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Michaela Coel in Chewing Gum.

by Rafaella Gunz

2016 has been a difficult year politically for women. In addition to the typical attacks on reproductive health, the online harassment and the ever-present wage gap, the United States has elected an unqualified man with a history of misogyny to be the country’s 45th president — in spite of the more qualified and dedicated woman who was his opponent.

But there were some new television shows this year that exude feminist messages. Here are four great new television shows every woman should watch to remain hopeful and positive in 2017:

1. Chewing Gum

Feminist shows: Michaela Coel in Chewing Gum.

Michaela Coel in Chewing Gum.

Chewing Gum originally aired on British television channel E4 in October 2015, but debuted on Netflix in October 2016 for us Americans to enjoy. The show follows Tracey, a 24-year-old religious virgin who is just beginning to explore her sexuality. Created by and starring Michaela Coel, the show is semi-autobiographical. Like Tracey, Coel also grew up in Tower Hamlets in London and was raised by a Ghanaian Christian family. The show is refreshing to watch, since the main character is a black woman exploring her sexuality without being stereotyped or shamed for it. Also, the show depicts life in the projects in a no-nonsense, low-key way. 

2. Fleabag

Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag.

Fleabag is another British television show that premiered in July 2016 on BBC in Britain and in September 2016 through Amazon Studios in America. The show’s creator, writer and star is Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who plays the title character, Fleabag, based off her award-winning one-woman show of the same name. Fleabag is a young woman with a brazen sexuality. The show shatters the fourth wall as Fleabag gives hilarious commentary of the goings-on in her life. In the first episode, Fleabag says, “I have a horrible feeling I’m a greedy, perverted, selfish, apathetic, cynical, depraved, morally bankrupt woman who can’t even call herself a feminist.” This self-deprecation and concern about how she’s perceived is definitely relatable, as all women carry some sense of internalized misogyny that puts how they’re “supposed” to be at odds with who they truly are.

Related: In Issa Rae’s “Insecure,” Sisterhood is Everything

3. Sweet/Vicious

Feminist shows: Sweet/Vicious

Eliza Bennett (left) and Taylor Dearden in Sweet/Vicious.

Sweet/Vicious is a show written by Jennifer Kaytin Robinson that premiered on MTV in November 2016. This show is just what young women need at a time when rapists like Brock Turner get a mere three months in jail after ruining a woman’s life. The show follows two women, Jules and Ophelia, who act as vigilantes on their college campus, going after men who have taken advantage of women and gotten away with it. They’re essentially Batman for women, utilizing citizen justice to make their campus a safer place for women. Jules and Ophelia are the heroes women need in post-Trump America especially.

4. Good Girls Revolt

Feminist shows: Good Girls Revolt

Genevieve Angelson (center left) and Erin Darke (center right) in Good Girls Revolt.

Good Girls Revolt premiered on Amazon in October 2016. The show is based on the book of the same name by Lynn Povich, which is about the true story of the female employees who sued Newsweek in 1970 for their policy that forbade women from writing articles, despite their qualifications. This show and book meant a lot to me personally as a female journalist, as it showed how women in the media industry struggled for their rights to report not even 50 years ago. However, Roy Price, the male head of Amazon Video — who reportedly didn’t even watch the show — made the decision not to renew it for a second season; a choice he made with zero women present. This just shows that even though women in media have come a long way since 1970, the mainstream media is still owned dominated by men. The good news is, Sony Pictures Television is shopping the show elsewhere, and many outraged fans are speaking out on social media with the hashtag #SaveGoodGirlsRevolt. I sincerely hope this show gets picked up by another company.

Rafaella Gunz is a graduate of The New School in NYC, where she majored in journalism and minored in gender studies. Her work has previously been published on Ravishly, Slutist, Feministing, Guerrilla Feminism, The Tab, and DeadState. Visit her website: ellagunz.com.


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