Favorite Feminists for the Very Young

Oh Jezebel, your editors should know by now that if you post anything that involves a list and the word “feminism” – people are going to get into a flame war mighty fast.  Jezebel’s list of 20 Feminist TV Characters prompted a lot of controversy – including a lot of agita over the lack of women of color on the list. Teresa at the Shameless Blog posted on the controversy, and added her own list of favorite women of color on TV.

I started making my own list of characters, when I realized that many of them were, in fact, from my childhood. Children’s TV has an amazing ability to reach and influence a generation (something pointed out in a very good NPR story from a few weeks ago). So why shouldn’t we acknowledge the fictional women who had an influence (however corny) on our young lives?

Elisa Maza – Gargoyles

All these kick-butt gun-toting cops, and not one mention of Elisa Maza?  Holds her own against the enemies of the Gargoyles, and fights against injustice as a NYPD detective. Elisa is also half African American and half Native American.

Moose – Pepper Ann

Did anybody else ever watch Pepper Ann?  The tales of a quirky redheaded middle schooler who tries to do the right thing. . . often involving her younger sister Moose.  Moose had a low husky voice, short hair, and wore pretty much whatever the guys wore on the show.  Moose might be one of the non-traditional girl cartoons I can think of (even more so than Ashley Spinelli of Recess).

Alex Mack – The Secret World of Alex Mack

Good grief did I love this show. Alex Mack gets covered in chemical ooze, then discovers she has superpowers. Never explicitly feminist, Alex Mack does solve her own problems and deal with the trials of being a teenager without slipping into sad cliches. Also, she can turn into a puddle of goo.

Kate Monday – Mathnet (Square One)

How could I forget Kate Monday? Probably the closest thing that the under 13 set had to a Dana Scully, Kate Monday uses math to solve crimes with her partner, George Frankly. “My name is Monday. I’m a Mathematician.”

The Chief – Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

It’s mighty tempting to list the double-dealing diva with a taste for thievery – but instead I’ll give credit to Lynne Thigpen’s amazing Chief, who managed to educate and entertain while spitting out tongue-twisters at a Sondheim-esque pace. Do it Rockapella!

(thanks to Sarah for all her input!)

9 Replies to “Favorite Feminists for the Very Young”

  1. Rebecca Cunningham, Tale Spin
    A shrewd businesswoman with an MBA and a single mother. She evolve over the course of the series, and while possessing a nasty temper, is a caring friend. She deals with all the chauvinists who make fun of Baloo for flying for a “skirt” by being a better business person.

  2. Maria Rodriguez, Sesame Street
    She co-owns the Fix-It Shop with her husband, Luis. She was always encouraging the little girls and boys, monsters, and other folks to play together, and not exclude each other. Big Bird always goes to her for advice.

  3. Lenni Frazier of Ghostwriter! She solves mysteries with the rest of the Ghostwriter team, and writes and performs music. She’s smart, curious, cares about people and justice. And she’s not whiny like Tina.

  4. Penny from Inspector Gadget. While IG is vaudevilling around with his contraptions and generally making a mess of things, Penny is solving crimes, with the help of her dog and her… computer book? I.e. proto-laptop. She’s a geeky fearless kid with good style (green pants!), whose brilliance is never officially recognized by anyone other than the show’s audience. As a kid I had one of those obsessive relationships with Penny where I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be her or marry her.

  5. Just have to throw out my pick for an obvious one: Lisa Simpson. She might appeal to a slightly older audience, but she’s still one of the most recognizable mainstream feminist TV characters in the world.

  6. Lisa Simpson was in the original Jezebel list – and many people in the comments suggested Daria and Leela (Futurama) in the animated-for-grownups category. I actually think Jane Lane from Daria should make that list, too.

  7. Granted she was only on TV on specials and events, but it’s hard to ignore Marcie and Patty from Peanuts when talking about non-traditional portrayals of young women… Sir.

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