Why Bridget Jones doesn’t deserve to be on a list of world’s most powerful women

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Image: universal

LONDON Bridget Jones is the hapless, chain-smoking singleton who made granny pants sexy, and introduced “fuckwits” into our vernacular. Is she also one of the most powerful women of the past 70 years? Yes, according to BBC’s 2016 Power List which listed her as one of seven women who’ve had the biggest impact on British women’s lives.

The inclusion of a fictional character on a list of women who’ve shaped history and who have existed IRL is problematic. While Bridget might be everyone’s spirit guide to single life, her contribution to history isn’t all that note-worthy. And the naming of this character has proved hugely controversial on social media. How hard is it to pick an actual human being who has shaped history?

Who’s on the list?

The Power List’s focus on the past seven decades is significant. It was created to celebrate 70 years since Womans Hour a radio programme broadcast on BBC Radio 4 first aired in 1946. The seven women were chosen by a panel of judges including Suffragette screenwriter Abi Morgan and journalist Emma Barnett who whittled down hundreds of suggestions made by listeners.

Margaret Thatcher has found herself in the unlikely company of Bridget Jones and Beyonce, thanks to BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour Power List.

Image: PA Wire/PA Images

Britain’s first ever female prime minister Margaret Thatcher is top of the list for her contributions good and bad to the feminist movement in the 1980s. Then there’s Helen Brook who played an integral role in making contraception available to unmarried women during the 1960s. There’s Barbara Castle, a politician who piloted the Equal Pay Act through parliament in 1970, not to mention Jayaben Desai, who led one of the UK’s biggest strikes over poor working conditions for a factory’s female and Asian workforce.

Beyonc’s contribution to black women’s rights has also been recognised on the list.

Image: AP

Queen of pop Beyonc is on the list for her contribution to black womens rights along with feminist campaigner Germaine Greer for her impact on the feminist movement in the 1970s.

Without a shadow of a doubt, these women have played big roles in shaping the course of history and improving the overall quality of British women’s lives.

But, then there’s Bridget. She’s the heroine of Helen Fielding’s 1996 novel Bridget Jones’ Diary and the film adaptations which chronicled the life of a thirty-something single working woman living in London. But, did she really have the same impact on women’s lives as the aforementioned individuals?

Bridget Jones: the ‘flawed heroine’

In an article announcing the list, the judges concede that “she’s not a ‘real person'”. They go on to justify her inclusion, stating that she had a huge impact on “how women felt about themselves and how women saw themselves”.

The piece goes on to say that the book and film “resonated with a whole generation of singletons struggling to find their place in a world populated by smug marrieds, with only some Chardonnay to help”.

Judge Emma Barnett said that Bridget Jones is the British version of Carrie Bradshaw. “Shes our flawed heroine, that character which enabled women who didnt have children, didnt have the perfect life, to laugh at themselves and feel unashamed of who they are.”

It’s certainly true that Bridget Jones is a hugely relatable character; particularly in the way she captures the pressures women faced in the ’90s pressures women continue to face today. Like many singletons, Bridget feels constantly under fire from relatives and people in relationships who question why she’s still single in her thirties. The book and films chart her struggles to lose weight, dress better, quit smoking, drink less and sound more intelligent in conversations. But the main focus remains her goal to find a boyfriend and her worries that she may end up dying alone.

But is Bridget’s relatability on a par with influencing history? Sure, she’s a funny and charming character with whom many of us can identify but will her contribution to women’s rights or lives go down in the annals of history?

Notable absences from the list

The very fact that an imaginary person was deemed more significant than countless women both living and dead who made concrete and tangible contributions to history was a divisive on social media. Many expressed frustration at the addition of a fictional character.

Some suggested women they considered more worthy of the list. Many felt that female scientists had been completely overlooked.

And, some stated that Bridget Jones author Helen Fielding would have been a better fit, given the fact she created the character.

Others believed that the omission of J.K. Rowling was an odd decision.

Queen Elizabeth II was also missing from the list. Her 62-year reign spans almost seven decades, making her the longest-reigning monarch and head of state in world history. No big deal, though.

No one’s disputing that Bridget Jones was and still is a hugely identifiable character. But, her mark on history isn’t comparable to the women who made real-life contributions.

Sorry, Woman’s Hour. Please pick a human being next time.

BONUS: Bridget Jones is on the property ladder, here’s what her flat looks like now

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