“If I’d observed all the rules, I’d never have got anywhere.” Powerful isn’t it, and this particular statement speaks volume about the vocalist – a persona dignified. Who would have dared thought, a person perceived only as a sex symbol will have such an adroit feminism engraved in her attitude. The legendary Marilyn Monroe didn’t just preach, but truly lived by her (un)rules. She was critiqued for her affairs, sexual indiscretions, boldness, and her ‘I don’t give a damn’ attitude to life. But the irony remains that today, we choose to celebrate her for exactly those things. We all struggle with being true to ourselves. But Monroe surpassed that hurdle beautifully, actually living her ideals. ‘Vanity Fair’ called her the smartest “dumb blonde” of the 20th century. She did not rally to fight for women’s rights, she did not shout slogans, and she did not join protests to shout her opinion.
Monroe entered Hollywood knowing the kind of sexism it practiced and supported. “Hollywood is a place where they’ll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul,” she famously said. She not only dealt with it in her own charming and charismatic way, she even opposed the underlying norms for women laid down by society. She embraced her sexuality in a way that made the world uncomfortable, and aren’t we glad she did that. Marilyn Monroe was the ultimate femme fatal, known predominately for her seductive, albeit ditzy, blonde persona. But behind that glossy smile, breathy voice, and bedroom eyes was a woman who knew how to control her femininity and sexuality to craft a career that has outlived her by more than 50 years.
Since she was such a complex character, Marilyn Monroe found herself stuck in the middle of two different types of women: those who were disgusted or intimidated by her glamour and wanted her to tone everything down, and those who loved her look just as it was and wanted her to stop trying to be taken seriously. Marilyn shared her views on the subject in 1959: “I’d like to be known as a real actress and human being,” she said, “but listen, there’s nothing wrong with glamour either. I think everything adds up. I’ll never knock glamour. But I want to be in the kind of pictures where I can develop, not just wear tights.” It could easily be argued that Marilyn suffered frequent frustration because people wanted to pigeonhole her into being just one kind of personality. This undoubtedly came as a result of her unique and modern outlook on life—one more fitting to the twenty-first century rather than the 1950s. She was actually a modern-day feminist, though the very idea struck the nerves of many at that time. By the mid-1950s society was obsessed with women as homemakers, so the idea that Marilyn would want to buck against that and become a producer instead, made many people uncomfortable. They laughed and wrote really sarcastic, offensive articles about her. But in spite of that, Marilyn kept moving forward. She never let their remarks hinder her progress, and that makes her a huge trailblazer. Some would argue it’s quite a stretch to call Marilyn Monroe a feminist, especially since she capitalized on the blonde bombshell stereotype or fantasy. Feminism is about empowerment. To be in control of your own life and go after the things you believe in – despite your gender – is feminism. Marilyn did have a blonde bombshell image, but how she looked is irrelevant to her fight. She fought for every single thing she achieved, and demanded respect. That is feminism.
Although it has been over 50 years since her death, her image and words still enthrall the masses with their beauty and inspiration. The reasons for her enduring influence are plenty and she is an ideal personification of female empowerment. She was constantly trying to improve herself and surrounded herself with people whose talent and intelligence she admired and this infused her confidence and will. She knew the power her beauty bestowed her and used it to full advantage with well-rehearsed facial expressions and body language. She also continually honed her craft of acting and her desire to be a decent and loving human being. While Marilyn’s death has been debated by many whether it was suicide or murder, there can be no doubt that while she strove with the strength of her will to bring herself over societies one dimensional interpretation of her that it took its toll on her life. Regardless of her final hours – Marilyn showed us through her music, movies, and appearances that she was not a woman to be left in a corner and forgotten. Marilyn is an empowered women not because she was a strong assertive woman, for indeed she was never portrayed this way, but she was a dynamic personality who even today inspires women around the world, and men still admire her beauty. She is so popular that companies still use her name for their brands, and her story is one that is a lesson for those who choose to hear it. While she is not here to tell it – it’s been told in many different points of view. She has been the rebel, the sex goddess, the little girl, the singer, and movie queen, but most of all, her story shows she above all was always human.