Feminism should be practiced every day. The idea of women having rights equal to those of men isn’t an agenda, it should be the way life is. But we all need a boost, and International Women’s Day, observed since the early 1900s, is here to lift us up. March 8 is a day to celebrate the women you admire–real or fictional–and their achievements and to call for gender parity.
One way we’re marking the occasion is to raise a glass to 15 pop culture heroines who have inspired us to be more and push harder. Here’s why they’re worthy of our praise:
Wonder Woman is a feminist hero. She fights for the world. She’s compassionate towards humans. She believes everyone is capable of everything—gender doesn’t even come into the equation for her. Plus, she has killer accessories.
Donna Noble flips the role of the companion in the modern series of Doctor Who. She’s unapologetically herself, brash and sassy and full of so much joie de vivre. She questions the Tenth Doctor and leaves her mark all over the TARDIS.
No one in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has as much patience as Claire Temple. She uses her medical knowledge to come up with creative ways to mend the hero pals that keep finding her, and she’s not afraid to figuratively smack them across the head and tell them to stop being idiots.
Who lies to Darth Vader’s face? Who watches her home planet get destroyed and goes on to participate in the Rebel Alliance’s biggest mission? Leia Organa. She’s fierce and brave and uses chains meant to oppress her to become a Huttslayer.
When you need a bright ray of positivity and enthusiasm, you need only to turn to Parks and Recreation‘s Leslie Knope. She has boundless devotion to her job and making the world a better place, and she treasures her female friends and treats them like poetic, noble land mermaids.
A skilled fighter with the ability to kill someone with a look (okay, not literally), Firefly‘s Zoe Washburne rules. She proves her leadership skills time and again and functions as the brain of Serenity. I appreciate seeing both her kick-ass and tender sides in the series.
Willow Rosenberg confidently wears pink fluffy sweaters, which is only one reason why the Buffy the Vampire Slayer character is terrific. She comes into her own and learns to wield powerful magic. She’s dangerous sometimes, but she mostly uses her powers for good. She sticks with her friends and loved ones and plays a big part in saving the world.
As the president of the remnants of the human race in Battlestar Galactica, Laura Roslin has to make difficult decisions on the regular. She’s under tremendous stress in a job she never wanted, and though she does take some questionable actions, she carries herself with poise and brings the hammer down to serve the greater good whenever it’s necessary.
Look, it’s not easy to choose a single clone from the sisters on Orphan Black, but if I’m making myself do it, I choose Cosima. She works in a STEM field, she’s ridiculously persistent with her work, and she wears her heart on her damn sleeve despite the trouble it causes her. Plus, she’s just cool.
Kamala Khan is a teen when she becomes Ms. Marvel, but she still rises to the occasion. She balances her schoolwork with being a hero, she’s creative in how she uses her powers, and she stands tall alongside the Avengers.
It’s always a plus to be reminded to dream big, and Judy Hopps does so in Zootopia. She doesn’t let anything deter her from pursuing her goals. Her relentless determination is one aspect of her personality that inspires me.
Professor Minerva McGonagall is one of the best characters in all of Harry Potter. She’s a talented witch, she can turn into a cat (which is basically the neatest thing ever), and she’s not afraid to bend the rules when it means improving her house’s Quidditch team. She’s loyal to Dumbledore and insanely protective of Hogwarts and its students.
I can’t imagine leaving my safe and cozy island to go on a quest in the dangerous sea. Moana might be intimidated by her journey, but she takes her teenage self to the water, recruits a demigod, and saves the day anyway. Girl’s got moxie.
Uhura shows herself to be capable time and time again in Star Trek. She mans her station and serves as chief communications officer and helps the USS Enterprise’s captain get out of sticky jams.
Lara Croft is at the heart of the Tomb Raider franchise, and if I ever find myself stranded on a desert island, I want her there with me. Her whip-smart intelligence and mad survival skills make her strong in more ways than one. I mean, she has archaeologist adventures. What’s not to adore?
This list barely scratches the surface, but there are only so many hours in the day. Which pop culture heroines do you look up to? Drop your list in the comments or come talk to us on Twitter: @nerdist and @amy_geek. Bonus points if you include pictures.
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