10 Female Pop Culture Icons We Want Our Kids to Admire

Getting tired of a Kim Kardashian world? Give girls (and boys) new ladies to look up to. By Sierra Filucci
10 Female Pop Culture Icons We Want Our Kids to Admire

"Sugar, spice, and everything nice" sounds hopelessly out of touch in today's world, right? Well, then what's with all the sexy, pouty, getting-by-on-looks-alone female celebs? Women who kick butt, rock out, and break barriers are the ones we want our kids to know about. These are women who defy stereotypes and embody character traits we would like to see in our own kids: perseverance, courage, empathy, and creativity. And even though it's 2016, women have a long way to go to be equally reflected in everything from speaking parts in movies to board rooms in Silicon Valley. As actress and SeeJane.org spokesperson Geena Davis says, she can't be it if she can't see it.

So choose a few of these media and pop culture icons to introduce to your kids (and especially your daughters). Not every aspect of their careers or personalities has to be age-appropriate or fit with your perspective, but by sharing what you like about these ladies, you show your kids what you value, give them something to aspire to, and open up an opportunity for them to think about the traits these ladies share with the pop culture peeps they love (hello, YouTube stars!).

Queen Bey somehow combines strength, heat, and devotion to family into one talented package of hard work, constant creativity, and monster business savvy.


Julia Child
With a bunch of cards stacked against her (tall, old, female, and that voice!), the French Chef chopped and sautéed her way into the TV-watching public's heart with humility and charm.

Joan Jett
Feminist icon and all-around renegade, this rocker chick inspires with music that relies more on powerful energy than bared skin.


Megyn Kelly
You do not want to say something stupid when being interviewed by the Fox News correspondent, because she will take. You. Down. Her intellect and her no-BS attitude are not to be messed with.

Sonia Manzano
As one of the first Latinas on TV, Sesame Street's compassionate neighbor taught us Spanish, comforted us when we were missing a friend, and was just generally awesome for more than 40 years.

Michelle Obama
Whatever your political leanings, you have to admire the way FLOTUS seems to keep it all in check. The girls, the president, waking up early to work out, sitting down to dinner with the family each night -- oh, and there's that Harvard Law School degree.

Amy Poehler and Tina Fey
OK, these are two separate people, but they have both been at the forefront of contradicting the silly idea that women aren't funny by not only creating their own hilarious TV shows and crushing it as Golden Globe hosts twice, as well as by calling out sexism in a way that makes everyone laugh.

​Shonda Rhimes
Behind the scenes, this TV writer/producer concocts prime-time gold while breaking records and barriers with her provocative content and nonstop output.


Sheryl Sandberg
As the COO of Facebook, Sandberg show us what a female leader looks like, and with her efforts with Lean In, she's paying it forward by drawing more women into positions of power.

Serena Williams
Have you seen her muscles? She could crush you. Instead she crushes tennis so hard with incredible perseverance and (when she's playing doubles with sister Venus) teamwork.


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About Sierra Filucci

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Sierra is a journalist with a special interest in media and families. She has a master's degree in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley, and she's been writing and editing professionally for more... Read more

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Comments (47)

Adult written by srussell2810

After reading this article I felt compelled to comment, but after reading other people's comments I realized I don't really have anything else to add that hasn't already been said. This list is a major disappointment. Beyonce? REALLY?
Parent written by akerckhoff

Serena Williams has some great characteristics, but good sportsmanship is a huge glaring weakness of hers. Here is a great article with video evidence. Maybe she will mature into being a better sport as time goes on. http://ftw.usatoday.com/2015/09/serena-williams-sore-loser-grand-slam-us...
Parent of a 18+ year old written by jbfaus

Sorry you just lost me as a subscriber. I will be letting you go as soon as I finish this post.
Adult written by PolyDrive3139

I clicked on this article because I thought it would have some good info for my 16-year-old daughter. When I saw the socio-politically incorrect mostly naked Beyoncé on the list I said this is bad information. Then there was Obama. There are millions of women more admirable than the matriarch of the Obama group. Common Sense Media needs to get some.
Adult written by momof7inca

What??!!! This article totally makes me lose respect for your site! I have had some disagreements with you before, but this takes the cake. Most of your role model recommendations are ridiculous! Rating of this article: Total DISLIKE!
Adult written by mjrose4

Beyonce is a very poor choice to add to this list. She is in NO way a good role model for kids. Her sex sells performances and lack of respect for law enforcement families as shown during the SuperBowl is absolutely not a role model. Common Sense Media needs to rethink this list.
Adult written by EJKorvette

There are many incredibly attractive and smart women on Fox News. Good luck getting your teenager (or most adults!) to watch Fox News though, unless they are serious news junkies. There are a lot of inside jokes. Bonus - Fox News women know how to rock business clothing, and the producers know who looks best in the Leg Chair.
Adult written by gale wins

Sierra, there is a disconnect between the goal of the site and this article. If you want pop stars for young girls, Taylor swift has the market. Michelle Obama is not a pop star, but is a good selection for a list of women to admire. There really aren't a lot of pop stars to admire, but I am surprised you missed Adele as well. She is classy, talented, and wears whole outfits. Beyoncé is talented, but her message bothers me when she performs in a brassiere as her husband looks classy in his suit....think I am remembering music award performance from a year ago or so when they performed together. My suggestion would be to take this down and submit it to E! Or a like minded site. I keep showing my 12 year old daughter and 14 year old son the Supreme Court justices for role models personally.
Adult written by sophronia74

I guess one's short list of role models must depend upon which values you espouse, and what you admire culturally. Most of the women on this list wouldn't be on mine. I don't admire Beyonce's exhibitionist wardrobe, and we are cultivating a love for good quality music in our family, not pop music. The arts are much like food. Pop music is like a bag of cheetos, highly oiled and salted. It's not very nourishing. Its one note flavor is not even very interesting. In the same way, classical ballet and folk dance offer so much more for the mind and soul than booty shaking with a bad attitude. Going further, feminism isn't a value every woman espouses, at least not by this definition. Some of us want the cultural and economic freedom to spend more time with our children now, and maybe we'll tackle being a CEO after they're off to college. In any case, I do agree that this list seems to veer pretty far from the purported values on this site.
Adult written by whitebeargal

Of all the women you could choose as role models you picked people like Beyonce?! Ummm, no! While it's OK to show that people are not always perfect, selling sex (or your soul - in any way) to rise to the top are NOT the models I want for my teen daughter or son. It's not to say there are no redeeming qualities about some of the featured people because there are (e.g., of course hard work is valued); but we need to look at the WHOLE picture when we're elevating someone to a role model. Not just the good parts we want to see. As a mom, I exercise lots of discipline (even in my language) to show integrity, decency, character, hard work AND that I make my family a priority. Doing a spread for GQ isn't included. Very disappointed in much of the article!
Parent written by Mariap2582

The fact that list starts off with Beyonce of all people is a complete and utter joke!!!! I almost had to double check to make sure this was common sense media.... What the heck... Sure I want my 2 and 12 year old to learn that success and self-respect is built on the capability of dressing like a stripper... Just google some of her recent song lyrics..... and that's not to mention her and her husband backing a racial divide/riot/movement, and emulating the black panthers in her last Superbowl performance while performing and anti-police song.... Common sense media I really think you should check who you have writing articles for you!
Parent written by akerckhoff

This is a very disappointing list, although there are some good women on here that deserve positive attention. Two stand out as ridiculous choices. First, Serena Williams is not a good role model. She has some serious anger management issues to start with. I'll never forget her screaming at the line judge, "I will kill you!" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhfeSULusso Second, Beyonce's raunchy lyrics and choreography are enough to keep her out of the top ten, but it's her use of sexuality as a manipulative tool and a moneymaker that puts her way way down the list of role models. Couldn't you find some better role models?
Parent of a 13, 13, 13, and 15 year old written by Readingrocks

I have to agree with most of your previous post! REALLY! I'm very disappointed! Out of all the successful women you had to chose from I don't know what you were thinking. Common sense media will no longer be my go to for good information. Good bye!
Adult written by LampShade64

What a horrible list! Role models? Some of your choices are just disgusting. Please unsubscribe me from your newsletter.
Adult written by ler24

Enough with Queen B! The sexuality she demonstrates on stage is neither liberating or empowering. It does not empower her. The overt sexuality she thrusts (literally) to her audience-where many of her performances have a very, very young audience (7yrs old+)- is disturbing. It is exploitative. It is troubling, speaking as a mother. I would hope young women don't feel they have to emulate B. to be make the top of a "Women Our Kids Should Admire" article.
Adult written by 1170496

I am SO disappointed!! I used to rely on your website to help me make good decisions for my children. But I cannot believe on a list of women that our kids should admire that Beyonce is anywhere on that list. Really??? I'm simply speechless!! Her videos are pornographic! Lyrics are VULGAR! Demeaning to women! Do yourself a favor, watch her "Partition" video and read the lyrics....then rethink your decision on having her on this list. Believe me, my child will never admire a person like that!! And as far as Joan Jett goes, I agree with another comment, that SEX, DRUGS and rock and roll is something I want my children to "admire". I saw Joan Jett about 17 years ago at a little town summer fair. It was in the afternoon, filled with families with young children and old grandparents. Joan Jett performed and her lyrics and actions were so vulgar I was completely embarrassed for her as the families watched in shock trying to get their children away! I was not even a mother at the time and was horrified how inappropriate it was. Again, not someone I would allow my kids to admire. It IS possible to admire successful people, who have become so morally and while respecting themselves as well as others!!
Parent of a 13, 16, 17, and 18+ year old written by skicat89

I'm very disappointed in a lot of these selections. Beyonce and Serena Williams encourage more of the worst kind of objectification of women and I want my daughters to have nothing to do with that. Where's Condoleeza Rice on your list? Where is Emma Watson?
Adult written by Pocono Chuck

Wow... Just wow. A bit short-sighted, don't you think? I am 52, and enjoyed Joan Jett back in the day, and know enough of her rise to fame in the male dominate rock-n-roll world to give her props for her success. But I also remember a lot of racy lyrics ("Do you wanna touch me there?'), tight leather (and exposed skin), making me wonder exactly how far you researched. Megyn Kelly is a top-notch political commentator (success in another seemingly male-dominator world), but her GQ photo spread seems to echo the flaws you mentioned (sexy, pouty, getting-by-on-looks) in your opening paragraph. Considering the review of Tina Fey's 'Whiskey Tango Foxtrot' on this website, perhaps you may reevaluate including her on this 'wholesome' list. While you started by saying 'Not every aspect of their careers or personalities has to be age-appropriate or fit with your perspective, but by sharing what you like about these ladies, you show your kids what you value', why not search for women who didn't compromise? How about Alexis Glick, Jedediah Bila, Stacey Dash, Michelle Malkin, Sarah Michelle Geller, Laura Ingraham or scores of other successful women, who have made it in the world on their talents?
Parent written by pamelainla

Sorry, I have a big problem with Beyoncé being on this list. Whenever I see her perform, whether superbowl or whatever, I tell my kids "you do NOT have to dress like that to be a successful performer." I'm not a prude, but I find it hard to expect a child to look past the overly revealing outfits to see the message you think she is sending.
Adult written by Camisita

I agree. What happened to being successful because you have a good voice or write good songs. She's ok with using sex to sell her records and modesty went out the window years ago. I am soooo sick of hearing about her.
Parent of a 9 year old written by Wrjen

I disagree with this list right from the start. Beyoncé grew up in a middle class family and now she portrays thug life as cool. There is nothing wrong with growing up poor, or from the "wrong" side of the tracks, but try and elevate yourself. Waving around two fingers like a gun is immature and tacky. She lost my respect. I do not want my daughter to think she is a role model. I want role models to have sense beyond what sells. Money, and making money is not the measure to regard a good role model.
Adult written by Fremont79

Thanks for selecting complicated, successful women. Please stop encouraging the shaming of women. You could have made your point without the attack "looking at you, Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande, and Kendall Jenner." Please model the positive tone of Common Sense.
Adult written by amorea

For a website that helps pick child safe content I would expect better judgement. Many of these women are not anything I hope my 3 daughters grow up to be like. Many are renown to lack class, use vulgar and lewd language and dress inappropriately lacking self respect and dignity.
Adult written by melodyh

Beyonce!? You cannot be serious. She has allowed someone to turn her into nothing but a "sex dancer." If it's her idea, shame on her. If it's her husband, manager or others, shame on both. But I would not consider her a role model for MY daughter!
Adult written by Johnem95

Serena Williams has threatened and sworn at linesmen before. A role model indeed. (Don't believe me, the proof's on YouTube)
Adult written by juleeh

This is a fantastic list and I'm sure it could have been expanded to include a ton of other people, but this is a great conversation starter. I am the mom of a 12 year old girl and while I wouldn't allow her to watch any of these tv shows or even read explicit lyrics I DO think that self made, well educated, hard working, well rounded women are EXACTLY what I want my daughter to look up to. I would encourage my daughter to read their biographies and integrate the best of these women's qualities! Well done!
Parent of a 7 year old written by nwpdxmom

Well said. Role models aren't perfect. But they have powerful qualities we can learn from. My son's current role model is Mae Jemmison. She is black and smart and is a trail blazer as are many of the women on this list. Kids are smarter than we think. They understand that nobody is perfect. With guidance from their parents and teachers they can tease out the nuggets of wisdom available in many walks of life.
Adult written by ls2175

I am also shocked that some of these women were chosen as role models...wow! Someone is really out of touch!
Adult written by universalmom

I strongly disagree with children looking up to some of these women. Have you listened to Beyonce's last album with a child? Do you think her lyrics are appropriate? They are not!! Also, Joan Jett is not someone I would want my daughter to look up to(the sex, drugs and rock and roll lifestyle are not to be admired). Are any of Shonda Rhimes shows appropriate for children?? Even Tina Fey and Amy Pohler are extremely inappropriate at times. I think you could have done a better job with this list!!!
Adult written by wig1466

I agree the the Beyonce comment. Joan Jett is too far out of my nine year old's radar to matter. Shonda seems appropriate...not because of the content of her shows (my daughter isn't allowed to watch), but because she is a self made woman and holds her own. Kids don't need to know the dialogue of her shows to have her as a role model. The same goes with Pohler and Fey. Our kids don't need to know the content of their comedy and humor...just to know two women dared to rule a male dominated field.


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