40 women whose stories should be told more often

At the Cannes Film Festival, Jessica Chastain spoke out about the need for more female storytellers. She said watching the portrayals of women in films at the festival was “disturbing.” You can see her full remarks in this video (as tweeted by director, writer, and producer Ava DuVernay).


The part of her statement that stood out to me most was this:

“I do hope that when we include more female storytellers we will have more of the women that I recognize in my day-to-day life. Ones that are proactive, have their own agency, and don’t just react to the men around them. They have their own point of view.”

Yes! Even when I see films featuring women they so rarely reflect so many of the different types of women I know and recognize from my life, which is a shame. I know some amazing women.

Here are just some of the types of women I don’t see enough of in films (or in TV, books, or theatre for that matter). If I do see these women they are often side characters whose purpose is to be pitied or mocked by the a more stereotypical female lead or a man. We are not telling their stories. Yes, there are exceptions. There are some examples of these stories being told, but we are not telling them nearly enough.

  1. Women who are happy being single.
  2. Women who are happy being single despite being over 40 and having never been married.
  3. Women who are over 40 and have never had children because they don’t want them.
  4. Women who have struggled with infertility (with or without eventually getting pregnant).
  5. Lesbian moms.
  6. Moms with jobs outside of the home because they love their careers not just because they need the money.
  7. Women who are both bisexual and monogamous.
  8. Women in equal, loving partnerships (i.e. not just sex romps) with younger men.
  9. Women who know a lot about sports and watch sports with other women who know a lot about sports (because a lot of women like sports).
  10. Women who do sports writing or commentary.
  11. Women who like to build things.
  12. Women who run their own successful businesses.
  13. Women scientists who are the principal investigators on major research projects.
  14. Modern midwives.
  15. Modern women who go to midwives.
  16. Women who read comic books.
  17. Women who are long term cancer survivors.
  18. Married straight women who are the primary breadwinners for their households (by choice not necessity).
  19. Women in leadership roles.
  20. Highly capable women who suffer from impostor syndrome.
  21. Female engineers.
  22. Women who are respected by their male peers.
  23. Women who use a breast pump multiple times a day.
  24. Outwardly “normal” women who take medication every day in order to manage anxiety or depression.
  25. Women whose dress sizes closely resemble that of the average woman.
  26. Fit women who could kick most guys’ asses.
  27. Women who have healthy relationships with their mother-in-laws.
  28. Women who actively support other women.
  29. Adventurous women who frequently travel (and do so without a male chaperone).
  30. Women who are self-confident without being cocky.
  31. Women who appreciate good bourbon.
  32. Women who get harassed online.
  33. Women who get harassed in real life.
  34. Women who know a lot about cars.
  35. Women who love math.
  36. Women who love sex.
  37. Transgender women.
  38. Women of color.
  39. Women of color who are any of the above.
  40. More women of color.

Writers, particularly all you female-identifying writers out there, please consider this writing prompt: Write a story from the point of view of any of the above. Then write another one. And another one. And…

RELATED POST: More on the “plight” of women playwrights

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