The Wednesday Weigh-In: Heroines and Bravery Edition

Last week, you weighed in on pride. You expressed pride in being a geek (the one “all my friends come to when they have computer problems”), and pride in being a freak (a “socially ostracized” male feminist). Whether it was biking, blogging, or breaking the law, thanks for sharing the moments and accomplishments that make you proud.

This week Pixar released their trailer for Brave, which will be Pixar’s first movie with a female lead. As Alyssa Rosenberg discusses over at Think Progress, they are long overdue for a female to take on such a role. Check the trailer below.

Today’s Wednesday weigh-in is presented in honor of this seemingly bad-ass fictional female lead:

Who is your favorite fictional heroine, and why?

This is a question we’ve asked of everyone we’ve interviewed for the Feministing Five. Rachel Maddow’s is a British spy. Jay Smooth’s is Dee from “What’s Happening!!” Senator Al Franken’s is Jo March from Little Women (or Ripley from Aliens). Gloria Feldt’s is Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.

It’s time to add your voice into the mix!

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is Executive Director of Partnerships at Feministing, where she enjoys creating and curating content on gender, race, class, technology, and the media. Lori is also an advocacy and communications professional specializing in sexual and reproductive rights and health, and currently works in the Global Division of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. A graduate of Harvard University, she lives in Brooklyn.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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  • Ashley Bennett

    My favorite fictional heroine is Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird because while she did not understand the injustice going on around her, she knew that something was wrong. It is that sense of what is right and fair that I try listen to when making decisions. I also admire her optimism because it is so easy to become discouraged and cynical when looking at what is going on in our country today. (Sidenote: favorite fictional hero is Atticus, and favorite recluse is Boo Radley).

  • deafbrowntrash

    NO QUESTION ABOUT IT — Sarah Connor from Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Man, she was tough and badass, yet protective and nurturing when it came to her own son.

    and ELLEN RIPLEY , of course !!

    • Ashley P

      Hell Yeah Sarah Connor from Terminator 2 was badass! We have an accord.

  • D.T.

    Dagny Taggart!

  • Tiffany

    Mine is Buffy from “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.” While still holding very firmly to her moral code, she subverts what’s expected of her (both by not being the damsel in distress and by not following the expectations of what it means to be a Slayer).

    My second is Empowered from a comic series of the same name. She slowly but surely kicks butt (more in the newer comics as she gains experience and confidence), while at the same time being vulnerable in ways I relate to. It’s her rise over her vulnerabilities that makes her so great.

    Honorable mentions include: Ellen Ripley from the Alien films, Samus Aran from the Metroid games, and Asuka Langley Soryu from “Neon Genesis Evangelion”

  • prami

    Molly from William Gibson’s Sprawl series/Johnny Mnemonic.

  • Rachel Duchak

    Jane Eyre, for sure. When I started reading this book for my high school English class, I rolled my eyes for the first few pages as Jane is bullied by her awful cousins. And then she stomps her feet and freaks out effectively, in a novel by a woman circa 1847. This is not the heroine you expect but, as the only major work by Charlotte Bronte, it’s the one you get. She says what you always wanted the girls to say in earlier novels: she’s direct. Go Jane!

  • Chelsea

    Dana Scully from the X-Files. She grows and changes without ever compromising her beliefs and her outlook, she is completely bad-ass and saves the day a million times while maintaining her femininity, and she has a realistic struggle to balance her work and her relationships.

  • Mary

    Alanna from Tamora Pierce’s “Song of the Lioness” quartet. She’s been my personal heroine since I was 13 (almost 20 years now). Who wouldn’t want to be a girl with a sword and magical powers, kicking ass all over the place? Of course, over the years, I’ve come to realise that there was even more to Alanna and to that series of books to admire. For one thing, Alanna has three different lovers by the time she’s 20, and there’s no hint at her being negatively judged for that, which I think is a really great message for teenage girls, especially since it’s mentioned that Alanna is no great beauty, and she never tries to be a people-pleaser. Beyond that, I have to credit Pierce for nudging me towards feminism in general (she recommended people read “The Purity Myth”, which I did, breathlessly and voraciously), and it was ultimately thanks to her that I shook off all those stupid knee-jerk ideas about what a feminist is and declared myself an out-and-proud feminist just within the last year or so. So bless you, Tammy and Alanna both, for that!

    • Laura

      Yes! Tamora Pierce is awesome, the Alanna series were amazing and her other series were female-led as well!

      • Mary

        Very true, and I love many of Tammy’s other books as well, but when I was 13, there was *only* Alanna. Now, Tammy’s books include non-straight and even one transgender character, as well as a lesbian heroine. May she live and keep writing and shattering the stereotypes of YA fiction forever!

    • Simone

      Alanna is an incredible role model for young women. She completely shatters the virgin-whore paradigm, she establishes herself as at least equal to, if not superior to, her peers through hard work and perseverence, and she finds a way to express her true self despite the challenges presented by a restrictive system. And even though she is a bad ass, swordfighting chick from a Middle Ages fantasy, she is relatable in that she has doubts and insecurities. Her journey profoundly parallels that of her audience. It’s criminal that she’s such an obscure character.

  • Magoonski

    I have a lot of favorites but I’ll stick with just two. Dr. Mackenzie Connor from Julie Czerneda’s “Species Imperative” trilogy. This character is an awesome biologist who studies salmon in an age when Earth is part of an interspecies alliance, she saves the world and the alliance throughout the three books. My most recent favorite has to be Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr from Tanya Huff’s Confederation novels, specifically “Valor’s Trial” where she is sent to prison and in the most awesome way ever takes on a tyrannical leader who has taken the opportunity to abuse other marines who are also held captive with him. Both authors have awesome female leads in all their series.

  • Sam

    Totally Ree in Winter’s Bone. If you haven’t seen Winter’s Bone and you like dramas (with a female lead, and a female director, and super well done) please do. So good.

    Olive in Little Miss Sunshine is pretty good too

  • Jae

    Helen Parr from “The Incredibles”. I know it sounds strange but I absolutely love her. She’s funny, smart, protective and I mean c’mon she knows how to pilot a JET! What really cemented her as my favorite heroine is the speech she gives her children right before she’s about to go save her husband. She flat out tells her kids that they are in danger and basically that they need to mature and realize the gravity of the situation they’re in.
    So yes, Helen Parr in my opinion is one BAMF heroine.

  • froggyness

    Just one heroine? But there are so many… I might start with Dido Twite (from Joan Aiken’s books) for gumption and PITA charm, or Annie Jason Masmajean (from Kagan’s Mirabile). Masmajean’s got the thorough sense and competence I want when I grow up.

  • Lesa

    Mulan! She’s kickass. And Asian. Both are good things, and a combination of the two is awesome, of course.

  • Mike

    Excepting ones that have already been mentioned, and I agree with pretty much every one…

    Aeryn Sun, of Farscape.

    The way you can play Dragon Age: Origins, as a female scion of the Cousland line.

    Tiffany Aching, from Discworld. Indeed, most female leads from Discworld.

    Sam Carter, on SG-1 and especially Atlantis when she finally got command.

  • Laura

    Hermione Granger! She’s amazing, smart, sassy and an activist! Although I don’t like the way she initially begins SPEW (setting elves free by hiding hats and scarves everywhere so the elves get set free without their knowledge), she’s heading in the right direction.

    And of course Luna Lovegood, she doesn’t care what anyone thinks, and is just a genuinely nice person. She is possibly the best fictional character ever. Plus I love her radish earrings.

  • Kathy Dittrich

    Anne of Green Gables from the novel and film series. She broke her slate over Gilbert’s head and tirelessly sought a publisher for her writings. She stood up to the norm and defied expectation.

  • Catherine

    Danerys Targaryen from A Song of Ice and Fire!

    • jillian

      and arya! ive even got to throw in props for catelyn. (im just starting storm of swords).

  • Amanda

    My top favorites are Gemma Doyle from Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle Trilogy (ass-kicking Victorian magic schoolgirls rejecting the restraints places upon them? Yes please!) and Mattie from Jennifer Donnelly’s A Northern Light (1906 farm girl who wants to go to college and be a writer). Both are tough in their own ways and make their own decisions, rather than relying on others to tell them what to do. Sweet.

  • Caroline Narby

    I tend to prefer villains and antiheroes/antiheroines to heroes and heroines. For example, I like Jane Eyre, but I love Bertha Mason.

    If I had to come up with favorite heroines, I’d say:

    Elphaba Thropp from Wicked by Gregory Maguire. (The novel, NOT the musical.)
    Mattie Ross from the Cohen brothers’ remake of True Grit
    Lisbeth Salander from the Millenium series by Stieg Larsson
    Sugar from The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
    Ellen Ripley from the films Alien and Aliens (the only two in the quartet that I like)

    • Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz

      I was also more intrigued by Bertha, a woman of color and suffering mental illness, living in an upper class man’s mansion in Victorian England. One could make the argument that, given that Victorian asylums for the mentally ill were little more than workhouses with the occasional bizarre measure thrown in (water dousing, spinning chairs, huh???) perhaps Mr. Rochester thought he was doing the more kindly thing to hide her away than leave her in the hands of Victorian society and prejudices. But either way, her fate was still a cruel one, indicative of a time when people were far more ignorant about such things. I’ve heard of the book “Wide Sargasso Sea”, a modern novel that tells the story of Bertha before she came to England. I should probably look into reading it.

      • Caroline Narby

        You should definitely read it. It’s a fantastic novella that explores Bertha’s backstory (though in Wide Sargasso Sea her given name is Antoinette) against the backdrop of Caribbean racial politics. Personally I found an annotated edition to be helpful in order to appreciate all of the references in the text, and to compare it directly to relevant passages in Jane Eyre.

  • A Viescas

    Sabriel, from the book of the same name. Smart, dedicated, and impossible to keep down, she’s a badass and knows it, who faces impossible odds but never backs down.

    Also Balsa from Seirei no Moribito. Not only is she the strongest fighter in the whole kingdom, she’s courageous and determined enough to fight that entire kingdom for the sake of a child who isn’t even hers.

    • Spencer Koelle

      Hey, somebody else read Sabriel! ^^ How do you think she stacks up against Lireal in terms of heroine quality? =o

  • Camille

    Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games!!! Also, Laura Roslin and Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica.

  • Jessica “Jess” Victoria Carillo

    Yaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I wrote articles about my favorite fictional heroines!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Especially recently………

  • Ariadne

    From fiction Mara Jade. (obviously =P)

    From history/historical fiction Tomoe, Hapshuset (sp?), Catherine Sforza.

  • Rachel

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s a day late, haha. Anne Shirley, hands down, is my favorite fictional heroine. I want to be her. I think sometimes I might actually make it.

  • Rochelle Skaar

    Hester Prynne, for sure.

    “The letter was the symbol of her calling. Such helpfulness was found in her, —so much power to do, and power to sympathize, —that many people refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification. They said that it meant Able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman’s strength.”

  • Spencer Koelle

    Brainthink overload. @_@
    This would have been easier to deal with if you had narrowed it down, like “Favorite Movie Heroine” or “Favorite YA novel heroine.”
    Ginormica of Monsters vs. Aliens, for her amazing and authentic character growth and topping Ripley in terms of alien-combatting awesomeness, or Lireal the badass librarian, noble necromancer, and misfit prophecier from Garth Nix’s novel of same name are both strong candidates.
    You didn’t specify published works, so, I’d have to go with one of the heroines in my own unpublished novel. >.> I bit arrogant, but she has all the things that appeal to me in a character, and subvert the tropes I’d like to see overturned. My pick is Melanie from Rise of the Vampire Cheerleaders.

  • robyn

    I’d say Disney’s Princess Pocahontas but she’s based on a real person.

    I saw someone say Dana Scully and I wholey concur with them, I choose Dana.

  • Kelsey

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned “The West Wing” yet. Amy Gardner, CJ Cregg, and Abigail Bartlett definitely deserve spots on this list.

  • Ashley P

    Way too many to choose like someone else said, so here goes:

    The Bride from Kill Bill
    Sarah Connor in Terminator 2
    Jane Austen in Becoming Jane
    Michelle Rodriguez in any movie she’s ever been in
    America Ferrera in Real Women Have Curves & Ugly Betty
    Naomie Harris’s character in 28 Days Later
    Olivia Benson in Law & Order: SVU (Yes, I watch that!)
    Parker Posey rockin’ it in Fay Grim

    From Real Life:
    Virginia Woolf
    Ntozake Shange
    Frida Kahlo
    Ana Mendieta

    And thar be so many more.

  • blueeyes90

    I second Olivia Benson.

    Also, there are some kick ass female characters in the Age of Fire series. First off there’s Wistala, who sets out to get revenge against the dwarves who attacked her family, then there’s Istach, Wistala’s niece, who actually calls out someone for saying something sexist about her, and there’s also Hazeleye the elf.
    I mean, come on, this series is awesome!