Galentine’s Day Goals

Leslie Ann 617

Today we celebrate my favorite fictional-turned-real holiday: Galentine’s Day. Not only is today a day to eat waffles and drink mimosas, it is a day to celebrate the women in our lives. It is a day to celebrate female friendship, female mentorship, and female support systems.

Ladies celebrating ladies—what a novel, beautiful concept.

This year, it feels even more important to celebrate the power of women and the positive impact they have on our lives. As such, I’m reopening submissions for The Fan Mail Project for another month—with a deadline of March 13, 2017, at 9 p.m. EST. You can read all about the project and how you can contribute to it here, but the general gist of it is this: Write a letter to a female character who has inspired you in some way. Thank her for being a positive influence in your life or maybe in the life of someone you know and love. Share your story by sharing what she means to you.

That’s what The Fan Mail Project is all about—sharing our stories of courage, vulnerability, growth, struggle, and strength by sharing the stories of the female characters that helped us see our own beauty, power, and potential. And at a time in which so many people are actively trying to silence women and keep us from telling our stories and the stories of other women, it’s our job to persist in our stubborn belief that our stories matter.

We matter.

Throughout the process of compiling the letters that have already come in for The Fan Mail Project, I have been moved to tears more times than I can count by the beauty and bravery of every single person who has used their voice to take ownership of their story through their love for the stories of female characters from every corner of the media landscape. You are all my Galentines this year, inspiring me with your authenticity, your honesty, your openness, and your stubborn refusal to be anything but your most authentic self.

So this is your chance to join in the movement that has helped me—and I hope others—grow in incredible ways. If you wanted to write a letter but never found the time or the inspiration, this is your chance. If you wrote one (or more) but always wanted to write another, this is your chance. And if you already wrote a letter but want to add to it or change it to reflect the continuing relationships we all have with the fictional women who have imprinted on our hearts, this is your chance to do that, too. I know I have two letters I’d like to update myself and at least one more I’d like to write. For a while, I let the state of the world and the state of my own busy, stressful life keep me from the joy and hope that this project has given me for the last year and a half. My Galentine’s Day goal this year is to return to this project with bright eyes, a hopeful heart, and a renewed sense of purpose.

The world needs these letters and the stories they tell. The world needs our stories. But even more importantly, we need these stories. We need to remind ourselves today and always that we are just as amazing, strong, and inspiring as the fictional women we love so much.

So write your letter. Embrace your story. Tell the world that you have something to say and you won’t be kept from saying it.

Happy Galentine’s Day, friends. Let’s show the world what we can accomplish when we celebrate ladies not just today but every day.

The Sky’s the Limit

hillary2016

Source: cosmopolitan.com

I know I don’t typically write about politics, but NGN has always been a place for me to write about what moves me and inspires me. And, as you’ll see, the following is something I have been passionate about for a long time but nervous to talk about so openly before today. But if any day is a day for a politically active woman to speak what’s on her mind and in her heart, it’s today.

When I was a little girl, my mom used to tell me, “Girls can do anything boys can do.” I’m sure this is a common refrain in many American households, especially ones that are predominantly female. While I took those words to heart as a kid and never let anyone stop me from doing things because of my gender—whether it was graduating top in my high school class or running a sports blog in college—there was one thing I never really dreamed of doing—not even during that stage of childhood where you pretend to have a thousand jobs at once.

I never dreamed of being the president.

Sometimes we have no idea what we can dream of being until we see someone like us achieving it. Some people can believe without seeing, but even from a young age, I was a bit of a Doubting Thomas. I had trouble dreaming without knowing in the back of my mind that there was a chance that—if I worked hard enough and had enough support—my dream could come true.

Sometimes we limit ourselves without even knowing we’re doing it—all because we have never seen the full extent of what is possible.

Last night, I finally saw the full extent of what is possible. And I hope that parents let their little girls (and little boys) stay up past their bedtimes—or watch in the morning—so they could see the full extent of what is possible, too.

Last night, I saw Hillary Clinton accept the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, and in her speech, she said something that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about:

When there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit.

That “highest, hardest glass ceiling” has hung over my head for my entire 27 years on this Earth. And when you’re born under a glass ceiling, sometimes you don’t even know that there is anything for you beyond it. I dream big—I always have—but I never thought to extend those dreams beyond that ceiling, to think of achieving what Hillary did last night.

But from this moment forward, little girls will grow up thinking there is no limit to what they can achieve because of their gender. They will grow up believing that the sky is the limit and that there is a desk waiting for them to sit behind in the Oval Office. They will grow up with footsteps to follow in because a trailblazer named Hillary Clinton made the uneven path smoother with her strides. They will grow up in a world where someone who looks like them and their mothers and their grandmothers can be a major political party’s nominee for president. They will grow up with the fullness of the American dream made visible for them: that someone like them could do amazing things through hard work, a strong support system, and belief in herself.

Continue reading

Let’s Go: A Letter to the Women of Ghostbusters

This is the latest in my series of letters to inspirational female characters that will be compiled in a book alongside letters from my fellow fangirls and fanboys. If you are interested in being part of The Fan Mail Project, I’m still taking submissions on a case-by-case basis, and you can check out all the information here

ghostbusters

Source: ghostbusters.com

Dear Erin, Abby, Patty, and Hotltzmann,

You made me cry. Normally, this would not be much of a surprise to anyone, but even my intensely emotional self can usually keep it together during action scenes in summer blockbusters. But there you were, battling ghosts, guns blazing, and I couldn’t help it. I thought of the millions of little girls who would watch that scene in the coming days, weeks, and years, and I felt so overwhelmingly grateful for the fact that they will grow up in a world where women like you get to save the day.

A group of girls will grow up with that image—four female friends fighting ghosts without any help from a man and without ever having their looks become the focus instead of their skills—being their introduction to action movies. They’ll grow up with that image stuck in their minds and written onto the fabric of their fangirl hearts, and that’s a kind of power that not even the strongest proton pack can produce.

That’s why all the talk about the four of you “ruining” people’s childhoods was such garbage. You can’t ruin a childhood that already happened. But you can help create a brighter childhood for a new generation of young girls. And that is exactly what you’ve done. Your purpose isn’t to create nostalgia for the past; it’s to create inspiration for the future.

The world you inhabit is a world where women fighting ghosts isn’t seen as a big deal. And that matters. (It’s also sadly far away from the world we actually inhabit.) If they only paid attention to the movie, young girls watching Ghostbusters might not ever think that there’s something atypical about you being heroes, and that’s how it should be. You’re treated as people and not as paragons of feminism or stereotypes of “strong female characters,” and it’s so important for girls to see a world where women aren’t defined by their gender or limited by it. You’re ghostbusters who just happen to be women, and that kind of normalcy in terms of the treatment of female heroes is so rare, which makes it so important.

That doesn’t mean, though, that you aren’t examples of how to overcome common problems women face throughout their lives. So much of your collective story is based on the fact that no one will take you seriously when you talk about what you believe and what you’ve seen. Even when you have proof, what you say makes people uncomfortable, so you’re belittled and ridiculed and painted as delusional. People try to silence you, but you stand your ground. Thank you for being an example of what it means to own your truth in a world that is often uncomfortable with women speaking out about what they know, what they believe, and what they’ve experienced.

Continue reading

The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (7/20 – 7/27)

This week in television started off with the annual “Men Tell All” episode of The Bachelorette on Monday. On Wednesday, new group routines added some spark to this season of So You Think You Can Dance, and alliances continued to shift on a new episode of Suits.

Overall, this wasn’t a terribly exciting week in the world of television. In fact, it was pretty darn boring. Thankfully, there was plenty of fun media content to be found on the Internet—thanks to all of the interviews and panels coming out of San Diego for Comic-Con. I know it’s bending the rules a little bit to pick something not on television for “the best thing I saw on TV this week,” but for this week, let’s change it to “the best thing I watched this week.”

I watched so many amazing Comic Con panels over the last few days—from the emotional Orphan Black panel to the adorable Once Upon a Time panel. However, the best content to come out of San Diego was brought to us courtesy of Zachary Levi’s Nerd HQ. While I loved the Orphan Black Nerd HQ panel (especially Levi talking about how special the cast seems because that feels so true), I’m not sure anything I’ve watched on any platform this summer compares to the inspiring perfection of Nerd HQ’s “Conversation with Badass Women Mystery Guests.”

The list of panelists featured some of my favorite women in television: Yvonne Strahovski, Retta, Missy Peregrym, Jennifer Morrison, Ming-Na Wen, and Sophie Turner. What I loved most about the women on this panel was the fact that they represent so many ways that women can be badasses. From the moment I saw that Turner was on this panel, I knew I was going to love it because Sansa Stark doesn’t get enough credit for her strength. I’ve always believed there are so many ways women can be strong, and it was nice to see all of those kinds of strength represented on that panel. It was also lovely to see the women themselves acknowledge that strength doesn’t just come from taking down bad guys; it’s often shown in being vulnerable and open with others.

As the panel went on, I found myself more and more impressed by each woman on that panel. They were all so articulate, so passionate, and so different. It was amazing to see that these women didn’t just represent characters who prove there’s more than one way for women to be strong; these women themselves each exuded their own kinds of strength and confidence. But they all have one important thing in common: They all have the courage of conviction to be exactly who they are. It was very inspiring for me to see these actresses talk with such confidence about owning who they are and the choices they make.

It was beautiful to watch the women in the audience talk so openly about how these actresses have inspired them because I relate so strongly to that. Whether it’s Sarah Walker or Sansa Stark as characters or Jennifer Morrison as an actress, I saw my own respect for these women and their fictional counterparts reflected in the emotion on display by those in the audience who asked questions. I closed my computer after that panel last night and went to bed feeling more inspired to be true to myself and proud of my own strengths than I’ve felt in a long time.

I’ll leave you with these beautiful words spoken by Morrison, which serve as perfect advice for us all and remind me of exactly what I strive to do every day as a writer and blog runner:

Be brave enough to be yourself, and be good to each other.

What was the best thing you saw on TV or from Comic-Con this week?

Ladies Celebrating Ladies

Courtesy of the official Parks and Rec Twitter account.

Courtesy of the official Parks and Rec Twitter account

Happy Galentine’s Day, everyone! This wonderful fictional holiday was created by my personal hero Leslie Knope as a day to honor all of the beautiful and talented women who make our lives special. Valentine’s Day may be traditionally about romance, but Galentine’s Day is all about female friendships.

The idea behind Galentine’s Day—ladies celebrating ladies—is still such a rare thing in the media. I was looking back through my Top 3 Female Friendships on TV that I compiled last year, and I was saddened to see that two of those three are no longer really a part of their respective shows due to cast departures. And there aren’t very many friendships I would add to that list, either, despite the huge increase in the number of shows I watch nowadays.

For most of the mainstream media, it’s still common practice to feature one woman who’s friends with a group of men (see The Mindy Project or the Harry Potter series) or a female friendship that exists solely for exposition purposes in terms of the show’s romantic relationships (see Donna and Rachel on Suits or Lanie and Beckett on Castle). There aren’t too many examples of women forming deep, lasting relationships with other women based on factors other than needing a sounding board for their romantic problems. And that needs to change.

Women are often seen as superficial, backstabbing, petty, and prone to jealousy towards members of their own gender. If you were to make assumptions based solely on the media (a horrible way to form opinions, if I’m being honest), female friendships are mostly a series of interactions between “frenemies” instead of the supportive, inclusive, and warm relationships they usually are in the real world. Female friendships are all-too-often portrayed as being far less meaningful than the ultimate relationship goal: romance. Having friends is great, but what would a woman talk about with her friends if there were no romantic prospects to discuss?

The answer: Quite a lot, actually. You see, women can and do actually have conversations about things other than their romantic relationships (or lack thereof). We can form meaningful relationships with people of our own gender that often last longer and fulfill us on more levels than romantic relationships at any given point in our lives. As I said in my review of Parks and Recreation’s ode to friendship, “Ann and Chris,” our first soul mates are often our best friends. Women (especially young women) don’t have to be catty, petty, and suspicious of other women just because the media says that’s how we often are. Instead, let’s change the narrative and celebrate the fact that women are often incredibly generous, affectionate, and supportive towards other women. We don’t have to be each other’s biggest rivals and enemies; we can be each other’s biggest cheerleaders and most trusted confidants.

Continue reading

Who Run the World?

Happy International Women’s Day!

On a day like today, I think it’s important to stop and honor the many smart, brave, and wonderful women who are helping to make the world a brighter, better place for our gender. I know that I’m personally inspired every day by the strength of the women I’m surrounded by. From the real women whose examples I aim to follow with every step to the fictional women I am proud to call inspirations, there are no shortages of powerful female role models in my life.

To those women who have made me a better woman just by being themselves, I give you my undying gratitude. And to those women who—like all of us at some point or another—are fighting to define themselves in a world that still sees the feminine as “weak” and the worth of men as greater than women, I give you a hand to hold and the promise that you’re not alone.

Women are strong and smart and funny. We’re powerful and ambitious and determined. We’re warm and generous and encouraging. We can be doctors, lawyers, and writers; teachers, CEOs, and stay-at-home moms. We can be anything. We can be everything.

Never let someone tell you that you can’t be or do something just because you’re a woman. You have just as much a right to your dreams as a man.

So here’s to the girls who know that being told you do something “like a girl” shouldn’t be an insult—it’s an honor.

Take a second today to thank the women in your life who’ve helped you see your own beauty, strength, and potential. Because you have all of those things and more. Never forget that.

Today and every day, I’m proud to be a nerdy girl. And I wish for life to give you people and experiences that make you proud to be whatever kind of girl you want to be.

A Galentine’s Day Celebration

Happy Galentine’s Day, my beautiful tropical fish! In honor of my favorite fictional holiday (which really should be a national holiday), I want to take some time to celebrate the women of TV in a way that would make Leslie Knope proud. It’s going to be all about the love for the next few days here at NGN, and today I want to shine a spotlight on the love that can only exist between best friends.

I wanted to make this list longer than a Top 3, but sadly I don’t watch a lot of shows with healthy examples of female friendship right now. Let me know in the comments which shows I should pick up someday to rectify that situation.

Without further ado, I present NGN’s Top 3 Female Friendships on TV Right Now.

3. Snow White and Red Riding Hood (Once Upon a Time)

once-upon-a-time-season2-episode7-child-of-the-moon-red-and-snow

“I didn’t lose my family today – I protected it… My mother wanted me to choose between being a wolf and being a human. Granny did, too. You are the only person who ever thought it was okay for me to be both.”

Theirs is a fairytale friendship unlike anything else on television, built on a message of supporting the people you love and accepting them for who they really are—both the light and the dark. Snow and Red are two incredibly strong women whose friendship only makes both of them stronger. They bonded through a shared sense of being outcasts, and they formed their own little family that both would do anything to protect. Love is the driving force behind Once Upon a Time, and it’s the love between these two friends that gives both of these characters more depth than your average fairytale women. It’s no coincidence that Snow’s happy ending after the curse was broken involved finding her husband and then running into the arms of her best friend. This show tells us time and again that there’s more than one kind of true love, and Snow and Red’s friendship is one of the truest loves on Once Upon a Time.

Continue reading

A Distressing Damsel: An Open Letter to Princess Leia

“I was not a damsel in distress. I was a distressing damsel.” – Carrie Fisher, on playing Princess Leia

Dear Princess Leia,

For as long as I can remember, you’ve been a part of my life. I was introduced to you when I was around five or six years old (definitely before I was seven because I have memories of watching A New Hope in the first house I lived in), and it was love at first sight. You had brown hair like I did, you were small like I was, and—most importantly—you were a girl like me. When I played Star Wars with my cousins on the playground near our grandparents’ house, I didn’t have to just watch while they played heroes like Luke and Han. Thanks to you, I got to play a hero, too, every time I pretended to be you (which was often).

You were the first female hero I met through the media, the first in a long line that took me past Sydney Bristow and Hermione Granger on the way to Zoe Washburne, Katniss Everdeen, and Kate Beckett. I may have had many fictional role models along the way as I grew up, but you never forget your first.

I was born at a time when Disney princesses were experiencing a renaissance, when Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine started showing some smarts and spark that were missing from their earlier counterparts. I loved and still love Belle with the fervor of a three-year-old watching her sing about the “great, wide somewhere” for the first time, but pretending to be Belle was never as much fun as pretending to be you.

When I pretended to be you, I got to run and climb and boss people around. I got to play a game with higher stakes than just finding a prince; I got to fight Darth Vader for the freedom of an entire galaxy.

I learned so much from you without even realizing it until much later. I learned about passion, courage, and fighting for what you believe in. I learned that women can be political leaders and military strategists. I learned that smart women are the ones who get to do all of the cool stuff, like leading attacks on the Death Star (and capturing the heart of Han Solo). I learned that there are times when even strong women need rescuing, but then there are times when they get to do the rescuing, too.

I’ve always been a tiny girl with a big mouth, and with the memory of you etched in my brain from early childhood, I’ve always felt like those things are a pretty great combination. You spoke your mind, so I grew up believing it was okay to do the same. You never let the men around you keep you from voicing your opinions; being a woman never meant you had to be silent. You were just as good a leader and a shot as the men around you, so I grew up believing I could do anything boys could do. That’s a belief that fades for a lot of girls as they grow up, but I’m so thankful that I had a fictional role model like you (in addition to the great role models I’ve had in my everyday life) to show me that women are in no way “the weaker sex.”

Continue reading

Perfectly Imperfect

Unrealistic expectations are a fact of life. From the fairytales we were told as kids to the TV shows (and commercials) we watch as adults, we are more than familiar with media-perpetuated standards that don’t quite exist in the real world.

I can’t speak to the experiences of the male half of the population, but I know that, as a woman in today’s media-saturated society, I’m constantly bombarded with images of what a “perfect woman” is supposed to be. From Victoria’s Secret ads featuring models with bodies I’ll never have to movies featuring action heroines with courage I’ll never possess, it’s enough to make a girl feel like she should just throw in the towel in terms of finding relatable images in the media.

In a (well-intentioned) effort to give young women positive media role models, there has been an influx of “strong” female characters in the last few decades: women who can beat up bad guys (while wearing heels!), outsmart the craftiest villains, and play the lead role in their own stories—all without showing a shred of weakness. These characters don’t make mistakes; they don’t have anxieties or insecurities or character flaws. They are—for all intents and purposes—perfect.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I find perfect characters a little depressing. How are we as women supposed to learn to love and accept ourselves as we are if we are constantly reminded of the things we should be but can never be, simply because we’re beautifully fallible human beings? And how are we supposed to gain respect for ourselves through all of our messy growing, living, and learning when it seems like the media likes to depict women as one of two things:

1.) Emotionally unstable, overly dramatic weaklings who need a good man in their lives to complete them
2.) Flawless automatons with beauty, brains, and none of those pesky emotions that are often signs of “weakness”

I like to think that I exist closer to some kind of middle ground between these two extremes, and in my experience I think most women exist there as well. We’re all a little flawed; we’re all a little messed-up, but that’s what makes us human. And that’s what I want my heroes and heroines to be—human.

Continue reading

The Legend of Korra: Anti-Feminism or Bad Writing?

Nerdy Girl Contributor Jo takes a close look at the writing of female characters (especially the titular one) on The Legend of Korra

Earlier this year, I absolutely devoured the series Avatar: The Last Airbender. I watched all three seasons in about a week in anticipation of its sequel, The Legend of Korra. As a feminist, I was incredibly psyched about a series about a female Avatar. She would undoubtedly be awesome and kick-ass and “I am woman hear me roar.” Right?

After the first few episodes, I was disappointed. We are introduced to Korra when she already has three out of four bending abilities already under her belt – just handed to her by the writers. This is justifiable, I suppose. The writers didn’t want to just rehash Ang’s learning in ATLA again with Korra. However, despite being a powerful bender, she was not as strong as I had hoped, and she definitely didn’t have it all together. But Ang needed time to get it together too, so I gave her a few more episodes to get really in the swing of this whole ‘Avatar-thing.’

What unfolded in the remaining episodes seemed to be a story that happened around her rather than being her story. Supporting characters stole the show from the its supposed lead. Those most notable ones for me were:

Lin Bei Fong – inventor of metal bending*, daughter of Toph Bei Fong (from ATLA), and all-around kick-ass woman.

Bolin – sweet, silly, loyal Bolin. Powerful fire bender*. Dork extraordinaire.

Yes, Korra did things. Yes, her bending was good and she kicked butt in some fight scenes. Yes, she saved the day most days, but she never did it alone (until the finale – and even that is questionable). Ultimately, her struggles never really felt like struggles to me: Gee gosh, I can’t air bend. Darn.

Continue reading