Part of me has always been inexplicably turned on by the sight of women smoking weed. Not in a sexual, “let’s bang” way. I have a particular fascination with the sight of these badass women in pajamas, work clothes, you name it, rolling a perfect blunt or handling a bong half their height like a champion. In fact, its alter ego, Mary Jane, finds its roots in the Spanish female proper name “Maria Juana,” internet sources argue. But the truth is, I, like many ladies across the world, was raised with the expectation that drugs, specifically weed, were well within a man’s domain. In Scooby Doo, Shaggy and Scooby were the characters who always had the munchies. Velma was too busy trying to encourage everyone to get their shit together. In Animal House, my cousins’ favorite movie, the brothers of the imaginary Delta Tau Chi fraternity were the ones lighting up the ganja while sorority girls had pillow fights in night gowns. Charming.
Even my first experience with weed as a high school senior was dominated by men: none of my girlfriends smoked weed yet and the boys were the ones with access to weed. My guy friends bought me my first batch and taught me how to smoke from a pipe. They weren’t bothered by the sketchy drug dealers they bought from and their parents didn’t seem to mind. Surrounded by shows like Workaholics and movies like Pineapple Express, in which dominant male characters smoke weed, I began to accept this as normal behavior. I even started to view myself as a bit of a rebel – rolling with the guys, smoking the good kush behind school and then slipping on my cheerleading uniform to cheer on the football team with the rest of my team (the majority of whom were members of the local Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or D.A.R.E., club).
When I arrived at Northwestern, my perspective on weed did a complete 420. I marvelled at the sight of my neighbor smoking out of her hot pink bong on the roof of our dorm. When a girlfriend introduced me to the show Broad City, I rewatched the scene where Ilana pulls a bag of weed out her vagina twice in disbelief. I felt empowered by these women unabashedly pushing back against the stereotypes of who can smoke weed, sharing this space with men and giving zero fucks in the process. Representation is important – when actresses like Jenny Slate or Amy Schumer openly talk about smoking weed, they’re encouraging the re-emergence of a mainstream weed culture that includes women – a culture that has historically been male-dominated.
Even in 2017, women are expected to carry a degree of ladylike-ness and softness about them. We’re still expected to take care of domestic tasks more than men, a responsibility that directly conflicts with the care-free tone of smoking weed. Moreover, women are still haunted by the derogatory comments made by President Trump. Images of ladies from all walks of life smoking pot on TV, in movies and in music showcase some of the best and most honest parts of womanhood: We can be as messy, independent and relaxed as men, with or without the sweet escape of weed. All things considered, I view Mary Jane as an ally of sorts in the fight for gender equality.