Ladies I Look Up To

I decided to talk a little about my role models. I’ll admit, my choices are a little varied. They range from fellow bloggers to First Lady, from actress to activists, from fictional to fashionista. The one constant, though, is feminist.

In no particular order:

Tavi Gevinson

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Yes, Tavi Gevinson is four years younger than me. I don’t like to limit my role models to my elders. Blogger, feminist and teenius (new word), Tavi is everything I’ve wanted to be since I had vaguely any grasp on my identity. I mean, I didn’t always know it was her specifically but she’s many of the ideal characteristics in one human: incredibly intelligent, politically-minded, fun and funny. She can also rock the block fringe.

Tavi started off, at the age of 11, as a fashion blogger, but has more recently commented: “I even think that fashion can be a tool of feminism and of self-expression and individuality and empowerment. But clearly there are flaws with the industry that still really grind my gears.” Fuck, yes. Early on, people thought that Tavi’s writing style was too mature to legitimately be a young girl (= she’s really, really good, you guys).

The reason I’ve taken such a liking to talented Tavi, though, is her attitude regarding the media and the many pressures it puts on teenage girls. She decided that the best thing that a fifteen-year-old could do to improve the media that she consumes was to be involved in creating it. So, she founded Rookie. “On Rookie, everything is through a feminist lens and we’re a feminist site.” Hurrah! I like you.

In summary: this lady has to balance school and being editor-in-chief for an online magazine. I can’t even balance school and my freaking diet (shit, when was the last time I ate a vegetable?). Also, one time she said, “my brain is farting” and it was beautiful.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

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One of the primary qualities I respect about Hillary Clinton is her ability to handle criticism. For any person in the political arena, this is vital. One of my favourite quotes of hers is: “Take criticism seriously, but not personally. If there is truth or merit in the criticism, try to learn from it. Otherwise, let it roll right off you.” I think that’s a really valuable lesson to learn. I’m not particularly thick-skinned and probably pay too much attention to criticism, but I think it’s so important to differentiate between constructive criticism and hatin’.

As First Lady of the United States, her focus was universal healthcare. That’s a pretty good policy from where I’m sitting – which is the UK, where we have the NHS (would recommend to friend). She’s been First Lady of Arkansas, First Lady of the United States (the main First Lady of all the First Ladies), a New York Senator and Secretary of State. Sometime in the midst of all that she tried running for President. Maybe she’ll do it again sometime. Maybe.

Joe Biden actually said once: “Hillary Clinton is as qualified or more qualified than I am to be vice president of the United States of America. Quite frankly, it might have been a better pick than me.” I actually had a better job in mind for Hillary, Joe (but I do love you).

How she hasn’t lost her mind over the running commentary on her hairstyles alone is a mystery to me. She hasn’t had the easiest time from the right wing media but she’s still standing. Fingers crossed that soon she starts running.

Malala Yousafzai

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Malala Yousafzai might perhaps be the most courageous person on earth. Malala is the youngest person on this list, in fact, but may well be the most impressive of all. Malala started off blogging for BBC Urdu about the Taliban banning girls from receiving an education. Thus began her fight for a privilege that we all take for granted. I love to write more than anything, but I’ve so often wished I didn’t have to go to school or take an exam. Here is a person fighting to be able to do just that. It’s a lesson in appreciating what you have and recognising the privilege that you have.

Malala had to blog under a pseudonym for her own safety. However, after the truth of her identity came to light, she became a target for the Taliban. In October 2012, as she was travelling home from an exam, a Taliban gunman shot her. Thankfully, she survived the assassination attempt, but she and her father both remain targets of the Taliban.

Hillary Clinton has commented on Malala’s bravery “standing up for the rights of girls” against those who threaten “that kind of empowerment”. In response to the shooting, aforementioned Tavi Gevinson organised a Get Well Soon card for Malala.

Malala was also nominated for the Nobel Piece Prize. Let me just remind you: she’s fifteen years old.

Amy Poehler

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Amy Poehler is one of my favourite people on the planet, just simply because of how happy she makes me. Her comedic talents are, quite frankly, unparalleled. She is, at the core, a badass feminist. She created Smart Girls at the Party, the motto of which is “change the world by being yourself”. On SNL, Amy was the co-anchor on Weekend Update with Tina Fey – the only time two women have anchored. She also played Hillary Clinton opposite Tina’s Sarah Palin, as well as playing Regina’s colourful mother in Mean Girls. Currently, she stars in the truly brilliant Parks and Recreation as the show’s only lead (and is overdue an Emmy). It’s also great to have someone on this list who didn’t achieve all of their awesome by the age of, like, ten. I DON’T NEED THE PRESSURE.

So, remember that time Amy Poehler and Tina Fey hosted the Golden Globes? Yeah, me too. It was awesome. Highlight: when Bill Clinton appeared, I tweeted “OMG, it’s Hillary Clinton’s husband” and then she made the same joke. When I say highlight, I mean of life, not just that night.

Amy Poehler is fearless. I think it’s such an important quality for a comedic actor to have. She pays no attention to the boxes she might be put in, always performing with the bold confidence that is so irrepressibly Amy Poehler. There’s no one else like her. Her co-stars unanimously adore her. She kind of has a free pass to lightly insult anyone in Hollywood, so long as she’s doing it with a cheeky grin on her face and that perfect cackle. She just exudes sunshine. You know who else does that? Leslie Knope (and Donna Moss but we’ll get to that in a minute).

Amy plays Leslie Knope on Parks and Rec. She’s the tireless, optimistic government worker of her beloved Parks and Recreation department in fictional Pawnee. To express my love, I will simply share an anecdote from watching a recent episode. There was a storyline about Leslie being obsessed with gift-giving and my best friend just turned to me and said, “She is you.” Greatest moment of my life.

Other reasons to love Leslie Knope:

  • “My ideal man needs to have the brains of George Clooney, with the body of Joe Biden.”
  • In response to, “I believe one problem with hiring women is that they’re frail and breakable.” she said: “Is it possible you’re thinking about lightbulbs? Or your hip?”
  • “Barack Obama said yes we can and now he’s president. Ben says no we shouldn’t and now he’s working for his girlfriend.”
  • “I am big enough to admit that I am often inspired by myself.”
  • “You know my code. Hoes before bros. Uteruses before duderuses. Ovaries before brovaries.”

Donna Moss

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Donna Moss is my favourite fictional character of all time. Let’s start with that. She’s often overlooked because of the brilliance of Allison Janney, as is everyone else on The West Wing (and in the world), but there’s room enough for more than one complex, talented, smart woman in this White House. It can sometimes feel like she is viewed as an appendage to Josh, or that her character is analysed only as a direct comparison to Amy. Why? We don’t pit male characters against each other in the same way. So, I propose an end to this. And a beginning. The beginning of the midnight train to Donna appreciation. Hop on board.

She is deeply compassionate, patient and kind. These qualities are displayed time and again: from realising when Josh had PTSD and her reaction to finding out the president had MS, to standing up for the people – not names – on the list of potential pardons. And, remember Molly Morello?

Donna’s funny, too – let’s about talk about the funny. Every bit of banter she and Josh share is quick-witted and brilliant. There was also the thoroughly enjoyable, “Knock, knock! Who’s there? Sam and his prostitute friend.” and that time Donna found out she was Canadian. She’s so great (*gush*).

The real reason she’s on this list is her character development. She’s shown to be Josh’s much-depended-upon assistant for the first five seasons, always wanting to do more. She proves her competence endlessly and it becomes clear that she’s too good for the job. Eventually, she puts aside her personal feelings for Josh and quits, gets hired on the Russell campaign, gets promoted to spokesperson and White House point person and later lands a job on the Santos campaign after he gets the candidacy. When Santos wins the election, a very proud me gets to watch my baby girl Donnatella get hired as FLOTUS chief of staff and walk into her beautiful, big office. Congrats, show, on the one good thing you did post-Sork. Appreciated.

So, who would make your list of ladies you look up to? Share, share.