Roseanne Barr, Alicia Goranson, John Goodman, Michael Fishman, Sara Gilbert
Carsey-Werner/Wind Dancer Prod/Kobal/Shutterstock

The Most Progressive ‘Roseanne’ Quotes About Women, the Working Class, and More


The Conners first took a seat on their beloved, ratty couch back in 1988 on this day. Roseanne, named after the show’s outspoken matriarch (played by comedian Roseanne Barr), centered on the working-class struggles of the family in the fictional town of Lanford, Illinois. Riffing on the real-life Roseanne’s no-nonsense attitude, the series tackled serious and sensitive subjects like poverty, obesity, homophobia, domestic violence, teen pregnancy, and alcoholism when few shows would.

“You have what should be really uncomfortable or horrible moments . . . you have these things, and you’re like, ‘Those should be taboo or should be horribly uncomfortable,'” star Michael Fishman (D.J. Conner) said in 2013. “I think we did a nice job of doing all these things without crossing the line, not really knowing where the line is … I think we just said, ‘No, this is what’s happening in our world. This is what’s happening in our country. It’s time for people to take notice.’”

We’re looking back at some of Roseanne’s best quotes about these complex subjects. Our selection is from Roseanne Conner’s best — and we’ve included some quotes from the real-life Roseanne, since the two are inextricably linked. “We built the show around my actual life and my kids. The ‘domestic goddess,’ the whole thing,” Barr explained in 2008. We recommend reading with your coziest afghan.

Roseanne Conner

“No, women who yell don’t need pills. Men invented pills to shut women up.”

“People like us, the poor people, and the people like us regular people are paying more taxes than the rich people because they got all these lawyers who find loopholes, I want loopholes. I mean, we’re paying you guys our money anyway, and then you mishandle it worse than any of us ever could. And the government is like 3 trillion dollars in debt, I think I heard that on Donahue. Can you imagine 3 trillion dollars in debt? That’s like you make what $15,000 a year and then charge up your Master cards $50,000, and then you pay $5,000 monthly income. You know, people like us, we should get smart and audit them.”

“A lot of people are fat, you know. In fact, I think more American women look like me than you, you know.”

“This is the ’90s, Dan. Witches are women.”

“Black people are just like us. They’re every bit as good as us and any people who don’t think so is just a bunch of banjo-picking, cousin-dating, barefoot embarrassments to respectable white-trash like us!”

“I’ll love this baby no matter his race, creed, nationality, or sexual orientation.”

“In this country we don’t spill blood to shut women up, we do it with diet, fashion and psychiatry!”

“I need that job, and I hate like hell that I do, but I need it. And I’m not working there because I need an allowance. I’m paying for a mortgage and putting food on the table and buying clothes for three kids. I don’t think you’d even understand that. I don’t think you understand anything. You’re not grown up enough yet to understand that your life doesn’t always turn out the way you plan it to be, and sometimes you end up doing stuff you thought you’d never do in a million years, but you still have to do it ’cause there’s nothing else you can do.”

[On how she would react if her children were gay] “The only thing I’ve ever wanted for my kids is that they’re happy, and that they’re out of the house. And I’ll tell you what, happy ain’t even that important.”

“My marriage is not based on me listening!”

The famous monologue at the series conclusion (spoiler alert):

"My mom came from a generation where women were supposed to be submissive about everything. I never bought into that, and I wish mom hadn’t either. I wish she had made different choices. So I think that’s why I made her gay. I wanted her to have some sense of herself as a woman… Oh yeah, and she’s nuts… My sister, in real life, unlike my mother, is gay. She always told me she was gay, but for some reason, I always pictured her with a man. She’s been my rock, and I would not have made it this far without her. I guess Nancy’s kind of my hero too… Cause she got out of a terrible marriage and found a great spiritual strength. I don’t know what happened to that husband of hers but in my book I sent him into outer space… When Becky brought David home a few years ago I thought, “This is wrong!” He was much more Darlene’s type… When Darlene met Mark, I thought he went better with Becky… I guess I was wrong. But I still think they’d be more compatible the other way around. So in my writing, I did what any good mother would do. I fixed it… I lost Dan last year when he had his heart attack. He’s still the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about before I go to sleep. I miss him… Dan and I always felt that it was our responsibility as parents to improve the lives of our children by 50% over our own. And we did. We didn’t hit our children as we were hit, we didn’t demand their unquestioning silence, and we didn’t teach our daughters to sacrifice more than our sons. As a modern wife, I walked a tight rope between tradition and progress, and usually, I failed, by one outsider’s standards or another’s. But I figured out that neither winning nor losing count for women like they do for men. We women are the one’s who transform everything we touch. And nothing on earth is higher than that. My writing’s really what got me through the last year after Dan died. I mean at first I felt so betrayed as if he had left me for another women. When you’re a blue-collar woman and your husband dies it takes away your whole sense of security. So I began writing about having all the money in the world and I imagined myself going to spas and swanky New York parties just like the people on TV, where nobody has any real problems and everything’s solved within 30 minutes. I tried to imagine myself as Mary Richards, Jeannie, That Girl. But I was so angry I was more like a female Steven Segal wanting to fight the whole world. For a while I lost myself in food and a depression so deep that I couldn’t even get out of bed till I saw that my family needed me to pull through so that they could pull through. One day, I actually imagined being with another man. But then I felt so guilty I had to pretend it was for some altruistic reason. And then Darlene had the baby, and it almost died. I snapped out of the mourning immediately, and all of my life energy turned into choosing life. In choosing life, I realized that my dreams of being a writer wouldn’t just come true; I had to do the work. And as I wrote about my life, I relived it, and whatever I didn’t like, I rearranged. I made a commitment to finish my story even if I had to write in the basement in the middle of the night while everyone else was asleep. But the more I wrote, the more I understood myself and why I had made the choices I made, and that was the real jackpot. I learned that dreams don’t work without action; I learned that no one could stop me but me. I learned that love is stronger than hate. And most important, I learned that God does exist. He and/or She is right inside you, underneath the pain, the sorrow, and the shame. I think I’ll be a lot better now that this book is done."

Roseanne Barr

“The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it.”

“Women should try to increase their size rather than decrease it, because I believe the bigger we are, the more space we’ll take up, and the more we’ll have to be reckoned with.”

“There’s a lot more to being a woman than being a mother, but there’s a hell of a lot more to being a mother than most people suspect.”

“Patriarchy is impotent and qualitatively unable to solve even the most simple problems in the cosmos such as picking up their own socks or placing a carton of milk back in the refrigerator after drinking from it.”

“Why have I been chosen to deliver the message of female intelligence and its divinity to a deaf world of males? I have asked my god that question and She answered, ‘Hey, why not you Roseanne?’ Indeed, why not each of us?”

“I am a woman, therefore I am a problem solver.”

“The real truth is, I just want to keep the voice of dissent alive in all of our elections. I don’t really want to hang out with politicians.”

[On her show, Roseanne] “It’s more relevant now than it was then. I’m very proud of its timelessness, and the fact that it has a political edge that is even more relevant now than it was then. I’m proud of the fact that it’s never gone off the air for 20 years.”