These 12 TV Characters Shaped Us Into The Women We Are Today

Photo: Courtesy of ABC.
Who doesn't love the '90s?

It's hands-down one of the best eras for music, fashion, and film. But it was also an incredible time for television.

Be honest: How many times do you watch repeats of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air or Boy Meets World even to this very day? Don't be ashamed if your answer is, "Every time they come on."

And, although those shows are centered around guys, the truth is the '90s were also an incredible decade for badass girls and women who were unapologetically feminist.

Think about it: From Buffy Summers to Lisa Simpson, there was a wide variety of awesome young feminists on TV during the '90s. That means that impressionable young women in the '90s got to see women who broke boundaries, kicked ass, and did it all without succumbing to society's expectations for women.

Did you ever want to thank a TV character for inspiring you? For giving you hope? For straight up proving that it's okay to be an awesome feminist—actually, better than okay—it's fucking awesome! Look no further than the 12 '90s TV characters on this list who showed us what being a feminist was all about.
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Daria Morgendorffer (Daria)

Just the opening credits for Daria —featuring Splendora's "You're Standing On My Neck"—make you happy to be a feminist! Daria was sarcastic, droll, and way too smart to deal with the shallowness that plagued most of her fellow high school class. This character spoke about everything, from body image to racism to aethism.The best part? Daria wasn't the only feminist on her show. Jane was a super feminist. And Jodie, who often spoke about the pressure to be a "token Black girl" was a feminist. Ah, if only every generation of young, impressionable young women could grow up with a powerhouse like Daria.
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Photo: Courtesy of Fox.
Buffy Summers (Buffy The Vampire Slayer)

There's a heated internet debate over whether or not Buffy The Vampire Slayer is a feminist show. But there's little doubt that Buffy Summers was a feminist. This is the woman who once said, "I want to date, and shop, and hang out, and save the world from unspeakable evil: you know, normal girly stuff." This is the blonde cheerleader who wielded a stake and literally slayed. She owned her sexuality, wasn't afraid to ask for help from friends, and didn't let any man—or vampire—boss her around.
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Photo: Courtesy of Giphy/NBC.
Jessie Spano (Saved By The Bell)

Jessie Spano is best known these days for her brush with addiction to caffeine pills. But back in the day, her real claim to fame was that Jessie was Saved By The Bell's resident feminist. When she wasn't dropping knowledge about strong women and the dangers of patriarchy, she was fighting for equality at Bayside.
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Photo: Courtesy of Fox.
Lisa Simpson (The Simpsons)

Real talk: Lisa Simpson was a badass. Remember that time she was President of the United States? Remember that time she took on Malibu Stacy and the horrible stereotypes she represented? Remember that time she dressed up as a boy in order to attend the all boy math class instead of the all girl class? There are honestly too many awesome moments of Lisa being an unapologetic feminist to list. You should just watch The Simpsons on the FXNow app, and try reading Non-Threatening Boys magazine.
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Photo: Courtesy of ABC.
Topanga Lawrence (Boy Meets World)

Topanga Lawrence taught us that it's totally okay — and cool — to embrace your weirdness. She was also ready to school anyone, even Mr. Feeny, on the patriarchy. She once told Cory, "I'm a damsel, but not the in distress kind; one who's very together and in complete control of her own destiny."

She once taught Cory and Shawn about "destructive gender-based thinking." She also told Mr. Feeny she wanted to be a U.S. president one day—and was unabashed when Mr. Feeny said "That's quite ambitious!" (Cue eye-roll at Mr. Feeny). She even asked Cory to marry her! She grows up to be a badass lawyer who does what she wants.
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Photo: Courtesy of UPN.
Moesha (Moesha)

Moesha, which turned 20 this year, never gets enough respect. First, the theme song was dope. Second, Moesha made some incredibly bold fashion choices. Third, she was awesome. She dealt with a wide-range of issues that reached Degrassi-level intensity. Remember the time she told Usher that she wasn't going to have sex with him, despite him trying to pressure her? Tell him queen! Do you remember when Moesha pushed for gender equality on the Council of Concerned Youth? She sure did! In a decade where intersectional feminism was so rarely represented on TV (short of cartoons), Brandy's Moesha was one of the few Black women to shine.
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Photo: Courtesy of Nickelodeon.
Clarissa Darling (Clarissa Explains It All)

In a world where women are vastly underrepresented in STEM, Clarissa Darling was a godsend. Not only was she super tech-saavy — remember the cool computer games she built? — but Clarissa was also a free spirit. She had a pet alligator (awesome), made us all want to wear mis-matched clothing, and she had a boy for a best friend (Sam). The best part? Sam and Clarissa didn't have to be in love. They tried dating, hated it, and moved on. Why is that amazing? Because she's the star — and she doesn't need a guy to drive her narrative. Even if he's so cool that he climbs a ladder into her bedroom.
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Photo: Courtesy of Giphy/Nickelodeon.
Reggie Rocket (Rocket Power)

Just as the '90s came to a close, we received Reggie Rocket. Here's why she's such an awesome feminist: she's a girl in the boy-saturated world of extreme sports. And Reggie isn't just tagging along with the boys to surf, skateboard, etc. This girl can shred. She also writes a ‘zine, which everyone in town loves to read. Did we mention she was rocking purple hair before it was cool? Reggie doesn't meet hyper-feminine or masculine stereotypes because of her sports interests. She's just awesome.
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Photo: Courtesy of Tumblr/Fox.
Dana Scully (The X-Files)

So you've never seen the X-Files? Here's a reason to watch: Dana Scully. While Mulder is off coming up with crazy theories about aliens, Scully relies on science and reason. She's a doctor and an FBI agent. And while Scully and Mulder do hook-up on the original show, their romance is mostly off-screen. Which means more time for us to admire Scully being a powerhouse on camera, while solving cases and taking down bad guys.
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Photo: Courtesy of Giphy/Nickelodeon.
Patti Mayonnaise (Doug)

If there's one thing we know about Doug Funnie, it's that he LOVED Patti Mayonnaise. And who could blame him? Patti was a girl who challenged stereotypical gender norms. Patti was great at sports, bad at cooking, asks Doug out on dates, and rocks a skirt with sneakers like nobody's business. Patti sent the message — like many of the characters on this list — that people will like you just for doing you. No need to pretend to be Betty Crocker. Side note: Props to Patti for daring to get a pixie cut and having a IDGAF attitude even after audiences hated it.
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Claire Huxtable (The Cosby Show)

Yes, The Cosby Show was in its heyday during the '80s. Yes, Bill Cosby — the real life man — is horrible, to say the absolute least. Yet the character Claire Huxtable was a badass feminist. She called out sexist boyfriends and husbands. She let Elvin know that Claire Huxtable serves NO ONE. She even went on TV and talked about being a Black woman, dropping some knowledge on a bunch of people who weren't ready for intersectional feminism. Claire Huxatable: successful attorney, fighter of the patriarchy, possible inventor of side-eye.
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Photo: Courtesy of NBC.
Xena (Xena: Warrior Princess)

She's literally called the "warrior princess" in the title of her own show. Why? Because Xena WAS a warrior princess. She kicked butt better than anyone on TV. Xena had no male support cast, and she had no regular romantic interest. In fact, Xena was usually in no-strings lesbian relationships. She was simply too busy kicking ass to be tied down to anyone. She was unapologetically strong, sexy and powerful. And she wasn't afraid to get dirty on the job, if it meant saving the day. You go, Xena! *cue warrior cry*
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