There are dozens upon dozens of posts aimed for upper teens through early twenty-somethings that are full of heavily gendered material on “How To Be The Girl Who Does Everything.” These publications stress the importance of participating in a variety of activities in high school, college, or early career; most stress being over-scheduled is a great thing! And you’ll build your resume quickly! And meet oodles of new people! And there is no downside to committing yourself to Literally Everything as long as you have a cute planner and Pinterest account to organize everything.
Obviously, this is a ridiculous notion, and people who follow advice like that are headed down the slippery slope to a nervous breakdown. AND, on top of that, these elusive “guides” are rarely every aimed at the counterparts of young overachieving women: young men and those who fit outside of the feminine gender binary. But amidst the gendered material and lack of empowerment, a gleaming star was bestowed upon us…
One of the prevailing positive figures in pop culture is a character named Leslie Knope of Parks and Recreation. The show follows Leslie Knope and her cohorts, Anne Perkins, Ben Wyatt, Tom Haverford, Ron Swanson, April Ludgate, and Andy Dwyer. Parks and Recreation mixes a small amount of each of the characters’ personal lives with their careers, so it shows the difficulties they face in city government and eventually higher offices. Leslie starts in the local Parks and Recreation department and slowly makes her way through city council, governor of Indiana, and is implied to eventually become President of The United States.
This show follows a female lead, but that really only emphasizes the messages of empowerment, positivity, hard work, and the constant presence of well-written humor. And, drawing a stark contrast to aforementioned articles, Leslie at no time is The Girl Who Does Everything. She sticks to her personal values and goals, rarely every overextending herself to do something she isn’t invested in.
Although you can’t necessarily become Leslie Knope, you can evaluate your personal values, goals, and beliefs and commit yourself to things that represent those and follow this handy list of endearing Knope qualities.
- Care deeply for the things you believe in–and don’t be afraid to voice it.
Leslie stood up for every belief she held near and dear. She advocated for the department that brought happiness and achievement to Pawnee, she loved her friends deeply (and told you often), and she often voiced her dislike for salads. To be a Leslie, you must care deeply, love widely, and be willing to shout it to people who may not care. (i.e., 99% of Pawnee.)
- Learn to give real presents.
Gift-giving is a sport. It’s a competitive sport where, if you’re Leslie, you wonder, “Did I do better than last year?” “Are they happier with this than they have been with my past presents?” Leslie wouldn’t buy that piece of sh%t candle for Anne; she knows her friends and what they would love. Leslie is the Queen of Thoughtful Gestures, and you should at least try to do better than socks. (No one wants your lame socks, Martha. Do better.)
- Don’t be oblivious to city politics. (Or National politics. Any politics, really.)
Why shouldn’t you care about this? Your elected officials receive a stipend from your tax dollars. They speak on issues that concern you and those around you. They represent the people and ideals of your hometown/state/country to the rest of the world. Leslie didn’t hesitate to call officials out on their inappropriate activity of straight-up bullsh!t, and you shouldn’t hesitate either.
- Consider how others are treated.
Leslie’s stripper name would be “equality,” and while that might seem like a very well-written joke (it is definitely well-written), it is also a testament to her fight for equality! She cared about how her fellow Pawneeans and Americans were being treated. You don’t have to marry two gay penguins and smuggle them to another state, you don’t have to learn the entirety of a Native American language to ensure the Harvest Festival generator, but you do have to give a sh!t. Do what Leslie would do, and work with The American Civil Liberties Union and other organizations that lobby for legislation and individual freedoms.
(***As a note: the people who say, “well *I* don’t HAVE to do anything…” are almost always the people who are shaken to their core and angrily ranting on Facebook if there is the slightest suggestion of their guns being taken away.)
- Don’t take no for an answer.
Leslie’s career was centered around chopping down red tape with an empowering machete. She chose not to take no for an answer, even if that meant running her own campaign team. Or organizing the Harvest Festival to save her city. Or fighting Councilman Jamm to get the pit turned into a lot turned into a park. Or the literal hundreds of times that she could have accepted rejection but didn’t.
Leslie is a fierce, ruthless, powerful woman. She demanded respect from ALL in a career focused on serving those around her. She is a hurricane of achievement, cackles, waffles, friendship, and courage… and there’s nothing saying you can’t be either.