In the past, the Sackler Center First Award (given out by the Brooklyn Museum’s center for feminist art) has gone to trailblazing women like Sandra Day O’Connor, Toni Morrison, and director-choreographer Susan Stroman. But in 2015, the organization snagged its highest-profile honoree yet: Miss Piggy.
In a piece for Time magazine (“provided,” i.e., written, by the Muppets Studio), Miss Piggy brags about the award — and takes the opportunity to explain why she is a feminist:
Some might say moi is just a mere Hollywood celebrity who cares more about her appearance, her star billing, and her percentage of the gross than about women and women’s rights.
To which I can only respond: “Oh yeah!?!” By which, of course, I mean that moi is now and has always been an ardent feminist and champion of women’s rights.
It’s a cute column, but it’s making a serious point. The question of whether it’s anti-feminist to care about adhering to (traditional, sexist) beauty standards was an important dividing line between second- and third-wave feminism — with third-wave feminists arguing that it’s most important for women to pursue their own desires, even if one of those desires is simply to look good.
Miss Piggy is a quintessential third-wave feminist, and she knows it:
It’s true, I did not march in Women’s Rights parades down Fifth Avenue in the early 1970s. (That was long before I was born). However, today, in solidarity with my feminist foremothers, I go shopping on Fifth Avenue whenever possible.
And it is true; I did not burn my bra. Was this a political statement? No, it was simple common-sense economics. When one pays top dollar for intimate apparel like moi does, setting it ablaze is wasteful, improvident and highly incendiary.
Even Miss Piggy’s self-absorption plays into an ongoing feminist debate. Miss Piggy defends the importance of a star receiving “her star billing and especially her percentage of the gross” as a feminist issue. That’s totally in line with the image of feminism that’s currently being pushed by Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg through her book Lean In, in which she argues that it’s important for ambitious women to get what they deserve in high-powered careers. Other feminists tend to see this as myopic at best, and a deliberate exclusion of the needs of nonwhite, non-wealthy women at worst.
Miss Piggy’s essay makes it clear that she came from humble beginnings on a farm: “I was told that my life would be nothing but mud, sweat and tears … and the occasional trip to the 4-H fair.”
The ultimate irony of the essay is that despite being, literally, a puppet, Miss Piggy has always been a ferociously independent character. Let’s not forget that in the 2011 movie The Muppets, she was thriving as a “plus-size” editor for Vogue in Paris while the rest of the gang had faded into has-beenery. (Of course, Miss Piggy is actually much, much thinner than her fellow “Porcine-Americans.” She’s another reminder that Hollywood has a pretty distorted idea of what counts as “plus-size.”) And just as Sandberg counsels, Miss Piggy has never been afraid of using confrontation to get her way. That’s why her message in Time is:
I believe that any woman who refuses to accept society’s pre-conceived notions of who or what they can be is a feminist. I believe any woman who is willing to struggle, strive—and if necessary learn karate—to make their mark in the world is a feminist.
In honor of the feminist icon, here’s a supercut of Miss Piggy’s karate chops over seasons two and three of The Muppet Show:
by Dara Lind