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These female storytellers should be household names

Female storytellers Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Ava DuVernay and Aisling Bea on a TV screen on a pink background with The Feminista logo

Happy Monday, Feministas! We hope your weekend was as sweet and spooky as you imagined it would be <3 This year, as we reflect on the festivities, we’re feeling inspired by some of the feminist costumes we saw in the streets...

From Free Britney signs and faces covered in stickers to celebrate Olivia Rodrigo’s new album to characters like Beth Harmon from “The Queen’s Gambit,” Cassie from “Promising Young Woman,” and Rebecca from “Ted Lasso,” this Halloween felt like a celebration of powerful women, in real life and on screen. (Did you catch Mindy Kaling as Elle Woods and some other ladies in comedy?!)

We have women like Mindy to thank as our costume options expand each year—the female artists and storytellers who give us badass, complex women to emulate and pop culture references to get creative with. So today, let’s take a look at the feminist storytellers we’re most excited about, and the compelling, resonant stories that just might inspire next year’s looks :)


Feminist Storyteller #1: Issa Rae, "Insecure"

We’ve talked about Issa Rae on The “F” Word before, and it probably won’t be the last time...  She’s a powerful voice in the Black Lives Matter movement and outspoken advocate for Black women in the arts. She won a Peabody in 2017 for her beloved web-series-turned-television-show “Insecure” which, in Rae’s words, demonstrates “the complexities of 'blackness' and the reality that you can’t escape being black.”

It’s funny, emotional, and nuanced—a show that honestly depicts real people living life and encountering joy and difficulties along the way. The fifth and final season just premiered on October 24th, and we can’t wait to see how it all pans out. And while we might not know what’s next from Issa, we know that her production company, Hoorae, signed a five-year film and TV deal with WarnerMedia earlier this year, so she’s only just getting started.


Feminist Storyteller #2: Molly Smith Metzler & Stephanie Land, “Maid”

By now, you’ve probably heard of the new Netflix series, “Maid,” which is getting a lot of love from both viewers and critics. Inspired by Stephanie Land’s bestselling memoir, Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive, the show follows a single mother who leaves an abusive relationship in hopes of building a better life for herself and her daughter. The main character, Alex, beautifully interpreted by Margaret Qualley, takes a job cleaning houses and faces setback after setback as she tries to start anew. 

Kristen Lopez of IndieWire reviews the show, noting its complexity and nuance in handling the difficult subject matter and saying, "we need more stories like this and, hands down, Maid deserves all the acclaim it gets.” Here’s to more stories about and by empowering women.


Feminist Storyteller #3: Aisling Bea, "This Way Up"

We have Irish comedian and actor Aisling Bea to thank for the British dramedy series, “This Way Up,” about an Irish-Cathlic woman named Áine who is recovering from a nervous breakdown. As she returns to her life as an ESL teacher in London and progresses in her rehabilitation, she leans on her sister Shona and their relationship, though complicated, is the one grounding element in her life.

Bea wrote and starred in the show, and in 2020, won the Bafta 2020 British Academy Television Craft Award for Breakthrough Talent for it, and after such a charming, honest, and sometimes devastating portrayal of mental illness and recovery, it’s safe to say we’re all looking forward to what she’ll come up with next. In the meantime, catch her in Netflix’s “Living With Yourself,” a comedy drama starring Paul Rudd and the one and only, Aisling Bea.


Feminist Storyteller #4: Alice Birch & Sally Rooney, “Normal People”

Irish novelist and screenwriter, Sally Rooney, just released her third best-selling book, Beautiful World, Where Are You, which is certainly worth a read, but we’re even more excited about the upcoming TV series based on her novel, Conversations with Friends, that’s due to premiere on Hulu sometime next year.

This adaptation will be a collaboration between Rooney and Alice Birch, the playwright and screenwriter who helped adapt Normal People for TV. The 12-episode series chronicles the relationship between two on-and-off friends/lovers from high school through college and beyond, and became a beloved show during lockdown last year. Birch & Rooney are experts at capturing the painfully beautiful moments and intimacy between two fallible people who really love each other. Their next project features a topic near and dear to our hearts: female friendship(!) and we can’t wait to see how they bring it to life :)


Feminist Storyteller #5: Ava DuVernay, "When They See Us"

It would be fair to say that Ava DuVernay is more of a film director than a TV creator, but the woman truly does it all, and just because she’s a legend in one industry doesn’t mean she can’t be a legend in another… You may know her movies Selma, 13th, and A Wrinkle in Time, but she’s also famous for her limited series, “When They See Us,” released on Netflix in 2019, which tells the story of the 1989 Central Park jogger case and was nominated for 16 Emmys(!)

What we love most about Ava DuVernay, though, is her commitment to uplifting other female artists and creators of color. She says, “I think that black people making art, women making art, and certainly black women making art is a disruptive endeavor - and it's one that I enjoy extremely.” We’re grateful, because she’s one of the most thoughtful and innovative women in the game right now, dismantling racism and feminism through film and television. 

The first episode of her most recent project, “Colin in Black & White” just premiered a few days ago on October 29th, about the former NFL player Colin Kaepernick and his journey from high school to professional football player to famous activist. Can’t wait for what’s next. 


Feminist Storyteller #6: Phoebe Waller-Bridge, "Killing Eve" 

You probably know Phoebe from her award-winning series “Fleabag” (six Emmys!), but she’s also the creator of another one of our favorite feminist TV shows: “Killing Eve.” It’s a spy thriller comedy-drama starring Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer and Season 4 is due for release some time in 2020 and both shows were listed in The Guardian’s 100 best TV shows of the 21st century. 

She’s the queen of writing witty, transgressive, fully-formed women and for that, she was even named one of 2020’s Most Influential People by Time magazine. If you don’t know her work yet, now might just be the time to catch up. And if you’re looking for something new, check out the new Bond film, No Time to Die, which she co-wrote, or catch her in Harry Style’s “Treat People With Kindness” music video or the TV series “His Dark Materials.” 

As an actor and writer, her interests are broad, but in everything she does, she maintains her feminist roots. She once said, “I’ll never get bored of seeing flawed women on the screen” and neither will we :)


Thanks for reading, Feministas. For more of our favorite feminist TV, check out these binge-worthy shows or some of the most inspiring female friendships we’ve ever seen on screen. 

Otherwise, we’ll see you next week for more of The "F" Word, our weekly newsletter and blog on all things feminist, from activism to fashion and beyond. Want it delivered? Scroll down, sign up, and we’ll send it straight to your inbox.

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