Rashida Jones, Jewish Feminist Hero by the Forward

Rashida Jones, Jewish Feminist Hero

You think it would be easy for feminists to just say no when others challenge their choices, but, in reality, most women still have to yield to the will of others in what is still largely a man’s world in order to get things done.

Well Rashida Jones, star of NBC’s hilarious (and nonchalantly feminist) “Parks and Recreation,” and the upcoming film “Celeste and Jess,” is not one of these women.

In an interview with the New York Times about her new movie, which she also co-wrote, she explains how it took a lot of confidence, and even a degree of chutzpah, to get the movie made as she envisioned it.

Jones discusses how tough it was to find financing for the film during the recession, but she didn’t give up. “It was frustrating, but I really wanted to make the film. At a certain point my resolve became not that fun for people around me,” she told the Times.

And how she was equally stubborn about writing and playing a female character who was a bit complicated.

Jones, 36, is the daughter of music mogul Quincy Jones and actress Peggy Lipton, who grew up in an observant Jewish home in Lawrence, New York. Jones was raised with some Judaism by her mother, and still identifies with the faith. In 2007, she told American Jewish Life Magazine that Judaism still informs her spiritual life.

In the American Jewish Life interview she talks about how, at first, she had a tough time getting roles because she isn’t black enough to play a black woman, and isn’t white enough to play a white one. But eventually she found that for some parts her unique look turned out to be an advantage. “…because I don’t look like one thing or fit into one thing, the people who do cast me understand me as an individual and what I have to offer as opposed to what I look like and how it fits into their mold.”

In addition to “Celeste and Jess” and “Parks and Recreation,” Jones has also appeared in “The Office” and has starred in feature films like “Our Idiot Brother” and “I Love You, Man,” alongside Paul Rudd and Jason Segal.

In all of her roles, Jones has found a way to play her characters in a manner that women can actually identify with. She manages to avoid all the Hollywood cliches for female characters like the adorable, and often single, klutz, the emotionally shut-off, high-achieving career woman or the quirky and unstable manic pixie dream girl. Instead, Jones’s female characters come off as intelligent and vulnerable. Also, unlike a lot of female characters in comedy, they tend to be in on the joke as opposed to the butt of it.

Jones ends her interview with the New York Times on a hopeful, and inspiring, note. One that mixes her “just say no” moxie with an all-out endorsement for the power of the feminine.

Rashida, we love you.


Elissa Strauss

Elissa Strauss

Elissa Strauss has written for the Forward over a number of years. She is a regular contributor to CNN, whose work has been published in a number of publications including The New York Times, Glamour, ELLE, and Longreads.

Rashida Jones, Jewish Feminist Hero

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Rashida Jones, Jewish Feminist Hero

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