Mary Poppins: Mary Poppins the Feminist

Mrs. Banks, she’s a warrior. A feminist. She comes into the home, yelling, screaming. Proud, strong, so happy.

She gathers her women around her. Cries out in a strong voice, “Womankind arise!”

With all her heart, she fights for her cause. An arrest is seen as a victory. The more conflict, the better. Feminism, equal rights for women, it is her source of strength.

But then, the poor woman, she finds out her children are gone. Ran away. And she hears her husband coming home. She calls to her servants, asking them to hide any hint of her warrior-ness (“You know how the cause infuriates Mr. Banks!”).

Oh, Winifred… what happened?

We’re surrounded by people like Mrs. Banks these days. Yellers, I like to call ’em. Some people call ’em fanatics.

They call themselves Tea Partiers. Liberals. Conservatives. Anarchists. Feminists. Religious.

But there is one thing that they have in common. They like to yell. Whether they’re at a rally, writing blogs, or getting arrested, they love yelling.

There’s another warrior, another feminist in this movie, although we might not realize it at first. I’ll give you a hint: she’s a nanny. She likes to fly using an umbrella. Jump into chalk drawings.

Mary Poppins, she may not seem like our ideal feminist. After all, she’s a nanny. She spends her days in a menial job taking care of two troublesome kids. Sure, she’s got all that magic, but what good is it if she doesn’t go to rallies? If she doesn’t yell?

After all, we’re used to thinking that to be a strong woman means to be as angry, as foolhardy as many of the men that run our world today. We think being a strong woman means being a Mr. Banks.


No, strength is an internal thing. Something that comes from the most internal thing: a connection to G-d. To the True Soul.

Mary Poppins, she has the most “practically perfect” connection of anyone in the movie. Her connection is completely internal. It does not depend on externalities, like fighting for this or that political cause. It does not depend on the approval of others, even the ones closest to her.

And that is why her strength is endless. It is why she can stand up to a man that is about to fire her, and even use the moment to help him connect with his own soul (“Tomorrow, just as you suggest…”). It is why she does not allow any man to control her, whether it be her boss, sweet-talking Bert (“You’d never think of pressing your advantage”) or even that awesome guy who “loves to laugh”.

And it is with that amazing strength that she can change the world more than any yeller ever will. She transforms an entire family from a dysfunctional mess into what they were meant to be. A family full of love. A family connected, both to each other and deep, deep within. And because of that, a family with true strength.






108 responses to “Mary Poppins: Mary Poppins the Feminist”

  1. Miriam Avatar

    Thank you!

    You’ve hit the nail on the head about the ‘yelling’ that’s always bothered me.

    1. The Pop Chassid Avatar

      Thanks Miriam, love it when you comment on my blogs 🙂

  2. Shlomo Avatar

    Just started reading the blog, but love it already. Could not agree with you more. The difference between Mrs Banks and MAry is the difference between someone who proclaims what she believes is right, and someone who lives what they believe is right.

    1. The Pop Chassid Avatar

      Thanks, Shlomo, and welcome 🙂 You put it very well. And I think the way you wrote it shows how it requires a certain humility to be a Mary Poppins. Because to really hold a belief close to your heart means that sometimes you can’t go waving it around like a flag.

      Well said, and thanks for the comment.

  3. Avromie Avatar

    You got me with this post. Mary Poppins was my favorite movie since I watched is a kid.
    My parents didn’t let us watch it, but I watched it a friend, and fell in love. Only recently, I understood why. My mother was a “yeller”, a Mrs. Banks for Judaism. What she didn’t show was love or even tolerance for her kids or others.
    I recently saw the movie again and cried.

    1. The Pop Chassid Avatar

      I don’t really know what to say. Thank you for sharing that.

  4. Roberta Hill Avatar

    Elad, this is a wonderful post and thank you for your comments on my own views about leadership styles in Mary Poppins on my post:

    Mary Poppins is definitely a feminist and even perhaps a postmodernist one at that but I still find some of her ways “old school” in that they lack a more collaborative nature. That said, your take on the yelling is priceless. The three “F’s” always worry me: Fanaticism, Fundamentalism and Fascism – often disguised together.

    Real yelling is a serious issue in the work place today – too much abuse of power and bullying. Planning my own post on that issue soon. And yes, strength from within is definitely quiet – a lesson I sometimes need to learn over again with my children.

    1. The Pop Chassid Avatar

      Thank you so much for the response and taking the time to read my blog, Roberta.

      I love that you examine the world around you and use it as a metaphor for the world you inhabit. It’s exactly what this site is all about.

      And I think you’ll like my new blog about who the real heroes are in the movie. You helped inspire it 🙂

  5. Lisa Avatar

    I stopped reading this near the beginning, and there is plenty I could say about this subject. But I stopped reading it soon and I’m not going to say all of what I could on this subject, for the simple reason that it is my priority to make a certain point. This point is going to surprise everyone who reads it. I know that in this point I am bringing up something which possibly nobody has ever thought of or spoken about before. But there is a first time for talking and thinking about everything. Children’s rights is not an issue which is thought about often enough. Indeed, no issue of equality nowadays is thought about as much as feminism is. But the reality is that in this film, Mary Poppins is not nice to Jane or Michael and manipulates them by trying to convince them that she has not shown them magic, when she has. If children’s rights were thought about as much as feminism is, then a lot of people would have an issue with this film. Therefore in my opinion, it can’t be considered a feminist film because it doesn’t completely support equality.

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