Unattached & Fabulous

The Evolution of The Single Woman on TV

From Carrie Bradshaw to Liz Lemon, a look at how television's greatest heroines have blazed a trail for feminism.

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Women have forever struggled to achieve the perfect work-life balance, where one can excel both romantically and professionally, without needing to compromise one or the other. We have also, for quite a long time now, based many of our desires — and yes, misconceptions — of "having it all" on our chosen television programming.

Refinery29's Lexi Nisita cites Murphy Brown (which first aired in 1988) and her predecessor, Mary Tyler Moore, as the earliest on-screen heroines who were "a clear representation of the most pressing concerns of femininists of [their day]." Brown was the epitome of the post-feminist idea of her time as an over 40 single mother with a powerful career.

Following Brown came two of the most recognized females in popular culture today: Sex and the City's Carrie Bradshaw and Ally McBeal, who were both able to embody and progress the "post-feminist feminism" idea. "Bradshaw and McBeal in particular stand out from the other women of their time because of their sheer rawness," Nisita writes. "They freaked out, they made bad decisions, they were messy and imperfect," and practically paved way for the television feminists we know today: Liz Lemon, Carrie Mathison, and Olivia Benson.

But why are today's leading ladies so much more physically powerful than those before? Is it necessary to abandon the glamour of Sex and the City and the femininity of Mary Tyler Moore in order to embrace the idea of a seriously strong woman (Mathison is a CIA agent, Benson is a NYPD police officer)? Has society enabled this stereotype of women that television attempts to maintain, or are the single women in our popular culture mere reflections of the day and age in which we live? [Refinery29]