As we observe this year’s International Women’s Day (a holiday which is finally surpassing Free Donut Day in importance) I decided to pay tribute to some of my favorite badass women in fiction. However, while all women deserve to be honored today, I decided to put a twist on it and honor some of the women in fiction who might get shoved into the shadows because they didn’t always reach the kind, nurturing and virginal female standard that all women are eventually measured up to.
We all know the double standard. When a man is assertive he’s admired, obeyed and even worshipped. He’s set up as an example to others to be like him. However, when a woman does it, the first two things she’s called are “bossy” and “bitchy.” It happens in real life and even in the stories we read and watch on TV or the movies. Whenever a man does something where he pushes the envelope, or that might be considered morally ambiguous, he’s considered clever and a flawed hero. But when a woman does it, she’s labeled immoral, scrupleless and a “nasty woman.”
So while we offer women like Hermione Granger and Diana Prince all their due respect, let’s not forget about the women who might be considered bitches in the derogatory sense of the word, but who are really just as badass and who fought for the greater good even if their tactics were sometimes considered shady.
Without further ado, here’s a list of some of my favorite fictional badass women.
Narcissa Malfoy (Harry Potter Series)
Why people hate her: She’s a “pureblood” Slytherin, sister of Bellatrix “I Wanna Take The Dark Lord Behind The School and Get Him Pregnant” Black, willing wife of Lucius “I Brush My Hair 300 Times Before Bedtime” Malfoy and one part complicit for the procreation of Draco “My Father Will Hear About This” Malfoy. She’s an all-around bigoted snob, who at one point had the nerve to talk shit to Harry’s face about Sirius “I’m Too Sexy For My Shirt” Black.
Why she’s badass: She lied to Lord Voldemort’s face when she told him Harry Potter was dead. That’s so past bravery, it’s just plain old fed up obstinacy. Narcissa Malfoy couldn’t give less of a shit about Lord Voldemort’s agenda. His immortality, purebloods finally reigning over mudbloods, his obsession with a teenage boy and his friends or even her family’s prestige are all rabbit droppings in comparison to keeping her loved ones alive and safe. In spite of her snobbishness and skewed beliefs, her priorities are in the right place. For the most part.
Scarlett O’Hara (Gone with the Wind)
Why people hate her: She’s a two-faced, slave-owning, self-serving, beau-stealing, gold-digging, manipulative liar who refuses to see the truth even when it saves her time and time again and even marries her knowing full well it can’t receive her affections back. And by “it” I mean Rhett Butler.
Why she’s badass: She promised herself she’d never go hungry again and guess what? She didn’t. She promised herself she’d survive the Civil War and its aftermath and guess what? She m*ther f*cking did. Did she cheat and lie and deceive and ruin perfectly good curtains to do so? Yes. But sometimes the ends justify the means. And in Scarlett O’Hara’s case, the ends ALWAYS justify the means. Also, she was always genuinely nice to the slaves, so there’s that.
Petra Solano (Jane the Virgin)
Why people hate her:
Why she’s badass: Yes, she did all those things. But to be fair Petra only did most of those things when she found herself backed into a corner. The reason we love Petra is that, while certain protagonist characters in this show like to whine about their problems and at times can’t seem to be able to make decisions on their own, Petra resolutely does whatever she has to ensure her survival. Often without anyone’s help. Whenever she’s knocked down (and damn this girl has been knocked down A LOT) she gets back up with an almost blind determination and charges head on through her obstacles. Not to mention that in the later seasons she’s become more in touch with her compassionate side and has really shown that she can be kind in her own time and her in own manner.
Miranda Priestly (The Devil Wears Prada)
Why people hate her: She’s dead inside. Has no time for human beings and their problems. That includes herself. Also, that time she totally f*cked Nigel over hurt us even more than when Emily got knocked down by a car. Is probably secretly a Lannister.
Why she’s badass: Let’s see any of you try to run Runway magazine on your own, make it the top fashion magazine in the world all while trying to maintain your marriage and raise two kids. It’s not impossible, but it’s a sign of how hard it is that even Miranda “Failure Is An Unacceptable Human Trait” Priestly couldn’t manage it. What was she supposed to do without Runway in her life? Knit? Go bother someone else with your questions.
Olenna Tyrell (Game of Thrones)
Why people hate her: Well, I mean, I wouldn’t say *hate* but she did technically commit murder. So maybe just “Why people frown upon her” for this one.
Why she’s badass: It was due to her badass bitch mastermind that we were handed what was possibly the most cathartic moment of the entire Game of Thrones series. Sure, murder is bad. But you have to admit you asked yourself, at least once during seasons one through four, “When is this little shit going to die?” about King Joffrey. Oleanna heard our protests and she delivered.
Emily Gilmore (Gilmore Girls)
Why people hate her: Tried to micromanage Lorelai’s life. Tried to micromanage Rory’s life. Was rude to and then fired hundreds of maids. Is demanding with impossible standards. So judgmental and condescending she’d make the Malfoys cry. An expert at “Gilmoring” people. Also, we can never forgive her for that time she tried to break Luke and Lorelai up.
Why she’s badass: Emily Gilmore always knew what she wanted. Is it a sin now to have a very specific vision for your life and wanting it to work out exactly that way? Her insensitive, take-no-bullshit ways put her at the bottom of many people’s least favorite list, but the great thing about Emily is she genuinely doesn’t care. She’s in a league of her own. At the end of the day, she only wanted what was best for her family.
Beyoncé (Music Mythology)
Why people hate her: Stop lying to yourself. No one hates Beyoncé.
Why she’s badass: Took Jay-Z back after he cheated when she should’ve buried him literally, showing such mercy and why we are not worthy. She then wrote the world’s most badass record with which she buried Jay-Z figuratively.
There’s something to be admired about all of these women. They didn’t always choose the most ethical or the most socially acceptable path, but they got shit done. May we women learn to be as determined as these women and learn to fight to make our voices heard. With less murder and less crushing and controlling other people, of course. But definitely more grabbing life by the balls and paving our own way to our liking.
(Wait. What do you mean Beyoncé isn’t fictional?)