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International Women’s Day: Celebrate With Television!

In celebration of International Women’s Day, Alex Casey lists a few of the most inspirational women in television land. //

Yes International Women’s Day was yesterday, and no I don’t care that this post is way too late for our timezone. I was too busy celebrating womanhood with social netball and peanut butter chocolate to assemble a post, so here we are.

I thought I would take this (albeit belated) opportunity to assemble together some of the greatest women on television. Any opportunity to celebrate the strong, funny, and real female characters out there should be embraced, even if it is through a gif-filled Buzzfeed-style list not unlike the one below. Consider this my contribution to the movement:

Leslie Knope (Parks and Recreation)

Everyone’s favourite local government juggernaut is Leslie Knope, a fizzing bottle of sincerity and optimism that will stop at nothing to champion the rights of the little guy. Once elected to the city council, she adorned her office with a wall of powerful women – herself included. Take a leaf out of her book this womens day and hang a picture of your favourite woman on your wall.
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Maeby Bluth (Arrested Development)

Sayonara glass ceiling, Maeby smashed through you when she managed to lie her way into being an executive film producer for two whole seasons. For all her shortcomings in mathematics, Maeby is a master manipulator. She is the living embodiment of ‘fake it till you make it’ a concept that I’m still trying to figure out the legitimacy of. Even after her big secret is exposed, she manages to convince the very same studio to make a movie about her life. Way to make lemonade. Marry me Maeby!
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Olivia Pope (Scandal)

Olivia Pope swept up the No. 2 spot on TIME’s “Most Influential Characters of 2013” list, and there ain’t no scandal there. A crisis manager that works to sort out political shitshows, Olivia has been known to defend rape victims to the bitter end, correct sexist language at every turn and refer to her vagina as a weapon. Here’s one pope you can sure worship at the TV altar on this (day after) International Women’s Day.

Liz Lemon (30 Rock)

Liz Lemon is described immediately by her boss Jack Donaghy as “a New York third-wave feminist, college-educated, single-and-pretending-to-be-happy-about-it, over-scheduled, undersexed, you buy any magazine that says ‘healthy body image’ on the cover and every two years you take up knitting for … a week.” And he’s pretty much right – she ain’t perfect or overwhelmingly happy, but at least she’s real. From making women feel okay about eating cheese at night to encouraging us to wear shorts to work, Liz Lemon’s legacy of workaholism and sweatpants will live on in infamy.
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Shirley Bennett (Community)

Shout out to Shirley. Whilst most of Community‘s feminist rhetoric is focussed around the faux-activist Britta or the sexually-awakened Annie, Shirley is a low-key hero who deserves a little more attention. The mother of three sons knows the importance of creating space for women, and when I say that I mean she’s all about that bathroom support brigade.
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Hannah Horvath (Girls)

I’ll be the first to step out into the spotlight and say that yes, Hannah is a deeply irritating character. Especially in the latest season, and especially always. But that’s why I like her, because most 20-somethings have deeply irritating aspects about themselves, most 20-somethings flip flop around with their jobs and most 20-somethings have excruciatingly trivial fights with their boyfriends. Real names, no gimmicks.

Alicia Florrick (The Good Wife)

Alicia Florrick begins the titular good wife, and manages to push her way back into Chicago’s most prestigious law firm after her rat husband gets charged with corruption. Rising from his sleazy shadow, Alicia consistently shunts gender roles and expectations to go head to head with the men in her office. Looks like this good wife, could be living the empowered good life.

Mindy Lahiri (The Mindy Project)

Never afraid to shy away from gender and race issues, Mindy Kaling has made quite the little feminist celebration over at The Mindy Project. What I like about Mindy is that she has a ballin’ medical career, but hasn’t abandoned traditionally ‘feminine’ aspects that can be deemed weak. For example, she loves Sandra Bullock movies, the colour pink, and yet can still be a successful doctor. Gasp! So often female characters eschew ‘girliness’ in more powerful roles, whereas Mindy suggests we really can have it all. Pass me that Miss Congeniality disc STAT.

Carrie Matheson (Homeland)

Carrie is a bipolar CIA officer who is forced to face doubt by almost everyone in her professional life. Unlike other powerful and political female characters, Carrie is not a wife or a Mum. She’s just a woman who happens to wear a wedding ring when goes out – so she can ensure every man is a one night stand. Carrie uses her femininity as a useful tool, rather than an annoying snag in her character.
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Buffy Summers (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

Battling both internal and external demons (some more literal than others), Buffy is a true feminist icon. It isn’t a huge leap to imagine that the whole show is allegory for smashing the patriarchy – her initial visions of strong women slayers that have gone before her are a dead giveaway. Her daily struggle balancing love, life, and her true calling (kicking ass) is something to be applauded, and I think we can all learn a thing or two about tackling pesky devils from Buffy.
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Jackie Peyton (Nurse Jackie)

Here’s a show that imagines not just one, but multiple women who are flawed, make terrible mistakes and do terrible things because they are just regular people. Jackie, however twisted her self-medicating motives might be, actively seeks pleasure in her daily life. Whether it be sex, drugs or just being a little snippy with people, this isn’t something we see women doing on telly anywhere near as often as men.
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Annalise Keating (How to Get Away With Murder)

The star of How to Get Away With Murder, Annalise reminds me of every hardass lecturer I had at university and induces a physical reaction of fear whenever I watch this show. What a triumph of female strength and a great reminder to constantly ‘boss up’, as Nicki Minaj might say.

Dana Scully (The X Files)

Dana Scully is first assigned to Mulder as a helper of sorts, an FBI agent with the skills to check the spooky alien facts and decide if they stack up scientifically. Although she is secondary to Mulder, it becomes more and more crucial that she calls the shots on every case. Their partnership develops into one of mutual respect, and she also proves that she can hold her own in a fight (even physically, gasp!). Scully is one of the strongest cases for studying science I have ever seen.
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Happy International Women’s Day everyone, let us continue to celebrate women every day forever.

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