The Most Feminist TV Moments of 2017

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Photo: 'GLOW' (Netflix) / 'She's Gotta Have It' (Netflix) / 'The Handmaid's Tale' (Hulu)

2017 was a reasonably extraordinary year for women on television. Complicated, flawed, and realistic characters took over our screens; boundaries and stereotypes were pushed and shattered.

Here are some of the most memorable feminist moments from 2017:

(Warning: There will be spoilers.)

GLOW, Season 1, Episode 10


"We're empowered. We're the hero!" This proclamation awakens the titular Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling to their own potential, and best sums up GLOW as a whole. The first season of this Netflix triumph (created and produced by women, incidentally) was unabashedly about the sheer strength, both physical and otherwise, of women. Throughout the widely-binged first season, these complicated female characters navigated living in a man's world, rolled their eyes at everyday sexism, stretched themselves in ways that seemed impossible in the first episode, and found solace from their personal hardships via the medium of other women.

The season finale was GLOW's most feminist moment though, as we saw the women take charge of their own destinies, no longer willing or able to be bossed around by their grubby director Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron). The women end up directing TV cameras, fixing sound issues, filling audience chairs, making their own costumes, doing their own hair and make up, and wrestling their asses off.

GLOW ultimately is a love letter to what is possible when women work together. The fact that it's based on real people makes it even more special.

Grace and Frankie: Season 3, Episode 8

If you were to stumble across the opening scene of Grace and Frankie, Season 3, Episode 8, with zero context, there is a good chance you'd be reasonably astonished: two senior ladies sitting at their laptops, monitoring their brand new business -- which just so happens to be a vibrator company, designed specifically for their particular demographic.

In a world where Amy Schumer's "Last F**kable Day" skit seems entirely reasonable, Grace and Frankie challenges every stereotype ingrained in our society about older women. These characters are desirable, independent, sexually active, super-smart, and rebellious. They're also the kind of seniors who use stiletto heels to smash up the Life Alert buttons their kids give them. Given how women of a certain age are usually treated in popular culture, Grace and Frankie is positively revolutionary.

She's Gotta Have It, Season 1, Episode 4

Nola Darling is an artist living in Brooklyn, exercising absolute, unapologetic autonomy over her life and sexual choices. In Episode 4, in the midst of a cleanse, which includes a break from the three men in her life, Darling finds herself developing feelings for a woman. When she tells her therapist, "As a sex-positive, polyamorous pansexual, words like monogamy and family have never even seemed like a remote possibility," She's Gotta Have It emphasizes just how far women on TV -- and in real-life -- have come since the age of Sex and the City. If Carrie Bradshaw was a perfect representation of the independent single woman in 1998, Nola Darling is undoubtedly 2017's equivalent.

Broad City, Season 4, Episode 2

Broad City's Abbi and Ilana are so casually and consistently feminist, it is probably the most solid foundation of the entire show. Their independence, sexual agency, and unwavering commitment to raising each other up has always been empowering to watch, but a post-inauguration Season 4 upped the ante.

Episode 2, "Twaining Day," opened with a scene in which the duo (Ilana wearing 2017's must-have accessory: a pussy hat) casually escort a woman through angry crowds at an abortion clinic, before telling her: "Remember, you are a strong queen. Your body, your choice. It's simple.”

Their attention then turns to the protesters (one is holding a sign that says "Aborted babies are the number one spotted ghosts at haunted locations in America"). Abbi and Ilana blow weed smoke in their faces, commanding, "You need to chill!" The marijuana's effect is immediately transformative -- one man looks up and wistfully asks "Why are we doing this?" The scene is wish fulfillment for every woman who has ever longed for men to stay out of their reproductive business.

The Handmaid’s Tale: The whole damn thing

Talking of reproductive business... Back in June, Elisabeth Moss, the star of the TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood classic The Handmaid's Tale, talked to The Guardian about her role as Offred: “We live in a different time than we lived in a year ago, and I wish we were sitting here talking about this dystopian fictional world and how glad we are that we’re not in that, because we have a female president. I wish that were the conversation.”

The timing of The Handmaid's Tale felt so real to American women that the handmaids' distinctive robes quickly became a common sight at protests for reproductive rights around the country. There was no one specific moment of feminist glory in the series -- rather, this was a show that explored the resilience and inner strength of women, while reminding us of the horrors that could befall women under an unchecked patriarchy.

Big Little Lies: Season 1, Episode 7

In Big Little Lies, Nicole Kidman's Celeste finds herself caught in an abusive relationships that is complex, realistic, and downright excruciating to watch. So when -- SPOILER ALERT -- her abusive husband, Perry, dies in the finale, it is an incredible relief -- made all the more powerful because Shailene Woodley's Jane has just, minutes before, realized that Perry is the man who violently raped her a few years earlier, leaving her to singlehandedly raise a son.

In Perry's final moments, he approaches Celeste, Jane, and their friends Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) and Renata (Laura Dern). He knocks Celeste to the ground and begins kicking and punching her. The women each pull at him, trying in vain to get him away from their friend. A fifth friend, Bonnie (Zoë Kravitz), sees the chaos from a distance, rushes over, and pushes Perry to his death.

The killing of an abusive misogynist isn't even the most feminist thing that happens in the episode; it's the way the five women come together and unite afterwards to save Bonnie that is truly extraordinary. The final image of the series is of the women picnicking at the beach, as their children happily play around them. Here they are in their own safe space -- one without men.

Big Little Lies' finale is unequivocally about women protecting other women, at all costs. And it was one of the most powerful things on TV all year.

Saturday Night Live: Most of Season 43

The women of SNL have had a wealth of material to work with in 2017, as well as the talent and chops to turn some awful cultural moments into impactful, memorable, and meaningful skits. There was "A Sketch for the Women," an excellent riff on mansplaining; there was "Girl at a Bar," a biting critique of the misogynistic "nice guy;" and then there was the zeitgeist-capturing "Welcome to Hell" -- a sketch so on point, we'll be looking back on it for years to come: