How my favorite TV characters shaped my feminism

As children, we often have little to no thought about the movies we watch, video games we play, or music we listen to.

I️ grew up in early 2000’s bliss enjoying The Powerpuff Girls, Barbie, Dora, among other favorites. Growing up in a single parent household with my older sister I️ was always surrounded by the presence of women.

As young as the age of 4 my sister recounts me defying characters that displayed girls in a submissive light (like almost every female character in Tom & Jerry *eye roll*).  Seriously, did they even have any lines…

I often fell for female characters who were their own (s)heroes.  My mom began to worry, as she noticed I wasn’t being sold into that Prince Charming, Damsel-in-distress bullshit either. Countless times, she consistently tried to enthuse me with typical Disney favorites such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White, but nothing about ‘those’ characters thrilled me. Instead for example, the story of Mulan captivated me as a child, witnessing a young girl who was courageous enough to challenge a woman’s place in society.

Art by Liyah Strange

Some members of my family embraced this sense of girl power while others instructed my mother to do something before “it’s too late”.

There were endless male characters who dominated these action roles, yet I️ still was drawn to the limited amount of female ones I️ came across.  Rejecting these manipulated ideals of gender roles in society at an early age soon affected my friend groups, which dwindled into single digits.

Upon entering that awkward phrase in my life most of us know as adolescence, I continued to select images of self governing main characters like Kim from Kim Possible; Merida from Brave; and Samantha, Clover, and Alex from Totally Spies.  I noticed that I became completely uninterested in the female figures that played cliché love interest roles.  As I️ continued to grow with these images of female empowerment I started developing my sense of self.  This confidence translated into running for student council president, entering local design competitions, and even later starting my online business.

As I️ grew I found interest in more mature movies such as Catwoman, Kill Bill, Charlie’s Angels, Underworld, Carrie, Tomb Raider, — damn near every movie you could think of that starred an independent female lead.  Beyond the star studded cast and sexy costumes, it’s the way these characters were portrayed as Bad Ass women, that’s what fascinated me.

The older I️ got the more aggressive I became with my goals and strived to be independent in all areas of my life especially work.  Challenging my (often male) bosses when my counterparts would be recognized for their work, yet overlooked for mine.

Once while I was interning, I️ overheard a male colleague mumble “…I️ mean she’s a hard worker, but I️ don’t see her being more than an intern.”  As a young girl in the beginning stages of her career the idea of having limited opportunities presented to me despite my hard work caused me to shrink.  Upon the final days of my internship I️ began interviewing like crazy, and I️ mean crazy!  I️ received an invitation to interview at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the weight of that dreaded conversation I️ accidentally overheard challenged my confidence.

Despite the grueling competition and my little experience outside the role of an Intern I️ scored the highly coveted position as assistant of textile merchandising at The MET.  Arguably if I hadn’t been exposed to the images of powerful women throughout of my life I️ might not have been so fearless.

I️ always looked toward female figures who were powerful and, simply put,”didn’t take shit from anyone especially not from a man.” From subconsciously selecting presidential Barbie over pregnant Barbie at the tender age of 6, I️ always chose a narrative that directly reflected who I️ wanted to be.

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