Love Her or Hate Her, Let’s Let Zooey Be Zooey

My enormous deer eyes command you to think I'm the cutest.

Want to really get the War of the Sexes going? Sure, you could bring up the Big Issues — a woman’s right to have access to birth control, the dangers and idiocy of slut-shaming, everything that Rick Santorum has ever thought about anything, etc.

Or you could just mention Manic Pixie Dream Girl and #1 on your friends’ and lovers’ “can-bang” list (I promise you, this is true), Zooey Deschanel.

Zooey has become a deeply polarizing figure on the battlefield we call gender. Men seem universally to love her, while women have decidedly mixed feelings. Sure, she’s cuter than a tiny pig in tiny boots or a corgi in a sweater or a sloth doing literally anything or (well, you get the idea). But it’s that kind of cute that makes you sort of want to push her off a building, just to see if her teensy polkadot dress and massive doll hair catch her like a parachute, amirite?

Just take her character in her new TV show, “New Girl.” Jess, who is basically just Zooey playing herself, is a grade school teacher who wears adorable oversize glasses, sweet little dresses, sings to herself constantly, loves to be nice to strangers, and bakes cupcakes in almost every episode. And her three male roommates? Are they pining slavishly over her, competing to be her ironic sweater vest-wearing, facial hair-having, fixed gear bike-riding boyfriend? Nope. They think she’s weird and awkward and they are embarrassed by her.

In the sage words of my significant other, “That would literally never happen.”

The problem many ladies (myself occasionally included) have with Zooey is that she perpetuates an impossible ideal of womanhood, all while getting to portray herself as “edgy” and “quirky” and “outside the norm.” By that, she must just mean outside the norm of the 21st century, because these days, most women simply don’t have time to bake and craft that much. But in her own awkward-girl way, Zooey perpetuates a male fantasy — simultaneously infantilized and sexual, embodying the virgin-whore dichotomy, domestic and mysterious, cute as a button and utterly unattainable — that no one can possibly live up to. And more to the point, that no one should want or need to. We can’t all be expected to bike through the over-saturated scenes of our lives in sundresses emblazoned with hearts, and still accomplish anything. Zooey makes us feel like we should be a certain way, which is anathema to so many of us who were raised with strong, do-anything-you-set-your-mind-to female role models and senses of ourselves. At the same time, she makes us want to be that way. It’s exhausting.

But as much as Zooey Deschanel, and everything she seems to embody about fetishized cuteness, irks me, I have to say something really important. It’s not okay to hate her for being who, it seems, she really is.

To put it another way: There’s this amazing “30 Rock” episode called “TGS Hates Women.” In an effort to make the writing staff of TGS a little more balanced, Liz Lemon brings in a female comic to write. Unfortunately, as Liz soon finds, she is not the edgy, girl power type. Instead, she has long, straight blonde hair styled in porny pigtails and acts, dresses, and talks like a naughty infant. Liz ham-fistedly tries to get the new girl to be her “real self,” only to unwittingly reveal her identity to her psycho-stalker ex. Liz looks stupid, and everyone learns an important lesson: Feminism, and liberation, and all the things our foremothers and we ourselves have fought for, means being allowed to be whoever the hell you are.

Even if who you are is a sex-crazed infant who calls everyone “Daddy.” Even if who you are is a retro bombshell who just wants to make cupcakes for boys and has farm animals on her checks .

On a recent episode of “New Girl,” called “Jess and Julia,” the writers and Deschanel herself tackle all the Zooey haters in a surprisingly winning, funny way. The haters are collectively portrayed by the amazingly amazing Lizzy Caplan (Janice Ian from “Mean Girls,” among other memorable roles), a hot-shot lady lawyer named Julia who thinks Jess’ whole schtick is exhausting. Jess, however, doesn’t know she’s doing a “schtick,” and lets Julia know, in a fairly awesome monologue, how much bullshit it is to judge another woman about the way she presents herself.

And it is bullshit. Zooey Deschanel, like the rest of us comparably lucky American women, was born into a half-century that would have allowed her to be just about anything — from a hot-shot lady lawyer to a Supreme Court justice to a stay-at-home mom and food blogger, and anything in between. She has chosen a certain vibe, aesthetic, worldview, and set of interests. She has decided to be Zooey Deschanel, and we should be nothing but psyched for her. This doesn’t mean we have to be her, or make the choices she’s made, or embody the kind of womanhood she embodies. But it does mean we should let her be, and be proud of her success, and maybe occasionally sing show tunes while riding a bike in a sundress. You know, if we feel like it.

So You Accidentally Posted A Saucy Picture on Facebook

Accidentally uploaded a racy photo? She's been there. Most of us, at some point, for whatever perfectly acceptable reason, will take a provocative photo of ourselves. Maybe we take it for our significant other, or someone we’d like to know significantly, or for ourselves, or for a human body project, or because we’re practicing figure drawing and have no one else to model for us. And while there’s some of us who can say not only “I’m sexy and I know it” but “I’m sexy and I want everyone to know it,” most of us have a particular person or set of people in mind when we take these pictures, and generally that does not include the bevy of family members, past and current coworkers, and high school rivals that we’ve inevitably added on Facebook.

So what do you when you’ve accidentally posted a smutty picture on your favorite social networking site?

First of all, to avoid this mess in the first place, I recommend using the Thumbnail View when selecting photos to upload instead of the List View. You may think that IMG_285 is a picture of your cupcakes, but it’s actually a picture of your cupcakes (Kristen Bell knows what I’m talking about). This is not the time to trust yourself. But let’s say it’s too late for that and you’ve just realized what a terrible, terrible mistake you’ve made.

Don’t panic. Especially don’t panic and scream and turn your computer monitor off, because that doesn’t stop anyone else from seeing your mistake. Calmly delete the post from your wall. Simple, right? But that will just stop your picture from appearing in the newsfeed and doesn’t get rid of the photo itself, so find your Wall Photos album and delete the offending snapshot from there as well. While this is happening, you should be contacting your best friend. If she’s in class or a meeting, tell her it’s an emergency. This is why we have best friends in the first place. She will not only help you calm down but will check Facebook for any sign of your bare flesh aside from that embarrassing baby picture your mom tagged you in.

Once you’re sure you’ve deleted all the evidence, go ahead and post the picture you had intended on showing off. Just quadruple check it this time, okay?