Cristina Yang as Feminist.

Grey’s Anatomy Final Asks “When Does Life Begin?”

The Underlying Meaning in Grey’s Anatomy’s “Superfreak” Episode.

Sookie as Feminist? Hear Her Roar.

Are Our Favourite Fictional Females Actually Strong, or Stereotypes?

Elsewhere: [The Feel of Free] Cristina Yang + You Can’t Compromise on a Baby.

[Marinagraphy] Motherhood, Cristina Yang & Grey’s Anatomy.

TV: Cristina Yang as Feminist.

 

When it comes to “likeable” female characters on TV, you might think of Buffy Summers. Or Rachel Green. Or the Gilmore girls. But Grey’s Anatomy’s Cristina Yang probably isn’t one of them.

She’s abrasive, unfeeling, career-driven, ruthless and selfish. Everything a woman shouldn’t be, according to patriarchal norms.

Perhaps she could be more like the ousted Izzie Stevens, who was bubbly and sexy and baked cookies. Or the virginal and highly-strung April Kempner, whom Cristina praises for having “virgin super powers”, enabling her to be super-organised.

But I like Cristina just the way she is. She’s got her eye on the prize, won’t compromise her personal beliefs or goals to be liked or for a man, and she’s got “tiny little genius” hands that enable her to roll with the big guns.

This is why Cristina Yang is one of the only “feminist”—or “strong female”—characters on television. Nay, in all of fiction.

For one thing, she refuses to rely on her looks or her feminine wiles to get ahead. In “This is How We Do It” in season seven, she rejects Owen’s compliment about her beauty, saying, “If you want to appease me, compliment my brain.” (Stay tuned for more on beauty versus brains this week.)

And in last week’s final, we saw Cristina exercise her right to choose, and schedule her second abortion on the show, after much (mostly solo) deliberation. While excluding the opinion of her significant other and father of the future child wasn’t the most respectful thing to do, ultimately it came down to her choice, and she chose to terminate the pregnancy.

In season two, Cristina divulges that she’s pregnant to Dr. Burke and, again, makes the decision to get an abortion on her own. Whereas a character like Izzie seems to serve the pro-life agenda (she gave up her own baby for adoption when she was a teenager growing up in a trailer park, and convinced a HIV-positive woman to carry her pregnancy to term), Cristina resists the societal pressures to tap into her maternal instincts and give birth to a child she does not want.

Regardless of whose agenda could be seen as being served by Cristina’s character, she acts without fear of what other people will think of her.

As a person, no matter what gender, it is seemingly second nature to want others to like us, and to portray our best selves to them. Just look at the ritual of the date or the job interview. That Cristina defies this action (though we have seen her star struck when meeting surgeons like Tom Evans, and Preston Burke for the first time) makes her not just a feminist character, but a truly humanist one.

There are people in this world who challenge us, grate on us, and whom we genuinely don’t like or approve of. But that’s what makes the world go around. Cristina Yang being one of these kinds of people, and being portrayed to us as a whole person on television, with hopes and dreams and trials and tribulations and relationships and a career and no desire for children, and not just as the bitchy mother-in-law who lives off her husband’s money and needs a good fuck, is truly a sight to behold.

Related: Grey’s Anatomy Final Asks “When Does Life Begin?”

The Underlying Meaning in Grey’s Anatomy’s “Superfreak” Episode.

Sookie as Feminist? Hear Her Roar.

Are Our Favourite Fictional Females Actually Strong, or Stereotypes?

Elsewhere: [The Feel of Free] Cristina Yang + You Can’t Compromise on a Baby.

[Marinagraphy] Motherhood, Cristina Yang & Grey’s Anatomy.

Image via Home of the Nutty.

Pop Culture Power Women.

This is an edited version of an article originally posted on Girl with a Satchel.

Magazines and media blogger Erica Bartle, of Girl with a Satchel, has recently upped her workload as feature writing and fashion and style journalism tutor at Queensland’s University of Technology. Erica’s first lecture inspired her to write this:

After experiencing some minor audiovisual issues (during which time I had a little jokey internal monologue with Tina Fey in Date Night about the “computer sticky thingy”) and giving my introductory lecture on feature writing on Monday, I opened up the opportunity for questions.

“Are you going to be referencing Sex and the City every lecture?” deadpanned one male student channelling Daria. Touché!

I actually hadn’t intended to make reference to the show (in fact, I genuinely try to curb such things, knowing how tiresome it can sound), but sometimes a pop culture reference comes to mind that fits the occasion aptly enough to illustrate a point and simply must be voiced (cue the scene in Sex and the City when Candice Burgen, playing Carrie’s Vogue editor, returns her piece on shoes dripping with red ink).

Though more “serious journalists” prefer witty literary/historical/political references and high-brow in-jokes, I love a good pop culture reference in a feature; preferably if it’s Gen-Y nostalgic. It says, “you speak my language”. Gillard and Abbott (or, rather, their speech writers) should really think about throwing some random Simpsons/Mad Men quotes into the mix (okay, it didn’t work for Joe Hockey!).

Give me Seinfeld, give me slinkies, give me scrunchies, give me The Goonies and Gilmore Girls and I’m yours. As Elle Woods once said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy”. So does good pop culture. And puppies.

So who better to inspire the writer’s musethat voice that sits upon your shoulder like trusty Tinkerbellthan some of the feisty and fabulous gals you pointed to in response to the pop popularity poll? Make like Buffy Summers who “slew all manner of demons and even had breath to spare for puns and quips”.

Erica Bartle.

Elsewhere: [Girl with a Satchel] Women of Pop Culture & the Unashamed Use of Cutesy Clichés.