The Feminist Guide to Summer Binge Watching


NC summers are too hot, ya’ll. It’s perfectly acceptable to stay inside with the air conditioning. But when all of your favorite shows are in reruns, what’s a girl to do?

With the advent of streaming video services like Netflix and Hulu, we can indulge in shows of our youth and new favorites any time.

Unfortunately for us, taking a stroll down sitcom lane can remind women of the blatant sexism in popular culture — from oldies like 3rd Rock from the Sun to more modern shows like Archer (whether the misogyny is a parody or not). The Bechdel Test calls attention to gender inequality and sexism in films. The test was introduced in 1985 by American artist Alison Bechdel. To pass the test, a movie must feature at least two women who talk to each other about something besides a man.

Finding great shows that pass the >>Bechdel test is possible. Here are four of my picks.


  1. I don’t know what I was watching in high school (okay, maybe I do and his name was Dawson), but I should have been watching Joss Whedon’s creation, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Aside from repeatedly saving the world from eternal damnation, Buffy and her friends explore complex issues about self-worth, self-sacrifice, and identity. Buffy’s love interests are a major part of the story, but only in the ways that they highlight her growth.  And after so many series with disappointing finales, this was one that left me satiated with girl empowerment.
  2. Perhaps more unrealistic than a teenager chosen by ancestral forces to slay vampires is a single mom whose money problems don’t prevent her from eating take-out every night with her teen daughter slash best friend. Gilmore Girls might be an obvious feminist choice at first: the Gilmores are pretty, perky, and their witty repartee can cause eyes to roll. But I’m including it because all the female characters in it have backbone, dimension, and depth. And whether they are managing an inn, a house, a band, or the Yale newspaper, they are all smart. In fact, that teenage daughter, Rory Gilmore? She is seen reading or heard referring to 339 books through the course of the series and her character has inspired reading groups and a >>reading challenge. So, you know, if you feel you’ve been watching too much TV this summer, you can always tackle that.


  1.  Amy Schumer writes sketches debating her hotness, like her spoof on 12 Angry Men where, instead of deciding whether a boy is guilty of murder, the men must decide if Schumer is hot enough to remain on television. This might feel anti-feminist, but her self awareness turns pop culture on its ear. Through a mix of sketches, interviews, and stand-up, Schumer tackles female stereotypes in an irreverent and unexpected manner. You probably know this already, because Schumer is currently everywhere you look, but in case you haven’t been looking here’s one of my favorite (and PG) >>clips from her show to get you started.
  1. I hesitate to include season 3 of Orange is the New Black because I didn’t feel the need to binge on it as much as seasons 1 and 2. Also, I think so much of the early appeal to a large portion of the audience was the sex and the sexiness of some of the characters rather than any positive message about women. However, I can’t ignore a show with so many dynamic female actors portraying such multi-dimensional characters. And, even if there were too many plot lines and too much shmaltzy catharsis for my taste, there was less of a focus on the sex and on Piper’s whining in the third season, and instead an underlying theme of what it means to be a mother that I found touching.

What pro-women shows, movies, and documentaries are you watching this summer that the rest of us should watch, too?

>>Cropped Jennifer BrickJennifer Brick is a writer and teacher in Durham, North Carolina. She earned her Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College. Follow her on Twitter @jenbrickwrites.

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