1. Peggy Carter, Agent Carter
Peggy Carter is so much more than Captain America’s love interest. Smart, witty and determined, agent Peggy Carter is a verifiable feminist icon. Even though she is surrounded by men who refuse to take her seriously, Peggy never backs down. She fights for what she believes is right, and is not about to let any naysayers stop her. She can stop the bad guy, save the world and dismantle the patriarchy all at the same time.
2. Elle Woods, Legally Blonde
What Elle lacks in physical strength she makes up for with her brains and adaptability. She can hold her own in court, and she can do it in full makeup and pumps. Elle Woods may never be able to beat someone up, but she’s still more than capable of tearing you a new one.
3. Hermione Granger, Harry Potter
Hermione Granger is the perfect role model for readers both young and old. She’s saved their trio more times than can be counted. Hermione is intelligent, talented and motivated. To top it all off, she is also fiercely loyal and independent. She knows what she is capable of and is not afraid to go wand to wand with some of the strongest Death Eaters in the Harry Potter universe. Let’s be honest: Harry and Ron would have never made it through all seven books without Hermione.
4. Leslie Knope, Parks and Recreation
There are so many words that could be used to describe Leslie Knope: kind, goofy, passionate, ambitious, bold— the list goes on and on. I think the best way to summarize is to say that Leslie is like a force of nature. She can be warm and nurturing like the sun, or she can be a tornado that knocks you down and sets you straight. It’s refreshing to see a female character as empowered as Leslie. She wants the whole package— family, a career, everything— and she won’t accept anything less.
5. Mulan, Mulan
Mulan is an inspiration to tons of little girls. She risked her life and her family’s honor to save her father from military service that would have surely killed him, and proved that girls can be just as strong and smart as the boys. Even though all of the odds were against her, she was able to almost single-handedly save China. If that’s not cause for respect, I don’t know what is.
6. Princess Leia, Star Wars
Princess Leia is great because she defies so many stereotypes. Yes, she’s a princess, but that doesn’t mean she’s a hyper-feminized weakling that needs to be saved; Leia is a warrior. She is intelligent, courageous, fierce and one of the greatest leaders of the Rebel Alliance. It’s hard to not look up to Leia. You’ve just gotta love strong women.