Though it may not seem like it, laden with piles of misogynistic crap, 2014 was an important year for feminism. Yes, Kim Kardashian tried to “break the internet” with her ass, sexual assault against women persisted at an alarming rate, and corporate barriers stood tall. TIME Magazine even tried to ban the word ‘feminist’ from our lexicon.
But what do I say to this? Thank you.
Thank you for oh-so-eloquently nudging us to band together and speak up.
The Twitter hash tag #breaktheinternet was quickly overrun by #fixtheinternet, helping us to remember there are more important things than a socialite’s behind.
Celebrity sexual assault cases involving Bill Cosby or Jian Ghomeshi shone a light on brave women reporting rape. Simultaneously, the global community supported other rape victims who felt they couldn’t come forward with the hash tags #beenrapedneverreported and #ibelieveyou.
A circuit of firms in San Francisco came together this autumn to encourage girls to enter the STEM industry (Science, Math, Engineering, Technology), while trailblazing schools sought to disseminate gender stereotyping by transforming K-12 curricula.
Though more celebrities in 2014 abused and misused the term feminist than ever before, apparently causing TIME Magazine to attempt to ban the word, more celebrities than ever before also properly and publically embraced the term. Beyoncé literally performed in front of a giant “FEMINIST” billboard for millions of people, Joseph Gordon Levitt declared the oppression of women as, “very detrimental to the human race as a whole”, and Kate Winslet gave an empowered speech at the Oscars about gender equality in Hollywood.
2014 was the year people made themselves heard. Not just celebrities, but activists, academics, men, women, teachers, students, and young adults alike.
Out of the darkest situations, shone the brightest lights.
Let us not forget the absolute mess that was Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. I seriously questioned this case last summer, demanding the gods to explain why men are making decisions about reproductive rights. Though nothing good came out of that ruling, something amazing came from the goddess known as Justice Ruther Bader Ginsberg. (aka Notorious RBG, aka Ruth “Badass” Ginsberg) Her public 30-page dissent of the ruling gave women a strong voice to stand behind and a smart, respectable role model.
Since its revolution in 2011, the relatively progressive Arab state Tunisia had been critically debating women’s rights. Finally in February 2014, the final draft constitution was voted into parliament. Today, the key article on women’s rights states that, “The State engages in protecting achievements in the field of women’s rights and in reinforcing them” (Article 46). Hela Skhiri, the National Programme Offier for UN Women in Tunisia regaled, “Article 46, on equality, guarantees parity between men and women in all elected assemblies, – which is even more progressive considering this has not even been included in the constitutions of the majority of western countries”.
This September, after being raped on her university campus, an all too common occurrence today, Emma Sulkowicz started a movement. She decided to “Carry That Weight” as a performance piece and haul her mattress with her everywhere on campus. The movement grew, and by the end of October, countless students and strangers helped her carry the mattress. Students held up mattress with the Title “IX” taped to each, symbolizing the federal law that is intended to prevent sexual harassment on campus. Another group of students passed around a megaphone, giving young women a chance to share their stories and publically dissent the school’s lack of action. What began as yet another deeply upsetting story about campus rape, turned into one of young adults becoming national leaders against sexual assault within universities.
In 2012 in Morocco, spurred by a case of sexual assault against a young girl, a horrific article in the penal code was passed saying that any accused rapist could escape prosecution if they married their victim. After seven months of marriage to the accused 23-year-old man, the 16-year-old Amina al-Filali committed suicide. But this past January, Morocco's parliament unanimously amended the law. As Fatima Maghnaoui, leader of an activist group supporting female victims of violence, said, “It's a very important step. But it's not enough”.
This sentiment rings true to a dominant theme of 2014 for feminism. We are saying the rights things and following a promising path, but it is still insufficient.
So was 2014 a good year to be a woman? Not really. But 2014 was certainly a year to bring us hope.
Feminists around the world (whether or not they identify with the ‘controversial term’) took a stand. We saw more men and women speak up over issues than ever before. We saw less tolerance for intolerance, and more backlash for bullshit.
Cheers to 2015 – another 365 days for us to come out swinging.