Women have taken centre stage in the music and film business for decades, but no decade witnessed as many influential and ground-breaking women as the 1980’s.

Whilst the phrase ‘Girl Power’ would be coined years later in the 1990’s by the Spice Girls, the following women laid the necessary foundations as powerful, inspiring and sometimes controversial heroines in their own right. In 2018, the Year of the Woman, we will take a look at ten women of the 1980’s who truly broke the mould.


10. Cyndi Lauper just wanted to have fun

In 1983, Cyndi Lauper empowered women around the world with the anthem ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’.

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Cyndi Lauper at her peak

The song became a hit worldwide and regularly features on top 100 songs of all time lists, such as ‘VH1: 100 Greatest Videos’. The song emphasises that women just want to enjoy themselves, no differently to how men want to have fun too.

Girls have always just wanted to have fun

It reiterates that there are no real differences between men and women in how they want to be with their friends, have fun and live their lives to the full. Of course, women having fun on an equal par to men may seem natural and fair in 2018, but that was not always the case in the past.

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Traditionally, women were supposed to act more demure and sensible then their fellow male peers; Cyndi let the world know that women want to go out and party with their friends too!

Women and girls were empowered everywhere

There is a real sense of female solidarity with the song, showing women and girls that they don’t need a man or anything else as long as they have got their friends. Now that is a positive and uplifting message to portray to women, for generations to come!

9. She-Ra was a better hero than He-Man

There are no better characters from children’s TV in the 1980’s than She-Ra and He-Man. They were twins who became the strongest people in the universe once they had lifted their swords in the sky and transformed.

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The ultimate icon for little girls in the 1980’s

Having a strong, male superhero for children to aspire to be was nothing new, but a female hero who was also as strong and powerful? Now that was completely new.

She-Ra was not just strong; she also had extra powers which He-Man did not have. Firstly, she could communicate through telepathy with animals.

Then there was her Sword of Protection which was able to transform into other objects. She is able to heal injuries! He-Man didn’t have any of these powers.

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A woman with many talents

She-Ra also had a tragic back story where she had been kidnapped and brought to the planet Etheria. She-Ra rejected the beliefs of the Horde Empire on the planet, becoming a Force Captain and a strong role model for standing up for what is right. She-Ra gave young girls of the mid-1980’s the belief that they could be as strong as their brother, that they could be a hero instead of being a victim or the damsel in distress.

She-Ra also looked amazing!

Characters such as She-Ra empowered a generation of women to do the right thing and to be who they wanted to be, not what traditions said they should be. Of course, it is also a bonus that She-Ra had an amazing outfit and a gorgeous unicorn, as opposed to He-man, his transforming tiger and marmite haircut…

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8. Annie Lennox challenged female stereotypes

Whilst the 1980’s was the decade of power-dressing, Annie Lennox took her image one step further with an androgynous look.

Annie challenged the stereotypical female image

Typically sporting a short, cropped hair style and masculine suits, she oozed power and strength. Fronting the band Eurythmic’s with musician Dave Stewart, Annie Lennox provided a powerhouse at the front of the stage.

The duo in action

Her strong voice matched her image, providing classic hits such as ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)’ in 1983, making use of a dark, powerful tone which made the Eurythmic’s a huge success worldwide.

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Annie was one of a kind in the 1980’s

Annie Lennox showed women and young girls worldwide that they didn’t need to fit the stereotypical image of a female in having long flowing hair, high heels and revealing clothes.

In fact, she portrayed the strength in being true to yourself and not conforming to society.

7. Annie Lennox was a proactive feminist

At the height of the Eurythmic’s success, they teamed-up with Aretha Franklin to record the feminist anthem ‘Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves’.

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Even Bart loved the song!

The 1985 hit features lines such as ‘we’re coming out of the kitchen’ and ‘the inferior sex has got a new exterior’.

Annie and Aretha together

The song was written by Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart and contains such powerful lyrics which describes how the 1980’s was a time when society was changing and women were becoming doctor and lawyers, which at the time were stereotypically male careers.

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The songstresses in action

We take this for granted in 2018 but in the 1980’s career women were just about to stand at the forefront. The revolutionary anthem inspired women then, just as it does today.

6. The Prime Minister was an accidental feminist hero

Regardless of your political views, the UK having a female Prime Minister throughout the whole of the 1980’s was a massive step forward in feminism and equality in general.

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Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher was elected as Prime Minister in 1979 and continued in office until 1990.

She had to deal with some major personalities as the UK Prime Minister

She was nicknamed the Iron Lady due to her stern and strong nature and personality. Margaret Thatcher did not call herself a feminist, but she was a pioneering woman who broke down barriers for women in politics as well as outside of politics; the true definition of a feminist?

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A pioneer for women

Despite causing political controversy throughout the decade, Margaret Thatcher became one of the most powerful people in the country for a substantial period of time.

She may be described as an unsung hero of feminism; she may not have wanted to become a feminist icon, and some feminists may not want her as their icon, but what Margaret Thatcher did for women in becoming Prime Minister is beyond words.

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5. The Bangles and the Go-Go’s proved that a girl band can play instruments

The 1980’s witnessed for the first time prevalent female bands that could play their own instruments.

The Bangles on stage

Yes, these women were not on stage just to sing and look pretty whilst the men played the instruments behind them. These women played guitar, bass guitar and drums as well as any male band did.

The iconic Bangles

The Bangles enjoyed further success, also during the early 1980’s. Several of their songs have become iconic, such as ‘Manic Monday’, ‘Eternal Flame’ and ‘Walk like an Egyptian’.

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The awesome Go-Go’s

The Go-Go’s, fronted by Belinda Carlisle, debuted in 1981 with the album ‘Beauty and the Beast’. The album became one of the most successful debut albums of all time, selling over two million copies. Female bands which provided musical substance over aesthetics were very well received and provided a ‘can-do’ inspiration for girls worldwide.

4. Kylie Minogue was an awesome mechanic

In 1986, Kylie Minogue first appeared in the role of Charlene Robinson on the popular Aussie soap Neighbours.

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Doesn’t Kylie look young!

Charlene was a feisty tomboy, later becoming a mechanic and wearing overalls and baggy jumpers regularly; nevertheless she still looked great!

Charlene was a great role models for young girls

Kylie Minogue’s portrayal of Charlene was very well received, particularly by teenage girls who looked up to Charlene as a role model. Kylie Minogue won the award for Most Popular Actress at the 1987 Logie Awards and of course subsequently launched her music career.

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The late 80’s power couple

On screen, many of Charlene’s storylines involved her on-off relationship with Scott Robinson, aka Jason Donovan.

Jason Donovan was probably THE pin-up for teenage girls of the late 1980’s and seeing tomboy Charlene having a relationship with Scott inspired a generation of female would-be mechanics!

3. The girls ruled the school in Saved by the Bell

Towards the very end of the 1980’s, the iconic TV show Saved by the Bell hit our screens.

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Kelly, Jessie and Lisa

The show featured six high school students who each got themselves into different teenage mishaps as the series progressed.

The show was popular for many series

The three female characters were Kelly, an ultra-popular girl who stole Zack’s heart, Lisa who was portrayed as unattainable, and Jessie who was very outwardly a feminist. Memorably, Jessie would let everyone know that women were not to be called ‘chicks’ or ‘babe’ and that she did not exist to be solely an object of a man’s affection.

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Jessie was a strong role model

All three characters portrayed an image that it was fine for a boy to like them but that didn’t mean they were going to date them. The characters were individuals in their own right, and although still very attractive, they had other aspects to their personalities and characters than just their appearance, becoming role models for girls everywhere.

2. Pat Benatar was the ultimate rock icon

Another woman who challenged the usual stereotype of a woman in the music industry was Pat Benatar, who is sometimes overlooked despite being a hugely successful rock star in her own right.

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Pat Benatar in action

Pat Benatar achieved massive success in the mid-1980’s with songs such as ‘We Belong’ along with the iconic song ‘Love is a Battlefield’. Here, she dances with a group of women against a man who has been threatening her friend, showing solidarity with one another.

The ‘Love is a Battlefield’ video

Benatar oozed attitude and camaraderie with the other women in the ‘Love is a Battlefield’ video, empowering women with lines such as ‘we are strong, no one can tell us we’re wrong’.

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She was also a style icon as well as a rock queen

Here, young girls and women are again provided with the image that as long as you have good friends and look out for one another, you can do anything and be anyone.

1. Patrick Swayze stood up for women everywhere

Who can forget the line from ‘Dirty Dancing’ when Patrick Swayze’s character Johnny stands up to Baby’s (Jennifer Grey) parents who have chastised their daughter for her relationship with Johnny, telling her she must remain seated in a corner of the dance hall.

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The iconic Dirty Dancing

Johnny stands up for Baby and leads her to the stage to perform the final dance, stating ‘nobody puts Baby in a corner’.

The adorable Patrick Swayze

However, this scene is also symbolic as Johnny is empowering Baby to stand up, to be herself and to express herself without fear of what others may say.

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The final dance was amazing!

Despite being set in the 1950’s, this 1987 movie inspires women all-around to be true to their own selves and to not shy away in a corner waiting for the world to pass them by. Stand up and be counted – Johnny said so!