The Feminist Icons Every Millennial Should Know

If you went searching for a bit of feminist solidarity, you wouldn't have to look far. Right now, perhaps more than any other time in our country's history (or world's, lest you forget about last January's four-million-strong Women's March), the sentiment is everywhere in mainstream (and not-so-mainstream) media: within music lyrics, on the runways of Fashion Week, all over Instagram, and written across T-shirts from Dior's "We Should All Be Feminists" designs to Otherwild's "The Future Is Female" viral success. But the thing is, while we'll forever champion equality, there are still plenty of those who challenge it. And every once in a while, we turn to some of the women ahead.

We consider these leaders, their legacies, and their strengths to be some of our consistent sources of inspiration. Even in times when our careers, our peers, or our government leaders don't reflect our ideals, we keep trailblazers like Gloria Steinem and Angela Davis in mind, we re-read one of our favorite poems by Maya Angelou or Cleo Wade, we dance to a Beyoncé hit, and we push forward.

In case you don't have a favorite empowering mantra yet, go ahead and let the 15 inspired reminders ahead be your own jumping-off point. Keep them in mind next time the naysayers get you down.



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"I'm glad we've begun to raise our daughters more like our sons—but it will never work until we raise our sons more like our daughters."

— Gloria Steinem, activist, journalist, co-founder of Ms. magazine


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"I have chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femaleness and for my femininity. And I want to be respected in all of my femaleness because I deserve to be."

— Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, activist, author of Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah


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"I've never met a woman who is not strong, but sometimes they don't let it out. Then there's a tragedy, and then all of a sudden that strength comes. My message is let the strength come out before the tragedy."

— Diane von Furstenberg, designer


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"Your self-worth is determined by you. You don’t have to depend on someone telling you who you are."

— Beyoncé, singer, songwriter, designer


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"It's the fire in my eyes,

And the flash of my teeth,

The swing in my waist,

And the joy in my feet.

I'm a woman


— Maya Angelou, poet


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"The way a black woman experiences sexism and inequality is different from the way a white woman experiences sexism and inequality. Likewise with trans-women and Hispanic women … To only acknowledge feminism from a one sided view when the literal DEFINITION is the equality of the sexes is not feminism at all. We need to be talking about this more. Discussion leads to change."

— Rowan Blanchard, actress


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"I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act. It is an act that can be met with hostility, exclusion, and violence. It can also lead to love, understanding, transcendence, and community."

— Janet Mock, TV host, author of Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More


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"I raise up my voice—not so I can shout but so that those without a voice can be heard … We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back."

— Malala Yousafzai, activist, Nobel Peace Prize laureate


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"I felt free once I realized I was never going to fit the narrow mold that society wanted me to fit in."

— Ashley Graham, model, author of A New Model


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"Human rights are women's rights, and women's rights are human rights once and for all. Let us not forget that among those rights are the right to speak freely and the right to be heard."

— Hillary Clinton, former secretary of state, U.S. senator, and first lady, and the Democratic party's nominee for president of the United States in 2016


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"I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept."

— Angela Davis, activist, academic


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"Feminism is not here to dictate to you. It's not prescriptive, it's not dogmatic. All we are here to do is give you a choice. If you want to run for prime minister, you can. If you don't, that's wonderful, too."

— Emma Watson, actress, UN Women goodwill ambassador


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"We don't all have to believe in the same feminism. Feminism can be pluralistic so long as we respect the different feminisms we carry with us, so long as we give enough of a damn to try to minimize the fractures among us."

— Roxanne Gay, author of Bad Feminist, Difficult Women, and Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body


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"One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman."

— Simone de Beauvoir, philosopher, author of The Second Sex


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"Dear world,

I am writing you this letter to inform you of my unbreakable nature. That's all.


Women everywhere"

— Cleo Wade, poet

Up next, meet the model who's talking about feminism in a whole new way.

Gina Marinelli
Senior Editor

Who's your style icon?Taylor Tomasi HillWho are your 5 favorite people to follow on Twitter/Instagram? @tamumcpherson @lisasaysgah @therealgracecoddington @everyoutfitonsatc @notmynonni What's the fashion essential you can’t live without? A leather jacket.What's your desert island album? Beyoncé "B'Day." Or pretty much anything Beyoncé.