CNN spoke with ten female storytellers -- Elisabeth Moss, Tig Notaro, Rachel Bloom, Samira Wiley, Mandy Moore, Freida Pinto, Emmy Rossum, Regina King, Logan Browning and Constance Zimmer -- whose work in front of and behind the camera helps bring to life the kind of characters that generations before them fought to make possible.
Television has come a long way in the five decades or so since producers realized it was time to show the average American viewer the truth -- that women were more than happy, pearl-wearing homemakers.
"If I can speak for myself, my stereotype that I had to constantly battle and fight, was the exotic piece of sunshine," Pinto said.
"You know, [the girl who] just comes and makes everyone happy, or saves the day; and not saves the day in the way that the guy saves the day, but saves the day in the way that she says a beautiful thing and that melts everyone's hearts." Pop culture historians will often point to Murphy Brown or Mary Richards as progressive portraits of working women.
In that scene, "Girlfriends" delivered an engagement seven seasons in the making along with a powerful image: Joan, played by Tracee Ellis Ross, dressed for comfort and fully embraced as she is.
"I had to speak up for those sort of things," "Girlfriends" creator Mara Brock Akil remembered recently this summer during a candid conversation with female actors and producers at the ATX TV festival in Austin, Texas.
Her main character was turning 40, coming back from rehab, and the kind of perfectly imperfect, successful woman she thought TV needed. They asked for adjustments: for Murphy Brown to be 10 years younger and her battle with alcoholism to be nixed from the premise.
"[There's] this word that you hear a lot and still do from executives, which is 'likable.' It makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up, because it really means so many more things than that," English said.
" "We like to take our bras off, our shoes off, our makeup off, we like to get out of that stuff and we like to put our glasses on -- because we can't see," she said to applause from the largely female crowd.The rise of streaming networks, cable doubling down in its commitment to the female voice, and more quality programming on smaller networks (think Bravo's "Girlfriend's Guide to Divorce") are a few examples."[You] don't have to command the same size of audience that you used to back in the day when there was just the three big networks," "Crazy-Ex Girlfriend" co-creator Aline Brosh Mc Kenna said.More importantly, English proved that her vision should be trusted. Executives are responsible for perpetuating the so-called likable woman on television.But so, too, are audiences, who have been known to have precarious tolerance for female characters slapped with what writer Roxane Gay has called "the bright scarlet U," for unlikable.