Meet TV's greatest fictional feminists and inspire yourself with their best quotes

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Anna Brech
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The days of the glossy female lead are numbered. 

A new generation of kick-ass women have hit our TV screens over the past decade, throwing open the door to a meatier, more feminist kind of role. 

These ladies aren't attractive wallflowers, nor do they pay lip service to their bigger, bolder male counterparts.

They're substantial, complex and gutsy characters in and of themselves. 

These unafraid and ballsy female leads challenge the conventions of what it takes to be a "woman"; they might be unkempt or aggressive with unattractive levels of ambition or a penchant for risk-taking sex.

They're human and flawed with boatloads of wit and grit, and they don't care what you think of them.

Come raise a glass to the gutsiest women on TV, along with their words of wisdom to live by: 

Alicia Florrick, The Good Wife

She's kick-ass because: she's a moral voice in a murky world

Whether she's fighting the case for a drugs lord, saving her firm from bankruptcy or dealing with her philandering husband, Alicia Florrick holds no prisoners. This Chicago lawyer oozes integrity, but she's also ruthless enough to play dirty with her enemies. She's astute and brave, and has no problem shouldering up to the shifty characters that pass through her cut-throat world of law and politics.

And she always seem to end her day with a glass of red in hand, proving she's a lady after our own hearts. 

Alicia's best quotes: 

"Zip up your pants, shut your mouth and stop banging the help."

"You've obviously never made a woman angry."

Kalinda Sharma, The Good Wife

She's kick-ass because: she takes no sh**

If Alicia is a gale force, Kalinda is a typhoon. Fiercely loyal, she's at once seductive, cunning, manipulative and violent.

This queen of private investigators will do what it takes to break a case, from driving like a maniac through the back streets of Chicago to tracking down an elusive witness, sleeping with FBI agents or taking a baseball bat to a car. She takes absolutely no bulls***, can pack a punch with the best of them and is walking testimony to the power of knee-high boots and a leather jacket. Plus, she's sort of mysterious and private; it's hard to second-guess her. 

We'd definitely want her on our side in a fight. 

Kalinda's best quotes:

"You wanna get me to talk, just say talk. Don't play games."

"When you pick up a gun, you shoot to kill. Or you don't pick up a gun at all."

Claire Underwood, House of Cards

She's kick-ass because: she will get exactly what she wants, and damn the consequences

While we wouldn't say ice queen Carrie Underwood is a role model per se - or even an OK person - she could certainly teach us a lesson or two about the power of self-confidence. A woman who will stop at nothing to get what she wants, she is ferociously ambitious and will brutally cut down anyone who obstructs her. She is the bloody-minded driving force behind both her husband's career and her own, at one point threatening to let her employee's unborn baby die in order to achieve her endgame.

You might not agree with her tactics, but there's no denying that here lies a woman with a warlord spirit. 

Claire's best quotes:

"I’m willing to let your child wither and die inside of you if that’s what’s required."

"You don’t want to make an enemy out of me."

Olivia Pope, Scandal

She's kick-ass because: she really is the best, and she's not afraid to say it

Olivia Pope and her straight-talking gang of "gladiators" can tackle whatever sordid political scandal lands on their doorstep with aplomb. Olivia is the kind of problem-buster we wished we all had in our lives. Whether she's managing a White House controversy threatening to implode or negotiating her way out of a hostage situation, Olivia has it handled.

This woman is the best at what she does, and she's happy to shout about the fact. And for that, we salute her. 

Olivia's best quotes:

"I am many things, stupid is not one of them."

"Whatever happens, we do not give up. It is my name on the door and I never give up."

Carrie Mathison, Homeland

She's kick-ass because: she has killer instincts, and gives two fingers to the status quo

With an anti-psychotic drug dependency and a penchant for ill-advised affairs, this CIA agent has baggage. She's wound tighter than a coiled spring and her volatility gives her poker-hot instincts for reading people. She can sniff out a terrorist or a dodgy set-up a mile off and she's doggedly determined to keep the bad guys at bay, even if it means breaking the rules and paying a huge personal cost (like living apart from her baby daughter). She also has nerves of steel when the situation demands it, like say, when a bomb's about to go off or a hostage-taker needs talking down. 

When we see Carrie down and vulnerable, we appreciate her strength and tenacity all the more. Her "f*** you" moments come more potent than a vodka martini.

Carrie's best quotes:

"You're a disgrace to your nation, Sargent Nicholas Brody. You're a traitor and a terrorist, and now it's time you pay for that." 

"I'm authorized to kill U.S. citizens on the battlefield, you mother fucker, don't think I can't do whatever is required. Don't think that I won't."

Daenerys Targaryen, Game of Thrones

She's kick-ass because: she will fight to the bitter end

This exiled princess of the Targaryen dynasty has fought her way up from timid sister to kingless queen and fearless protector of the weak and suppressed. She's overcome so many barriers along the way we can hardly keep up, but suffice to say her journey has involved multiple assassination attempts, the death of her unborn son and many bloody battles.

But she never gives up. Fuelled on by the strength of her ancestors and her trio of flying nuclear dinosaurs, she is determined to conquer the throne and rule over the land her bloodline rightfully owns. She's not afraid of brute force or savagery, and has even been known to munch on a horse's heart and wield the heads of her enemies. But she's wise and compassionate too, and will always stick up for the underdog.

Daenerys' best quotes:

"I am Daenerys Stormborn and I will take what is mine with fire and blood.”

"The next time you raise a hand to me will be the last time you have hands."

Galina 'Red' Reznikov, Orange is the New Black

She's kick-ass because: she fearlessly takes on the resident prison maniac

You really wouldn't want to mess with Red. There are a lot of women vying for the title of kick-ass on Orange Is The New Black, but this one counts among the bravest, and the most brutal. Series One saw her as a bit of a sadistic character; the queen of the kitchen who punished those who offended her (like Piper) by denying them of food. But Series Two uncovered a more vulnerable and heroic side to the red-headed Russian doyenne of Litchfield Penitentiary.

Not only is she devoted to her close-knit group of friends - and devastated when they refuse to speak to her - she's also  the only person with the balls to stand up to baddie-above-all-baddie inmates, the ruthless and dangerous Vee. But she's humane enough to have second thoughts when she tries to strangle Vee with a piece of plastic wrap, plus she does a mean sideline in holding down her racket on random smuggled goods.

Red's best quotes:

"You want to assassinate someone? Vision is a basic requirement. It’s like, Step one: Pick a person to kill. Step two: Kill that person"

"Two strikes, that's all she gets. Russians don't play baseball"

Laure Berthaud, Spiral 

She's kick-ass because: she's gritty and un-groomed

She has unkempt hair, a manly swagger and can usually be found munching a sandwich somewhere as she attempts to keep a hold of her wayward, disheveled team of cops. There is nothing remotely glamorous about police captain Laure Berthaud and that's why we love her. She's the most incongruous hero and is refreshingly human compared to the usual slate of glossy female leads. Laure is flawed; she makes mistakes and beats herself up about it, despite us cheering her on. She's also got a voracious appetite for married men, but never takes it too seriously; for her, sex is just an incidental part of everyday life. 

She's kind, compassionate, conflicted and gritty. Expect her to be the last man standing as she chases down a knife-wielding gang member . And she's loyal to the grave, defending her officers even when they've been taking drugs or dating prostitutes. 

She is, quite simply, brilliant. And bad-ass. 

Laure's best quotes: 

"Some days, I'd rather not get out of bed"

"Don't move, you bastard! Stay there"

Samantha Jones, Sex and the City

She's kick-ass because: she doesn't care what you think. 

The poster girl for sexual liberation, Samantha Jones is the boldest and brashest of the Sex and the City crew. She has an insatiable hunger for sex and is more than happy to use men, just as they use women. She relishes being able to pursue her prey in a bar and often needs to do no more than lift one impeccable eyebrow and utter a few well-timed words to seduce her man (or woman) of choice.

She's fun and adventurous and will try anything once. But she's also principled. While a steady stream of men pass through her bedroom, she's forever loyal to her girlfriends and will never judge anyone else's bad behaviour. When Carrie once asks her, 'don't you want to judge me?' when she's two-timing Aidan with Big, Samantha simply replies, 'Oh honey, that's not my thing'.

A politician she ain't, but she's still a byword for freedom, courage and being who you want to be. 

Samantha's best quotes: 

"Fuck me badly once, shame on you. Fuck me badly twice, shame on me."

"I'm a 'try-sexual'. I'll try anything once."

Peggy Olson, Mad Men

She's kick-ass because: she's killing sexism in the workplace, one male ego at a time. 

Granted, she's not bad-ass in the gun-wielding sense of the word but Peggy can still throw a metaphorical left hook. As a woman in a man's world, she needs every last iota of strength and wit to prove herself. She needs to be ten times better than her male colleagues in 1960s ad land, and still remain calm when they're promoted above her. 

Luckily, Peggy has all these qualities in spades. She knows how to get her head down and work, she's full of brilliant ideas and can knock sparks off her less able (but no less arrogant) cohorts. She's had to jump through plenty of hoops along the way, but this is a woman who can stand shoulders above the rest in a sleazy world of womanizing, whiskey-drinking and male ego. Bravo. 

Peggy's kick-ass quotes:

"If you can’t tell the difference between which part’s the idea and which part’s the execution of the idea, you’re of no use to me."

"I am the person you need to impress right now."

Gloria Pritchett, Modern Family

She's kick-ass because: She's unapologetically sexy, passionate and confident

From her gorgeous Colombian lilt to her fiery temper and her penchant for figure-hugging clothes, Gloria is the full package. She once claims that her mother has made her "a jumble of insecurities" and it's an obvious joke because this is one of the most self-assured and opinionated women to have ever hit our screens.

Gloria knows exactly what she likes and what she doesn't, and has no hesitation in voicing that - quite often in loud, penetrating tones ("Jaaaaayy!"). We doubt Gloria has ever experienced a moment of self-doubt in her life. She's convinced she's right when she's wrong and has no qualms in threatening Manny's head teacher with a Colombian necktie when she takes issue with him. She's completely over the top, but also sexy and warm-hearted; her bad temper will vanish as quickly as it's erupted and she heaps love onto those around her.

This is the kind of woman who embraces life to the hilt and has absolutely no self-filter. We love her for it.  

Gloria's best quotes:

"I am not a hothead! I am Colombian"

"You put egg on my house, I kill what you love!" 

Words: Anna Brech

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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.