Happy International Women’s Day to all the amazing, lovely, badass ladies out there! What better occasion than this day, dedicated to celebrating and empowering women, than to talk about my favourite fictional females of all time? There are many to whom I have looked up to throughout my life – they have helped me improve my self-confidence, overcome struggles with body image or societal expectations. I owe a lot to the books I read, the movies and shows I watch, and the characters I find in them, which is why I feel like the world needs to know and celebrate more the importance of female characters and the impact that they can have on their readers.
- Matilda ( Matilda by Roald Dahl) – As the first role model that I ever had in my life, Matilda is truly one of a kind. Teaching children that adults are not always right is a very important lesson, which I had not encountered before. Matilda is also always true to herself and not afraid to show it; she doesn’t let anyone try to change who she is. Plus, who could hate a girl who loves to read? The book’s wonderful message that knowledge is power has stuck with me throughout my life.
- Hermione Granger (the Harry Potter franchise by J.K Rowling) – Hermione is the one who taught me that there was no shame in being called an overachiever, or being labelled a bookworm. Being interested in your academical success is important, and Hermione is a reminder of that. However, she also reminds us that life is not only about “books and cleverness”, but also about friendship and bravery. She nails those too, even Ron admits it: “We wouldn’t last two days without her.”
- Jo March (Little Women by Louisa May Alcott) – I love all the March sisters and what they stand for. However, Jo is the one that really stood out to me. She doesn’t fit into the gender norms that society ascribed, she doesn’t settle for things that are simply expected of her – she only agrees to the things she wants – and never forgets her family and friends, even while fighting for her dreams.Above all, she is a writer (I have a weak spot for them)!
- Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen) – I feel like it would not be an overstatement to claim that Elizabeth Bennet can be considered one of the most respected female heroines in English literature – she is that awesome. She is intelligent, witty and incredibly passionate about her beliefs. She gives little thought to the opinions of others regarding her character. Of course, she still has flaws (she judges others very easily, is dismissive when others do things that she disapproves of, and is rather bad at adapting to different situations) which many have labelled as her way of rejecting the repressive standards of her time. This might be true, but those flaws make her story compelling and interesting, and show that being flawed adds to one’s character rather than takes away from it.
- Celie (The Colour Purple by Alice Walker) – Women’s rights sit at the heart of Walker’s novel, but this theme shines through Celie. She has to suffer through emotional and physical abuse, but she never complains about any of the injustice done to her; she simply wonders why it exists. Her self-worth, of which there is little in the beginning of the novel, grows immensely as the narrative progresses, and she ends up a confident woman by the end. This is mostly thanks to the amazing female friendships that are portrayed in the novel – Shug encourages Celie to grow stronger psychologically and Sofia shows Celie how to stand up to men and to prejudice and injustice. The emotional strength that Celie shows , her perseverance and ferocious love for her sister are traits that make Celie a truly unforgettable character.
- Mulan (Mulan) – How many people would give up their whole life (name, identity, their home and its comforts, the familiarity of their surroundings) and go fight in the war for their father? Mulan did it without a second thought, something that stuck with me since the first time I saw the Disney movie. Her bravery left me speechless, not to mention the fact that Mulan was also the first movie I saw where the girl saves the guy and there’s no waiting around for the prince. I am very glad this is something that can be found in several Disney movies now.
- Elle Woods (Legally Blonde) – Quirky, fun and an inspiration to women everywhere. Whatever doubts people might have about Elle’s character are shattered from the moment she sets her mind on going to Harvard and never gives up her goal until it is achieved. Despite everyone’s doubts, she not only makes it to Harvard, she also makes it to the top of the class. She never shies away from calling people out for their preconceptions of her due to her looks, she is supportive of her friends, and always remains true to herself. Take that from a “dumb blonde”!
- Bridget Jones (Briget Jones’ Diary) – There is a lot of dispute around whether or not Bridget Jones is a good role model to have, especially as a feminist. Without wanting to get into that debate, I will say that I have always liked Bridget Jones. She is a very refreshing character to see on-screen. She is much more realistic than other rom-com heroines; she is a pretty relatable woman in search of love. I appreciate her awkwardness the most, and the way she handles that. Life is not always pretty and smooth, and other than creating a moment of comedy, Bridget’s slip-ups remind us that they are a normal occurrence. What’s also important to acknowledge is that every time Bridget says the wrong thing, she always manages to recover. As the saying goes, “fall down seven times, stand up eight” – Bridget Jones is the embodiment of that, which is why I will always appreciate her character.
- Belle (Beauty and the Beast) – I have a real love for bookworms (in case this was not evident by now) and it will come as no surprise that Belle is my favourite Disney princess of all time. She appreciates the value of knowledge, looks beyond appearances and values personality. She doesn’t fall for the first guy that sets eyes on her, loves her father and sacrifices her freedom for him, , and, just like Mulan, ends up doing the saving instead of needing to be saved. Which is why I am loving the fact that Belle will be played by Emma Watson in the live action movie – there’s no one better suited to fill Belle’s shoes. The remake also turns Belle into an inventor – what a role model for girls everywhere!
- Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games) – Katniss is worth of admiration right from the start, through her love for her sister and her selflessness. She truly inspires to believe in personal strength, and in the change that can result from a single person. Despite adversity, she still did what was right, even when that proved not to be easy. Her perseverance and her strong will are what drew me to her, and what make her the heroine that she is.
From TV Shows:
- Leslie Knope (Parks and Recreation) – When it comes to empowering female characters, look no further than Leslie Knope. From her wall of inspirational women, to her fierce love for her friends, it just doesn’t get better than Leslie. She does not tolerate mansplaining, she is ready to put privileged men in their place, she fights for sexual education and is hilarious in every single episode. If you are looking for a perfect woman, her name is Leslie Knope.
- Donna Paulsen (Suits) – I am yet to find a person who is not in love with Donna. She might be known due to her working for Harvey Specter, but she is so much more than that. She is extremely perceptive, knows everything that happens in the firm and has a sharper wit than everyone else’s put together. She knows her strengths and weaknesses and is not afraid to use them in her advantage. Everyone, from the associates to the partners, respects but also fears her. Donna is truly a force of nature. On top of all this, she is also an amazing friend, and fiercely loyal. I think everyone should strive to be like Donna.
- Arya Stark (Game of Thrones) – Arya Stark was a favourite of mine since the beginning of the show. She clearly has no interest to fit into the role that society has deemed for her, that of a lady. She excels at male oriented activities such as archery, does not “dress to impress” but rather does it for personal comfort and she doesn’t let people talk down to her. She is independent and fierce, and everyone loves her for it.
- Eleven (Stranger Things) – It took Eleven only one week to escape from a highly secure secret organisation that was holding her hostage, learn the true meaning of friendship, and save an innocent child from being killed by a horrible monster through personal sacrifice. That already shows how much love, compassion and strength she possesses. She doesn’t let her gender determine how she goes about her life, acting on what she thinks she should be rather than what society expects her to be. She goes against the idea that girls are the ones that need to be saved, and ends up being the saviour instead. She also sets an example to everybody through her interactions with male characters in the show, not allowing them to walk over her or dictate her behaviour.
- Kala Dandekar (Sense8) – Here you have an Indian woman who works as a scientist for a major pharmaceutical company in Mumbai – this alone makes her an inspiration already. However, she does not stop there. Throughout the series, she uses her scientific skills on several occasions to save the other characters – she makes a bomb using simple kitchen supplies and knows what drugs to use to wake people from medically induced comas. It can not get more badass than that!