I think we’re all in agreement that 2016 hasn’t been the best year so far, all things considered, and for women, things have been looking particularly bad. However, throughout the year, there have been particular things that have brought women together and showcased their strengths.
When we look back at 2016, hopefully, these are things that other women will take inspiration from.
1. Emma Watson’s Feminist Book Club
Emma Watson was named the UN Women’s Goodwill Ambassador in July 2014. Ever since, she has begun her HeForShe project. More recently in 2016 she began her own feminist book club where thousands of women all over the world read a feminist book a month.
So far, they have read novels such as Alice Walker’s renowned novel The Colour Purple, non-fiction books such as Bell Hooks’ All About Love and even the well-known graphic novel Persepolis by Marjane Satrape. Not only does Emma read these books along with members of her book club, but a Goodreads group, entitled “Our Shared Shelf,” hosts discussions about each of these books. More recently, Emma has been in London and New York’s underground leaving free copies of the book club’s November read, Maya Angelou’s Mom & Me & Mom.
2. March for Choice
On the 24th of March, two hundred thousand Irish women marched out onto the streets in order to fight to repeal the 8th amendment which criminalises abortion in Ireland.
This has been a contentious law in Ireland for some time and this march for choice has been going on for some time. Perhaps for the first time, however, the march wasn’t just something that happened at home in Ireland. Instead, it became an important moment of solidarity for women worldwide. Women in various countries across the globe gathered together to show solidarity with the women in Ireland.
3. India’s Rehab Clinic for Acid Victims
In March of 2016, Make Love Not Scars launched the first ever rehab clinic for Acid Victims in India. The centre aims to focus on women who are victims of acid attacks by offering them medical, legal, psychological, and financial help. Considering the large number of Acid Attacks that happen in India, this is a groundbreaking event.
The start of centers such as this will hopefully help rehabilitate the women in India who have been left scarred from these attacks. More than that, it’ll hopefully help bring the numbers of attacks down by spreading much-needed help and awareness.
4. Beyonce’s Lemonade
There isn’t much I can say about Beyonce’s Lemonade that hasn’t already been said. Ever since she debuted Formation at the Super Bowl, her music and its implications have been the talk of the town, and for good reason too. Her album presents a revolutionary idea of black womanhood that hasn’t really graced popular media before.
In her previous album, Beyoncé borrowed from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s renowned Tedtalk, We Should All Be Feminists, in order to give a very thorough, and often misrepresented, definition of what feminism is. And with Lemonade, she went one step further, exemplifying the need for black voices in an age where black voices continue to be diminished.
5. Olympics 2016
The 2016 Olympics saw more women competing than ever before. Despite the rife sexism that many media outlets used during the sporting event to diminish these women, they didn’t diminish the importance of the women competing in the Rio Olympics.
Considering the sports in general still tend to be dominated by men, that women still make less money in sport than men even when they’re doing far, far better, the representation in the Olympics is important. It allows a younger generation of women to recognise that they, too, have a part in the sporting world if that is something that they choose to do so. Though the sporting world is far from perfect for women, they have been making strides and the Rio Olympics showcased that.
6. U.S. Elections
When you think of the 2016 U.S. Elections, you probably don’t think that it was a big win for women, considering the preposterous things that the current president-elect has said about women. While Hilary Clinton may not have seen success at the elections, however, there were many women who did get to make strides this election.
Ilhan Omar became the first Somali-American to be elected state legislator. Kamala Harris became the country’s first Indian-American, and first black woman to be elected into the senate while Tammy Duckworth became the first Thai-American to be elected into the senate. These are just a few of the women who have made history during this presidential race. Hopefully, women such as Omar, Harris and Duckworth will not only do positive work for women in the U.S. but will help pave the way for more women in government.
7. Wage Gap Walkout
Despite what many would have you believe, the wage gap is unfortunately still ever present in Western society. This year, women all over the world decided that something needed to be done about it. In France and Iceland, women decided walk out of work hours before the official end of the work day in order to protest the unfair wage gap between men and women.
Considering that many people are still unaware of the wage gap, and are unwilling to do anything to change it, it’s a pretty big moment when globally women are recognising that they deserve more, and actively doing something about it. I can only hope that France and Iceland’s protest elicit results. I also hope that it inspires women in other nations to look to the wage inequalities that exist in their own workplace and motivate them to do something about it.
8. Pakistani Law Protecting Women Against Violence
The UNDP puts Pakistan as number 147th in its gender inequality index. As the 147th out of 188 countries, this makes Pakistan a country where women face poor health with high maternal morality rates, are not well-represented in government, are adverse to gaining an education and live in poor economic conditions..
Despite this, in February 2016 Pakistan passed a protection of women against violence act in its Punjab region. Not only does the act detail what constitutes as violence, including economic and psychological abuse, but it also details measures for implementation. These measures suggest a toll-free abuse reporting hotline and the setup of prevention centres amongst many other things. Though the law has met with much dissent from religious communities, it’s a step in the right direction for Pakistan and will hopefully help decrease violence against women.
9. Amber Heard’s Divorce Settlement
The whole debacle with Amber Heard and Johnny Depp has been upsetting to watch, from when Heard first reported to the police with bruises on her face, to the continual comments and media reporting that were more willing to believe that Depp was innocent than that Heard could possibly be telling the truth. And hearing everybody’s suggestion that Heard was in it for the money that the divorce could bring was downright devastating, especially after watching the leaked videos of a terrifying, textbook-abusive Depp.
So it was a thrilling moment when Heard donated the $7 million divorce settlement to a battered women’s shelter. And while those who are (somehow) still staunch supporters of Depp will probably continue to decry the donation under allegations of “tax breaks,” it was pretty great to see Heard not only get away from her abuser, but also doing it while spiting all of her non-believers.
10. Hidden Figures
Hidden Figures, the movie about the women behind NASA’s space program promises to be a revolutionary piece of work that will be released very soon. With every trailer that drops, I get more and more enthralled that this is a movie that is actually going to exist. It’s difficult enough for women nowadays to make it in STEM subjects despite the fact that technology has become a third limb in our society. A limb without which most people can’t survive. Still, I hear tales upon tales of female friends working or studying in STEM subjects who have been subjugated to discrimination, sexism and just general harassment. Not just by their male peers, but also by bosses and teachers.
It’s a wonder that in this toxic environment somebody is making a movie about women being an integral part to NASA’s space program. More than that, the fact that the movie stars three black women, played by Janel Monae, Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer no less, is admirable considering that women of colour have an even more difficult time in STEM fields than white women. The fact that the movie is actually bringing to the fore the importance of historical black figures in nothing short of brilliant.
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