Feminist or Not?: Holly Golightly

“Breakfast at Tiffany’s” is as classic as a movie gets, and Audrey Hepburn’s embodiment of a swingin’ single girl’s lifestyle in 1960s New York City is the stuff that daydreams are made of. But by celebrating Holly are we helping or hurting our own cause?

Confession: I consistently list “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” as one of my all-time favorite movies; I roomed with a poster of Audrey Hepburn as Holly during college; and I have dressed up as the iconic H.G. (tiara and all) for Halloween about three times over the years.

And still, the character irks me. When you take away the fabulous clothes, adorable accent and enviable lifestyle—she may use an old bathtub as a couch, but she Iives in a one-bedroom walk-up near Central Park, parades around town in the chicest of fashions, and never has to pay for a single meal—there’s little left than a vapid lonely girl who is obviously smart enough to get herself from Hicksville to New York City, but chooses to use her wiles to leech off of men rather than forge a career of her own. Is Hepburn so dazzling that we forget the fact that she’s basically a social prostitute? … — Heather Wood Rudulph

… Or is she as feminist as she could be at the time? She did leave Doc and her oppressive little life to make it on her own, and she didn’t want to be actually dependent on any man (just, you know, men in general who give her $20 for the powder room). And Paul Varjak (George Peppard at the peak of deliciousness), her soul-mate neighbor, was more of a kept man—remember, his married “decorator” girlfriend kept him in expensive suits and his very own lavishly furnished apartment—than she was a kept woman. Look, I do think she is a sad, vapid, lonely girl—that is, after all, the exact point of her transformation in the movie, and it is a testament to Hepburn that she’s even likable, much less iconic. But I see her predicament as a statement on her times. If you’ve watched “Mad Men,” you know it wasn’t easy for a girl to make her own way in the world—especially if she didn’t happen to work at a glitzy ad firm.

My question has always been how she affords all that fabulosity. I mean, how many trips can one take to the powder room? And when did men stop giving women $20 just to take a bathroom break on a date? — Jennifer Armstrong


  1. Roane says:

    Strangely enough…I’ve never seen the movie! Should I feel guilty?

  2. EmpressJudge13 says:

    I can’t help but view Holly as an awkward catastrophic mash-up of both: a vulnerable, childlike figure meant to make feminism seem a bill of goods AND a free spirit seeking fulfillment and happiness amidst the double standards and warped rules of a time that wasn’t particularly kind to women.

    The comment thread between these two view of Holly is tragedy. Either way, she fails, whether by the design of the patriarchy, or her own unfortunate dealings. Either way, we feel for her and wish like hell that she could have found her “Tiffany’s”, her place to belong, as opposed to “belonging to” Paul or any other domineering figure, for that matter.

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