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In celebration of women who inspire us for International Women's Day

Contributed by
Mar 8, 2018

International Women's Day is a day that has been celebrated for over 100 years (an admittedly infinitesimal fraction of the time women have been around) and exists with the goal of celebrating women's achievements in the world.

And at SYFY Fangrrls, that's our goal too. So on this special day, we're celebrating just a few of the women of genre, STEM and geek culture who matter to us.  

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For me, it's Carrie Fisher, every time. It's one thing to inspire; it's another to show people that the parts of themselves they think of as their darkest, ugliest, worst attributes, the parts of their brains completely out of their control, are OK. That they can even be funny and beautiful. That we are worthy and wonderful in spite of — maybe even because of — the chemicals our brains process in an atypical way. As someone with depression and anxiety, who has been knocked out and rendered immobile from the pain of existing because my brain makes me feel that way, Carrie Fisher inspired me to own that. That's who she was. She was our princess, our general, our hero, on screen and off. And even now, more than a year after the world lost her, she keeps giving us gifts. Carrie Fisher: drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra, eternally reminding us that our "crazy" is OK. Even wonderful. - Courtney Enlow

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Best known these days for developing the SYFY television series Wynonna Earp (based on the IDW comic), Andras also served as executive producer and showrunner on supernatural drama Lost Girl for its third and fourth seasons. In essence: she's no stranger to writing fierce, funny, independent and powerful women, but she also knows how to take the "Chosen One" trope and elevate it beyond its predecessors to impactful degree. Who else would decide to not only write their lead's pregnancy into the show, but make it an integral part of the season and the series' legacy moving forward? That's exactly what Andras did with Wynonna Earp, allowing the character to embrace both the badassery of motherhood and demon-hunting without having to relinquish one for the other. Between that and her choice to thumb the nose (or maybe flip off) the Bury Your Gays trope, which dominated so many storylines on other shows within the 2016-17 season, Andras has set Wynonna Earp apart from negative LGBTQ representation that so often plagues primetime TV. On social media, she's known for her humor, biting wit, willingness to acknowledge fandom and the occasional tease of season three. I'm grateful for the way she's forever changed the landscape of genre TV and can't wait to see what comes from her camp next. - Carly Lane

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Dr. Mae Jemison is a personal hero of mine for so many reasons. As the first woman of color in space, she broke boundaries for us everywhere. But her legacy goes far beyond the record she holds. It was Nichelle Nichols’ performance on Star Trek that inspired Jemison to apply for NASA’s astronaut program, demonstrating, once again, how important representation in pop culture is to stoking the fires of imagination. Jemison, in turn, got to do that as an astronaut for an entirely new generation of young women. And after her flight, Jemison resigned from NASA, choosing instead to focus on STEM outreach for young women and kids of color. She’s also a dancer who tries to bridge art and science. And this is just the tip of the iceberg; the things Jemison has accomplished are amazing, and her vision and tireless dedication to others is incredible. She’ll be an inspiration in my life for a long time to come. - Swapna Krishna

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I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a moment on International Women’s Day to mention a woman whose character inspired so many young women (Have you heard about The Scully Effect?) but who as a human being inspires me constantly. Of course, I’m talking about Gillian Anderson. As Dana Scully, she portrayed a woman not often seen on television at the time: a scientist who was confident, independent and brilliant. Off-screen, Gillian has spoken out about pay inequality she personally experienced in Hollywood, in addition to advocating for better representation behind-the-scenes pushing for female directors on the latest run of The X-Files. She also has written a book geared towards inspiring women and actively uses her influence to support charities doing important work around the world. But most of all her ability to stand up for herself and others is a constant inspiration to me personally. I often find myself asking, “What Would Gillian Do?” when encountering a difficult situation and the answer is always the brave choice which will make me a better person. Plus she’s hilarious on Twitter and has the best gif reactions. That doesn’t hurt either. - Heather Mason

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Jamie Broadnax, creator of Black Girl Nerds, has inspired me in so many ways. She was the first person I heard use and define the term “blerd,” and who I saw openly creating a friendly space for black girl geeks like myself. She’s proven the power of intersectionality in the geek space, and through her I’ve been able to connect with and be inspired by so many amazing women of color in the genre. - Karama Horne

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Kelly Sue DeConnick fought to increase the visibility of women in comics both as creators and readers. She gave us Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel, Pretty Deadly, and Bitch Planet. When people complained about her feminist take on Danvers, calling her an angry feminist, she didn't back down — she doubled down and came out with Bitch Planet. I love DeConnick because she cares about other creators, develops beautiful and harrowing stories, and isn't afraid to fight for what's right. She is working to create a better world for marginalized creators and readers and it's the world I want to live in. Non-compliant forever! - S.E. Fleenor

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If it wasn't for Bjo Trimble, modern fan culture would look very, very different. In the fifties and sixties, Bjo was a mainstay of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society who revived the flagging group with her enthusiasm, organization skills, and personability. (At her first convention, the 1952 Worldcon, Harlan Ellison proposed to her on the spot. She declined.) In 1960, she started the Project Art Show at Pittcon 1960, which spawned the modern convention art show. And she and co-author Dorothy Jones Heydt wrote Star Trek Concordance, an originally self-published encyclopedia of Trek that was later used as a show bible by writers working on the franchise. But she's most well-known for being the woman who saved Star Trek. Friendly with Gene Roddenberry ever since he insisted on including three costumes from Star Trek: The Original Series in her Futuristic Fashion Show, at Tricon 1966, she and her husband John, both huge Trek fans, often visited the set. When it was announced that the show would be canceled, she and John decided to do something.

Together, Bjo and Jon created the "Save Star Trek" grassroots letter writing campaign, mailing out how-to guides to other fans. NBC was swamped with letters (rumored to number one million) from all over the nation demanding that Star Trek receive another season. And it worked. While Star Trek was canceled after its third season, that third season created enough episodes to make the series attractive for syndication, which is how many, many fans found it in seventies, keeping the fandom alive. Star Trek fandom set the standard for modern fandom, and continued interest in the series lay the groundwork for the series to return and become one of the most iconic science fiction franchises.

Sometimes, all it takes is one or two very, very determined fans to make a difference. - Clare McBride

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With all the excitement of a woman being cast to play the next Doctor on Doctor Who, it's important to talk about the women who work behind the camera as well, and none deserves to be talked about more than Verity Lambert, the first producer on the show, and at the time the youngest and and only female producer at the BBC. When she was offered the gig by series creator Sydney Newman, it had already been turned down twice by male producers he’d offered it to. Around this time, Lambert, the daughter of a Jewish accountant who had worked her way up from a short-hand typist to production assistant, was frustrated with her lack of further advancement and had been considering leaving the television industry. Perhaps it was this sense of having nothing to lose that drove Lambert not only to take the job, but to turn a low-budget, absurd science fiction series that wasn’t expected to last more than 13 weeks into a show that will celebrate its 55th anniversary this year. Newman remarked in 1993 that the best decision he ever made for the show was to find Verity and pair her with it. She was known for championing the series and fighting battles with "piss and vinegar" even against her superiors, including most notably the introduction of the Daleks, the eye-stalked, robotic voiced mutants riding around in salt shakers, whose popularity is credited for turning the show into the cultural icon that it became.

Lambert only worked on Doctor Who for the first two seasons, choosing to leave and allow the show to grow under fresh eyes, but she never stopped working as a producer until her death in 2007, and even founded her own production company, Cinema Verity. Rather than leave the business due to lack of advancement, Lambert was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for her service to film and television production, and was even described as being the most powerful person in Britain’s entertainment industry. And she got there by always being willing to push and fight for what she believed to be the best version of the projects she was working on. She inspires me not only as the mother of my favorite show, but as a constant reminder that sometimes you have to carve out your own space in the world but once you do, you can truly thrive. - Riley Silverman

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Tessa Thompson has been making cool film and TV for years, working with the likes of Ava DuVernay and Ryan Coogler. This was back before all three became sci-fi/genre icons. Thompson gave a stunning performance in Thor: Ragnarok, where she played the Valkyrie as a boozy antihero. While the only scene showing Valkyrie's bisexuality was cut from the film, Thompson spoke out about Vaklyrie's bisexuality and reportedly was the one to fight for filming the scene in the first place. She didn't stop there, though. During the infamous MCU photoshoot, Thompson gathered some of the other female stars from Marvel's film franchise and pitched an all female Avengers. (Goddess, please let them make an amazing A Force film. A[wo]men.) She has also reported that the next phase of the MCU will focus on women. Who knows if that will actually come to be, but it's good to know Thompson is fighting on the inside. She's also recently starred as one of the love interests in Janelle Monae's "Make Me Feel" video, the first part of her afrofuturist Dirty Computer album/film/experience. Add to that her recent role in Annihilation and her subsequent calls for more women in science, and you've got one hell of an ambassador for good in the world. - S.E. Fleenor

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Ava DuVernay is a creative force of nature and she does so while continually lifting up voices from fellow people of color. She constantly inspires me to both do the work creatively and support my community in our chosen fields. When the trailer for A Wrinkle in Time released, I actually saw women and kids of color front and center in a blockbuster. DuVernay said in 2015 at SXSW, “If your dream is only about you, it’s too small.” She’s made a career directing incredible film and TV (Selma, 13th, Queen Sugar, to name a few), she is confident in her vision, and she never forgets the community she came from. Her work is a happy reminder that we can share our successes and be inclusive, and it’s better for all of us. - Preeti Chhibber