Whoa Whoa Whoa She’s a Lady
Right now in our current climate I think it’s fair to say that “Feminism” has become an incredibly scary and taboo word. To be honest with you, it’s often a word I shy away from using to describe myself for various reasons. The connotations conjured up by the term have become increasingly less aligned with ideologies concerning equality and the breaking down of social conventions; and more to do with malicious blind hatred in order to establish gender dominance. This seemingly recent idea of ‘Feminism’ as being a strict set of rules and expectations by which we women are supposed to judge our self-worth, relationships, emotions and the world around us is – as far as I’m concerned – horseshit in its finest form.
Now, as a disclaimer right I would like to clarify that of course this is not something that applies to all – or even most – feminists, but rather (as is the unfortunate trope these days) to a small group of radicals who feed their own agendas under the guise of someone else’s. With all the confusion over what a ‘real’ feminist should look, act and sound like it’s always good to have someone who embodies the actual qualities that you as a woman actually want to be representative of your gender. There’s a handful of women in TV, Film and literature who inspire me so I thought I’d dedicate a whole post to lady power.
- Leslie Knope
First of all: if you’re like me and are incredibly late to the Parks and Recreation party, be suitably ashamed of yourself, stop reading immediately and go and binge watch it. You’re welcome. Okay so this one is cheating a little bit because Amy Poehler also for sure deserves a place on this list. I think the reason Leslie Knope is so firmly on my list is because she’s not interested in promoting any agenda other than confidence and self-worth. She knows exactly who she is, exactly how awesome she is and that a lot of that can come from her gender; but most importantly that it doesn’t have to have anything to do with it either. She doesn’t let sexism get in her way and although it has been the focus for a number of episodes it’s never something that’s dwelled on for too long. As far as Leslie is concerned sexism is ridiculous and stupid so why should we dwell on it? She doesn’t have an idea for what the perfect woman nor the perfect feminist should be – and accepts all the various women in her life completely at face value and encourages them to just do them – which is kind of pretty awesome if you ask me.
The absolute best thing about Leslie Knope’s particular brand of feminism through self-confidence is the idea of supporting yourself. She unashamedly from episode one of Season One says not only that she aspires to be the first female President – but that she downright expects that to happen. If there’s one thing that’s stuck with me from Leslie Knope’s teachings it’s to have the balls to be your own inspiration. And of course – to always always celebrate Galentine’s Day.
2. Hermione Granger
There is an unlimited font of reasons why Harry Potter is the greatest book series of all-time, but the biggest one for me is the character development in it. One of its characters which I never actually appreciated until I was older was absolutely Hermione. When I was younger I saw her as the annoying parental voice of reasoning throughout the novels, but as I’ve grown up and started to side with Disney villains and parents I’ve found that my admiration for Hermione as a character and a woman has grown immeasurably. The one main thing I think Hermione taught all of us was to never, ever apologise for who you are. More specifically – and perhaps more importantly – never ever apologise for being intelligent. It’s a strange culture that certainly I grew up in where intelligence was shamed and looked down upon as an undesirable trait, and I will literally never understand why that became a thing in my generation. I find that J.K Rowling mirrored that strange culture in Hogwarts through Ron in particular; but through it all Hermione was steadfast in her belief that her intelligence was above all important.
While it seemed like an annoying trait when I was younger, as I read these books again and again at various different points in my life I found my self firmly in Hermione’s corner in most of her arguments and found myself resenting Harry in particular for being so incredibly and unfathomably ordinary. You lose count of the amount of times Harry and Ron would have been left completely helpless had Hermione not been there. The example that springs immediately to mind is that she was the only one who thought about packing ANYTHING to go looking for Horcruxes. Even when she’s rendered useless by being petrified by the Basilisk, Harry and Ron still needed her help to even have a dementor’s chance in Disneyland of surviving. On a completely non-survival level as well, Harry and Ron would probably still be in Hogwarts as we speak trying to graduate if it hadn’t been for Hermione’s help.
The moral of Hermione’s story is to stay in school, kids. One day it will literally save your life.
3. Sophie Hatter
Now, to be clear before starting this section: I’ll be talking about Howl’s Moving Castle the film, as opposed to the book. For me, one word sums up Sophie and why she inspires me: Determination. If there’s one character for me who embodies the idea of gumption and grit on this list it’s absolutely Sophie. From the very start, even though she acknowledges that she perhaps isn’t anything special, she still has the nerve and absolute balls to stand up to the Witch of the Waste. Granted, she had no idea who she was at this point, but the lady is still pretty terrifying. Then, once she’s been cursed to live her life as an old woman, her immediate reaction is not to mope and cry..but to just get on with it. Sophie knows that accepting her fate and giving up are not necessarily the same thing and ventures out in to the wastes to find a way to remove the curse.
As the film goes on my admiration for Sophie only grows as she never takes no for an answer. Is she scared? Yes. Does she give two shits? Absolutely not. Sophie takes each new development in her stride, and shows enormous compassion while doing so. Sophie didn’t want her youth back for vain reasons, she wanted it back because she was furious that somebody underestimated her. Sophie refuses to let anything define her or scare her – and that’s something we can all aspire to.
4. Buffy Summers
This is not the first time you’ll see a Joss Whedon female on this list because for whatever reason he was always way way ahead of the pop culture Feminism curve, and as I’ve said in previous posts he just knows how to write strong female characters. The best thing about his females is that he never uses them to force Feminism on anyone. In fact, he said himself about Buffy that: “If I can make teenage boys comfortable with a girl who takes charge of a situation without their knowing that’s what’s happening, it’s better than sitting down and selling them on feminism.” That kind of thinking is without a doubt why Buffy always inspired me. As far as I’m concerned one of the main things that frightens people away from the idea of Feminism is the preachiness it can often carry with it. She wasn’t being strong and fearless and awesome for anyone but herself; and she just so happened to be a stone-cold badass in the process.
I found that watching this series again recently I noticed that this strength when it came to romantic and platonic relationships on the show resulted in them becoming much more like partnerships. This is maybe the most important lesson from Buffy for me – if you’re you for nobody but you, you will end up with far healthier relationships. Albeit that these relationships may well be with a terrifying vampire. Another reason why Buffy is on this list is because although she’s a total machine, she’s also very much an exposed nerve. She gets upset about relationships and her life and the inevitable end of the world, and she lets herself feel all of that. And then she carries on.
What Buffy has in oodles is of course this penchant for kicking ass, but she also had something a lot more relatable to the modern woman: the idea that you can balance social life, love life, and fighting bloodsucking demons from the pits of hell. And after all – isn’t that what we’re all looking for?
5. Kaylee Frye
First thing’s first. My love for this woman is completely endless. She is my soulmate and my spirit animal and I love her.
I had to get that gushing out of the way before forming a coherent sentence on the subject. On the surface, there are a lot of much stronger and more obvious female role models in Firefly and they all certainly have their merits, but Kaylee has always spoken to me on a completely different level. First and foremost, what drew me to her is her eternal and undying optimism. As Mal says, there aint a power in the ‘verse can stop Kaylee from being cheerful. Yes you’ve got the out and out strength and abilities of Zoe, or the emboldening sexual freedom of Inara; but neither of them are as important as role models to me as Kaylee.
Kaylee is at her very core feminine. She’s super fucking stoked to put on a fluffy, frilly dress and go to a ball and it’s adorable. She’s sweet and wholesome and doesn’t know how to act around attractive men. Then completely simultaneously she is the only one who can keep Serenity running. She has an intuitive understanding of engineering and mechanics and relishes in her own talents. It’s that juxtaposition between femininity and masculinity and Kaylee’s complete comfort with it that draws me to her as a character. She can spend the whole night recounting anecdotes from the engine rooms at the ball, and still go home and look lovingly at her pink poofy dress. As I said with Buffy, Joss Whedon’s talent for creating three dimensional women is second-to-none as far as I’m concerned, but Kaylee will always hold a special place in my heart. She’s raw, emotional, 100% truthful to herself and just downright shiny.
6. Kitty Pryde
I think a huge reason why Shadowcat has had such a big influence on me as a person is because I did kind of grow up with her. I was introduced to X-men at around the same age that she joined the team and I was a very very similar teenager to Kitty. I was stubborn, loudmouthed and overly-emotional and she was everything I was at the time…but obviously with added superpowers. Kitty has always been the X-man I’ve most easily and readily identified with and as her character, and the comics, have progressed and through various different incarnations and ret-cons Kitty has grown immeasurably in maturity and complexity and – obviously like me – gotten herself a dragon.
Kitty has never, on the surface, been the most obvious choice for a female role-model in X-Men. When you have incredibly strong characters like Jean Grey and Storm, it would be easy to see why Kitty could get lost in all of that strength. But what I’ve always loved about Kitty is that her strengths don’t manifest themselves obviously; but instead are strengths that she must pull out of her own personality and often in spite of herself to find. Recently re-reading Joss Whedon’s run on Astonishing X-men I was again astounded by the way in which Kitty utilises her intelligence and mental strength to outwit some of the deadliest forces facing the X-men. This isn’t the first time, nor the last time, that Kitty would save the X-men purely based on her cunning and intelligence, and I think the arc that cemented my admiration for Kitty was during the Kitty Pryde and Wolverine mini-series in Japan.
Not only was this just a thoroughly kick-ass mini-series, but this was when, after much soul searching as Sprite and Ariel and other awful costume and persona choices, Kitty began to settle in to exactly who she is. Instead of fighting her very raw emotions she decided to harness them and redirect them. She had already proved herself as a worthy member of the X-men during her battle with one of the N’Garai, but was still very much lost when it came to defining herself as a mutant and a person outside the team. This arc is when Shadowcat is properly born. It’s always inspiring when someone you identify with – fictional or otherwise – begins to find their voice and identity. From this point on she starts to emerge more and more as a leader, throughout the Mutant Massacres, Secret Wars and then Excalibur.
Even in her current kind-of-incarnation in Guardians of the Galaxy I still find myself drawn towards her as a female protagonist. Though my maturing process involved far fewer trips to limbo and wielding of the soul sword – I still identify heavily with the fact that although she has very much grown-up and become a strong, self-assured and confident person; inside she definitely still has a lot of that teenage angst that I first identified with. Instead of letting her emotions rule her completely – or conversely ignoring them completely – she has found a way to absorb them and transform them in to enormous compassion and strength; a lesson I will never stop admiring Kitty Pryde for teaching me.