The 39 Most Iconic Feminist Moments of 2014
In 1998, Time magazine declared feminism dead. Nearly 15 years later, it wondered if instead, perhaps feminism should be banned. Constantly on attack from all sides, feminism has spent the past few decades proving its importance and relevance over and over and over again. If there's one thing history has taught us, it's that the backlash against feminism will always be a measure of our success. That's the thing with progress — it is perceived as a threat by those too weak to embrace it.
Indeed, it's clear 2014 was a historic one for feminism. Women stood up for their rights, challenged stereotypes, fought for recognition and took control of the dialogue. The following is a non-exhaustive list of some of the most iconic feminist moments this year:
1. Malala Yousafzai accepted the Nobel Peace Prize — and went straight back to chemistry class.
The Nobel Peace Prize is "not going to help in exams" Yousafzai joked to reporters after becoming the youngest person to win the award. In addition to advocating against violence, poverty and advocating for more access to education for women and girls, the 17-year-old activist has become a symbol of hope and proof that feminism really does have the power to change the world.
2. Mo'ne Davis made everyone want to "throw like a girl."
When the 13-year-old Davis led her team to the Little League World Series, it's safe to say she captivated the nation. Poised and confident, Davis was an instant role model for millions of little girls — and boys — and also was the first Little Leaguer to grace a Sports Illustrated cover. To top it off, she was also recently named Sports Illustrated Kid's "SportsKid of the Year." You go, girl.
3. Emma Watson stunned the U.N.
We knew Watson was destined for big things as soon as the U.N. named her as an official Goodwill Ambassador, but we had no idea how much of an impact she would have — and so soon — until she gave a speech highlighting the importance of gender equality and feminism. Although some feminists were disgruntled by a perceived lack of acknowledgment by the star of her own privilege, her public defense of feminism certainly started a conversation, sending the message that feminism is important and should be embraced by both men and women.
4. A survivor brought her mattress — and sparked a national movement.
Frustrated by what she saw as an unacceptable response from school officials to her alleged sexual assault, Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz took matters into her own hands. As part of her senior performance art project, Sulkowicz announced she would carry her mattress everywhere she went until her alleged rapist was expelled.
It didn't take long for others to notice, eventually sparking a national day of protest culminating in 28 mattresses being dropped in front of the office of Lee Bollinger, the university president, in a dramatic show of solidarity.
5. Jennifer Lawrence beat the Internet's worst trolls at their own game.
It's no coincidence the 4chan celebrity nude scandal targeted almost exclusively female celebrities. Culturally, we still view women's sexuality as inherently shameful, making the exploitation of said sexuality one of the most effective ways we have to try to put women down. Lawrence, however, is far too strong a woman to be shamed by a few cowardly trolls hiding behind the anonymous cloak of the dark net.
She told Vanity Fair that those who attempt to denigrate women for taking intimate photos are the ones who should be ashamed. "I started to write an apology, but I don't have anything to say I'm sorry for," she said. Amen to that.
6. Women stormed the halls of Congress.
The 2014 midterm election may have been a "shellacking" for Democrats, but it also saw victories by a new wave of women, on both sides of the political aisle, ultimately increasing the ratio of female representatives greatly. A record 100 women will serve in the 114th Congress, and that's something we should all celebrate.
7. A bro tried to defend catcalling on TV — and was totally shut down.
Although it's rare to hear anyone describe a crime like harassment as a "compliment," it's always shocking to hear a man on television think he can get away with telling women how they should or should not feel about it. Amanda Seales did not take kindly to Steve Santagati's suggestion that women should be thankful for the attention during a debate. From now on, every reaction to mansplaining will forever be judged against the flawless takedown that resulted.
8. Frozen gave us a lot of feelings — and broke all the records.
Signaling an important break in the traditional princess genre, Disney's smash hit Frozen featured a prince-less feminist cartoon hero who sings, "Yes, I'm alone, but I'm alone and free!" Equally important, the blockbuster became the highest-earning animated movie of all time, proving that children — and grown-ups — will pay to watch complex and strong female characters. And it was written, directed and composed by women ! Currently, only 1 in 4 speaking animated characters are female. The success of Frozen is expected to change the way we think about gender at the movies.
9. Laverne Cox didn't break barriers, she crushed them.
Laverne Cox, in addition to being an incredibly talented actress, has spent the past year helping to open doors for her transgender brothers and sisters. Some of her firsts included being the first openly transgender woman to garner an Emmy nomination for her role as Sophia Burset in Orange Is the New Black, a rare, realistic portrayal of a transgender woman in mainstream pop culture. Cox also graced the cover of Time magazine, shining a brilliant light on the talent of trans individuals and the growing strength of the transgender rights movement.
10. Taylor Swift had a feminist epiphany.
After years of comments to the contrary, the superstar entertainer finally came out of the gender equality closet this year, confiding to the Guardian that she was a feminist all along (knew it)! Swift then set about proving her commitment to the movement, releasing a video for her single "Blank Space" that was described as a "dystopian feminist fairy tale."
Indeed, over the span of only a couple months, Swift has been on something of a feminist tear, disproving stereotypes about feminists, calling out the music industry's trivialization of women artists and giving thanks for the invaluable role of female friendships in her life. Oh, and can we talk about that VMA performance?
11. #YesAllWomen reached almost 2 million tweets in under four days.
Not all men assault, rape and harm women, but #YesAllWomen have to deal with the threat of being hurt every day. That was the rallying cry behind what may be the most viral feminist hashtag of all time. Born out of the tragedy that took place in Santa Barbara, California, it was an opportunity for women to speak openly about the injustices that plague their lives. At one point, the hashtag trended more than Kim Kardashian's wedding, proof that the conversation was long overdue and resonated with many.
Thanks to #YesAllWomen, the conversation about the shooting was seen through a gendered lens, something that the media has been reluctant to do for far too long.
12. Facebook stopped censoring breastfeeding.
After helping to ensure Facebook cracked down on content trivializing and in some cases glorifying violence against women last year, a feminist coalition led by advocates, including Soraya Chemaly, wasn't done yet. Working together, the group of determined women convinced Facebook to change its policy banning photos of women breastfeeding, in the process demolishing a problematic double standard that sent the message that women's bodies are inherently obscene.
13. Beyoncé danced in front of the world — and a gigantic feminist banner.
Remember the bizarre spectacle that was last year's VMAs? For all those wondering if they would ever get Robin Thicke's gyrations out of their nightmares, Beyoncé's 16-minute performance was quite literally a sight for sore eyes. The world's biggest diva proved feminism wasn't just accessible, it was cool. As Time remarked, the entire show was about women's empowerment. From Swift's lively performance with exclusively male backup dancers to Nicki Minaj's assertive "Anaconda," the performances gave many of us hope for a future music industry that respects and highlights its female talent.
14. Ellen Page came out, made our hearts grow 10 sizes.
"I'm here today because I am gay. And because ... maybe I can make a difference. I am tired of hiding and I am tired of lying by omission," the actress told a captivated audience at the Human Rights Campaign's Time to THRIVE conference in February. Page's coming out sent a powerful message to LGBT youth around the country that they were not alone.
15. Lupita Nyong'o forced Hollywood to take blackness seriously.
After becoming only the fifth black woman to receive a best supporting actress award for her role in 12 Years a Slave, Nyong'o set off on a whirlwind awards tour, earning a Glamour Woman of the Year honor and the Essence magazine Black Woman in Hollywood Breakthrough Award. Proving that she was as brilliant as she was beautiful, Nyong'o's speech on body image and blackness was deeply moving.
"I remember a time when I too felt unbeautiful," she told the Essence audience. "I put on the TV and only saw pale skin, I got teased and taunted about my night-shaded skin." The path to self-acceptance is hard, she noted, but finally coming to terms with the idea that beauty comes in many shades has changed her life.
16. Robin Thicke's new album fell flat on its face.
Those familiar with Thicke's previously questionable artistic decisions — singing about the "blurred lines" of consent being his most infamous — may not have been surprised when his new album was released and was creepy as hell. More surprising, however, was that people weren't buying it. Literally. To be perfectly fair to Thicke, Paula, named for his now ex-wife, did sell like 530 copies in its first week. But the moral of the story seems to be that the era of the open misogynist may be coming to an end in the music industry.
17. Mindy Kaling nailed it, repeatedly.
Clearly, not everyone can be Kaling. The multi-talented star produces, writes and stars in her show, the Mindy Project, and yet also has the time to make effortlessly brilliant statements about being a woman of color in media. Whether it's her response to a snarky question at SXSW or her witty retort after being mistaken for Yousafzai ( "Did he really think I'm Malala? And that if I were, I'd be at the Boom Boom Room?"), Kaling has proved adept at fighting Hollywood's old boys club. And she does it with panache. According to Kaling, every woman's motto should be "Why the fuck not me?" She's proof that women can and should be leading these discussions.
18. Moronic pickup artist booted out of several countries because of feminist activism.
The self-described "international leader in dating advice" may have fooled men into thinking he could get them dates, but thanks to a series of public petitions, the world soon learned that Julien Blanc was nothing short of a misogynist and racist who encouraged men to assault and choke women. To date, Blanc has since been banned in Australia, the U.K. and Singapore. Feminists also ensured that Blanc wouldn't be giving his "boot camps" and "seminars" in numerous countries, drawing attention to the flawed logic that fuels PUAs — and the men's rights activists who breed them.
19. Shonda Rhimes took down bigots on Twitter.
An adept social media user, Rhimes has really had the run of Twitter this year. In addition to utilizing the social media platform to take down the New York Times' critique of her as an "angry black woman," the Scandal creator also shut down critics of gay characters in her storylines.
20. A new kind of Barbie revolutionized the toy aisle.
Did you know that if Barbie were a real woman she would be 5 feet, 9 inches with a 39-inch bust, but only a 18-inch waist, a tiny shoe size of 3 and have to crawl on all fours because her body is so small it couldn't support her head? While there have been many attempts at a Barbie alternative, perhaps the most realistic was created this year by Nickolay Lamm, whose "average" Barbie even comes with imperfections like acne and cellulite.
21. Periods got cooler — like, way cooler.
While "Aunt Flo" was arguably always kind of rad (period mixtapes and bottomless Twizzlers, anyone?), HelloFlo, a sanitary product company, made us think about periods in a celebratory light. In an effort to highlight their first period package, Naama Bloom's company produced a hilarious video describing the glorious "period party." Not only did it make that time of the month seem way more fun, the commercial proved that there's nothing gross or weird about a woman's body.
22. Aziz Ansari broke down feminism for dudes.
During his appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman in October, Ansari made crucial points about feminism to an otherwise pretty mainstream late night audience: "If you look up feminism in the dictionary, it just means that men and women have equal rights. And I feel like everyone here believes men and women have equal rights. But I think the reason people don't clap is that word is so weirdly used in our culture."
Ansari's message was clear — feminism is not about pitting men and women against each other. "If you believe that men and women have equal rights, if someone asks if you're feminist, you have to say yes because that is how words work," he said. "You can't be like, 'Oh yeah, I'm a doctor that primarily does diseases of the skin.' Oh, so you're a dermatologist? 'Oh no, that's way too aggressive of a word! No no, not at all, not at all.'"
23. Janet Mock taught Piers Morgan (and the rest of America) how to talk about trans people.
There's the right way to interview a transgender person, and then there's Morgan's way. The bombastic former CNN host made several key errors while interviewing Mock on his program in February. Mock accepted an offer to come back on the show, however, and thoroughly schooled Morgan on the proper way to interview a trans person. She followed that series of interviews with equally important appearances on the Colbert Report and AM Tonight on Fusion.
24. Crafty crafters did amazing things in Hobby Lobby stores.
After the Supreme Court ruled in Hobby Lobby's favor, effectively allowing the crafting giant to stop providing birth control in female employees' insurance packages, clever and crafty feminists took to the aisles, expressing their frustration via pro-woman messages left in stores across the nation. The best part? Male customers also got in the fun. It's good to know that you don't have to be a lady to appreciate the responsibility of for-profit corporations to provide comprehensive contraceptive care.
25. Amy Poehler wrote a really good book.
In addition to starring in her own award-winning sitcom Parks and Recreation, casually teaching male comedians about what it's like to be a woman in a sexist society and hosting a website dedicated to empowering women called Smart Girls at the Party, Poehler also managed to write a best-seller this year titled Yes Please. In addition to being hilarious, Poehler's opus was full of amazing feminist statements, like this interview she gave with Elle.
26. The Notorious R.B.G. proved particularly notorious.
Whether it was her ability to make a Supreme Court dissent go viral or her admission that she owns a surprising number of R.B.G. T-shirts, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was particularly badass this year. One of her top moments had to be her interview with Katie Couric, during which she admitted that the ideal gender ratio for Supreme Court justices would be all female.
27. The Super Bowl included a heaping helping of girl power.
After winning a crowdfunding campaign, toy company GoldieBlox's overtly feminist commercial was a very welcome change from more typical, male-oriented affair. Long a bastion of sexist tropes, the GoldieBlox piece promoted the benefits of teaching girls how to creatively crush gender stereotypes.
28. Olivia Pope threw her hat in the feminist ring.
A pop culture phenomenon heralded as possibly the "most feminist show on television" got even better this season when protagonist Pope "came out" as a feminist. "Still, as a feminist, I absolutely understand if you want to refuse to make adjustments to your image," the fictional power broker and red wine aficionado noted.
29. Beyoncé wrote a flawless feminist essay.
In a piece that was featured in the Shriver Report, the superstar's essay "Gender Equality Is a Myth" notes that "women make up half of the U.S. workforce, but the average working woman earns only 77% of what the average working man makes" and that "we have to teach our boys the rules of equality and respect, so that as they grow up, gender equality becomes a natural way of life."
Proving her grasp of gender studies is as potent as her vocal range, she went on to argue that "women are more than 50% of the population and more than 50% of voters" and therefore "must demand that we all receive 100% of the opportunities."
30. The MTA took a stand against "man-spreading."
In an encouraging move, New York transit announced in the fall it was beginning a campaign to combat the amount of space some men take up in public. The problem, sometimes known as "man-spreading," "lava balls" or "subway sprawl," will be tackled through awareness programs the MTA is planning to roll out in January 2015. While women may miss witty feminist Tumblrs like Your Balls Aren't That Big, we certainly won't miss having to deal with men's wide-legged dominance on a daily basis.
31. Women stood at the front lines of Ferguson, Missouri.
Despite reports of women being silenced or interrupted by male activists, women made sure their voices were part of the growing chorus of dissent coming out of Ferguson after the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. "Historically, women have always been leading," protester Thenjiwe McHarris told MSNBC. "A lot of times women are often unseen leaders because women are all just doing it — we're all just doing the work."
In addition to helping lead marches and chants, women like Ebony's Jamilah Lemieux also fearlessly reported on events from the ground. Although Officer Darren Wilson was ultimately not charged in Brown's death, the conversation about racial justice will continue, with women as some of its most invaluable warriors.
32. Getty Images embraced lady diversity.
Images of girls and women shape our perception of girls and women. In other words, you can't be what you can't see. After realizing stock pictures of women were often stereotypical, Getty Images teamed up with advocacy organization Lean In to increase the diversity of images of women in their catalog. The popularity of these images across the world proved the demand for more realistic portrayals of women, especially in industries like finance and tech.
33. Cosmo redefined its target female.
In addition to launching the #CosmoVotes initiative to engage the young female electorate, Cosmopolitan's decision to increase its feminist content and redefine its standard reader is a testament to the mainstreaming of the modern female-empowered movement. In the words of Joanna Coales, the editor-in-chief, the new Cosmo woman is "interested in mascara and the Middle East." Clearly, being interested in sex and fashion doesn't mean women aren't also interested in solving the global oil crisis.
34. Feminists finally got us talking about Bill Cosby.
Allegations against Cosby have been around for years, but for some reason (ahem, misogyny), the mainstream media took a while to actually star caring about it. But that all changed after comedian Hannibal Buress' routine woke the not-so-sleeping giant of the feminist network.
Overnight, activists left the media no choice but to pay attention, a movement solidified after savvy Internet users hijacked a promotional chat, R. Kelly style. In the wake of this outpouring of support, even more women have come forward to tell their own stories of alleged abuse at the hands of the venerable comedian.
35. Joseph Gordon-Levitt became the face of male feminists everywhere.
One of the most vocal male feminist right now, Gordon-Levitt spent a lot of 2014 talking about why feminism matters to him. He is also planning a crowdsourced video based on all your feelings about the word — just one more thing to look forward to in 2015.
36. One pro-choice couple showed us the best response to pro-life protesters.
Move over, Beyoncé and Jay Z, this "celebrity couple" may be your new biggest rival. After spending their Saturdays defending a local abortion clinic and its patients from loud pro-life protesters in Cary, North Carolina, Tina Haver Currin and her husband Grayson got creative, posting photos of their increasingly hilarious signs on Tumblr. Their ability to merge humor with activism was what the Internet needed this year.
37. In a historic first, a quadruple amputee walked the runway.
After showcasing Danielle Sheypuk, a clinical psychologist from New York who uses a wheelchair, Carrie Hammer, a designer with a disruptive approach to fashion, booked quadruple amputee Karen Crespo for the Fashion Law Institute's show at New York Fashion Week this year.. Hammer, who prides herself on the motto "role models, not runway models," always makes diversity a priority, and this year's show was no exception. Crespo's confident strut proved that you don't have to be in Sports Illustrated to look and feel confident in your own skin.
38. Sweden introduced a gender-neutral pronoun.
"Hen" may just refer to poultry in English, but in Sweden, it actually means a lot more. As part of Sweden's effort to lead the gender-neutral feminist revolution, they've introduced the word as a gender-neutral pronoun to stand in for han ("he") or hon ("she"). No wonder the country beats everyone when it comes to gender equality.
39. Roxane Gay showed the world that there's no such thing as a good feminist.
Writing in her collection of essays Bad Feminist, Gay notes that while there are many different kinds of feminists, the most important thing is to acknowledge our differences and continue to work together toward the end goal of gender equality. Ultimately, feminism is not a competition, it is a calling.
"I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all," she concludes.