Top 10 TV Women

I watch a lot of TV. We all know this about me.

If a show doesn’t have at least one (though of course ideally, many) awesome female protagonists, however, I’m just not interested.

So, for anyone looking for something new to watch, or suffering from a lack of amazing women in their TV staples (a common problem), I present you with a list of a few of my favourite ladies. A fantasy bachlorette party, if you will.

Jessica Jones

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She lives to kick rapist butt and show Marvel everything they’ve been doing wrong. I really can’t stress enough how much you should watch this show. Especially if superheroes ‘aren’t your thing’.

Buffy

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Balancing being a teenage girl with being The Slayer is hard.

Leslie Knope – Parks and Rec. 

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She’s a feminist with a to do list.

Olivia Pope – Scandal

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Scandal is my new love. It’s pretty much entirely because of Olivia. Olivia Pope solves problems. She always knows what to do, how to think on her feet. When she wants to make people listen to her, that’s exactly what they do.

My only issue with Olivia is her choice of men. I hate Fitz. I have tried not to but every time he makes this face I want to tear my own eyeballs out.

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Olivia Dunham – Fringe

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She’s the only secret agent I can imagine building a pillow fort with. After we had dealt with all the alternate universe monsters, obviously.

Peggy Carter

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Killing it with her 1950s fashion choices? Yep. Fighting misogyny? Yep. Generally an awesome lady?  Absolutely.

Gina Linetti – Brooklyn Nine Nine

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Someone once told me that I have exactly the right amount apathy (which, lol. But anyway…). That’s because they hadn’t met this woman. She does apathy like no one else. It comes from knowing in your heart and nobody in your life is as great as you.

She’s totally right by the way.

Cookie – Empire

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You want this lady on your side.

(We haven’t had season 2 in the UK yet. No spoilers, please.)

Helena – Orphan Black

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Anyone who has been reading this blog for a while will know, I have kind of a soft spot for a crazy murderer (fictionally speaking). Helena is the most loyal, sweetest crazy murderer of the lot.

Caroline Forbes – The Vampire Diaries

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Despite some unfortunate storyline choices*, Caroline remains the heart of TVD as far as I am concerned. The whole place would fall apart without her. Caroline is a woman who knows what she wants, and will not hesitate in yelling until you give it to her.

*I really can’t stress enough how much I hate Caroline’s pregnancy. I get that Candice had a baby, but Jake and Amy aren’t having a baby on Brooklyn Nine Nine just because Melissa Fumero is pregnant. Caroline could have carried around a weirdly gigantic bag, or stood behind strategically placed objects the whole season! We wouldn’t have minded!

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January Wrap-Up

It’s that time again. I hope everybody is defeating the January blues.

February finds me unemployed again but oddly optimistic as I hunt for my fifth job in the past six months.

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This month I reviewed:

P.S. I Still Love You – Jenny Han

Feelings: A light contemporary that takes on some heavy themes. It’s sneaky feminism at its best.

Winter – Marissa Meyer

Feelings: Marry me, Thorne?

Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Feelings: Perfection, basically.

How To Say I Love You Out Loud – Karole Cozzo

Feelings: A book about autism and siblings that I actually liked. I wish this had been out when I was in my teens.

You Don’t Have To Like Me: Essays on Growing Up, Speaking Out and Finding Feminism – Alida Nugent

Feelings: I can see this one leading to many a feminist awakening.

Furiously Happy – Jenny Lawson

Feelings: It is possible to laugh your way through the darkness.

I also read:

Mosquitoland – David Arnold

Vivian Versus America – Katie Coyle

Things of the Month:

‘So sure, 2015 was “great” for women. But that statement is only true if 2015 marks the last year in which things can be so very bad. If this year somehow magically marks the end of women being widely shut out of cultural production, paid significantly less than their peers, and rarely given the chance of financial backing to create mainstream art without male interventions in the process, then I will feel ready to celebrate 2015.’

https://medium.com/matter/pay-women-the-money-they-need-to-make-the-culture-e0d80c8cda70#.7t9m8swou

How To Get Away With Murder

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Shonda Rhimes’ commencement speech:

Feminist TBR

For anyone who hasn’t noticed, lately I have got even more obsessed with women’s writing, specifically, women writing about feminist issues. I put this renewed obsession down to Lena Dunham’s Women of the Hour podcast and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists. It also relates to a minor incident a few weeks ago, when I was walking home by myself, late-ish at night and a random guy decided to shove his drunk friend into me, for, as far as I can tell no reason other than to frighten me. This is far from the worst creeperie I’ve experienced, but it has me angrier than usual. I suppose it’s because in an ideal world I should be to complete a less than ten minute walk from a concert venue to a youth hostel alone without incident.

I feel like reading books about feminism is a healthy way to channel the frustration.

Summaries all from Goodreads.

Men Explain Things To Me – Rebecca Solnit

41edjJkb2DL__SY344_BO1,204,203,200_‘In her comic, scathing essay “Men Explain Things to Me,” Rebecca Solnit took on what often goes wrong in conversations between men and women. She wrote about men who wrongly assume they know things and wrongly assume women don’t, about why this arises, and how this aspect of the gender wars works, airing some of her own hilariously awful encounters…This book features that now-classic essay with six perfect complements, including an examination of the great feminist writer Virginia Woolf ’s embrace of mystery, of not knowing, of doubt and ambiguity, a highly original inquiry into marriage equality, and a terrifying survey of the scope of contemporary violence against women.’

You Don’t Have to Like Me: Essays on Growing Up, Speaking Out and Finding Feminism – Alida Nugent

24611657‘Alida Nugent’s first book, Don’t Worry It Gets Worse, received terrific reviews, and her self-deprecating “everygirl” approach continues to win the Internet-savvy writer and blogger new fans. Now, she takes on one of today’s hottest cultural topics: feminism.

Nugent is a proud feminist—and she’s not afraid to say it. From the “scarlet F” thrust upon you if you declare yourself a feminist at a party to how to handle judgmental store clerks when you buy Plan B, You Don’t Have to Like Me skewers a range of cultural issues, and confirms Nugent as a star on the rise.’

 

The Dead Ladies Project: Exiles, Expats and Ex-Countries – Jessa Crispin

9780226278452‘When Jessa Crispin was thirty, she burned her settled Chicago life to the ground and took off for Berlin with a pair of suitcases and no plan beyond leaving. Half a decade later, she’s still on the road, in search not so much of a home as of understanding, a way of being in the world that demands neither constant struggle nor complete surrender.’

I heard about this book on Stuff Mom Never Told You. I really recommend listening to the episode. Jessa is a fascinating lady.

Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love and So Much More – Janet Mock

janet-mock-book-cover.jpg‘In 2011, Marie Claire magazine published a profile of Janet Mock in which she stepped forward for the first time as a trans woman. Those twenty-three hundred words were life-altering for the People.com editor, turning her into an influential and outspoken public figure and a desperately needed voice for an often voiceless community. In these pages, she offers a bold and inspiring perspective on being young, multicultural, economically challenged, and transgender in America.’ 

Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

51KOK64918L__SY344_BO1,204,203,200_‘As teenagers in a Lagos secondary school, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are leaving the country if they can. Ifemelu—beautiful, self-assured—departs for America to study. She suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships and friendships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze—the quiet, thoughtful son of a professor—had hoped to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London.

Years later, Obinze is a wealthy man in a newly democratic Nigeria, while Ifemelu has achieved success as a writer of an eye-opening blog about race in America. But when Ifemelu returns to Nigeria, and she and Obinze reignite their shared passion—for their homeland and for each other—they will face the toughest decisions of their lives.’

My Life on the Road – Gloria Steinem

9780679456209‘Gloria Steinem—writer, activist, organizer, and one of the most inspiring leaders in the world—now tells a story she has never told before, a candid account of how her early years led her to live an on-the-road kind of life, traveling, listening to people, learning, and creating change. She reveals the story of her own growth in tandem with the growth of an ongoing movement for equality.’

Amazing review by Ann Friedman here.

Asking For It

‘Our society may not appear to support sexual violence, but you don’t need to look very far past the surface to see how we trivialise rape and sexual assault. Sexual assault (from unwanted touching to rape) is so common that we almost see it as an inevitability for women. We teach our girls how not to get raped with a sense of doom, a sense that we are fighting a losing battle.’ – Louise O’Neill.

Trigger warning: The following post contains discussion of rape and sexual assault.

Emma O’Donovan is the most beautiful girl in school. And she knows it. Everyone wants to be her friend, or more if they are able. She sees a bright future ahead of her. Then one night there’s a party. There are drugs and alcohol. When Emma wakes up the next day, dumped on her porch without her underwear, she finds she can’t remember a thing from the night before. It isn’t until school on Monday that she learns of the horrifying truth. She was raped by four boys, and the whole night has been broadcast to everyone she knows through the deeply disturbing photographs her attackers posted on Facebook.

In the months that follow, everywhere she goes, Emma is called a liar and a slut. Local people blame her for ruining the lives of her attackers. Meanwhile, online she is invited to share her story on feminist blogs, and #IBelieveBallinatoomGirl is always trending.

25255576Asking For It, by Louise O’Neill, is probably the most important young adult novel to come out in a long time. Louise O’Neill fearlessly tackles the issue of sexual consent, victim-blaming and rape culture.

‘Our society may not appear to support sexual violence, but you don’t need to look very far past the surface to see how we trivialise rape and sexual assault. Sexual assault (from unwanted touching to rape) is so common that we almost see it as an inevitability for women. We teach our girls how not to get raped with a sense of doom, a sense that we are fighting a losing battle.’ – Louise O’Neill.

Emma is not a likeable girl. She is, however, a product of a society in which we tell girls that their sexuality is their only currency. Emma’s thoughts are consumed with her own attractiveness. She constantly compares her own physical appearance to that of her friends. But it’s what she has been taught to do by every single person who has ever told her that she’s beautiful with the implication that’s all she ever need be. Which is pretty much everyone in her life, by the way. Creating Emma as this vain and arrogant person only served to increase the intense sense of disconnection with her body she experienced after her rape. We see Emma transformed from someone wanting to be the centre of attention to a girl who can’t leave the house, who sees her body only as a thing to which her darkest experience occurred. Before the rape she spent endless time caring for her body, smoothing creams over her skin to moisturise it and protect it from the sun, afterwards, she doesn’t even shower because she can’t bear to see herself naked. Her body is a vessel that carries her sadness from room to room, but it is not her own anymore.

The victim blaming that Emma suffers made me want to start tearing my hair out, I was so angry. Not only local people, but journalists and television presenters, couldn’t wait to tell everyone that Emma’s attack was her own fault because of the way that she was dressed, because she was under the influence of alcohol and drugs, because she had a promiscuous reputation anyway. All these awful words only confirmed to Emma what her mind would not stop telling her: It was her own fault.

To be clear: a short dress is not a justification for rape. A girl being under the influence is not a justification for rape. The responsibility for rape lies with the attacker, not the victim. I don’t understand why our society makes something so simple seem so complicated. Emma is clearly unconscious in the photos circulated online and yet her town seems immune to the implications of this fact, namely that there was no consent. And sex without consent is rape.

Louise O’Neill examines in excruciating detail the experience of a rape victim. The endless wait for the legal battle to even reach court and the knowledge that even if it does, in Ireland at least, the conviction rate for rape is 1%. She takes us through the horror of having to see your attackers when you attempt to simply go to the shop, and the endless torture via social media. She shows how a world can shrink to nothing when you know deep in your heart that even your closest loved ones don’t believe in you, that even they think what happened is your own fault. Reading about Emma was almost physically painful in its reality.

I know educated people of my age who are guilty of victim-blaming. Last year a lecturer at my university was convicted of the sexual assault of a sixteen-year-old girl. He pled guilty. And yet still the prevailing conversation around my university campus – even now – is that the girl shouldn’t have put herself in the position in the first place, she shouldn’t have been drinking and shouldn’t have been alone with him. A lot of people are saying she probably made it up. Even though he has pled guilty and been convicted, the community still absolves him of any responsibility. It’s disgusting.  

Read this book. It’ll tear your heart out and leave you hopeless, but it sparks a conversation we desperately need to have.

‘We need to talk about rape. We need to talk about consent. We need to talk about victim-blaming and slut-shaming and the double standards we place upon our young men and women.

We need to talk and talk and talk until the Emmas of this world feel supported and understood. Until they feel like they are believed.’ – Louise O’Neill.

Not That Kind Of Girl

The tag line of Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl is ‘a young woman tells you what she’s learned’ – and I totally agree with that. Reading this book is kind of like one of those slightly drunken chats you have in the kitchen with a friend at 2 in the morning.

I like Lena Dunham. Get over it.

I think that she has fallen victim to what women in media often do – a lack of women in media. There are so few female voices that when one appears they are expected to represent all women. Obviously this is impossible, and it’s an idea that does a disservice to both Lena Dunham and women in general.

With that out of the way…

not that kind of girl

The tag line of Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl is ‘a young woman tells you what she’s learned’ – and I totally agree with that. Reading this book is kind of like one of those slightly drunken chats you have in the kitchen with a friend at 2 in the morning.

Lena isn’t afraid of sharing the darkest parts of herself. She throws herself into taboo topics that we often avoid – I guess to protect ourselves from them. Lena herself says that ‘it’s not brave to do something that doesn’t scare you’ – and this attitude is one she seems to have employed throughout the book, because she doesn’t shy away from anything.

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Not That Kind of Girl contains some frank and entirely unromantic portrayals of sex that jar with me a little. It doesn’t make for comfortable reading. The hateful behaviour she describes in the men that she has dated is upsetting to read both for her sake and because of the depressing familiarity of it. I think most of us have moments we look back on with regret because of how we allowed ourselves to be treated.

She talks about her difficulties in connecting with other people, whether that’s friends, or boys, or even family. She talks about how her anxieties have often controlled her life. She talks about feelings of disassociation from herself, her sex life, her relationships and her work.

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One of the most impressive aspects of the book was her discussion of her anxiety, and how it has affected her life. Talking about anxiety is hard because it’s difficult to see. In many ways, anxiety is one of the least understood mental health problems, because in general people don’t have a lot of patience for the fear or others. It is easy to see anxiety as self-indulgent because fear is so often irrational. As such talking about anxiety is so important. I feel that actually this is a book that I would have benefitted from reading when I was seventeen and in therapy because I got so socially anxious I was making myself sick on a regular basis. It felt like such an impossible thing to explain to anybody, and here Lena has explained it.

The central theme to the book is art as a means of connection, something familiar to any of us who have ever felt compelled to make things. It’s a pretty beautiful message, actually.

Stuff Mom Never Told You

The best podcast Glamour provided me with that week, and one of my favourites to date was Stuff Mom Never Told You, presented by Cristen Conger and Caroline Ervin. SMINTY is a podcast for burgeoning feminists everywhere.

Last summer when I went on holiday to Yorkshire with my family, we were having some problems. Specifically, issues with the cottage we had rented for the week. The dog peed on the brand new sofa twenty minutes after we arrived. Not a good start. The shower in the en-suite in my bedroom I had got so excited about did not work. Unfortunately neither did the one in the main bathroom, and when we attempted to use either, this awful moaning wheezing sound would start in the ceiling and reverberate throughout the house for hours. It would be fair to say that nerves were frayed.

But I was determined to have a nice time. I took the Glamour magazine I had brought and saved specifically for reading in this cute cottage and went upstairs to look it over in bed despite what sounded like an aging werewolf throwing a tantrum above me.

In Glamour was an article about podcasts. I had been vaguely aware that podcasts existed, but I pretty much thought they were mostly run by middle aged comedians who felt that the BBC were too restrictive for their genius, so I was surprised by how great the content Glamour described sounded. It may have been timing or it may have been the cottage’s continued attempts to noisily eat itself, but over the course of that holiday I threw myself into the podcasting world with enthusiasm. And I’ve spent a lot of time there since.

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The best podcast Glamour provided me with that week, and one of my favourites to date was Stuff Mom Never Told You, presented by Cristen Conger and Caroline Ervin. SMINTY is a podcast for burgeoning feminists everywhere. I have learned so much about the different experiences of women and how feminism fits into wider cultural issues through listening. SMINTY has taught me about subjects I have never even considered, as a feminist or otherwise.

Here are my top five shows to get you started:

5. The Literary Reign of YA Fiction

An interesting look at young adult fiction and the relationship adults have with it. YA is a big topic in feminist writing because of course most of the authors of it are women. This podcast was particularly interesting to me at the time because of the articles written after The Fault In Our Stars got big about how John Green had ‘saved’ young adult fiction. Love TFIOS, but ugh. Seriously.

4. Cosplaying with Gender

Cosplay fascinates me as I know very little about it. In my first year of university there was one night were I attempted to get involved in one of those Dungeons and Dragons-type (see? Terrible!) board games that one of my flatmates was playing with her friends, but it did not go very well and I was never invited to play again.

3. Black Hairstory

This podcast with Lori L. Tharp, author of Hair Story: The Untangling of Black Hair in America utterly fascinated me. Tharp’s discussion begins with the story of how when she first approached her university about writing a thesis on black hair, eyes were rolled because her supervisor couldn’t see her having enough to say. Spoiler alert: she did.

2. Curly Hair Conundrums

I think I’m obsessed with hair. This was one of the first of Cristen and Caroline’s podcasts that I listened to. It looks at the representation of straight VS curly hair and how curly haired women are often represented in television as crazy or evil. Think Elena VS Katherine in early The Vampire Diaries.

1. Fat Bottomed Girls

This podcast looks at the cultural and historical background of our obsession with big bottoms. Large bottoms and race associations are discussed, with a particular look at the really tragic history of Saartje Baartman. It is totally fascinating and gives a lot more insight into why those Kim K pictures could be considered so problematic.