In gender studies and government courses, 1992 is often deemed the “Year of the Woman” because of the number of women elected United States Senators that year. While the intention of the catchphrase was to celebrate and praise the fact that Americans were finally electing women to office, many women viewed the phrase as demeaning. Senator Barbara Mikulski said, “Calling 1992 the Year of the Woman makes it sound like the Year of the Caribou or the Year of the Asparagus. We’re not a fad, a fancy, or a year.” Regardless of how it was perceived, 1992 was still a landmark for women in Congress. Flash forward 22 years later to 2014 and everyone can agree that 2014 was a huge year full of successes (and setbacks) for American women. Before we count down the last ten seconds of 2014 and ring in the new year, let’s recall and cherish some of the greatest feminist moments of 2014. Who knows, maybe some of these throwbacks will convince you that change is happening, but there is still a long way to go!
1. Malala Yousafzai became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
Malala is an advocate for girls’ education and human rights. Malala took continued stands against the Taliban banning girls from attending school, and in 2012 when she boarded her school bus a gunman entered the bus and shot her three times. Malala survived the gruesome attack and her advocacy has become an international movement, proving that feminism can truly create global change. On October 10, 2014, at age 17, she became the co-recipient of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.
2. Periods & Menstruation Cycles were made cool and natural on national TV.
This year HelloFlo, a sanitary product company, came out with a commerical to advertise their period care packages that women can sign up for, or have sent to their daughters who are experiencing their periods for the first time. The commercial captured a cute, blond curly-haired girl talking about this awesome “period party” that her mom planned, so she could announce to the world that her daughter had experienced her first period. The commercial evoked a lot of laughs from viewers, and more importantly, showed girls that menstruating is a natural process that every woman experiences — something to feel totally comfortable about!
3. Celebrities made a major impact on the feminist movement.
This year Emma Watson was appointed the United Nations Women Goodwill Ambassador and delivered an incredibly empowering speech in late September announcing the UN’s He for She Campaign. While the content of the speech was somewhat repetitive for those already engaged in the feminist conversation, for the rest of the world it was a crucial, must-hear speech that asked the world to advocate for gender equality and to finally treat women equally to men across the board: from equal pay, to eliminating gender-based violence, to increasing the representation of women in government.
Plus don’t forget Beyonce’s flawless VMA performance that lasted an entire 16 minutes and included performing Flawless while standing in front of an enormous projection that read “Feminist.” And Queen Bey does it again.
Like many celebrities, Taylor Swift was one of many women and men who “came out” as feminists this year. Swift said she took so long to publically state that she was a feminist, stating that “a lot of girls have had a feminist awakening because they understand what the word means… [I’ve realized] that I’ve been taking a feminist stance without actually saying so.” In October, Swift released her album 1989 which included numerous feminist messages, particularly Blank Space.
4. Carry That Weight became a national college campus movement.
Emma Sulkowicz, an undergraduate at Columbia University, was raped by another student in her dorm room last school year. Sulkowicz decided that every day this school year she would carry her dorm mattress around campus until her rapist was expelled from the university. The perpetrator has yet to be expelled, and in October college students across the country came out in support of Sulkowicz and protest against universities’ lack of action against perpetrators of sexual assault. Students here at American participated too.
5. California enacted the “Yes Means Yes” Law.
In September, California Governor, Jerry Brown, signed a bill, making California the first state to clearly define sexual consent. Instead of preaching “no means no,” the law makes it very clear that unless a partner is sober and clearly states “yes” to sexual activity, then sexual consent has not been given.
6. Re-examining the phrase “Throw Like a Girl” taught society that language plays a huge role in the feminist movement.
This summer Always created a video asking teenage girls and guys and then young pre-adolescent girls to imitate “running like a girl” and “throwing like a girl.” The older kids mocked the stereotype of girls not being athletic or being able to throw a ball with a strong arm. However, the younger girls ran and threw just as any kid would, proving that puberty and exposure to media and stereotypes ruins a girl’s self-confidence. The video showed the importance of not using degrading phrases like “you throw like a girl.”
In addition, 13 year-old Mo’ne Davis gave a new meaning to “throw like a girl” when she led her baseball team to the Little League World Series. Davis then appeared on a cover of Sports Illustrated and was chosen as Sports Illustrated Kid’s “Sportskid of the Year.”
The first step in creating change and how the way we treat others, and particularly women, is changing the words we use based on the connotations they hold. Calling your friend a “bitch” for stealing a sip of your coffee, and yelling “bitch” at a woman walking down the street may seem like two very different scenarios, but using the word innocently or not is still very damaging.
7. There are finally 100 women in the United States Congress!
After the November 2014 elections, the 114th U.S. Congress will now include 100 elected congresswomen and female senators. Although many crucial pro-choice, pro-women rights candidates loss election and re-election races, such as Alison Grimes, and not all of the women elected this November are in favor of protecting women’s healthcare rights, 100 women in Congress is still a huge, long overdue achievement.
8. Awareness was brought to Cat-Calling
Cat-calling and street harassment are nothing new to women. Women face it everyday walking to work, going to the grocery store, even sitting on the metro. It feels like we can never escape it. But 2014 brought a lot of media attention to the issue including Jessica William’s performance on The Daily Show, and then later in 2014 a woman recorded herself walking around NYC silently for 10 hours. The video captures the endless, relentless cat-calling she faced simply walking down the street. However, apparently some of the male population has been unaware that we women do not finding their degrading comments and pure harassment “compliments.”
9. Columbia University MBA women create the “Bitch in Business” video as a parody to “All About the Bass.”
This. Just watch it- you’ll be humming it for days!
10. To finish, a few awesome feminist moments of 2014 that flew under my radar this year.
- Aziz Ansari gave an amazing five minute talk on the Late Show with Letterman about feminism and why everyone who believes women are equal to men are feminists.
- After the Supreme Court’s Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision, several pro-choice crafters went into Hobby Lobby craft stores and got creative with sending their pro-choice message to the company.
- Sweden introduced a gender-neutral pronoun “hen” and have encouraged retail stores to eliminate “boys’” and “girls’” designated toy areas. So in our book, Sweden gets the crown for being one of our favorite feminist nations.
And I will leave you with this. An essay Beyonce Knowles-Carter wrote for The Shriver Report back in January, shaping 2014 into the awesome-feminist-filled year that it proved to be!