The feminist characters from your childhood who got you where you are today
by Iona Tytler
As a young child, the programmes that you watch and the messages that you gain from them can turn out to be very influential in shaping your view of the world. We certainly wouldn’t be where we are today without these girls.
“Hermione Granger was my everything growing up, both in the books and seeing Emma Watson play her in the movies” – Bridget Conway
Right from her first portrayal in the books and on the screen, Hermione was clearly the feminist icon that our childhoods desperately needed. Throughout her time at Hogwarts, she was presented as a smart and independent young woman, unafraid of speaking her mind and striving for success. (Even if Hogwarts kept cancelling the exams that she worked so hard for, not cool Dumbledore.)
Who was the brains of the operation throughout the whole endless battle with Voldemort, finding out vital information to ensure her friends stayed alive, as well as crucially forming Dumbledore’s Army? Hermione. Oh, and who tirelessly campaigned for prominent social issues both during their time at school and in their career, promoting the rights of house elves? Hermione. She was the real MVP of the wizarding world, and everybody knows it.
Tracy had a wild imagination and a fierce tenacity which showed that she was not to be messed with. Above all, she knew the importance of standing up for what you believe and making yourself heard, and this was broadcast to children all across the nation.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Despite the numerous supernatural beings that were determined to kill her, Buffy was not prepared to be the victim, doing all she could to protect not just her friends, but the world. She exhibited strength in the face of adversity, and it is argued that she helped introduce the idea in pop culture that a woman could be the central character in a horror-based TV programme, and that she wouldn’t need the help of a guy to come save her whenever she was in trouble. Buffy had a prophecy to fulfill, and she knew how to get it done.
‘Matilda. She didn’t let anyone tell her what she should or shouldn’t do.’ – Zoë Cantley
Daria was the ultimate nineties grunge girl. She tackled life’s issues with a wonderful combination of realism and cynicism, and with her best friend Jane at her side. Despite some issues throughout the series, their friendship viewed the world through a clearly feminist lens- rejecting the societal norms of what to like and who to like, standing up for minorities who are discriminated against and expertly declining unwanted male advances through her witticisms.
When two unwanted suitors ask Daria where she and Jane have been all their lives, she replies: “Waiting here for you. We were born in this room, we grew up in this room and we thought we would die here. Alone. But now you’ve arrived, and our lives can truly begin.” Thank you, Daria.
Daphne and Velma
What would the Mystery Gang have been without Daphne and Velma? They were the backbone of the operation, between Velma’s love of researching obscure monsters saving the day and Daphne’s ability to find secret passageways and sass those who tried to stop her into oblivion, they would barely have made it past the first episode.
The Sarah Jane Adventures
Sarah Jane was one of Doctor Who’s companions, but she soon got her own spin-off show. Sarah was a kickass investigative journalist who travelled across time and space, and showed me that battling monsters and saving the world wasn’t just for guys.
That’s So Raven
Raven stood up for herself in order to defy societal ideals. When she was faced with injustice in the forms of racism and body-shaming, she took action into her own hands and stood up for her right to be unapologetically herself.
With her strong beliefs in social issues at the tender age of eight, Lisa was the girl power icon of Springfield. She was driven, and refused to conform to the norm of her family’s religion because she was still figuring herself out and what she wanted to believe in, and knew that there should be no limit on this.
She also recognised the flaws in society’s views of women, and although sometimes depicted in the show as the stereotype of an ‘angry feminist,’ she was never hesitant in ensuring that she stuck to her beliefs and that her point was heard.
Kim somehow managed to find the perfect balance between fighting crime and getting good grades, being Cheerleading Captain and having a part-time job. Kim, teach us your ways. She was self-assured in her abilities and believed that nothing was impossible if you put your mind to it, battling baddies and saving her town just in time for tea.
The series also highlighted Shego, one of Kim’s enemies who broke away from her family of superheroes in order to pursue her own destiny, using her brains and beauty in order to further her career and ultimately thriving in her capacity as villain because she knew that being a nemesis was what she truly wanted to do.
Princess Fiona may have been the main love interest for Shrek, but she was also a main character in her own right. She knew how to handle herself and was independent, overcoming the societal prejudice in her world that came with being an ogre, and her character developed to be more comfortable in her own skin.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch
Sabrina was, as the title may suggest, a young witch who had to deal with being both seriously talented with magic and the burdens of everyday teenage life with her magical aunts and talking cat by her side. The programme taught life lessons to young viewers everywhere, showing the importance of being true to yourself, and the idea of being different is not essentially a bad thing.
Made of sugar spice and everything nice, the Powerpuff Girls knew how to get stuff done, saving the world from evil and objecting to being belittled by others. They knew that their gender didn’t limit them in their achievements, and fiercely rebutted any sexism they encountered, with Buttercup showing her nemesis through her powers exactly why he shouldn’t talk down to her and call her princess.