Last year we we started what has become our new tradition: a year-end look back at feminist icons from the past year. Because, #girlpower
January – Carmen Dell’Orefice
Kristy Sparrow for Getty Images.
When an 85-year-old model takes to the catwalk – and rocks it – she’s making a pretty big statement about beauty and power in a youth-obsessed industry.
Dell’Orefice closed out Chinese couturier Guo Pei’s show at Paris Couture Week in January. Looking like a goddess. Adorned by two boy toys.
She started modeling at age 15. And last year she joked to Harper’s Bazaar:
I’m going for 105, then I’ll see if I want to change professions.
February – Elizabeth Warren
Who knew a little-known Senate rule would end up spawning a rallying cry for feminism?
Elizabeth Warren was in the midst of speaking against Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions on the Senate floor in February when Republicans decided enough was enough and attempted to shut her down.
But she didn’t stop talking willingly.
Warren was reading a letter from Coretta Scott King (from 1986) opposing Sessions as a federal judge. Senator Steve Daines tried to get her to stop, saying the letter was damaging to Sessions’ reputation… and in party-line vote to uphold a Senate rule, Warren was forced to stop speaking.
But it was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s explanation that then went viral… for all the wrong reasons.
She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.
And a new slogan was born.
March – Chrissy Metz
Lauren Dukoff for Harper’s Bazaar.
We’ve talked a lot this year about Chrissy Metz and her pin-up inspired photo shoot. But what’s important to remember here is that the This is Us star wasn’t doing this to somehow call attention to herself or advocate for fat acceptance.
She was doing it for a whole other reason. As she told Harper’s Bazaar.
I’m on this journey to inspire people, and to encourage them. If you can’t love who you are now, you can’t get to the place you want to be. It’s a daily lesson for all of us. I’m paving the way for other women and men who know they’re destined for greatness but they don’t believe it yet.
That’s something that extends beyond body type, race or gender. She’s talking about confidence.
And that’s sexy.
April – Sonia Moy
Sylvia Moy and Stevie Wonder, with, behind from left, James Jamerson, Earl Van Dyke and Robert White of the Funk Brothers, in 1967. Credit Motown Records Archives
When I heard about Sonia Moy’s death this past April, I thought “Why the hell haven’t I heard more about this amazing woman?” She was one of the record company’s first female producers, and wrote hits for so many artists, including Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and the Isley Brothers.
In fact, she helped Wonder jumpstart his career after his voice changed, and people thought that maybe his career was over. The two worked together and came up with “Uptight.”
Wonder told Rolling Stone after her death
Sylvia Moy has made it possible to enrich my world of songs with some of the greatest lyrics. But, not only that, she, through her participation and our co-writing those songs, helped me become a far better writer of lyrics.
Moy left Mowtown in 1973, and signed with Columbia Records.
She died April 15th. Moy was 78… and left a legacy of amazing music.
May – Ariana Grande
(Valerie Macon / AFP/Getty Images)
The Manchester terror attack was more than just extremists attempting to sow fear in one of the UK’s largest cities. It was also a direct assault on the power of girls and young women.
And so Ariana Grande became the unintentional symbol for that power, and fighting back.
As Christina Cauterucci wrote in Slate, Grande’s very public persona celebrates a “blissful, unsubdued feminine sexuality”:
Terrorism works by making people afraid to go about their daily lives, doing the things that make them feel human and whole: going to work, shopping at the mall, traveling by plane, dancing to Latin music at a gay club, singing along to a fun pop tune that lets young women envision themselves as powerful, sexual beings.
The pop star spoke out in the days following the attack:
We will never be able to understand why events like this take place because it is not in our nature, which is why we shouldn’t recoil. We will not quit or operate in fear. We won’t let this divide us. We won’t let hate win.
Grande later scheduled a benefit concert for the victims, and visited survivors in the hospital.
The bombing killed 22 people.
June – Patty Jenkins
Director Patty Jenkins as seen in the Hollywood Reporter. Photographed by Miller Mobley.
It would be easy to name the very public face of the Wonder Woman film in our girl power year in review. But the real superhero here is director Patty Jenkins.
She’s the person who became the first women to helm a comic book action film. The woman who holds the title of top grossing film directed by a woman.
Jenkins and Godot on set. Warner Brothers Entertainment.
It’s sad in many ways that we’re talking about these firsts in 2017. But the reality is that Hollywood is still a boy’s club. Only one woman has ever won the Oscar for Best Director. ONE. In 2016, women made up just 7 percent of all directors on the top 250 films, according to Celluloid Ceiling, a report out of San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film. That’s a 2 percent decline from 2015
Jenkins is aware of her role as a trailblazer. As she told The Hollywood Reporter:
There have been things that have crossed my path that seemed like troubled projects. And I thought, ‘If I take this, it’ll be a big disservice to women. If I take this knowing it’s going to be trouble and then it looks like it was me, that’s going to be a problem. If they do it with a man, it will just be yet another mistake that the studio made. But with me, it’s going to look like I dropped the ball, and it’s going to send a very bad message.’ So I’ve been very careful about what I take for that reason.
Jenkins and Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot are already contracted for a sequel.
July – Dukie Thot, Lupito Nyong’o, Ru-Paul and the cast of the 2018 Pirelli Calendar
Duckie Thot as Alice in the 2018 Pirelli calendar, photographed by Tim Walker.
The Pirelli calendar has transformed from a celebration of objectification to a more political beast in recent years. This year’s edition, released in July, featured an all-black cast of women (and men) reimagining Alice in Wonderland. From Nygono as the Doormouse to Whoopi Goldberg as the Royal Dutchess to Thot as Alice, the calendar was an attempt to, in the word of British Vogue editor Edward Enninful (who styled the shoot by photographer Tim Walker), behead old stereotypes and assumptions. As he told The New York Times:
Inclusivity is more part of the conversation than it has ever been before, but it goes far beyond black and white. It is about all creeds, all colors, all sizes and people just living their truths.
Ru-Paul as the Queen of Hearts in the 2018 Pirelli calendar, photographed by Tim Walker.
Or as Leomie Anderson said on Pirelli’s website:
In a world where women sometimes feel a sense of inequality, it is up to us to be our own Alice and create our own stories that will inspire others for generations to come.
Pretty big shoes for a calendar to fill.
August – Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift and the groping incident. Via the New York Daily News.
One dollar. That’s what Taylor Swift won in her lawsuit against DJ Daniel Mueller for his groping of her at a meet and greet in Denver in 2013. And in the whole scheme of things a pop star’s lawsuit doesn’t really seem like much.
But it was just tipping point in what would eventually mushroom into the #MeToo movement – women who began speaking out about the pervasive sexual harassment that seems to go hand in hand with being a woman in the modern world. As she said in her testimony:
No, he did not touch my rib. He did not touch my hand. He touched my bare ass.
Of course Swift wasn’t fired for reporting about the groping, and she wasn’t physically harmed. But she also had a right to promote her music without being unwillingly grabbed on the butt.
September – Carmen Yulin Cruz
Carmen Yulin Cruz wades through water in the aftermath of Hurrican Maria. NBC News photo.
San Juan’s mayor was a force of nature in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
Carmen Yulin Cruz used her platform, as mayor of the US Territory’s largest city, to beg for help from the federal government. In the days after the hurricane she said:
I am begging, begging anyone that can hear us, to save us from dying. This is a people-are-dying story.
Her ongoing criticism of the U.S. federal government’s response drew a Tweet-storm from President Donald Trump, who said
The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump. Such poor leadership ability by the Mayor of San Juan, and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They want everything to be done for them when it should be a community effort.
Carmen Yulin Cruz on Univision
Cruz defended herself by saying she was just asking for help, and later showed up on a television interview on Univision wearing a t-shirt that said, “Nasty.”
What is really nasty is that anyone would turn their back on the Puerto Rican people … That is not the land of the free and the home of the brave, the beacon of democracy that people have learned to look up to.
As she said in a hearing on Capitol Hill six weeks after the storm:
I am here to say what I was going to say at that hearing, that they seemed not to want to hear. Mr. Trump, do your job. Lives are at stake. This is not about politics. This is not about your ego. This is about the people of Puerto Rico and the people of the U.S. VI (Virgin Islands).
That’s a public servant.
October – #MeToo
By this time in the year, the floodgates opened on allegations of sexual harassment and assault. The New York Times story about Harvey Weinstein came out in early October, and suddenly it seemed as if every day there was a new allegation against men in power. It wasn’t always abuse against women (see Spacey, Kevin) and the abuse didn’t always end up with the accused masturbating into a potted plant (see Weinstein, Harvey), but the revelations painted a portrait of a deeply misogynistic world where women’s experiences are belittled and not believed.
LOS ANGELES, CA – APRIL 09: Actor Rose McGowan attends the screening of ‘Lady in the Dark’ during the 2017 TCM Classic Film Festival on April 9, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. 26657_006 (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for TCM)
Among the developments:
- Alyssa Milano encouraged other women to speak out simply by responding to her tweet using the #MeToo hashtag . In eight hours she had more than 30,000 responses.
- Rose McGowan was temporarily banned from Twitter when speaking out against the abuse
- Activist Tarana Burke, who created the MeToo movement in 2006, reminded people “We have to keep our focus on people of different class and race and gender.” In other words, abuse – and the ability to push back against it – manifests itself in different ways depending upon one’s own societal standing
- By the end of the year, nearly 50 high-profile men had been accused of using their positions to assault and/or sexually harass women and men. Many had been fired or resigned from their jobs.
Activist Tarana Burke, founder of the MeToo movement.
November – Violet Chacki
Violet Chacki in Playful Promises.
The gender-fluid model Violet Chacki was used by Playful Promises to promote its Bettie Page collection of lingerie on social media.
And so, of course, out came the trolls.
Which gave Playful Promises a chance to hit back, noting that the pin up community needs to re-evaluate gender roles. And they added a bit of a history lesson.
We chose a gender fluid person that is not represented in the media, and certainly not in the lingerie industry … You can’t claim to be a fan of Bettie Page without acknowledging that what she was doing at the time was severely frowned upon. If you expect a brand named after her to do things by the book, you’re missing the point of what she stood for.
December – Kelly Marie Tran
Tran with John Boyega in still from The Last Jedi.
It would seem that there would have been an Asian-American woman in featured role in a Star Wars film before 2017. But Kelly Marie Tran was breaking boundaries as the year ended. She is the first Asian-American actress to star in a Star Wars movie, playing resistance fighter and mechanic Rose Tico.
She told USA Today:
We always hear these stories about people who are born into a specific position, like you’re the chosen one or you have a power or you are a hotshot. Rose represents this person who’s in the background. It’s really cool to see someone (like that) be forced into the forefront of the action and how she deals with it.
Vietnamese-born actress Veronica Ngo plays her sister in the film, a gunner.
Kelly Marie Tran poses with a First Order Stormtooper at the world premiere of ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi.’ (Photo: Alex J. Berliner, ABImages)
But what’s perhaps most exciting about all of this is the absolute joy Tran has had doing press for the film. As she wrote on Instagram:
As weird as this sounds, my dumb, stupid little heart isn’t ready to say goodbye. I HAVE LOVED IT SO MUCH. 😢💔 But deep down, I know this moment doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to everyone who made this movie. Maybe even more, it belongs to anyone who has ever had a seemingly impossible dream, anyone who has ever loved a world outside of their own.
We’re feeling that force.