11 Badass Feminists Who Persisted & Resisted In 2017

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s Word of the Year is “feminism.” According to its website, the word has been the top “lookup throughout the year, with several spikes that corresponded to various news reports and events.”

Feminism is defined as “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.”

There were many times this year that women, both famous and more unknown, stood-up for the equality of all. So here is our short list of the badass feminists of 2017, that by far does not encompass all of the progressive and inspired women in the world today.

1. Angela Merkel

Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, has faced gender inequality her whole career. From being called “Mommy” or “My girl” by colleagues, Merkel has fostered an images, as The New York Times notes, of “shunning a feminist label, offering modesty, caution and diligent preparation as an implicit contrast to male swagger.”

Constanze Stelzenmüller, a senior fellow at Brookings Institution, said Merkel has learned that “you shut up, put up, and watch out for an opportunity, all the while trying not to get hurt.”

Merkel has secured the honor of Forbes No. 1 most powerful woman for her fifth year in a row.

“She came to power by an act of breathtaking ruthlessness,” Ms. Stelzenmüller said.

2. Emma Watson

Watson, actress, has portrayed the nerdy girl (Hermione Granger in Harry Potter) to the princess (Belle in Beauty and the Beast), and she has empowered women each step of the way. 

Watson has also launched the HeForShe campaign to stand together against sexual harassment.

“I decided I was a feminist and this seemed uncomplicated to me,” Watson said in her speech at UN headquarters.

But Watson understands that feminism is not just for women.

“We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes, but I can see that they are and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence.”

This year, Watson won the first gender-neutral acting award at the MTV movie awards.

“The first acting award in history that doesn’t separate nominees based on their sex says something about how we perceive the human experience,”  she  said.

3. Gal Gadot

Gadot became a recognized superhero and role model for all after appearing on the big screen in Wonder Woman this past summer.

Gadot’s feminist career started before her cast as the titular Wonder Woman though. The Miss Israel model deliberately sabotaged her won chances to win Miss Universe, showing that she was more than just beauty.

"People always ask me, 'Are you a feminist?' And I find the question surprising, because I think, 'Yes, of course. Every woman, every man, everyone should be a feminist. Because whoever is not a feminist is a sexist,'" she said.

And since her modeling career, Gadot continues to be a heroine—comic book and realistic—for young girls.

4. Irina Bokova

Bokova, Bulgarian politician and director-general of United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), is the first woman and first Eastern European to lead the UNESCO organization.

“Girls and women must be empowered at every level, in learning and research, from administration to teaching, across all scientific fields,” Bokova wrote in her message for the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

Bokova has been actively engaged in her position at UNESCO to advance and spread awareness of quality education, gender equality, hate speech and discrimination, and violent extremism, according to her profile.

“At the same time, girls and women shoulder the heaviest burdens of poverty and inequality – they stand on the frontlines of climate change, including the disasters resulting from natural hazards,” she said.

5. Jessa Crispin

Photo by Chuck Kuan

Crispin, editor-in-chief of Bookslut, published her book Why I Am Not A Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto in February of this year. Contrary to what the title may imply, Crispin doesn’t reject the feminist movement. She, instead, demands a revolution.

Crispin asks questions on what feminism is, writing that “somewhere along the way, the movement for female liberation sacrificed meaning for acceptance, and left us with a banal, polite, ineffectual pose that barely challenges the status quo.”

The book has 3.9 out of 5 stars on Amazon.

“If you’re looking for a dose of radical inspiration, this manifesto is it,” Bustle wrote.

6. Linda Sarsour

Sarsour was one of the hosts of the Women’s March of 2017.

The Palestinian-American-Muslim, as she calls herself in her Twitter bio, used her ties across the country to bring different groups together during “the disorienting period following the election,” Politico wrote.

Sarsour is an advocate of “intersectional” progressivism, meaning that as a woman who wears a hijab, she believes she should be supported as equally as any other woman by a feminist.

“I ask you to stand and continue to keep your voices loud,” Sarsour said, “for black women, for native women, for undocumented women.”

7. Patty Jenkins

Jenkins, the director of the 2017 hit movie Wonder Woman, made film history this past summer.

It took Jenkins a while to become the highest-paid female director in the world. Her vision for Wonder Woman wasn’t accepted by the studio for many years, according to Glamour, who named Jenkins a woman of the year.

She became the first woman to direct a Marvel or DC movie and only the second female director to command a budget of over $100 million.

“To inspire—even more so, to touch—others as these heroes touched me? That is living the dream,” Jenkins said.

8. Peggy Whitson

Whitson is a NASA astronaut who orbited Earth for 288 days, and she made strides for women while at it.

Whitson, 57, is the oldest woman to have been in orbit, the first female chief of NASA’s Astronaut Office and to command the International Space Station. She also holds the record for most spacewalks by a female astronaut, at ten.

“Walking in space is absolutely the most exhilarating part of a mission,” Whitson said to Glamour, who named Whitson a woman of the year . “The view is just incredible. Being out there above the earth, I always think how delicate it looks. It gives me a fantastic appreciation of how this planet is one and we need to take care of it.”

Whitson returned to Earth in September to have a cumulative space-time of 665 days, a record for any American astronaut, male or female.

9. Rowan Blanchard

Blanchard may only be 16-years-old, but the Girl Meets World actress is already making an impact in the feminist world.

In a recent interview with Coveteur, Blanchard discussed body image.

“Specific advice I give myself whenever I feel very insecure, or insecure about my body, or how I look in a dress—all of these things—I try to tell myself that a lot of it is in my head,” she said. “This is a hard one, because I’m still a teenager who’s insecure every day.”

At age 13, Blanchard was already tackling “white feminism” in an essay she wrote.

“This is such an important thing to be discussing,” Blanchard said. “I have made a very big point at making sure my personal feminism includes everyone—and educating myself and discussing these topics have really helped.”

10. Solange Knowles

Knowles is not one to be over-shadowed by her equally-impowering sister, Beyoncé. Instead, Knowles, songwriter and actress, sold out Radio City Music Hall and won a Grammy for the song “Cranes in the Sky.”

“I am a proud black feminist and womanist and I’m extremely proud of the work that’s being done,” Knowles said to Time. “I’m a feminist who wants not only to hear the term intersectionality, but actually feel it, and see the evolution of what intersectional feminism can actually achieve.”

Knowles was appointed as one of the women of the year by Glamour.

“I want women’s rights to be honored, and uplifted and heard,” Knowles said. “But I want to see us fighting the fight for all women—women of color, our LGBTQ sisters, our Muslim sisters.”

11. Tarana Burke

#MeToo has been a trending topic all year, and it all started with Burke.

“I didn’t have a response or a way to help her in that moment,” Burke said about hearing a 13-year-old girl’s sexual abuse story in 1997, “and I couldn’t even say ‘me too.’”

Burke founded of Just Be Inc. to help victims of sexual harassment and assault, as reported by The New York Times. Her movement: Me Too.

After actress Alyssa Milano promoted the movement on Twitter, Burke’s efforts became popular.

“I think it is selfish for me to try to frame Me Too as something that I own,” Burke said. “It is bigger than me and bigger than Alyssa Milano. Neither one of us should be centered in this work. This is about survivors.”

Header image: Emma Watson / Instagram