6 Feminist TV Shows You Can Watch Right Now

Sick of male protagonists saturating your television screen? It wouldn’t surprise us. Studies show that female characters in television shows only make up less than 40 percent of speaking roles—and when they do, those roles are too often trope-saturated, hypersexualized caricatures of real women.

But the last couple of years have brought us a handful of series that showcase strong, smart women in a wide variety of occupations and lifestyles. Here are a few feminist shows on television right now that you should not miss.

Get Ms. in your inbox! Click here to sign up for the Ms. newsletter.

10898150_840437909352751_4689192983255900476_n

 

Emily Mae Czachor is a print & digital journalism student at the University of Southern California and the senior culture editor of Neon Tommy. She is currently an editorial intern at Ms.


Comments

  1. No Broad City? For shame!

  2. I’d like to add “Call the Midwife” to the list. AMAZING show!

  3. Joyce Mellom says:

    Does cable count? VEEP for sure!

  4. Jill Gentry says:

    Scott and Bailey– a British show on PBS. One of my favorites!

  5. GIRLS?

  6. Amanda Lopez says:

    How to get away with murder kills it

  7. E Tee Kay says:

    Lost Girl

  8. When I saw the probe for this on my FB, I said to myself:” I hope she didn’t add Scandal to the list”…Low and behold, Scandal, an unrealistic and misogynistic portrayal of modern career women (who of course cannot help but getting played by powerful men), a show hard to watch not so much due to the nonsensical plot, but mostly due to the painfully long and silly lines, made the list because the lead (and the writer) are women. That’s not how it goes.

    Call the Midwife and Once Upon A Time

    • Hannah Adelstein says:

      If you’ve actually watched scandal especially in the last two seasons you’ll realize that is totally false and that Olivia pope is a strong and rare representation of a woman of color as powerful and incredible. I’m honestly so empowered after every episode. Also in the last two seasons they have addressed so many female centric issues (sexual assault, sexual assault in the military,domestic violence, gendered discrimination in the workplace, slut shaming and so much more) the show is definitely problematic in A lot of ways but i Disagree with what you’re saying.

      • Yes, I agree but just in this season. The 4th season has important episodes with important feminist discussion and they have changed olivia/president a little.

  9. Jacqueline Kroll says:

    Girls rule? (The 100) Try women. Need to use the words woman and women more often.

    • Except the lead characters on The 100 are actually teenage girls. I mean I normally agree, but in this case Ms. was right; they literally meant girls.

  10. agent carter!

  11. Natalie says:

    The Fall!

  12. GAME OF THRONES!

    • ChynnaBlue says:

      But consider that the very strong women in GoT come along with a paired with high number of graphic rape scenes and women being brutalized. I don’t normally call out trigger warnings, but GoT was super rapey last season and should be brutal this season because of Ramsey Bolton.

    • Game of Thrones is one of the most misogynistic shows on tv at the moment.

      • I will agree that this is an incredibly misogynistic show but to be honest, the medieval times were misogynistic times and sadly brutal rapes were in abundance. Maybe the scenes in Game of Thrones are graphic but so is the crime of rape and maybe showing that will help people understand what victims have gone through. One thing this show does do is show that even in these horrendous conditions, these women are still strong enough to persevere and yearn to thrive.

  13. How about “Madame Secretary” and “The Good Wife”?

  14. The Fall, definitely! Stella Gibson has to be one of the most feminist characters in TV history. Amazing show.

  15. Really, Being Mary Jane, should have been in this top six for sure. Game changer.

  16. Susan Livingston says:

    Broad city for sure!
    Call the Midwives
    Fresh Off the Boat- that is one powerful mama!
    Bob’s Burgers- Tina Belcher is feminist as f!

  17. Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries on Netflex

  18. Ann Donnelly says:

    The Killing, has a female detective as the lead and very good writing with well developed characters.

  19. Broad City, Some Girls, Mom, fresh off the boat…

  20. Brooke No Nonsense says:

    BORGEN (from denmark)

  21. Summer says:

    The Fall is the pinnacle of feminist shows.

  22. Lorraine B. says:

    Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries

  23. Joyce Ward says:

    Grace and Frankie on Netflix is great.

    As for BBC shows: Scott & Bailey, Happy Valley (10 stars for this one)
    Blue Murder

  24. Why no Penny Dreadful and Masters of Sex??

  25. Justine says:

    Outlander!

  26. Lagartha On History Channel’s Vikings stabbed her husband in the eye to become Earl in her own right. She leads forces into battle and fights.

  27. iZombie!

  28. The Fall
    Parks & Rec (hello!?)
    Top of the Lake
    Broadchurch, season 2 in particular
    Dicte

    And I agree: The Fall is the pinnacle of feminist TV. I could abide by this list if it had Parks & Rec and The Fall on it.

    • Was looking to see if someone said Top of the Lake cause that’s spot on, and yeah Dicte is amazing, thank gosh for Netflix. Same with The Good Wife it’s so great to not roll my eyes every two seconds!

  29. I’m not all that crazy about Scandal, or The 100.

    Where are these?
    Oates and Garfunkel: Incredible for it discussion of sex, drugs and friendship.
    Inside Amy Schumer: Above and beyond …
    Unstoppable Kimmy Schmidt: There is no woman in this show that has been written before. WOWSA.
    Parks and Recreation: Women in a real work place with quick wit whoooo.
    Broad City: Pegging & such.
    Girls: Does not need explaining.
    Being Erica: Rewriting all the films that featured and bored us with what actually happens.
    Mad Men: Peggy’s life is so amazing.
    I’m sure I’ve forgotten some ….

    Transparent is the most fantastic show and I’m a better person for watching it!

  30. Juliette says:

    Halle Berry’s Extant is amazing

  31. The Good Wife has at least three incredibly strong and complex female lead characters. I am disapppointed to not see it listed!

  32. Commenter says:

    Damages is done but you can still see it on Netflix.

  33. Want to add: Greys’ anatomy and The Fall

  34. I don’t think to be feminist TV show it has to have a strong female character. Sometimes shows like greys’anatomy can portray women equaly represented, talking each other, discussing the same things as men at work, naturally. It makes us confortable.

  35. Rita on Netflix, one of the funniest, true to life and relatable series I’ve ever watched, totally binged on this.

  36. Johanna says:

    I like Switched at Birth. Lots of good female characters, from teens to senior citizens, with good story lines that tackle a wide range of issues especially that of identity:- nature /nurture, who is our family etc etc
    other good shows with strong female characters are ‘Last Tango In Halilfax’ – a British show – love story of an older couple, and because it’s British the women look like real women not barbie dolls – various complex story lines
    Call The Midwife – great female parts – brilliant British show
    and Frankie and Grace – with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin… only seen the first episode but wonderful start…

  37. Fringe!!

    The protagonist is strong and powerful physically, as well as brilliant. Yet she is also sensitive and emotional, while also struggling to be emotionally open and vulnerable in some situations-which makes her character so realistic and complex. She also will not apologize about being emotionally invested in her cases and asserts that it is a strength (which fights against the traditional stereotype applied to women of subjectivity being a weakness and emotions getting in the way of a job well done).

    It’s a brilliant show overall. The male characters are also complex.

  38. Melissa says:

    The fosters should be on here!!

  39. Wallace Ryan says:

    No “Broad City” or “Inside Amy Schumer”? This list sucks!

  40. I strongly believe there is a MAJOR difference between TV series with a majority of female characters and a “feminist TV show.” No one knows what feminism means any more.

  41. Well, I watch 4 of these. And to be honest, I’m shocked that Pretty Little Liars isn’t on here. A group of girlfriends banding together to thwart an anonymous foe? Empowerment up the ying-yang.

  42. the mystery of Laura 🙂

  43. The Fall, certainly.

  44. Thank you for compiling this list, I am so glad that there is a network of people who are interested in promoting and discussing female driven tv shows.

    Your picks:

    Orphan Black – A show with female initiative? Yes. A show with great acting? Yes. Feminist? I could agree. But personally I just didn’t find it interesting, though I tried several times.

    Orange is the New Black – I definitely agree, specifically a women oriented tv show with characters of diverse race, background, sexual orientation, and personalities.

    How to get away with murder – Absolutely. I think, this is the ONLY tv show I have EVER seen with a cast that puts equal emphasis on both genders, (and almost equal emphasis on) race, and sexual orientation.

    Transparent – Never heard of it, will try it out.

    The 100 – I have only seen most of the first season and found the plot, and acting to be generally lacking, so I stopped watching, (although there were some things that I really liked). In terms of gender dynamics, they didn’t quite know what to do with their women. They gave them some screen time but didn’t make them particularly outstanding in any way, and certainly not empowering (the acting didn’t help). Mostly the portrayal of women came across to me as a cliché of strong female characters; from what I have seen, I definitely wouldn’t put it on the list. Maybe it got better at season 2, I will give it another shot.

    Scandal – NO. Absolutely not. In my opinion at least. I can understand and respect the views of people who like this show, but the “feminist” ideology of this show, how it is portrayed, is one of the main reason why feminism has acquired so many negative connotations. I think one of the reasons the show is popular is because most episodes have engaging plots, likeable minor characters, a fast pace, give a lot of screen time to female characters, and are in general not bad. Well made enough for me to watch it occasionally, however gender dynamics here are a different story. This is in fact a quite complex question for this particular tv show, but ultimately I will put it down in the “sexist” category amongst the “sexist”, “neutral”, and “feminist”. I agree with what Anna said; women (except Quinn) are whining caricatures composed of stereotypes. They build abusive relationships where they are dominated by men (Pope, Mellie). Not to mention that Washington is one of the worst-acting leads I have ever seen on American TV.

    Shows that I think should be on the list:
    Game of Thrones – Rape and violence are real, portraying it on screen does not make a show sexist. In fact on the contrary, GoT portrays violence the way it is: it can happen to anybody. Being a man, rich, or high-born does not exempt you from falling prey to abuse, be it sexual, psychological, emotional, or just physical. Maybe there are some elements of the show that sexualize women more than men, but the way I see it even in those cases the show retains a consistent female presence, and both men and women are given much screen time, well-developed character arcs, and agency. This by far outweighs some sexist aspects of the show.

    The Americans – One of the most underrated tv shows ever, it has amazing acting, solid plot, and a very equal distribution of power between the lead couple. Yes, the woman is not the sole protagonist, and gender issues are not really a theme, but the portrayal of the dynamics of female and male relationships is outstanding.

    The Good Wife – I tried watching this show 3 times. First two times I gave up because there was nothing special. The next time I started watching straight from season 4, and I have to say. This series is a classic. A classic of our time, like Game of Thrones classic. Just watch it from season four. I don’t want to get started on describing it, but it is in my “elite films and shows” category. Seasons 4, 5, and the first half of 6 are the best.

    Thank you for NOT putting on this list:
    Agent Carter, Veep (hilarious show, one of my favorites but definitely not feminist), Outlander, Madam Secretary

  45. Marcella says:

    How about Orphan Black (BBCA)?

  46. AcornArmy says:

    ‘The 100’, silly? I think it could accurately be called grim, brutal, morally gray, inspiring, gritty, and sometimes emotionally devastating. But silly? I can’t think of any moment on the show that fits that adjective.

Speak Your Mind

*

Error, no Ad ID set! Check your syntax!