My most distinct childhood memory is being sprawled across the sofa on a rainy Tuesday, off from school with the flu but still sporting my trusty tie-dye leggings, fixated at the grainy VHS TV. It was 1999, and I was definitely celebrating the day’s lack of gym and math class with the rewatching of my favorite Disney princess, a kick-ass gal named Mulan with a sassy miniature dragon and a sword that just wouldn’t quit.
As I grew up and grappled with my teenage years, upgrading my tie-dye to Clueless-esque mini-skirts, followed by cargo pants, and then a short venture into the emo fringe, I came to find more female movie characters that instilled in me the same feeling I had watching Mulan dropkick a Hun for the first time.
From high school vampire slayers to cartoon superheroes and FBI agents, the 90s and early 2000s gifted us with a diverse range of badass sistas who, despite the occasional corny one-liner, flung us head-first into narratives that subverted the passive female stereotype and endorsed headstrong women with a surprising amount of skill in combat. Growing up alongside their sisterhoods, their diversity, and their resilience against the patriarchy, millennials could envision a new brand of feminism.
Defined as a movement that champions body positivity and reproductive choice and defies the conventions of gender performance, millennial feminism has been the most intersectional form of feminism in history, with woke guys and gals not only challenging gender inequality but also other facets of oppression such as race, class and sexual orientation. As a generation defined by technology and social media, millennial feminism has also campaigned through an entirely different platform than in the past, uniting our voices through diverse online communities.
To honor this fresh chapter of female empowerment, we look to the on-screen characters that gave representation to millions of girls and women throughout their young lives and helped shape the face of millennial feminism.