March is Women’s History Month (in the US).
I am doing a series of posts about women who’ve influenced me.
Katharine Hepburn was older than my grandmother, but everything about her just made sense. The more I learned about her, the more I watched her movies, the more I thought “this is the smartest ‘celebrity’ who ever existed”. More than anything, I adored how she seemed to focus on joy and fun. That made so much sense to me.
She was one of my Nama’s favourite actors, at least in part because of Hepburn’s refusal to play the popularity games that everyone in the media seems incapable of escaping. I remember a discussion between my grandmother and my great uncle about how Hepburn had been labelled as impossible to work with *because she had her own ideas*. My grandmother was *livid* (she may also have been in her cups), and my great uncle (who, I *guarantee* was in his cups) nodded and agreed and egged her on when she seemed to lag in her ranting. “She made it all right to wear *pants* for Chrissakes!” My grandmother pontificated. “Do you have any idea how liberating that was? No more goddamned stockings? Jesus. You never know what a big difference something as small as wearing pants out of the house is until you don’t get to do it after you turn 10.” (Of *course* I’d never thought of that before. The biggest fight over pants I’d ever had was that I insisted on wearing them, and only the ones with pockets on the butt.)
I watched this woman on screen and was intrigued by her choice of characters to play. She did not do the glamourous dresses and the flowing wardrobe, but she was always the one you could never look away from. She exuded confidence and intelligence. It was no wonder Hollywood didn’t want to work with her; she was uncontrollable, driven, and smarter than they were. Hepburn ‘stuck to her guns’, my grandmother would say (which always made me think of the unfortunate butter knife/superglue incident of 1982 in which several family members who shall remain nameless, and emboldened with much whiskey, decided to reproduce every one of the situations from the Krazy Glue(tm) advertisement). I knew at a very young age that I wanted to be the sort of person who ‘stuck to my guns’ (although not in the same manner that a family member who shall remain nameless stuck a butter knife to their hand).
I wanted to be known for my brains, not my face or my body. I wanted people to respect my opinions…or if not my opinions, I wanted them to respect the fact that I *had* opinions that were my own. I wanted to be the sort of person who did things on my own, for myself, and who had fun doing them. And I did prefer wearing pants.