8 March 2016

Inspiring Fictional Women #IWD2016 #SheInspires Me

Happy International Women’s Day! I write to you from a train speeding towards London as I head for the Women of the World festival to see Caitlin Moran speak about her new book, Moranifesto. I absolutely cannot wait, and can’t think of a better way to spend this day dedicated to celebrating women and women’s achievements.

I’ve spoken about representation in fiction previously, and figure this is as good a day as any to talk about the intelligent, funny, relatable, determined, enigmatic, real ladies represented in my favourite fiction.

Hermione Granger

An obvious first choice, but one I still feel the need to mention. Hermione is often elevated to a Superwoman level of awesomeness by fans, and no wonder. She’s smart, resourceful, and a truly excellent friend. But she’s also insecure, pushy, and not immune to the need for a much-needed cry in the girls’ toilets - she’s every single one of us who ever felt like they weren’t quite good enough, no matter their achievements.

Hermione is a character who knows her own intelligence and isn’t afraid to show it, no matter how much she may be teased for it by her peers. There is something very likeable about how she isn’t afraid to be unlikable, because she refuses to limit herself due to other people’s expectations or needs.

Hermione’s feminist epicness is of course only enhanced by the work of Emma Watson, first actress to play Miss Granger on screen, and the #HeForShe movement she speaks for. It’s inspiring to see an actress embody everything their character represents brining what they stand for into the real world.

Buffy Summers

Whenever I see anyone talk about a Strong Female Character, Buffy is the first one that springs to mind as the original and best, before the SFC became an unachievable trope. There are many, many issues with the representation of Strong Women in fiction, and whilst Buffy may seem like the unrealistic, indestructible embodiment of this, she has a vulnerable, grounded side which makes her real. I cannot realistically aspire to fight demons and battle the undead as she does, but throughout her forays with the Big Bad she remains a character that inspires me in the real world.

Matilda Wormwood (suggested by Louise of Pixie Dust and Feathers)

Although I didn’t realise it at the time, Matilda was my first feminist hero for one key reason; she absolutely loved to read and would do whatever it took to achieve her ultimate goal - learning.

Whilst I wholly did not identify with her horrible family (shout out to the most inspiring women I know, my mother), her need to devour books made her instantly relatable to my young self. She supports her friends (“YOU CAN DO IT BRUCE!”), isn’t afraid to take on people bigger and more powerful than she is, and rocks a hair ribbon. What six year old wouldn’t want to be her? She was the pre-Hermione that introduced me to Girls Who Can.


It has long confused me as to why Frozen’s Ana was hailed as Disney’s first feminist princess when Merida in Brave (alright, it’s Disney/Pixar, but still) already existed. Even her hair doesn’t want to conform! With her actively opposing her arranged marriage (“I will be shooting for my own hand!”), and her journey being about fixing her existing relationship with her mother, this film screams ‘women empowerment’.

Johanna Morrigan / Dolly Wilde

Cards on the table, this is somewhat my way of sneaking Caitlin Moran into this list despite her not being a fictional character - but after recently reading How To Build A Girl I could not talk about inspiring fictional ladies without mentioning Johanna and her alter-ego, Dolly.

The thing that struck me most about Johanna was her burning need to be someone else, someone more exciting and unlimited by circumstance. Before she can begin to accept herself she must shed herself, and become someone new. She puts on her armour of eyeliner and a top hat so she can stride out into the world and say I AM WORTH SOMETHING. She drinks, she smokes, she sleeps around, and she slags off bands as a bitchy music journalist. She gets learns, she gets hurt, and she eventually reinvents herself all over again, keeping the pieces she likes and discarding those that do not make her happy.

Dolly Wilde may not be the most wholesome of role-models, but How To Build A Girl will be landing in the hands of my children when they turn fourteen. It wish to god this book had been handed to me at that time.

Who have I missed? Which women/girls in fiction inspire you? #SheInspiresMe #IWD2016

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