An Ode To The Women Who’ve Shaped Me, Past and Present, Fictional and Non

My first favorite song that wasn’t Disney was ‘Waterfalls’ by TLC. I don’t really know what it means until I’m much older, but the way T-Boz, Chilli and Left Eye sang with such expression resonated really hard with me.

I still remember how hard it hurt when Left Eye died, even though I didn’t really appreciate the things she did for another few years.

I must be six or seven when I first hear the Spice Girls say the words “girl power.”

It feels like a bullet in my teeth. Something dangerous. Something awesome.

I don’t understand feminism then, but I understand that I’m powerful.

I wanted to be Posh. I’m probably more Ginger.

My Aunt Heather who is really my Cousin is a lot like my Sister.

She’s three years older and we go everywhere together it seems like.

We don’t get along.

She makes fun of me, I feel like we’re not intellectually matched. But we like a lot of the same things. She even ends up in music theater camp for a couple of years with me after I mention my mom signing me up for it.

She’s constantly there in my earliest memories.

We don’t really talk anymore, but I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without her in it.

Sailor Moon feels like a revolution.

Here is Serena, a girl full of power who fights in skirts and with the power of love. Her best friends mean everything to her. Even lonely Amy, the know it all who isolated herself because knowledge was her power and people didn’t understand that.

I get a Sailor Mercury tattoo nearly twenty years later. I call “Amy” Ami like she was always meant to be.

I take more interest in the girl characters in cartoons than I ever do the boys. Which is painful when there are so few of them.

The Powerpuff Girls in all their youthful energy and toughness feel like they’re made just for me.

For years I try to pick a favorite, but wisdom is knowing you can be all three.

Bubbles still holds a special place for me though. She let me know I had mail for years.

Ms. Schultz shows me kindness in a new school district, and an understanding that I’m a messed up kid.

Ms. Weber encourages creativity to the point I wrap my parents broom up in tin foil and take it to class as my Nimbus 2000 or hosting “coffee shop” readings in the dark confines of her classroom.

Ms. Colston is the first to teach me about the different kinds of intelligence, and defends me to the other kids when I take a bit longer in Algebra.

Even though I dress like a tomboy, so much of the manga I like is the sparkliest shit.

Books like Tokyo Mew Mew and Cardcaptor Sakura fill the times between classes. There’s also books like Azumanga Daioh, filled with smart and funny women that make me laugh.

Occasionally Ranma 1/2 and Inuyasha cross my hands and I have to pretend I’m not mentally scanning the way Rumiko Takahashi draws breasts.

Still, my favorite ends up being Miyuki-Chan in Wonderland, a short book by CLAMP about a girl who gets sent to dimensions where beautiful women try to take her clothes off.

And I wonder why it took me until I was 16 to realize I’m queer.

I’m 13 and Josie and the Pussycats is the greatest movie I have ever seen.

It’s a story of rock and roll and friendship and girls in cat ears.

Everything about it is great, but I love Valerie the most.

It takes me a couple of years to realize that the way I crow about Rosario Dawson is a crush.

I never expected to like Legally Blonde, but it persists still to this day.

Woods Comma Elle. Our Lady of Self-Expression. Of not adhering to the labels people give you. Of pink.

Of how living well is always the best revenge.

I try to model myself after Kelly Clarkson in the ‘Miss Independent’ video in 2003.

Skinny scarves and chunky blonde highlights for days.

I don’t look good in it, but spoiler alert, no one does.

Kelly is so cool to me then. Even now, I still feel a kindred nod towards her whenever I see her in media.

Ed is closer to the age I am when I start watching Cowboy Bebop and some ways, I’m like her.

It’s Faye that stays with me though.

As a kid, I related to Hermione Granger a bit too closely. An insufferable know-it-all with bushy hair who adults like but most of her fellow kids hate.

As I get older though, it’s Luna Lovegood I cling to a bit more. The “weird” one who sees things a bit differently and acts a bit strangely, but is just as smart as anyone else. The lonely one who only a few people ever truly “get.”

Mrs. Queen is sarcastic and sometimes harsh, but she’s easily the best lit teacher I had in high school.

She introduces me to The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and I feel my life change forever reading that book. She also shows me Like Water for Chocolate, The House of the Spirits, and Their Eyes Were Watching God. These are the stories that stick with me the most in high school.

Well, that and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, but I found that one on my own.

There’s a point in my life I thought I knew everything and that I loved Frank Miller. Perhaps it was my own projecting of how much I loved Sin City as a movie. Miho and Gail forever, man…

But there’s one character he made that persists with me. A scrappy redheaded Robin named Carrie Kelley who proves herself. She is strong and capable. She is exactly what Bruce needs.

She’s still my favorite Robin.

I know now how problematic Joss Whedon can be, but there’s still a part of me who wants to hug the kindred spirit of Willow close to my heart and tell her it’ll all be okay for us queer pagan girls in the end.

I want to bake cookies for Kaylee and decorate holy spaces with Inara.

I hope Priya found happiness in the end.

My Gran just might be the greatest woman I know.

All fire and muscle in a compact form, but still with the softest heart you’ll ever meet.

She was never bothered by all the times I cursed around her all the times I drove her home.

All I have left of her is a bear that sings Jesus Loves Me and it never feels like enough.

I wish I had asked her for more stories.

I wish I remembered where her grave is.

Every time I sing ‘Valerie’ now, I think about how I could have been kinder to you instead of following the crowd in mocking your addictions.

You were my guardian angel writing my second comic. I stole your picture from the inside of a Rolling Stone from the Gold Tone Factory in Florida shortly after I got into the 27 Anthology.

I hope you rest well, Amy. I wish I could have just stayed the way I did in high school admiring you instead of being filled with regret.

“What do you hear, Starbuck?”

I look towards the sky. For the Easterly View that Rosalin earned in her final days. For a glimpse of Six out of the corner of my eye. For a look in Dee’s eyes before she pulled the trigger. For confirmation that maybe Kara Thrace was a Goddess after all.

“Nothing but the rain.”

Martha Jones is my favorite companion and I will always defend her.

It just took me longer than I would like to admit to realize the power of the words “I am good.”

I’ve written all I can about Dawn. I don’t know what else I really can say.

I want so desperately to laugh about it later. For her to belong to the people who saw her potential and not the toxic man who holds her down.

We can’t always get what we want though. Chains and roses, after all.

My mom says she finds me inspirational. I always get embarrassed by that.

My mom is frustrating. The time we lived together after college nearly ruined our relationship forever.

My mom reminds me with the way she chased what she wanted after her divorce that it’s never too late for anything.

I love my mom lots and I miss her too. By god, I just can’t live with her.

Shilo Wallace should be the one who speaks to me, being an angsty wannabe goth.

However, it was always Mag. All poise and sadness, wanting desperately to prevent others from falling into the same traps she did. Like a tragic fairy godmother.

Repo! makes me respect Paris Hilton though. Something I never thought I would do at that point. Maybe this is a turning point.

“Chase the morning, yield for nothing…”

Kate Kane exists in watercolors in my head forever.

Kate Kane is blood red and porcelain, rage and determination. Strength and honor.

Kate Kane always deserved better.

Kate Kane doesn’t exist by your rules.

In a world filled with subspace highways and half-ninjas, it was always Kim Pine that stayed with me the most.

The grumpy one that people always ignored or trampled over. With the violent fantasies in her head, but a terse and sarcastic comment in actual response.

Roxy is my favorite Scott Pilgrim character, but Kim is just who I am.

I lived with a unicorn named Alena for three years.

She was glitter and bombast and witchcraft.

It could feel very easy to be run over by her sometimes, but she let me push back. We collided well as sisters in arms.

From her, I started to learn not to give a fuck.

God, Lady Gaga.

I don’t get how people act like she just now has talent and substance. It was always there.

When I didn’t have Dawn anymore, I dressed like Gaga. I still felt beautiful.

My mom blasted ‘So What’ a lot when she got divorced. I responded with ‘Mean.’

It feels lame to say, but Pink helped me through a lot in the past eight years. Whether it was getting used to my parents not being together anymore or crying necessary tears over stupid men.

When I’m sad, I imagine myself flying like her.

“I-I-I’m an alien from outer space” were the first words I heard Janelle Monae sing and I still believe it.

Most would balk at their record store find become famous, but I do not. Her message is one that needs to be heard.

She comes in peace, but she means business. She always has.

“What would you be if you weren’t afraid,” they ask.

“I’d be Mabel Pines,” I respond.

I start watching Adventure Time because of the gender swap episode with Fionna and Cake, but I end up falling in love with Bubblegum and Marceline along the way.

All my favorite episodes have Rebecca Sugar’s name attached to them. Which is probably how I knew I was going to love Steven Universe from the outset.

Someday I’ll get back to learning the ukulele so I can sing like her.

Katniss Everdeen breaks my heart a million ways, but her story is still an important one. One that people somehow still missed.

It was never about Peeta or Gale. It was always down to her.

Samantha is a fae, I’m certain of it.

Sharon is a bit more concrete. She wouldn’t have it any other way, but her edges are still glitter.

Valerie is a puppet come to life with the saddest voice you’ll ever hear.

Sarah is circus made flesh.

Megan Jean is whiskey and wine, even though she doesn’t partake.

Crystal Bright and Unwoman may actually be witches. The jury is still out.

Princess Adrienne is the princess I always wanted as a kid, so I make it my duty to tell others of her too.

Of her and Bedelia and Raven and her all girl pirate crew.

I’m one of those Against Me! fans who didn’t listen to the band until Laura Jane Grace came out, but I literally do not care.

Her voice is rage and fire and sadness.

I’ll never forget how ‘Osama Bin Laden as the Crucified Christ’ is like an atomic bomb going off in a mosh pit.

The Girl of the Desert Zones opened doors for me.

Her and Blue, with their quiet tale of growing up and rebellion.

Through them, a new world opened up for me.

One of pages, ink and superpowers.

One where anything was possible, and there was still work to be done.

The glass shards of my heart couldn’t hold together.

Vengeance could have been the call. Ginny was there all along. I could have seen red in the shade of her creator’s hair.

Instead came Carol. To lift me up and help me turn those glass shards into stars.

When Kelly Sue told me I’m perfect, I can believe her most days now.

Kate Bishop taught me how to catch arrows in my teeth.

It’s a pretty cool party trick, but not one you should always use.

Still, you don’t have to have super powers to be super.

I can’t look at anything about the women’s match in Brooklyn without crying seven months later.

I know the outcome. I watched it live. I’ve seen Bayley in person twice since then and Sasha once. Bayley even gave me a hug.

Still, I cry. Because it’s a dream come true. Not just for Bayley, but Sasha and so many other women as well. It’s the ultimate underdog story. It’s history. It’s a culmination. It’s the hope and knowledge that whatever your passionate about is worth making happen.

AJ Lee may have brought me to wrestling, but Bayley and Sasha Banks made me understand the true power of it.


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