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Who Knew Farrah Fawcett Was a Feminist Icon?

farrah fawcettThe late, great Farrah Fawcett is in the news today— her iconic red bathing suit, pictured at left, is being donated to the Smithsonian. It’s been gifted by her former partner, Ryan O’Neal. I never knew much about Farrah in the day. I bought her ditsy dumb blonde routine, and kind of wrote her off as a result. If you asked me what was remarkable about her, I’d be hard pressed to come up with much beyond her hair and her smile. Oh, and her nipples. But it turns out that Ms. Fawcett was pretty rad, and her radness was especially apparent in the way she handled her pregnancy.

Farrah got pregnant at 37, which in 1980s years was equivalent to about age 62.  But the really interesting thing isn’t just that she was an older pregnant woman, it’s that she opted to stay single through the pregnancy, and not to marry her boyfriend (O’Neal), calling him “Too bossy”.We now know a little more about the Ryan O’Neal situation—perhaps bossy was a euphemism for drunk, insane and abusive. But the way Fawcett is portrayed makes her sound pretty damn forward-thinking:

“But if the birth of Redmond James Fawcett O’Neal (Redmond after his father’s role in Barry Lyndon) was filmic, it wasn’t Farrah’s old smile-and-jiggle routine. Rather it was the kind of declarative act that she has been increasingly striving toward. Farrah-as-mom is a challenging role, featuring control—of self and others—that no one dreamed the toothsome Angel could have exerted a few years ago…Notes one Hollywood observer, “The baby and the refusal to get married are both part of a new productive cycle: Farrah’s decision to take charge of her career and life.”

People Magazine published Fawcett’s entire birth story in this article in 1985. It’s quite amazing to read, really, not just because of what it reveals about Farrah, but what it shows us about the trajectory of People, and maybe journalism in general.  Compare this to 2011′s People, where coverage of celebrity pregnancy and birth revolves around nursery decor and fluffy declarations of joy and love. Imagine, an actual thoughtful story about celebrity childbirth?!

Farrah, we hardly knew ye. Sorry for selling you short in my youth. I did love my Farrah Fawcett doll. She always got to play the madam in the whorehouse.

Read Farrah’s birth story in People Magazine.

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