By Communications Intern Michelle Auster
Television isn’t always a great place for feminists, from the sexist tropes we’ve seen time and again, to the lack of diversity, to a lack of female directors and writers, to the sidelining of female characters to limiting roles – so it’s especially awesome, and notable, when TV gets away from these bad habits and shines a light on strong, real women, or even women who themselves identify as feminist. Here are a few of our favorite leading ladies, who we’re excited to watch sticking it to the patriarchy year after year.
1. Lisa Simpson. The longest-recurring TV character on this list, Lisa Simpson has been inspiring young girls for years to stand up for what they believe and to call out wrongdoings against them. She also preceded most of the characters on this list, providing a crucial voice of feminist common sense for little girls growing up in the early 90s.
2. Daenerys Targaryen. Admittedly, Westeros is nowhere near the progressive feminist world of our dreams. It’s a pretty terrible place for women. But amid the terribleness, there are some truly heroic women. And if we’re talking about fighting the patriarchy, Daenarys does do that – by throwing out archaic laws of succession, seizing her own agency after being subjected to Westeros’s regressive gender roles, and believing in herself when everyone else underestimated her. She’s also the Mother of Dragons. Need we say more?
3. Leslie Knope. Upending dumb blonde jokes everywhere, Leslie Knope is a spirited, resourceful, kindhearted public servant whose role model is Hillary Clinton, who holds her friendships sacred, who sees the best in everyone, and who works tirelessly to make her underdog Indiana town all that it can be. While her apathetic colleagues are power-hungry, Leslie actually cares about making public policy that improves people’s lives. Um, I guess you can see why she’s one of our favorites.
4. Tami Taylor. Not only did Tami Taylor provide actual guidance – re: discussing abortion – to a young woman facing an unintended pregnancy in Friday Night Lights, saying, “I would tell her to think about her life. Think about what’s important to her and what she wants. And I would support every decision she made,” the actress who plays her, Connie Britton, has stood up for abortion rights in real life. Following Wendy Davis’s epic filibuster of SB 5 in Texas, Britton collaborated on a fundraising t-shirt with Planned Parenthood. It says – what else? – What Would Tami Taylor Do?
5. Charlie Bradbury. Charlie keeps it real on Supernatural with her love for geeky things, the ladies, and lines like “Sweet Ada Lovelace!” She idolizes feminist heroes, and we can’t help but love a female character who supports other women.
And last but not least, 6. Rory Gilmore. Rory Gilmore was our inspiration for this list in the first place. The smart, driven daughter of a single mom, she’s read feminist theory, praised Hillary Clinton (she and Leslie Knope could head up a fan club), idolized Christiane Amanpour, deconstructed pop cultural representations of women (remember the Donna Reed episode?), and bonded with her mom over liberal politics, the Bangles, and pancakes and coffee. When she went to Yale for college, it wasn’t surprising that she had Planned Parenthood and NARAL posters on the walls of her dorm room. It was just surprising to see a fictional character’s pro-choice politics addressed on television in such a casual, relatable way.
So here’s a big thanks from us to all of the television writers out there who write feminist characters, and who let us demonstrate every time that people love to watch them. And for all of these shows: 10 out of 10, would recommend.
Who are your feminist heroes on TV? Let us know in the comments.
TV image via Time to Read‘s Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge.