The Bold Type 2x01 "Feminist Army" Review
The first two episodes of Freeform’s The Bold Type premiered on June 12 (with the first episode being released on June 5 if you could manage to get a friend's Hulu password), and we finally get to see our favorite trio continue to navigate New York City and their recent life changes.
Just to recap: when we last saw Jane (Katie Stevens), she had left Scarlet to join the ranks of the edgy, hard-hitting publication aptly named Incite. Sutton (Meghann Fahy) had just ended her short fling with fellow Scarlet employee Alex, while still pining for ex-boyfriend Richard and wishing that their work environment was more suited to workplace relationships. Kat (Aisha Dee) decided to take the leap and join Adena (Nikohl Boosheri) in Peru, finally following through with her feelings that she’d struggled with all season. With the first episode of the second season picking up only two weeks after season one ended in show time, these three definitely have some catching up to do. Let’s dive in, then.
A Classic Rock Hit of Patriarchy
In the wake of a new corporate merger and the #MeToo movement, Scarlet announces that fellow employees can now date, as long as they both sign a Consensual Relationship Form. This means that Richard and Sutton can date without sneaking around, and their relationship would no longer threaten both of their careers. It looks like Sutton’s love life is falling back into place after all, until her and Kat overhear another fashion assistant gossiping about Sutton’s relationship with Alex. She claims this is the reason for Sutton receiving a style credit for one of Alex’s recent projects — she’s “sleeping her way to the top.”
This fashion intern’s name is Mitzi, by the way, in case you needed some more supporting evidence that she’s kind of a brat.
Thankfully, both Sutton and Kat don’t let Mitzi’s slutshaming slide. After being accused of stealing jobs from other fashion assistants, Sutton stubbornly replies, “I’m not stealing jobs from you, I’m working my ass off.”
This is obvious to anyone that watches the show — Sutton is so clearly in her element with her job, and others at Scarlet have rightfully pointed this out. Despite her obvious talent and earlier confidence, she has a talk with Alex about why he chose her for his project. Did their brief relationship have anything to do with his decision? It didn’t, of course, but that didn’t stop Sutton from telling Alex not to assign her any more style credits.
Sutton is afraid of being judged, of being accused of “sleeping to the top.” As she reveals to Jane later on, she’s terrified of possibly becoming one of the best in her field, only to have people still whisper that she got there because of who she slept with. It’s not lost on Jane and Sutton that this is simply not something that men have to think about. Women not only have to be good at their jobs, but they need to carefully curate a persona that is acceptable to those around them in order to be successful. Even when women do become successful, it’s so common to claim that this success doesn’t fully belong to them, but to the men that offered opportunity in exchange for sex.
Alex himself tells her that she’s really good at her job, while Sutton replies “I’m not sure that’s enough.” As depressing as that is, she’s right.
As can be reasoned, Sutton decides to not sign the Consensual Relationship Form. When her and Richard meet up during Scarlet’s cover party, he doesn’t exactly welcome this decision. He doesn’t understand the pressure she is under to preserve herself. Even if their relationship is now legal, that form won’t protect her career.
While we’re talking about Richard — am I the only one that never saw his appeal? He doesn’t strike me as someone who’s particularly fun, or even has a sense of humor, and he has nothing in common with Sutton. Not to mention their uncomfortable power imbalance — he works at a very prestigious position at Scarlet’s parent company, while Sutton only just got promoted to fashion assistant. She says it herself that Richard makes her annual salary in a week — not to mention he’s fifteen years her senior.
He also decides to send her on a guilt trip after hearing her reasoning — you’re walking away from someone who loves you, because of gossip? — yikes. Anyway, here’s to Sutton finding someone who is much kinder (and more attractive) than Richard.
White Feminist Army?
As for Jane, she’s landed a vertical for Incite and jumped right into the hard hitting journalism that managed to pull her way from Scarlet. To begin her new series called “Feminist Army” she interviews a millennial woman named Emma Cox, who is the CEO of OTR (off the rag, get it?), a company that produces menstrual cups for women. What really makes Emma a member of Jane’s “feminist army” is her initiative to help homeless women — for every cup sold, one will be donated to a local homeless shelter and given to a woman in need.
Sounds great, right?
Well, not so much.
It turns out that these donated menstrual cups are doing more harm than good. While interviewing the woman in charge of one of these women’s shelters, she reveals to Jane that three women needed to be hospitalized due to infection. Jane’s confused — aren’t they safer than tampons? Yes, when the women using them have the means to properly clean and sanitize them. As the shelter director informs Jane, these cups were made with women of privilege in mind. They’re “not only useless, but dangerous.”
As you can imagine, Jane isn’t having the easiest time navigating her first major piece for Incite. She started out painting Emma Cox as a hero when she isn’t at all — and to make it worse, Jane finds out that Emma knew about these issues all along. However, in order to keep funding coming in, she continued to advertise OTR’s charitable program even though it’s no longer running. She defends herself by claiming she’s still drawing attention to the problems that homeless women face, in addition to the countless number of girls who miss school because they don’t have access to sanitary products. She argues that “This is a huge gender issue that no one is talking about,” while Jane counters her with “And this is a huge safety issue that you’re covering up.”
According to UCLA’s on-campus feminist news magazine, FEM, white feminism is “feminism that ignores sexism faced by women of color and women facing classism, racism, homophobia or ableism, usually exemplified by white women.” This begs the question: if your activism is only half-assed, is it really activism? Are you really a feminist if you only use the perspective of rich, white, western women?
Is Emma Cox’s white feminism doing more harm than good? I think it’s safe to say yes. She is using feminism as a platform in which to make herself a profit; using the guise of charity to increase her funding and her public image while homeless women are suffering.
This isn’t the first time that The Bold Type has touched on the issue of white feminism. Kat mentions in the same episode that while traveling, most of the public perceives Scarlet as only catering to straight, rich, white women. This is also the reason why Kat’s current girlfriend Adena wasn’t a huge fan of Scarlet when they met. She found it worrisome that the magazine only focused on issues related to white feminism — like the merits of shaving or using sex toys — rather than actual dangers that women face around the world.
So far, I’m pleased with The Bold Type leaning into this conversation. I hope they can push the envelope further and call white feminism by name. This show is still in its early days, and if they keep introducing these much needed conversations about feminism, race, sexuality, etc, the show could truly be revolutionary.
Kadena will Seas the Day
Get it? They’re a ship? Okay, moving on.
This section might be the shortest, but it’s because I only have this to say: THANK YOU, FREEFORM.
Kat and Adena were one of my favorite parts of the first season, and they’re not disappointing this time around. It was refreshing to watch Kat come to terms with her bisexuality while managing her feelings for Adena in Season 1, and to have this be shown as something positive. It shouldn’t be difficult nowadays to portray someone discovering their sexuality, all with the unwavering support of those around them, but apparently it is, and The Bold Type is one of the first times I’ve seen this situation come across my screen.
At the end of the first season we saw Kat finally take her shot with Adena, followed by a two week vacation to Peru. Once they’re both back in New York City we get to see them both so unapologetically in love with each other, something made even more significant when you consider Kat’s struggles in Season 1. They have an open, honest, and healthy discussion about sex — again, something that isn’t common on TV. Adena gets to meet Kat’s parents next episode, and I can’t wait.
All in all, The Bold Type opened strong with this episode. They once again began a conversation about feminism, sexuality, gender, race, privilege; I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of the season.
The Bold Type airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on Freeform.