Look 2016 has been a godawful year.
But I thought today I’d like to offer some optimism. Here are the women (and some men) that came across my radar as people I really admire.
January – Billie Allen
We talked about her earlier this year, but if you don’t recall, Billie Allen was one of the first regular African American cast members in television in the 1950s. She died December 30, 2015, but her death wasn’t reported until nearly two weeks later. I’m a total media history buff, and I wasn’t aware of her contributions. Because she died in 2015, she’s also missing from many of 2016’s year’s end lists. And that’s a travesty.
Television viewers, at least those who don’t tune out their minds during commercials, are now beginning to learn that Negroes can worry about dentures, dishpan hands and bad breath just as everyone else in TV land seems to.
-The New York Times report in a 1968 article that featured Ms. Allen
February – Jenny Beavan
The Mad Max costumer won her second Oscar in January, and didn’t conform to the standard awards show garb. And the reaction from the mostly male audience to this proudly middle-aged woman dressed for comfort (and in homage to her film) ended up going viral.
The only thing I would like is for my outfit to have a positive effect on what women feel about themselves. You don’t actually have to look like a supermodel to be successful. If that could be a takeaway, I think that would be a good thing. It is really good to have a positive feeling about yourself, because then you can do anything. People don’t have to clap for you; they don’t have to like the work.
-Jenny Beavan in The Hollywood Reporter
March – Kathryn Borel
The ex-Canadian Broadcasting Corporation staffer was the first woman to accuse her boss Jian Ghomeshi of sexual harassment (20 women eventually would also accuse him). The charges by the other women ended up in an acquittal in March, but Borel nonetheless stood by her guns and Ghomeshi ended up issuing a public “peace bond” and apology in May. And Borel ended up getting the last word, becoming feminist hero in Canada in the process.
When it was presented to me that the defense would be offering us an apology, I was prepared to forego the trial. It seemed like the clearest path to the truth. A trial would have maintained his lie and would have further subjected me to the very same pattern of abuse that I am currently trying to stop.
-Kathryn Borel, statement at Toronto City Hall
A force of nature. I still can’t stop watching “Formation” but the whole visual album was an amazing commentary on race and gender in the 21st century.
Always stay gracious, best revenge is your paper.
-Beyoncé in Lemonade
May – Elaine Welteroth
Welteroth was named editor of Teen Vogue in May, and the 29-year-old immediately began transforming the fashion magazine into a smart, politically active, must-read. And she’s an advocate for everyone (including her staff) becoming “woke.” Follow her Twitter and Instagram – she’s also an advocate for her staff’s work in the Teen Vogue transformation.
We must make our content matter to our readers.
-Elaine Welteroth in a panel with Women in Communication
June – Lin-Manuel Miranda.
The Hamiton creator offered possibly the best awards acceptance speech ever.
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love.
-Lin-Manuel Miranda Tony acceptance speech
July -Ieshia Evans
Evans was arrested for protesting police shootings, including Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, in July. Her calm in the face of the police in riot gear is iconic.
Sometimes, jobs are given to you … that you didn’t really apply for. We don’t have to beg to matter. We do matter.
-Ieshia Evans to CBS This Morning
August – Simone Biles
The most decorated American woman’s gymnast in history. And just all-around amazing.
I’d rather regret the risks that didn’t work out than the chances I didn’t take at all.
-Simon Biles Tweet
September -Jeffrey Tambor and Jill Solloway
The Amazon comedy “Transparent” took away multiple awards at this year’s Emmy’s, including lead actor (Tambor) and director for a comedy (Solloway). The show is revolutionary, with a woman as show runner (a rare breed in Hollywood) and Tambor (a straight man) playing a transgender character.
So both used their platform as a call for action.
Please give transgender talent a chance. Give them auditions. Give them their story.
-Jeffrey Tambor, Emmy acceptance speech
Topple the patriarchy.
-Jill Solloway, Emmy acceptance speech
October – Kelly Oxford
When the infamous Donald Trump Access Hollywood hot-mic tape went public, Oxford didn’t just get mad. She sent out a tweet asking other women to share their stories of sexual harassment. 9 million plus stories later, she’s helping women say publicly that sexual assault is #notokay.
Women: tweet me your first assaults. they aren’t just stats. I’ll go first: Old man on city bus grabs my “pussy” and smiles at me, I’m 12.
-Kelly Oxford in a Tweet
November – Megyn Kelly
The anchor accused her former Fox News boss Roger Ailes of sexual harassment in her autobiography, following in footsteps of co-worker Gretchen Carlson, who sued Fox over the summer. But what made Kelly’s accusations so powerful to me is that she admits that she is in a position of power in relation to other women on the staff – and needed to step up. That’s feminism – realizing that your experience isn’t the same as everyone else’s and understanding when you come from a position of privilege.
Crossing him was a major risk. But what if—God forbid—he was still doing it to someone?
Megan Kelly in “Settle for More.”
December – Michelle Obama
The First Lady’s much-hyped interview with Oprah Winfrey was elegant and thoughtful, and even though the headlines tried to sensationalize her “not having hope” comment, what she actually said attempted to show that both sides in this highly divisive political season in the US aren’t that far apart. And that not having hoping is a thing we need to overcome together.
My desire for this country is that we remain hopeful and that we find a place in our hearts to love each other. It’s really simple, you know? Just opening up our hearts to others. Making room.
-Michele Obama to Oprah Winfrey on CBS News