This year has seen the feminism flame well and truly ignited, and discussions about gender equality have dominated popular culture.
From protests against the gender pay gap to fighting the tampon tax to the major achievement of Saudi women getting the vote for the first time, things are moving in the right direction. In fact, activist Gloria Steinberg referred to 2015 as “a pivotal year for feminism”.
With the likes of Jennifer Lawrence, Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer and Emma Watson fighting the cause, this truly feels like the first time that feminism has been embraced in the mainstream as a cause for gender equality, rather than hating men and refusing to shave your armpits. (We’ll shave if we want, ok?)
We look at the moments that have made 2015 stand out as the year of feminism…
Addressing the Gender Pay Gap
Jennifer Lawrence did a pretty swell job of highlighting the gender pay gap. The essay she wrote for Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter entitled, “Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co-Stars?” discussed the gender pay gap in Hollywood after salary information about her and her American Hustle co-stars came out last year during the Sony hack.
J Law inspired women across the globe and won the support of fellow Hollywood stars, male and female.
She wasn’t alone. Patricia Arquette delivered an empowering speech at the Oscars earlier this year which was applauded by many, and unfortunately, criticised by some.
To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights, it’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.
Seriously though, what’s not to agree with there? And why not put your platform to good use? If that platform happens to be on sage at the Oscars, then use it.
While many might find it hard to sympathise with female actors getting paid, oh, a-couple-million-or-so less than their male co-stars, it’s the principal that counts. And standing up to it in the public eye forces everyone from all backgrounds and professions to take heed and try to do something about it
For instance, Equal Pay Day seemed to elicit more attention from media and the general public this year, and that’s partly because people like J Law are shouting about it on a platform that can’ be ignored.
Female Representation on Screen
So this is a long standing and complex issue. Nobody is going to suggest that it’s OK – in fact, figures suggest that representation of women on-screen hasn’t changed much on the whole from 60 years ago.
Only 12% of protagonists in major Hollywood films are female, only 1% of women in popular films star women of colour, men get twice as much screen time as women and male speaking characters outnumber female speaking characters three to one. Those are the facts.
However, some pretty major achievements from this year shouldn’t be overlooked. Charlize Theron took on the lead role in Mad Max: Fury Road and a female fronted Ghostbusters was announced (can’t wait).
— Kim Kline (@katkinc1) December 18, 2015
Director George Miller casting Charlize Theron in Mad Max was an act of subversion in an industry that usually tells us that women should appear in certain roles. While addressing the sexism of Hollywood itself and the lack of strong female icons, it wasn’t just a powerful feminist statement – it was a movie that happened to star a brilliant woman. The financial success of the movie is something that can’t be ignored by Hollywood. Come on.
Feminist Role Models
Photograph: Annie Leibovitz/Pirelli
We’ve got some pretty great role models around us. For the first time ever, it truly feels as though feminism has been accepted as meaning equality between men and women, rather than man hating.
Comedians like Amy Schumer, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey have taken their stance as women who stand for equality and presented it in a way that makes anyone who criticizes feminsim look like a bigoted fool.
From awesome acceptance speeches to writing and starring in Trainwreck, one of the hit movies of the year, we didn’t think it was possible to love Schumer much more. Then we saw the Pirelli calendar.
The calendar is usually a place for supermodels with perfect bodies to shed their clothes in titillating fashion, but for 2016 legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz took it in a completely new direction.
Instead, the women this year were chosen for their achievements and alongside Schumer featured tennis great Serena Williams, Selma director Ava DuVernay, singer-songwriter Patti Smith and artist Yoko Ono.
Oh how we love a good hashtag campaign. Twitter was put to good use in aid of feminism and equality this year, with a number of successful ones. .
#AskHerMore urged red carpet reporters to comment on more than a woman’s appearance when she is there to be recognised for her work, and her professional accomplishments. “Who are you wearing?” is no longer an acceptable journalistic question towards intelligent and talented professionals.
Worth a mention are also #FreeTheNipple, #EveryDaySexism and #OlderWomenVoices.
The Battle Against Tampon Tax
The battle against tampon tax isn’t necessarily a new one. But it is one with increased backing and support this year, causing it to be taken seriously for the first time.
A petition addressed to George Osbourne – Stop Taxing Periods. Period. – raised almost 280,000 signatures, meaning that the issue had to be addressed in parliament. Osbourne has said that the Government are “committed” to addressing the issue and will lobby against EU law. In the meantime, £15m of money raised by tax on sanitary products will be spent directly on charities that help women.
Admittedly, this wasn’t the victory many had hoped for:
Women's charities getting tampon tax money is crass politics. Like they couldn't possibly spend non-women-related money on women's charities
— Anoosh Chakelian (@Anoosh_C) November 25, 2015
— Rachel Dykins (@rachel_elles) November 25, 2015
While it’s still a battle, at least is one that’s now being fought.
Women in Politics
The 2015 UK election saw more female MPs elected than ever before. Still only 29% of MPs are women, but we’re at least moving in the right direction.
In America, Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy for President, becoming the first former First Lady ever to run.
The BBC appointed Newsnight’s Laura Kuenssberg as Political Editor, replacing Nick Robinson and making her the first woman to hold this position.
The Youngest Ever Nobel Peace Prize Winner
This year the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize Winner was Malala Yousafzai, the 18-year-old Pakistani human rights campaigner who moved to Britain after being forced out of her home country by the Taliban, who attempted to assassinate her in a futile attempt to silence her.
Malala identified herself as a feminist during an interview with Emma Watson, despite Watson removing the question just a day before.
“I think this gesture is so emblematic of what Malala and I went on to discuss,” said Watson on her Facebook page. “I’ve spoken before on what a controversial word feminism is currently. I want to make it a welcoming and inclusive movement. Let’s join our hands and move together so we can make real change. Malala and I are pretty serious about it but we need you.”
The Treatment of Women Around the World
In a landmark moment for humanity as well as feminism, women in Saudi Arabia were allowed to vote and stand for office in December 2015, for the first time ever. The elections took place after a ban was lifted by King Abdullah shortly before his death last year. At least 18 women from very different parts of the country have been elected, according to Al Jazeera.
Of course, gender equality is still of massive concern in the country, with women still not allowed to drive a car or leave the house without a chaperone, and we’re by no means suggesting that the struggle for equality has been won, but it is a victory to be acknowledged nonetheless.
In another landmark event this year, Nigeria took the historic step of banning Female Genital Mutilation with immediate effect.
Countries with high counts of child marriage, including Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Mali, Yemen and Zambia, also began the process of ending this type of marriage legally. Again, there’s a long way to go but Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening hopes to end the practice of FGM and child marriage within a generation.
There’s still much to be done, but 2015 will be remembered as a year of unprecedented feminist progress.