BBC3’s ‘Clique’ proves that girls supporting girls has never been more important

There’s no room for ‘individualistic’ feminism

BBC Three’s Clique follows 19-year-old Holly, navigating her way through her first year at Edinburgh University, and her sojourn as an intern at the lucrative “Solasta”. The internship appears glamorous, well-paid, even fun – but soon Solasta’s misogynistic and seedy side comes to light. Clique doesn’t shy away from the ongoing struggles women face – it’s not a happy tale of healthy female relationships. But it offers a cathartic conclusion. The final scenes depict the all-female gaggle of interns sharing a house, apparently recovering from their traumatic experiences at Solasta with each other’s aid.

The show more or less opens with Professor Jude McDermid, played by Louise Brealey (aka Molly from Sherlock) condemning so-called modern day feminism. “Sexism is a problem in the developing world,” according to her. “Feminism has become infected with an obsession with being offended.” The type of feminism McDermid is promoting here is individualistic, brutal. She goes beyond ‘let’s promote healthy competition between young women!’ and ventures into cutthroat, survival-of-the-fittest territory. It is a man’s world, after all.

McDermid’s rant fails to acknowledge that men and women are different. Or, perhaps it doesn’t, but then it implies that womanhood = weakness. She essentially tells her fresh young crop of female undergrads: act like men. Stronger than that: act like the patriarchy. She implies there is no space in society for women to be both feminine and successful. Don’t ever complain. Don’t be delicate. Just get on with ‘whatever you have to do’ to stay afloat. And that proves to be the most toxic message of all.

The show opens with the suicide of female intern, Fay. It eventually comes to light that Fay was raped by a client as well as the co-owner of Solasta, Jude’s brother, Alistair.

The tragedy of the show then comes with Jude’s realisation that her philosophy is toxic. Georgia – Holly’s best friend and Fay’s replacement at Solasta – heavily implies she is being sexually abused at work in a conversation with Jude. “You taught me. Use what you’ve got. Like the men do,” she tells a stricken Jude, who realises her all her preaching has resulted in Georgia’s alienation from Holly and her inability to accept that she is a victim. The fact that the abuse stems largely from Jude’s own brother only serves to highlight her ignorance.

Jude’s storyline proves that individualistic feminism doesn’t work. We’re minorities in the world of work, and sticking together has never been more important. We do need healthy competition between us all – but it doesn’t do to have the Jude McDermids of the world disregarding discrimination simply because it doesn’t affect them. The result, as evidenced by the show, is tragic.

Men and women have fundamental differences, it’s true. We need to acknowledge them. We need to work on expanding the beginnings of serious, successful, mutually-supportive feminine spaces. Fuck ‘getting on with it’ and reinforcing the patriarchy. We shouldn’t have to settle for this ‘man’s world’.

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University of Leeds