Jennifer Finnigan | feminine feminist

Jennifer Finnigan | feminine feminist

by marlies|dekkers

When I met Jennifer Finnigan in Los Angeles at our Emmy’s gift lounge, there was an immediate spark and connection. The Canadian actress, who is currently starring in the controversial TV drama Tyrant, turned out to be a lingerie-loving, feminine feminist with a noble mission: to revolutionize the TV world, one show at a time. But when she found out I was Dutch, she insisted on first telling me about her adventure in our own Red Light District.

Marlies: “I’m all ears!”

Jennifer: “Well, after a wonderful conversation in a Red Light District restaurant with a professional dominatrix who happened to be sitting right next to us, she invited me to feel what it’s like to work behind a window. As we were walking out of the restaurant my husband (actor Jonathan Silverman, red.) said: “You are NOT going to do that.” And I said: “You BET I am!”

Marlies: (laughs) “He was more nervous than you were!”

Jennifer: “I told myself: ‘You are an actress, you can do this, just get into character.” But when I stepped into her window in my tank top, I broke down. I simply felt too raw, too vulnerable. And I understood just how vulnerable she had to make herself every single day to do this.”

Marlies: “Which takes so much courage.”

Jennifer: “Exactly! I realized that’s the thing about strong women: they dare to be vulnerable. But mostly I admired her for finding empowerment in a situation that isn’t traditionally considered feminist.”

Marlies: “Our generation, being part of the third Feminist wave, has the power to redefine feminism. This time, we don’t have to burn our bras; we can embrace our sexuality and our femininity! Years ago, I designed a beautiful dress that completely exposes your behind. My bare butt dress. I decided to ‘test’ it in person in the Red Light District. And you know what? Nobody thought I was for sale, men even looked away. However, when I crossed a busy square afterwards, I got applauded! I knew then: Holland is ready for a new feminine design language. Now the dress is in the Rijksmuseum.”

Jennifer: “I have to tell you, your lingerie makes me feel bold and powerful, I love wearing it!”

Marlies: “Thank you! Do you consider yourself a feminist?”

Jennifer: “Very much so. First of all, I’ve always chosen roles of intelligent women, like doctors or lawyers; I want female characters that have a positive influence and a positive voice. When I was brought on to play the female lead in my current TV show (Tyrant, by the creators of Homeland, red.), it was a male production: the producers and writers were predominantly older men. The first season you could play a drinking game based on how many times I strolled around the palace, drinking a cup of tea, asking my husband: “Are you okay?”

Marlies: “I bet you would be drunk by the end of that game!”

Jennifer: “Totally drunk. And it was so stifling to me that I gently suggested they dispose of my character if they continued like that. Well they listened: female writers were brought in, the female characters became stronger. In season two, an amazing female producing director/show runner was brought on board. By season three, almost half the episodes were directed by women, half the writers were women and the story was almost solely driven by the women.”

Marlies: “The thing is, the audience -both men and women- love  to watch strong women at the moment. Think about Homeland, Scandal or Vikings. A lot of TV series are even ahead of society when it comes to feminism. More so than Hollywood movies. It gives me so much hope! Do you feel the same way?”

Jennifer: “Absolutely. Feminism is about abolishing stereotypes and that’s what we’re doing right now in the media. To give you an example: this season on Tyrant my character’s husband had an affair with a beautiful young woman. Back in the day, the confrontation between the two female characters would be like some mud wrestling match between two catty, jealous women. But now, they gave us beautiful, intelligent dialogue. Much more powerful.”

Marlies: “I understand that your husband is a feminist too.”

Jennifer: “Yes, we’re com-pletely equal partners, even though he likes to make me feel like I’m the boss, haha! That’s why it was so shocking to both of us, that when we co-directed a movie 3 years ago, the crew would automatically address my husband. While I was standing right next to him! Instead of screaming, – which I really wanted to, believe me! – I worked hard on winning people’s respect, one by one. By the second week, everyone would come to me with questions! Do you know that meme: ‘Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in heels.’? That was us! There’s still some work to do, but I’m very optimistic.”

Marlies: “Me too Jennifer, how wonderful to meet a kindred spirit. Thank you!”

Jennifer: “Yes, we’re com-pletely equal partners, even though he likes to make me feel like I’m the boss, haha! That’s why it was so shocking to both of us, that when we co-directed a movie 3 years ago, the crew would automatically address my husband. While I was standing right next to him! Instead of screaming, – which I really wanted to, believe me! – I worked hard on winning people’s respect, one by one. By the second week, everyone would come to me with questions! Do you know that meme: ‘Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in heels.’? That was us! There’s still some work to do, but I’m very optimistic.”

Marlies: “Me too Jennifer, how wonderful to meet a kindred spirit. Thank you!”

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