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NO TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION! The world should not reap the benefits woman provide without representing us as multi-dimensional characters in the media. Please note: I do know that’s not the real meaning behind the saying, but humor me.

Representation matters. It matters in the workplace, it matters in the government, it matters in education, and it definitely matters in the media. Media possesses the power to shift the dialogue around any given subject or demographic, and establish a forum that works toward building tolerance and understanding.  

As such, here are few of the stats for you data-driven folks, courtesy of the Women’s Media Center:

  • Women constituted 30 percent of playwrights and 33 percent of directors for five seasons’ worth of Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway shows at 22 theaters.
  • Hollywood’s top paid union executive—a man—earned 60 percent more than the highest-paid female union executive.
  • Eleven percent of speaking characters in a subset of top-grossing films were aged 60 and older. Of that group, 72.8 percent were men—even as aging women are a substantially larger subset of the U.S. population.
  • Of the 895 characters regularly slated to appear in primetime TV series on ABC, NBC and CBS in 2016-2017, 43 were lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or a queer–the highest proportion since GLAAD started its count.

Here are some of my favorite plays, movies, books, and television shows with strong leading ladies. Before we begin, grab your glass and let us toast to female protagonists: “ May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.”


The Sound of Music – This oldie but goodie was pretty feminist for its time. Think about it: the show aired in 1959, and like many of the other women you will read about in this list, Maria didn’t really take shit from anyone, particularly Captain Von Trapp. She was notorious for breaking rules, following her heart, and pursuing fun and adventure. And ladies, if nothing else, Maria definitely taught us not to answer to the sound of a whistle (or cat-call or anything else that doesn’t make you feel like the respectable queen that you are).

If/Then – First off, I saw the original cast perform this show, and Idina Menzel is a beast. The award-winning show is about a newly divorced 38-year-old urban planner who moves to New York City for a fresh start (don’t we all). The show then takes on two parallel storylines based on the premise that “IF” she made X decision “THEN” this is how life would play out.The show deals with all the challenging decisions women face as it pertains to love, sex, career, children, family, and friends.

Rent – Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes! Another oldie but goodie. I must admit, I haven’t seen it in a few years but this play was definitely my introduction to true free expression on the big stage. The representation in this play spans across race, gender, and sexual preferences. Exhibit A: Joanne is a well-educated successful, strong, caring, black, lesbian woman. In case you didn’t know, there aren’t a whole lot of Joanes in entertainment.


Black Panther – Wakanda Forever! This movie is truly phenomenal. If you haven’t seen it yet, please do. But in the meantime (without giving away too much), let me give you a quick rundown of some of the women of Wakanda. The Dora Milaje is an army of badass women. Out of all the strong, intelligent, and influential people in Wakanda, these fierce warriors were the only people woman enough for the job of protecting the King from physical harm. Next, there’s the Black Panther’s love interest Nakia (slay, Lupita) who has the opportunity to be queen but has committed herself to a higher calling of serving as a spy for her country (despite her very evident love for the Black Panther). The lesson we could all learn from Nakia is to call bullshit on anyone who says you can’t have your cake and eat it t0o. There’s also Shuri, the teenage princess and sister of the Black Panther who serves as the STEM mastermind for the most technologically advanced country in the world. In short, everything everywhere would crumble to pieces without women to save the day.

Wonder Woman – I must confess that I only recently saw the film, and I’m so upset it took me this long. Of course, it’s not feminist movie of the year, and she barely wears any clothing, but so what? Women don’t and were never meant to fit into one particular box; instead we identify with and own as many boxes as we want, and then stand on top of them to ensure that we are heard for who we are and who we’ve chosen to be. On a separate-but-related note, I was down for all the women-only screenings. We’ve literally sat in theaters full of guys watching all the other superhero movies. Give us this one.

Hidden Figures – A true story acknowledging the accomplishments of underappreciated black female mathematicians, Katherine Goble Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson; all of whom worked at NASA during the space race. For me, this movie epitomizes what feminism in the workplace should be about: being respected and valued for my intelligence and for what I bring to the table, as opposed to my reproductive organs or the color of my skin. We shouldn’t have to prove ourselves to receive basic human dignity and respect–it’s our birth right (I don’t think everyone got the memo though).


The Outlander Series  – If you’re not reading (and/or watching it on TV), you’re missing out tremendously. For a time-traveling period piece, this leading lady is years (and even centuries) before her time. Set in both the 18th and 20th century, Claire never shies away from challenging authority and societal norms (sometimes to a fault), standing up for what she believes is right, excelling in the field of medicine, taking ownership of her sexuality (and sexual experiences), and even speaking “like a whore” with her colorful vocabulary. In short, she’s not to be messed with. Warning: This show can be the greatest thing that ever happened to you, the worst thing that ever happened to you, or both at the same time (I fall into the third category–Outlander ruined me for better and for worse).

Americanah – This novel is written by the award-winning author of We Should All Be Feminists (another must-read), Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. In Americanah she develops a story about a young Nigerian immigrant who experiences and navigates America through fresh eyes. Essentially this novel takes place at the intersection of sexism and racism in America. It’s a very necessary reminder that feminism should transcend simply being a woman. It means accepting and advocating for the diversity among us as well. There are so many factors that alter our experiences as woman (class, race, cultural experiences, nationality, etc.) that we would be doing ourselves a disservice by not acknowledging the differences in our similarities.

Hunger Games & Divergent series – Although they can be viewed a bit teeny bopper-ish, these two series will always be amongst my favorites (please note, I read both series as an adult). These stories, along with many others on this list, depict fearless leaders willing to sacrifice themselves for the sake of their community. A while back I watched a Ted Talk with Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code (I highly recommend it) who spoke to the notion that we do our girls a disservice by encouraging perfection when we should be teaching them bravery. The leading women in both of these stories embody the bravery Saujani references, while dispelling the idea that women are submissive and fragile porcelain dolls.

TV Shows

All things ShondalandGrey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, The Catch, For the People, and Station 19. The driving purpose of this article is celebrate the importance of representation in media; and in my humble opinion, no one exemplifies this sentiment more than Shonda Rhimes. Not only is the lead of every one of her shows a dynamic, multi-faceted, reasonably flawed and powerful woman (as we all are), but she also ensures representation in race, religion, and sexual preference.

Orange is the New Black – This show celebrates and embraces the woman of all ages, shapes, sizes, and colors from the first second of the opening credits and throughout every episode. The Netflix original reinforces the fact that there’s no cookie cutter model of what a woman should or shouldn’t be. Being a woman is complex and messy, and that’s exactly what’s exemplified in the show. The writers do an excellent job exploring female sexuality, racism, homophobia, and religious extremism. In addition to numerous awards and nominations, our girl Laverne Cox was the first openly transgender person nominated for an Emmy Award in the acting category.

Quantico – Although the show can be a bit overkill and unrealistic at times, the women in this FBI-inspired drama challenge societal stereotype by simply existing and thriving the way women worldwide do on a daily basis. Besides the fact that Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra plays our commanding leading lady in this show, she shares the set with one of the most diverse cast of women I’ve ever seen on television. Not only do they represent various races and ethnicities, but they confidently own their sexuality, religion, physical fitness, and professional success. Thank you for that Quantico writers and producers.