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11 Books, Movies & TV Shows To Make Your Feminist Heart Burst

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Iowa chapter.

Books, television and movies are some of the greatest ways to pass the time. Why not spend that time witnessing powerful women build other women up and unapologetically be themselves?

1. Aquamarine


While the majority of the plot follows three completely boy-crazy girls and Aquamarine’s quest to find love with a boy named Raymond, the end message has nothing to do with boys. The beautiful thing about the relationship that blossoms between Aquamarine and Raymond is that they have conversations about what really matters to them, including travel, family and future plans; it’s not a superficial relationship. The relationship also doesn’t move too quickly as it so often does in fairytales; it’s more sincere than that. In the end, the love between friends is what truly matters.

2. Divergent


Tris is a badass warrior in this book-turned-movie series. She is tough enough to make the choice to leave her family in order to be the person she wants to be. She stands up to Eric for the sake of her friend, Al, leaving her in a position of having knives thrown at her. She is strategic and smart and ends up winning capture the flag for her team. All the while, she never lets her softness or selflessness be diminished. And Tobias, as every feminist’s dreamboat guy, reminds her of her softness but never babies her because he knows what she’s capable of. He only ever wants to stop her from doing something reckless so that he doesn’t lose her. While from the get-go, he is your typical stoic YA love interest, he lets his guard down and reveals what he’s truly afraid of to Tris. He isn’t afraid to be vulnerable with her, which is so often thought of as taboo if men in society.

3. Frozen


This Disney movie was praised for having a plot not completely centralized on a love story and for poking fun at the typical trope of fairy tale love. Similar to Aquamarine, the lesson to be learned was that the love between family, particularly between sisters, is the most powerful love of all.

4. Gallagher Girls Series


While this is a series definitely geared toward an audience slightly younger than ourselves, being set in a spy school for girls, I cannot stress how wonderful it is. The books have a strong focus on the capabilities of women, and they often mention how their biggest strength is being underestimated in these capabilities simply because they are women.  

5. The Hunger Games


Another dystopian movie adaptation of a book, The Hunger Games features a powerful female lead, Katniss. Katniss is sassy and unapologetic yet has a depth and kindness to her that makes her even stronger. She volunteers in the place of her sister and in doing so, takes sacrificial love to a whole new level. At the same time, she is torn apart by the idea of being a participant in killing games. It’s only through her love for her sister and for Rue, who is very much like her sister, that she can bring herself to kill. Her love interest, Peeta, balances out her rough edges by being a sweet and gentle man. He’s not the conventional tough guy because that’s just not who he is. He is the boy with the bread; the boy who likes to sleep with the windows open; the boy whose favorite color is orange, but not bright orange—soft, like the sunset. I wouldn’t go far enough to say that they are a gender-swapped couple, but they do break the boundaries of what a “typical” man and woman look like.

6. Legally Blonde


Elle Woods is a feminist icon! She is the living, breathing proof that women can do anything they want if they put their minds to it and put in the hard work. She also proves that being invested in things like hair care can be useful. Just because you are a woman who cares about your appearance does not mean you are invalidated as a human being.

7. Mulan


Mulan is the ultimate badass Disney princess. Sure, she has to dress up as a man to be taken seriously, but once she reveals her identity, the entire country praises her for her courage. She is so brave and basically saves her entire country in being so brave. She also teaches us that being yourself is the bravest thing of all, one thing we could all learn to do.

8. New Girl


Jess is perfectly unashamed to be a woman but can also recognize the systematic flaws that hold back women from flourishing. She is not afraid to share her emotions or thoughts about her period with her three male roommates, and having her as a roommate makes them become more accepting of women as real human beings. Jess never lets her kindness be diminished simply because she is a woman, and she certainly never apologizes for being her amazing, quirky self.

9. Parks and Recreation


Leslie Knope is the queen of feminism thought. She is all about building other women up instead of tearing them down. Her compliments to Anne are some of the best lines to ever come out of a TV show, ever. She, like Jess, does everything in her power to beat the system. Working in a male-dominated field can be tricky, especially when your co-workers are deliberately misogynistic (I’m looking at you, Councilman Jamm), but she never lets this get her down. She never allows herself to quit. She knows who she is, and she loves herself without regard to what anyone else might think.

10. The Princess Diaries 2: The Royal Engagement


I make no snap judgements when I say the Princess Diaries movies are some of the best to ever exist. The first definitely has more to do with self-identity and finding self-confidence while the second has more feminist leanings. The whole basis is that Princess Mia must marry before she is to become queen. She finds someone who is likeable enough, but she knows what she wants—love. Mia wants to be queen so that she can make a difference in the place she has grown to love, but she is unwilling to sacrifice her own happiness. She makes a motion to change the law about a queen having to be married, making ripples in so many ways. Her strength to not give up what she wants while being so steadfast in wanting to make change is a beautiful picture of what it looks like to be a powerful woman.

11. Testament of Youth


This cinematic rendering of wartime nurse and writer Vera Brittain’s memoir is a tough one to watch but one that is important. Vera is a strong-willed suffragette, who in one of the first scenes receives a piano from her father and is furious because he said he wouldn’t pay for her to study at Oxford instead. His concern is that she will not find a suitable husband if she is not well-cultured. She retorts that she doesn’t wish to ever get married. Her stubbornness carries throughout, especially toward the smooth-talking Roland whom she has initial prejudices against. He reveals that he is a feminist, and Vera begins to see a new side of him that she quickly falls in love with. To hasten the rest of the plot (and with the intention of avoiding spoilers), Vera experiences huge changes in her life due to the start of the war. She is numb when it ends but never loses her desire for peace and gentleness among the human population or the need for it in herself. 

Paige Netzel is a senior at the University of Iowa, studying English and Creative Writing with a Cinema minor. Coffee, creating playlists, and gratitude are essential to keeping her going. Check her out on Twitter for some hecka funny tweets or on Spotify for those dope playlists.
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