Top 10 Feminist Moments on Parks and Recreation



Top 10 Feminist Moments on Parks and Recreation

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Andrew Tejada
These feminist moments in Parks and Rec will have you chanting, “Knope we can!”
On this workplace comedy, feminism is far from a punchline. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top ten feminist moments in “Parks and Rec”.

For this list, we're looking at times where “Parks and Rec” characters demonstrated a passion for women’s rights, female empowerment, and equality. Since some of these moments are tied to important plot points, a spoiler warning is in effect.

#10: Leslie Builds a Wall of Inspirational Women
"How a Bill Becomes a Law”

Once Leslie gets her Councilwoman’s office, she decorates the wall with portraits of powerful women. Influential leaders like Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama stick out right away. There are also photos of Bella Abzug, a congresswoman who pushed for feminist and LGBT+ rights, Janet Reno, the first female United States attorney general, and Condoleezza Rice, the first black woman to become Secretary of State. Leslie even places a picture of herself on the wall. Seeing Leslie paying tribute to accomplished women was a heartwarming and important gesture. And although adding her self-portrait may seem like a quick gag, it’s also a great example of a woman taking pride in her achievements.

#9: Leslie Meets Famous Senators
"Ms. Knope Goes to Washington”

Of course, the Parks and Rec writers weren't satisfied with famous women just appearing on a wall. When season 5 began, Leslie meets senators Barbara Boxer and Olympia Snowe. Boxer served as a Democratic Whip while pushing for reforms in everything from environmental issues to reproductive rights. Olympia Snowe was a senator who was famous for her strong stances, ability to broker compromises between parties, and never losing a re-election. Although Leslie is a bit distracted by her personal hurdles, she still takes time to tell Boxer and Snowe how much they inspired her. Her brief meeting with the senators was another great way the show recognized successful women.

#8: Leslie Fights for Sex Education
“Sex Education”

When Leslie hears that frisky senior citizens are getting STDs, she steps up to teach the Pawnee elders about safe sex. But when she tries to educate them, she’s both criticized and told that it’s illegal to teach anything other than abstinence only education in the town. Although Leslie initially tries to follow the rules, she can’t go against her beliefs for long. She breaks the law, teaches safe sex publicly and vows to end the abstinence only policy. Her efforts to educate in the face of legal consequences and people shaming her are inspiring. By pushing for better sex education, Leslie gave women - and men - around Pawnee a chance to gain more agency and knowledge about their bodies.

#7: Ann Decides to Have a Baby Solo
“Ann's Decision”

Ann realizes that she's let herself be defined by her relationships. So, she decides to take a step back and date herself for a while. After weeks of dates and self-appreciation, Ann realizes that she wants to have a child on her own. Leslie initially has trouble accepting the fact that her friend wants to raise a baby alone and tries to sabotage the process. But in the end, she supports Ann and agrees to help. Ann’s commitment to independence and the decision to have a baby by herself are options that are rarely shown for women on TV. By diving into this topic seriously, women watching may identify with Ann’s journey, or feel empowered to make similar choices.

#6: Taking a Stand About Beauty Pageants
“Beauty Pageant”

After being chosen to judge a beauty pageant, Leslie aimed to pick the most deserving woman. Her personal favorite was Susan, a piano playing college student who volunteers at a Children's Hospital. Unfortunately, all the other judges preferred Trish, a conventionally attractive contestant who lacked any discernible talent. Despite Leslie’s best efforts to sway the other judges, Trish is still crowned as the winner. Leslie follows this loss with a speech that publicly praises Susan for her good qualities. Although the pageant results don’t change, her speech stands as an earnest plea for women to be judged not by society’s’ ridiculous beauty standards, but by who they are on the inside.

#5: Galentine's Day
“Galentine’s Day”

A holiday that celebrates women definitely had to make our list. Every February 13th, Leslie gathers a group of women to eat brunch while exchanging gifts and stories. Throughout the series, Galentine's day has always led to major breakthroughs for at least one of its participants. Leslie’s celebration of women was so popular that it broke out of the show and appeared in the real world. In 2016, Wild Heaven Craft Beers in Georgia, USA, held a Galentine's day event. The holiday has also inspired a book and tons of real-life merchandise. Ever since Leslie started this tradition, February 13th doesn't feel complete without brunch and female friendship.

#4: Standing Up to Men's Rights Activists

During Ben’s Congressional Campaign, Leslie is asked to participate in the Pie-Mary, a baking contest between the wives of all the congressional candidates. When she refuses to participate, the crowd calls her out for not conforming to their values. When Ben decides to take Leslie’s place in the contest, she’s protested by a men's rights group. Although she’s told to publicly apologize, Ben refuses to let her say sorry. Leslie then steps up and addresses the crowd and media, criticizing them for how they judge women. Her willingness to risk public favor to stand up for gender equality is encouraging. What makes Leslie’s stance even sweeter is that Ben fully supports her.

#3: Proving the Sanitation Department Wrong
“Women in Garbage”

Leslie steps up to lead a gender equality commission for the Pawnee government. During the first meeting, she realizes the sanitation department has no female employees because the men in charge believe women can't handle the job. Without missing a beat, Leslie and April agree to collect trash for a day to prove them wrong. The duo crushes the job with speed and efficiency. When the men of Sanitation try to throw them off by making them pick up a heavy industrial fridge, the dynamic duo enlists the help of fellow women to overcome the obstacle. Leslie and April's actions directly lead to three women being hired for sanitation. Their efforts also proved that the sanitation men’s stereotypical views belonged in the garbage.

#2: Starting the Pawnee Goddesses
“Pawnee Rangers”

Ron Swanson was a troupe leader for the Pawnee Rangers, a boy’s only Wilderness group. In response, Leslie started the girls-only Pawnee Goddesses. Her group was so popular that the boys wanted to defect from Ron’s tough Pawnee Ranger lessons to join the goddesses. Although Leslie initially refuses, her campers convince her that true equality means boys should be allowed to join. After boys join the Goddesses, Leslie creates a new hardcore wilderness group for Ron to lead that allows any gender to participate. While it was no surprise to see Leslie fight for gender equality, it was the young campers that really shone. If the children of the next generation continue to prioritize equal rights, the world can become a fairer place.

Before we applaud our top pick, here are some honorable mentions.

Leslie Calling Ron Out for His Privilege
"Boys Club”

Donna Embracing Her Sexuality
“Operation Ann”

Leslie Puts Her Photo Next to Male Councilmen
“Win, Lose, or Draw”

Leslie Gives April Career Advice
“Ms. Ludgate-Dwyer Goes to Washington”

April Shuts Down Rude Questions
“Ann's Decision”

#1: Becoming a Councilwoman
“Win, Lose, or Draw”

After years of dedicating her life to public service and fighting for what’s right, Leslie is asked to run for city council. But the race is far from easy. Leslie has to deal with an idiotic opponent, being suspended for having a relationship with her boss, and her campaign managers abandoning her. With the support of her friends and boyfriend, Leslie digs in and faces every obstacle thrown her way. By the time she votes for herself, we’re choking up alongside her at the tremendous significance of the moment. Leslie’s unyielding courage and determination during her campaign elevated her from a comedy icon to a legitimate role model. Her victory is an inspiration for women everywhere in the struggle to rise above adversity and reach new heights.