Judge Judy Is the Modern Feminist Icon We Deserve

  1. Home
  2. Entertainment
By Elisha Maldonado | 4:52 pm, September 28, 2016

Move over, Lena Dunham, there’s about to be a new woman actually, really empowering women on television. That’s if the show remains true to the woman it’s based on. Earlier this month, CBS announced a new show aptly titled “Her Honor,” which will focus on the youngest judge in New York — one who rocks at her job in Family Court, but needs to work a little more on her personal life.

It’s modeled after Judge Judy Sheindlin, the fierce and fiery judge who’s been flinging out pearls of wisdom like, “beauty fades, dumb is forever,” at litigants on her incredibly popular TV court show, “Judge Judy,” for the last 20 years.

Despite Sheindlin being a disher of hard truths with a seemingly rough exterior (two things that have me entirely besotted with her), she’s drawing in an unprecedented 10 million viewers a day.

“It has to be the message and the messenger and some excellent direction, which is why the show looks so good,” Sheindlin told the New York Post’s Michael Starr last year, when talking about the show’s popularity. “The message is a simple one: It’s your life, take responsibility for it, say you’re sorry and ’fess up when you do something wrong. That has to be delivered in an entertaining way and, fortunately, I don’t have to act.”


And Judge Judy, for one, has inarguably taken responsibility for her life — successful, married, highest paid person on television.

But anyway, if “Her Honor” does right by Sheindlin, we’ll have a show based on a strong woman who believes wholeheartedly in herself, her abilities, takes ownership over her life and, above all, genuinely loves herself. I have hope; the judge herself, after all, is teaming up with CBS to co-write the pilot of a scripted drama series based on her life and career.

What promises to make this show particularly interesting is that Sheindlin, rather notably, refuses to call herself a feminist.

This is anathema in today’s culture, which says women are not only equal to men, we might be a little above them. And if you don’t believe in the exact version of feminism that’s running rampant in Hollywood and on our politically correct college campuses, you’re practically a misogynist — even if you’re a woman yourself.

But what sets Sheindlin apart from the highfalutin feminists today — and she really should be the standard, not the exception — is that she never thought of her gender as either a hindrance or a boon for her career. She merely believed in herself for who she is.

In an interview two years ago with Katie Couric, the journalist talks to Sheindlin about “both being feminists” because Judge Judy was one of six women in her law school.

To which the incomparable judge had the most killer response:

I never considered myself a feminist. All during my professional career, whether it be a lawyer or a judge, I never belonged to a woman’s organization. I wasn’t a woman lawyer, I was a woman who happened to be a lawyer. I wasn’t a woman judge, I was a judge who happened to be a woman. I actually never felt, probably I was too stupid to know that I was held back at any time because of my gender, and I still don’t feel as if there was any time in my life when I thought being a woman held me back. You define yourself. If you let other people define you, that’s a mistake.

And that’s it, guys, that’s really it. Defining and loving yourself for you as a woman is the highest reach of feminism. In fact, it broadens the feminist tent. It makes it far bigger than the mainstream media and its sensationalism would suggest. It’s far bigger than some of the prominent feminists out there would even espouse.

What this brand of feminism does is leave room for all kinds of women, like the ones who genuinely feel most fulfilled as a mother and wife. Or the women who choose a career and not marriage. Or the women who choose both a career and family. And it even leaves room for the Judies of the world to demand that someone not “pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.”

Real feminism celebrates all of the pieces that make a woman unique. As my sister says, perhaps if we defined ourselves by who we are — as in the content of our character and our abilities — we’d love ourselves more. And we’d think less about being a “real” feminist and be more concerned about being true to (and responsible for) our whole beings.

I think Sheindlin would agree.