Looking back on 2021, one of the year’s highlights was the number of women who kicked ass. Granted, that’s not really different than any other year…But we love consistency. So, let’s take a look back at some of our favorite women who kicked ass in 2021, in no particular order, and see how it all shakes out.
Laura Peterson, The Morning Show
When you think of women who kicked ass in 2021, the traditional type of “strength” may be what you’re expecting to see here—and we’ve got those, for sure. But what made Laura Peterson such a badass was her ability to just…let all the constant drama around her just slide right past her. Laura’s “unbothered” quality, as we’ve often called it, isn’t all that made her one of the toughest women on television this year, though. It was also the way she went back to morning television when asked, despite the horrible trauma she’d been through in terms of being outed last time she’d done that kind of work. And when it all started happening again? She was, somehow, still able to keep being unapologetically herself, putting the L in LGBTQ as Cory Ellison put it.
Inej Ghafa, Shadow and Bone
It’s hard to put into words what Inej, the Wraith, the lost girl who made herself into a warrior, the one who didn’t need anyone to put her back together, but who put herself back together and then stood in front of the world—in front of the boy who was always by her—and asked him to be better, not just for himself, but for her, means. But for everyone who’s ever felt broken, everyone who’s ever felt less-than, anyone who’s ever felt unworthy, Inej is proof that what you are and who you become isn’t up to anyone but you.
Literally all the women of Pose…but especially Blanca and Elektra
The women of Pose were the epitome of women who kicked ass in 2021, but what made Blanca stand out, as we said goodbye to her, was the way her story ended with her realizing her dreams. She found love, became a nurse, and was still the best-damned mother anyone could ask for. Her capacity to love, to keep striving for better, and to be a rock is nearly outmatched.
…and then, there’s Elektra. First of all, she could drag anyone and everyone like no other, so her way with words certainly made her kick ass. It wasn’t just that, though. When she realized her own dream of being disgustingly rich? She made sure a part of her fortune went to those in need. Unlike so many others, she didn’t claw her way to the top of the ladder and pull it up behind her—she reached back down, continuously, to bring others on up with her…But she did it quietly, without a need for a pat on the back or other recognition. That’s what true charity is, after all.
Hailey Upton, Chicago P.D.
The Hailey Upton we first met and the one from this past year on Chicago P.D. might as well be two different women. That Hailey Upton had baggage and was so used to dealing with it alone, to somehow surviving, without ever being able to lean on someone. This Hailey Upton, however, understands that there’s strength in vulnerability, and that when you find the person who makes you better, the one that completes you…well, you grab with both hands and don’t let go, because doing that doesn’t make you any less of a badass. If anything, it makes you even stronger.
Captain Olivia Benson, Law & Order: SVU
So much can be said, and has been said, about Liv over the 500-plus episodes of SVU. But what made her particularly worthy of the “Badass Benson” moniker in 2021 was two-fold: First, she took her fragile heart, already broken when the most—single most—important person in her life just…disappeared for 10 years, and opened it right back up to him when he came back. She was there for Elliot and his family, their rock every step of the way—even when it had to be unbearably difficult. She felt the fear, and she did the thing anyway. Liv’s heart remains her greatest asset, the thing we’ll always love most about her, and truly the part of her that kicks the most ass.
Secondly, even if El had never come back, Benson still would’ve made our list of women who kicked ass in 2021. Why? She faced her past, admitted she was a victim, and even confronted the man who groomed her.
As an honorable mention, Mariska Hargitay herself kicked ass this year, just for being her. But…well. She probably already knows that, what with the whole Glamour Women of the Year thing and all.
The Women of Amazon’s Harlem
We couldn’t just pick one of the ladies of Harlem for this list because all four kick ass. Camille, Quinn, Tye, and Angie are all successful young women forging their own paths. They are strong and fierce and don’t let anyone try to tell them who or what they should be. They are unapologetically themselves, and that’s definitely the definition of a badass.
Stella Kidd, Chicago Fire
Stella Kidd isn’t just a kickass firefighter; she’s the kind of woman who isn’t content with just saving lives on the regular as a first responder, but who spends her free time setting up a program that will help young girls be their best selves. That’s not just kicking ass, it’s taking it next level by setting up a new generation of women who will continue to kick ass thanks to you—no, because of you. How can you not be inspired not just by what she does, but the way she does it, with a smile, with her heart on her sleeve and with a clear purpose?
Debra Morgan, Dexter: New Blood
Yes, a hallucination of a ghost is one of our women who kicked ass in 2021.
The decision to kill off Deb in what used to be Dexter‘s series finale was…not good. So, seeing her in the revival—in any capacity—was the only reason we bothered to tune in. And dear God, Ghost!Deb does not disappoint. She has Deb’s original badassery and way with words (nobody on this planet has ever been more creative with F-bombs, ever), and she’s giving Jennifer Carpenter so many opportunities to go all out and just…shine.
Another reason she made 2021 kick ass for us? Unlike Dexter’s previous ghost guide, Deb is actually, repeatedly, trying to tell him to do the right thing. She’s always been the heart and soul of Dexter; somehow, she’s just more in death than she was in life.
Salvor Hardin, Foundation
Sci-fi doesn’t usually give us characters like Salvor Hardin. Because make no mistake, Salvor Hardin is the hero of Foundation, the one with a true purpose, the one with a love story, and the familial connections that end up being key to the story being told. Salvor Hardin is also many things, the hero, the daughter, the lover, and the warrior, all without ever having to sacrifice one for the other. And she isn’t only remarkable because of the genre of the show she’s on, she’s just remarkable. Period.
Sergeant Ayanna Bell, Law & Order: Organized Crime
We don’t talk nearly enough about how much Sergeant Bell kicks ass. So, uh…Where do we even begin? She’s a Black, gay woman who’s managed to move up the ranks in the NYPD. It shouldn’t be this way, but just existing as a commanding officer, in that world, makes her one of the women who kicked ass in 2021. But then, add being a new mother, alongside her wife, Denise. Consider how difficult it has been to try to make change from within the force, while her family was suing the NYPD on her nephew’s behalf, after he was both wrongfully arrested and assaulted. On top of all of that, she’s managed to uncover some pretty sketchy dealings surrounding Congressman Kilbride, whose offer to join him in politics to make “real” change there she (thankfully) turned down, on more than one occasion. And, well. She also manages to keep Stabler under control better than anyone, aside from Benson, ever has. That’s kind of a big deal.
We can not wait to see where Law & Order: Organized Crime takes this character—or how many times she has to roll her eyes at a certain duo.
We were going to only do some of our favorite TV characters in this post, but while Eliza Dushku has played plenty of women who kicked ass in the past, it was something she did as herself—a real person—that really stood out in 2021. When she testified before the House Judiciary Committee on ending forced arbitration, she dug up her own trauma—told her own story—in order to make a difference. That takes incredible strength, no matter who you are, where you’re sharing your story, or how big of an enemy you’re up against. For Dushku, her celebrity status meant many, many eyes were on her as she was speaking truth to power against the culture in a business filled with powerful men. That kicked ass.
Last, but not least…the GOAT. On her sport’s greatest stage, with all the expectations imaginable on her, Simone prioritized her mental health and physical safety over all of it. She withdrew from competition, stepping out of the spotlight so her teammates could thrive, when what has always, until the Olympics, looked like it came so easily to her, was suddenly no longer possible. Simone Biles put the focus on mental health in a way that never would have happened otherwise, and when it came time to sit on the sidelines during all the competitions she’d been expected to win but was now missing, she was the one cheering the loudest—for every single athlete. Biles is our hero. End of story.
Who were your favorite women who kicked ass in 2021? Drop us a comment!