‘Parks and Recreation’ Open Thread: Feminism 101

This post contains spoilers through the March 8 episode of Parks and Recreation.

Remember in January when I talked to Nick Offerman and gave y’all the word that he had written his first episode of the show, and that it dealt with the question of whether Ron Swanson is a feminist? Well, this was that episode. And I think it may have been one of my favorites of the season, particularly in the way it kept the stories adjacent to but not involving Leslie moving along.

The A story itself, though, was pretty good. I’m glad the show is finally dealing with the fact that the campaign isn’t just a machine that reinforces for Leslie and Ben how right they are for each other. Because he’s doing his job right, and because he’s deeply invested in it, Ben can’t just be the adorably tense, dorky dude Leslie loves so much: he’s a tense, dorky dude with the power to tell her what to do. And sometimes that stuff isn’t much fun. But when she blows him off, it’s a disaster, resulting in an impromptu, drunk campaign interview that could halt her rise in the polls, of not knock her out of them completely. What made the story so great, though, was not the stretch-limo chase to Indianapolis to get the tape (a development that made me devoutly wish Parks and Recreation could find an actual way for Tom to grow). Instead it was that even in the midst of an epic cock-up, Leslie managed to notice people Pawnee wasn’t serving well-Pawnee’s airport workers-come up with a plan to help them, and win their loyalty such that they’re willing to do her a solid. The story was a perfect mix of acknowledging Leslie’s fallibility while reaffirming her fundamental dedication and talent.

I also just loved watching Ron click with Andy’s women’s studies professor at their celebratory dinner after he passed his first college class. “My father once told my mother that God made Eve from Adam’s rib,” he says, explaining that while he’s not technically a feminist, he stands in solidarity with strong women. “She broke his jaw.” It’s an interesting contrast with Chris, who is almost too deferential, telling the professor, “I didn’t want you to think I was objectifying you with my male gaze.” She goes home with Ron, who isn’t making any effort to be any less masculine-“No need. Porterhouse. Rare. Quickly,” he tells the waitress-but is also fully on board with what she teaches. Masculinity and feminism, in this case, are two great tastes that go great together.

And I found the C story, in which Donna blows off a date to hang out with Jerry, who proved to be unexpectedly dedicated to stuffing envelopes, surprisingly sweet. We see Jerry lose so often that I’ve enjoyed seeing him find himself in his element on Leslie’s campaign, whether he’s running phone banks or stuffing mailers. Even if he screws up, as he did last night, it’s nice to see him as the person in Leslie’s life other than Ben who has best stepped up to help her, and in doing so, has found a bit of hi,s