It’s been quite a year. From International Women’s Day in 2017 to now, a lot has happened.
We’ve summed up the good, the bad, and the ugly in this round up of 2017’s and 2018’s top feminist – and not-so-feminist – moments.
7th March 2017 – Fearless Girl takes on Wall Street’s Charging Bull
On the eve of International Women’s Day 2017, a bronze statue of a young girl appeared on Wall Street in New York. Shoulders thrown back, chest thrust forward, and a look of steely determination on her face, the now notorious Fearless Girl has been staring down the Charging Bull for a year so far.
The bull was installed in 1989 in the wake of the 1987 stock-market crash, to demonstrate the power and resilience of the American people. Last year, Fearless Girl found her place in the world and has held tightly on to it. The statue, which was supposed to remain in place for a mere week, is still standing her ground against Wall Street’s male domination.
Almost immediately, McCann New York received backlash, with many deeming the statue “an exercise in corporate imaging”. Other feminists felt that the campaign was a commercially loaded publicity stunt. The statue did garner State Street Global Advisors an approximate £7.4m of free advertising value in print, online, radio, and TV coverage, but for most, the end result – regardless of international criticism – is the key takeaway, as inscribed on Fearless Girl’s plaque: “Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference.”
Fearless Girl statue by Kristen Visbal, New York City, Wall Street.
26th April 2017 – The Handmaid’s Tale explores the worst bits of patriarchal culture
In 2017, Hulu brought Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale to screens around the world. The 10-part series received rave reviews as awestruck audiences watched concubine Offred’s quiet resistance of a fundamentalist theocratic dictatorship.
The series, which is a close adaptation of Atwood’s novel, is based on real life. On this, Atwood said, “One of my rules was that I would not put any events into the book that had not already happened… nor any technology not already available. No imaginary gizmos, no imaginary laws, no imaginary atrocities. God is in the details, they say. So is the Devil.”
Life depicted in The Handmaid’s Tale features events that span known civilisation – with biblical references and reconstructions of punishments that take place in modern-day North Korea and Saudi Arabia. That’s what makes Atwood’s novel so eerie and disturbing.
You may remember protesters wielding signs during the 2016 election, which said, “The Handmaid’s Tale is not an instruction manual.” Trump’s election to the White House has drawn dystopias like Atwood’s into the limelight, as the world watches Trump’s every move, and questions whether we’re taking steps forwards or backwards.
As if the critical acclaim and cult-status-gone-mainstream weren’t enough, the gripping drama cleaned up at industry awards ceremonies. In November 2017, Reed Morano, who directed the first three episodes, won an Emmy for her work, being the first woman to receive an Emmy for directing a drama series in 22 years.
The Handmaid’s Tale Is Not an Instruction Manual by Kate Kaminski at Blue Stocking Films.
22nd June 2017 – Larissa Waters moves a Senate motion while breastfeeding
Stay-at-home mum or powerful career woman – and never the two shall meet.
Feminists continue to work tirelessly to banish the stereotypes that force women to choose between family life and a fruitful career. Breastfeeding in public is a long-standing taboo in the Western world, with new mothers arguing for the freedom to break out of the bathroom stalls in which they’re expected to feed their children.
So praise rained down on Larissa Waters, Australian Greens Senator, when she moved a Senate motion while breastfeeding. Australian rules changed in 2016 to allow mothers to feed their children in the chamber. And was Waters subjected to fire-and-brimstone for being so bold? Nope. According to the Telegraph, “her decision to speak while feeding appeared to be warmly welcomed and was greeted with smiles in the chamber.” Mothers around the world can thank Waters for her groundbreaking, taboo-busting parenting.
13th July 2017 – Andy Murray fact-checks journos
Every good activist needs their allies. And Andy Murray, the grumpy Scot with three Grand Slams under his belt, stepped up in July last year. Women are particularly underrepresented in sports, with gender pay-gaps typically worse than in politics, medicine, and space. However, the press is always on-hand to tell the full, unbiased story, right?
Not quite. It seems that even the most prolific of female sports stars can slip under the radars of some sports journalists. Last year, a journalist spoke to Murray about Sam Querrey, “the first American player to reach the semi-final of a Slam since 2009”. Murray quickly interjected – reminding the journalist of the more recent successes of Serena and Venus Williams, Coco Vandeweghe, and Madison Keys – all of whom have reached Gram Slam semi-finals since 2009.
And it’s not the first time Murray has had to educate the press. During the Rio Olympics, the BBC’s John Inverdale’s flattery missed the mark when he gushed that Murray was the first person to win two tennis golds. “Venus and Serena have won about two each,” Murray replied. Dinnae change, Andy.
26th September 2017 – Saudi Arabia to lift its driving ban
No longer proud of its “Only Country in the World Where Women Aren’t Allowed to Drive” crown, Saudi Arabia announced a lift on the ban in September 2017. It’s about time, really, as the infamous law has drawn attention from around the world, encouraging numerous campaigns to give women the same freedoms as men.
Within hours, Saudi women had taken to social media declaring “I am my own guardian” and “Saudi women can drive”. While the country’s laws and customs have shown signs of progression over recent years, there are still deeply conservative veins running through the population.
Negative reactions to the ban claimed that the government was “bending the verses of Sharia law”, and another phrase crept into the country’s trending topics on social media: “the women of my house won’t drive”.
The driving ban will be officially lifted on 24th June 2018.
Photo taken from Saudi Arabia: Driving for All! By Kelly Yoshimura for The Dana Mariner.
The Weinstein Scandal and What Followed
5th October 2017 – Harvey Weinstein: the allegations that shook Hollywood (timeline)
In his own words, Harvey Weinstein likes to “keep the peace”. In fact, that’s his motto, and exactly what he’s been up to for years. In October, the New York Times ran a career-ending exposé on Weinstein’s so-called peace-keeping.
The report detailed three decades of Weinstein’s abuse of power, in which he paid off actors and models to keep quiet about sexual harassment. Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd are among the women who spearheaded the stand against Weinstein, and within days, dozens more accused him of sexual harassment and abuse of power.
The New York Times uncovered a backlog of complaints against Weinstein in internal emails and documents, interviews with employees, and legal documents. The Weinstein scandal marked a turning point in the film industry and sparked a series of events, including…
- 8th October – Weinstein is sacked from his company by the board of directors
- 10th October – 13 more women speak out about Weinstein in another NYT article
- 11th October – Bafta suspends Weinstein’s membership
- 14th October – The organisation behind the Oscars votes to expel Weinstein
- 30th October – The Producers Guild of America bans Weinstein for life
- 3rd November – Police in New York say they have “an actual case” against Weinstein
- 16th November – Warner Bros. severs ties to Weinstein
- 11th February 2018 – Weinstein’s lawyer concedes that Weinstein’s behaviour is “not without fault” but says there was “no criminality”
A Wikipedia page on the scandal lists almost 100 women who have accused Weinstein of sexual assault and/or rape. The New York Times report shook the industry, but was just a hint at what was to follow...
15th October 2017 – #MeToo
The Weinstein scandal uncovered countless instances of sexual assault and harassment in the entertainment industry, and dragged other famous names into the spotlight. So, it’s not just Weinstein who’s been behaving inappropriately, but a whole host of powerful celebrities in Hollywood.
Women around the world proved that it wasn’t just happening in Hollywood, though, when Alyssa Milano started the #MeToo movement in one simple tweet:
If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet. pic.twitter.com/k2oeCiUf9n— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 15, 2017
The hashtag was used by 4.7m people within 24 hours of Milano’s tweet, which received almost 70k responses.
The overnight sensation highlighted an abuse of power that went beyond the silver screen – colleagues, bosses, family members, and even strangers were alleged to have sexually harassed or assaulted women across the globe.
6th December 2017 – ‘The Silence Breakers’ named as Time’s Person of the Year
In the wake of Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo campaign, Time named ‘The Silence Breakers’ as its Person of the Year. The recognition went out not just to Weinstein's victims, but to people everywhere who stood up, who reported sexual harassment, who made themselves heard, and who broke the silence.
In the video, university professor Jessica Cantlon says, “If they couldn’t stop us from talking, they were going to stop everybody from listening to us.” A chilling echo of Weinstein’s power over women in the entertainment industry, Time’s award honours the women who persisted and shouted loud enough to be heard, no matter who was trying to silence them. They have begun to pave the way in making it easier for women to speak out against perpetrators of sexual violence and manipulation, even – maybe even especially – when those people are in positions of power.
1st January 2018 – #TimesUp
Opening the year with a bold move towards a better future for women in the workplace, Time’s Up was launched on 1st January 2018 by Hollywood celebrities. Following the enormous uptake of the #MeToo campaign, some of Hollywood’s biggest names used their positions of power for good.
Time’s Up is a movement against sexual harassment in the workplace. It has so far raised $20m (£14.4m) for its legal defence fund and has gathered over 200 volunteer lawyers.
The movement aims to support people who want to speak up against harassment despite not having access to (mass) media and/or funds. Its initiatives include promises to aid women from low-income backgrounds in seeking justice for sexual harassment in the workplace, and to punish companies that tolerate harassment.
7th January 2018 – Golden Globes dress code: all black
One of Time’s Up’s first initiatives was for attendees of the 75th Golden Globe Awards to wear black on the red carpet. Almost everyone got the memo, and non-conformers were few and far-between.
A number of actresses brought along activists as their plus-ones. The activists made a group statement:
“We believe we are nearing a tipping point in transforming the culture of violence in the countries where we live and work. It’s a moment to transform both the written and unwritten rules that devalue the lives and experiences of women.”
Photo from NME.com’s article, “How 2017’s sexual misconduct allegations affected the 2018 Golden Globes”.
2nd November 2017 – Wonder Woman smashes box-office records
In the year that women’s voices were heard loud and clear, it seems only fitting that Wonder Woman should smash box-office records.
With international figures totted up, Wonder Woman grossed a huge £594m at the box office, making it the highest-grossing superhero-origin film of all time. The film was produced by a female-heavy cast and crew, who delivered a visually stunning superhero movie like no other.
Image courtesy of BagoGames.
12th November 2017 – Tiffany Haddish makes SNL history
Don’t be fooled by Wonder Woman’s success – the entertainment industry is still male-led, specifically by white males. So it was a roaring success for Tiffany Haddish when she became the first black female to host an episode of Saturday Night Live.
Haddish, the self-proclaimed “standup, scene-stealing movie star”, was the first black woman to host the show in its four-decade-long history, but that didn’t stop her from – as promised – stealing the show.
Image courtesy of 13 WTHR’s article, “‘SNL’ spoofs Roy Moore scandal, has historic first with host Tiffany Haddish”.
12th December 2017 – Words of the year named
Every year, the word gurus over at the dictionaries choose their words of the year. These words are usually words that have seen unprecedented growth in use over the past 12 months, or words that have defined particular movements or social trends.
So, what was the word of last year? Drumroll please. According to Oxford Dictionaries, the Word of the Year 2017 is...
Yep, you read that right. Because we’ve all been using that word in every other sentence and it clearly defined a year of sexism and the activism that rose to fought it…
Luckily, Oxford Dictionaries wasn’t the only one to weigh in.
Dictionary.com named “complicit” as its word of the year. A not-so-subtle attack on those who didn’t break the silence. The aiders and abettors won (or should we say “lost”?) this one.
On a more positive note, Merriam-Webster named “feminism” as its word of the year, in recognition of the hard work of pro-gender-equality movements around the world. The term apparently generated 70% more searches in 2017 than in 2016. C’mon, feminists, we’re being heard.
23rd January 2018 – Presidents Club Dinner Scandal
In January of this year, reporters from the Financial Times released a scathing exposé that sent waves through online communities, feminist groups, and newsdesks around the world. The annual charity event is an all-male, black-tie fundraiser that has taken place quietly behind closed doors for 33 years.
The Financial Times sent two female journalists undercover as hostesses to the event. Like the other 128 hostesses who were hired to “take care” of the 360 male guests, the FT reporters were told to wear “skimpy black outfits with matching underwear and high heels”. At the event, hostesses are allegedly groped, propositioned, and sexually harassed.
You can read the full exposé here, but the revealing article led to hefty consequences for individuals and businesses that turned a blind eye to the seedy reality of this jewel in the crown of London’s social calendar.
The Presidents Club charity has since folded. Great Ormond Street and some other hospitals have received a share of the £20m raised over the past three decades, but have said they will return the money received from the charity’s organisers.
9th February 2018 – Sexual-assault resource-centres in Olympic Village
The 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang made history by finally addressing the Olympics’ poor record for dealing with sexual misconduct. The Pyeongchang Winter Olympics will be the first to have sexual-assault resource centres.
140 women have stepped forwards since sexual-assault allegations surfaced about the U.S. gymnastics team’s doctor Larry Nassar in September 2016. In response to that, Pyeongchang set up four sexual-assault resource-centres offering psychological counselling and medical care, along with legal advice and ways to report violence to police.
20th February 2018 – Twice as many women are running for Congress in 2018
Not typically known for its inclusive nature, American politics is slowly becoming a more accessible career avenue to women. Whether due to backlash against Trump or empowerment from Hillary, twice as many women are running for Congress in 2018 as in 2016.
The increases run across the Democratic and Republican parties, proving that even the patriarchal establishment of American Congress has an exciting and more diverse future.
4th March 2018 – Frances McDormand’s inclusion rider
The 2018 Oscars had few surprises when it came to Frances McDormand. First, she won the Best Actress award for her harsh yet heartwarming performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Second, her speech was unapologetically authentic. Her nerves – “I’m hyperventilating a little bit” – shone through first, but were followed by a stern stare and sterner words.
Like Leo’s eventual Oscar-acceptance speech, in which he pleaded for more consideration for the environment, McDormand told her audience what’s up. Unlike Leo, she did so in two words, which the viewers at home were left to google for themselves: “inclusion rider”.
If you’ve not got round to finding out what an inclusion rider is yet, it’s a clause that gets added to actors’ contracts, demanding diversity in the film’s cast and crew if the production team wishes to secure the performance of the actor. Those final words left little doubt in the audience’s minds (once they’d done their googling) that this clause would feature in McDormand’s future contracts – and that she expected other actors to adopt inclusion riders too.
8th March 2018 – IWD 2018 #PressForProgress
Welcome to theSHEword2018. The above events have led us to another rebrand – we just want to play our part in the global movement that is demanding gender equality in the workplace, on the screens, in media representation, and in wider society.
This year, we’ve gone bigger and bolder than ever before. We’ve rebranded Donald Trump as the ultimate feminist, we’ve spoken to the UK’s top influencers to get their perspectives on what it means to be a woman in the social-media sphere, and we’ve even dyed our hair purple for the cause.
Check out theSHEword 2018 hub for a full list of the work we’re doing this International Women’s Day.
Join in theSHEword fun with us on social media. You can find us @theEword using the hashtags #theSHEword2018, #MakeFeminismGreatAgain, #DyeingForProgress, #PressForProgress, and, of course, #IWD2018.