To celebrate International Women’s Day, The Spinoff assembles some of the most hilarious, brave and butt-kicking moments for women on television. Contributions by Alex Casey, Madeleine Chapman and Sophie Smith.
International Women’s Day is all about celebrating the achievements of women throughout history, and looking forward to a future of equality for all. Or, if you are The Edge, you might be more inclined to share a joke name for your period.
However you choose to celebrate today, we can all agree that watching a nice spot of telly is an easy, accessible way to bask in the glory of powerful women.
But what to watch? Where to start? Never fear, we’ve assembled a compilation of some of the most memorable moments from some of our favourite women on television.
Seinfeld: Is he spongeworthy though?
Seinfeld’s curly-haired shoulder-padded heroine Elaine had a whole episode devoted to her favourite contraceptive sponge being taken out of circulation. The result? She held sit-down interviews with her suitors to determine if they could be deemed ‘spongeworthy’, and launched a whole new dating terminology for women everywhere. / AC
How to Get Away With Murder: Viola Davis bares all
Annalise Keating removing her makeup and wig at the end of a long day showed a huge audience a previously unseen reality for black women. The fact that I believed – for a second – that Viola Davis had shaved her head just for that one scene is proof of how important moments like this one are. And then she followed up an award-winning performance with an award-worthy speech after winning an award. / MC
Parks and Recretion: Leslie Knope vs the Meninists
Parks and Recreation‘s resident legend Leslie Knope slammed this mic-drop of a quote in the face of meninists everywhere. Keep it close to you whenever you venture anywhere near Stuff comments. / AC
One News: Jenny May rocks jandals
After standing up to an insipid worm from Upper Hutt who wrote in to the TV Guide wah-ing about her “eyesore” of a pregnant belly, Jenny May continued to present sport on One News with not an inkling of fucks.
It’s almost like… being pregnant is the most amazing thing on Earth and nobody should listen to a grumpy man who still hasn’t figured out where he came from? On her last day before maternity leave she wore a pair of jandals, and now I wear jandals. / AC
Master of None: The problem with Instagram
Opening up the discussion around gender politics in the Master of None ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’ episode, Aziz Ansari tackles the way that men and women are treated differently online – no filter needed. / AC
The X Files: Gillian Anderson breaks the internet
During the reboot of the 90s classic The X Files this year, it was revealed that Gillian Anderson was originally offered half the pay of her colleague David Duchovny. Twitter got fired up, rightly so, and Scully’s image was reignited as a meme for the modern woman’s struggle. Then Gillian printed out a tweet, signed it, and everyone exploded. / AC
Inside Amy Schumer: Girl, you don’t need makeup
Amy Schumer calls out the all-natural, no makeup trend by skewering what men really expect from their bare-faced beauties. Spoiler alert: it’s heaps. / AC
30 Rock: Liz Lemon’s political rant
“If birth control pills fixed boners you would get them free with your driver’s licence.” 30 Rock provides yet another reason why we should always pay attention to the strange woman in the Princess Leia costume. / AC
Scandal: Olivia Pope’s abortion
Scandal’s crisis manager Olivia Pope was the first character since 1972’s Maude to have an abortion on screen. She silently slips into the clinic – no discussion, no deliberation – as Senator Grant wins the filibuster to save Planned Parenthood on the news. A brave, powerful reminder of the importance of a woman’s right to choose. / AC
Hey Arnold: Hey Helga!
Helga from Hey Arnold is a low key feminist icon. Sure, she obsesses over Arnold to the point of stalking, but she is also driven, abrasive, unapologetic and can write a hell of a poem. With many of her peers in the world of kids entertainment being Barbies and Disney princesses, Helga is a welcome punch to the face. / AC
Outrageous Fortune: Who run the world? Cheryl West
Cheryl West of Outrageous Fortune is the most badass woman to come out of New Zealand entertainment since Beth Heke. The matriarch of the criminally dysfunctional West family, Cheryl is no saint herself. But she knows what it takes to run a family and will let nothing get in her way, not even her son’s open handed slap. / MC
I Love Lucy: Lucille Ball nails equal rights to the floor
“What more do you want? You’ve got the vote, you wear pants..” Even back in the early 1950s, Lucille Ball was happy to explore the significance of equal rights for the modern woman. It’s not all about us wearing pants. / AC
The Mindy Project: Mindy is Sandra Bullock
Mindy Lahiri is a woman who isn’t afraid to publicly declare her love for cheesy rom-coms, chocolate fondue and being her own biggest fan. The Mindy Project is a great reminder that nobody is perfect, and that even Sandra Bullock has her All About Steve off-days. / AC
The Bachelor NZ: Are you going to open your mouth?
Look, it’s just about asking for what you want. / AC
Orange is the New black: Every moment on Orange is the New Black
What can I say. This show took a subject that no one thought they wanted to see – women in prison – and turned it into a revolutionary smash hit. With a single batch of lesbians and some lightning dialogue, Orange is the New Black proved once and for all that you don’t need a man or a woman in lingerie to bring in an audience. / MC
Tyra: Tyra Banks does a lot for boobs everywhere
Apologies about the creepy music on that clip, but I still remember seeing this on the gone-too-soon daytime talk show Tyra. One of the most famous supermodels in the world, Tyra did so much for women everywhere with one swoop of a bra. Whipped off under her shirt like any woman does within 3 seconds of walking in the front door, she showed us all some much-needed realness from the world of perfect bodies and smizing eyes. / AC
Louie: The fat lady sings
In an episode of Louie that stirred up more discussion than whether this year’s Bachelor is better looking than last year’s, Louie turned the lens on himself and his ‘issue’ with fat women. Sarah Baker delivers an epic speech on society’s double standard when it comes to an overweight man versus an overweight woman. It’s uncomfortable and honest and an important watch. / MC
Empire: The way the Cookie crumbles – or doesn’t
Empire’s Cookie is the most IDGAF female character on TV. She’s ambitious, keen to take back what’s hers, but also owns her sexuality. After misinterpreting a situation with her ex-husband and dressing in lingerie, she chooses not to wallow and instead flashes everyone the restaurant. Awesome. / SS
Parliament TV: The MPs of Parliament take a stand for survivors
In November of last year, six women were thrown out of parliament (and many more followed voluntarily) after speaking about their experiences of sexual abuse. It was a show of solidarity and bravery rarely seen in one’s own home, let alone the debating chamber in Parliament. / MC
Firefly: Behold the sass of Zoe
Ex-soldier Zoe Washburne in Firefly is a badass warrior woman. She can physically match most men, and isn’t afraid to speak her mind to her higher-up Mal. I just love seeing a woman get to be powerful in the same way a man in an action movie would be, especially in the fantasy genre where women are still sadly constant accessories to rape and domestic violence / SS
Friends: Rachel shuts down Ross
Friends has it’s problems, but nobody can fault Rachel for this pristine ownage of gormless old Ross. Use it on someone today. / AC
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Dee lives like a dude
Dee is just as much of a mess and a despicable human being as the four other guys on It’s Always Sunny. She has no career, no prospects, she’s just allowed to have a laugh. Dee makes me feel like life won’t fall apart if I don’t have it all. Sometimes I can just be an asshole and have a good time, and the world won’t actually end. / SS
Dog the Bounty Hunter: Beware Beth
The real unsung hero of Dog the Bounty Hunter is Beth, a Dolly Parton-inspired tornado of false nails and swear words. She wears custom gloves that let her acrylics point through and, as seen here, will arrest a dirty crim in the flutter of an eyelash. / AC
Fresh Off the Boat: Jessica tackles consent
Matriarch Jessica doesn’t put up with all the white Florida housewives’ malarkey. She has her own life, and her own complex story of adjustment to her new living situation. One instance where she’s an awesome feminist is when her husband gives their son the sex talk. Once the husband has finished, she impresses upon the son the importance of consent. Literally. / SS
The 2015 Oscars: Patricia Arquette calls for wage equality
Patricia Arquette’s incredible speech at the Oscars last year highlighted the pay gap between men and women, and got a VERY powerful finger point from Meryl Streep. Watch it once, then watch it 500 more times. / AC
Rugrats: Charlotte Pickles on parenting
She might not have been the mother of the year, but boss lady Charlotte Pickles sure knew how to make it a man’s world. / AC
Game of Thrones: Ygritte tells Jon Snow just how much he knows
You’ve heard it. You’ve said it. You know nothing, Jon Snow. / MC
Xena, Warrior Princess: Xena is a warrior breastfeeder
Broad city: Girls like food too
Broad City is a weekly thirty minute shout-out to young sisters doing it for themselves. I particularly related to this clip of Abbi and Ilana struggling to not eat for Yom Kippur, not because I am Jewish but because I am a human who loves food. Women love food too. I know. / MC
Hilary Barry’s advice on having fun
The always-excellent Hilary Barry provides a great mantra for people everywhere in this clip when she says “I am doing my job, because my job is to have fun!” Brings a tear to the goddamn eye. / AC
Orange is the New Black: Laverne Cox gives real talk on a talk show
Laverne Cox of Orange is the New Black opened the discussion up around many issues faced in the transgender community, both as herself and as her character Sophia. Cox’s identical twin brother played pre-transition Sophia in the show which is a trivia fact to trump all trivia facts. / MC
The Simpsons: The birth of Lisa Lionheart
Years before Barbie got a new bod, Lisa Simpson was critiquing Malibu Stacey’s limited vocabulary and narrow list of life goals. Enter: Lisa Lionheart. / AC
Ellen: Ellen comes out
Ellen came out as gay on her own sitcom, and pretty soon after she no longer had her own sitcom. Laura Dern didn’t work for 18 months after appearing as Ellen’s love interest in what has become a historical episode of television. Now Ellen has her own show (again) and Laura Dern is still Laura Dern. Yass kweens. / MC
Want more from some of these powerful women of the small screen? Click below to see more from Leslie Knope, Laverne Cox, Cheryl West and so many more kickass women on Lightbox today.
This content, like all television coverage we do at The Spinoff, is brought to you thanks to the excellent folk at Lightbox. Do us and yourself a favour by clicking here to start a FREE 30 day trial of this truly wonderful service.
Subscribe to Rec Room a weekly newsletter delivering The Spinoff’s latest videos, podcasts and other recommendations straight to your inbox.