The fearless feminists who rallied against inequality and brought down bigotry in 2016

Posted by
Moya Crockett

Amid all the chaos of this year – Trump’s election, the devastating wars in Syria and Yemen, the ongoing refugee crisis and terrorist attacks on European soil – the fight for women’s rights marches ever on.

And if we can take anything positive from the unmitigated horror show that was 2016, it’s the knowledge that we mustn’t take anything for granted. The last twelve months have shown us that the world as we know it can transform in front of our very eyes – and while that knowledge can be unsettling, it should also be the source of strength.

Because if the world can change for the worse, it can also be changed for the better. And in 2016, women from all corners of the globe made huge strides in the battle for female empowerment. From the teenagers taking on their schools’ racist hair policies to the retired women prepared to go to jail in the name of abortion rights, the past 12 months has seen no shortage of real-life feminist superheroes (and no, Wonder Woman didn’t make the cut).

The list of women we were inspired by this year was a long one, and it wasn’t easy to narrow it down to just 40. But without further ado, we present to you’s most-admired fearless feminists of 2016.

Here’s to a brilliant 2017 – the only way, as they say, is up.

Main image: Moya Crockett/Rex Features

  • Indian women protest sexual violence

    “You can change the way people think about women”

    Rape and sexual assault remain a major problem in India, but women are speaking out. In January, women protested outside a court in Kolkata (pictured) before six men were sentenced for the brutal 2013 gang-rape and murder of their friend.

    Millions of protestors marched across India in October, demanding justice over the July rape and murder of a teenage girl in Kopardi. And in December, women walked the streets of Mumbai at night to show men that they have the right to be there.

    “The more you do it, the more people get used to it,” said activist Celina John. “And in a tiny way, you can change the way people think about women.”

  • Sherin Khankan opens Denmark’s first women-led mosque

    “We have normalised patriarchal structures in religion”

    Half-Syrian author, commentator and imam Sherin Khankan opened Copenhagen’s first female-centric mosque in February. While activities at the Mariam mosque are open to both men and women (with the exception of Friday prayers), all of the imams are women.

    “We have normalised patriarchal structures in our religious structures,” said Khankan. “Not just in Islam, but also within Judaism and Christianity and other religions. And we would like to challenge that.”

    Image: Getty

  • High-profile women speak out about their experiences of rape

    “People want you to have been raped perfectly”

    This year saw several famous women challenge simplistic assumptions about sexual assault by talking publicly about their own experiences.

    Lady Gaga brought fellow sexual assault survivors onstage with her at the Oscars in February and opened up about her struggle with PTSD. Actors Rose McGowan and Evan Rachel Wood both explained why they didn’t go to the police after being raped, while Scottish National Party MP Michelle Thomson moved fellow politicians to tears with a speech about being raped as a teenager.

    Amy Schumer, who revealed in August that she had been raped by her high school boyfriend, articulately dismantled black-and-white thinking about sexual assault. “People want you to have been raped perfectly and they want you to be a perfect victim,” she said. “We’re so critical and it makes victims really not wanna speak up.”

    Images: Rex Features

  • Schoolgirls around the world fight racist hair policies

    “It’s time our cries are heard”

    In February, black women around the world shared photos of their natural hairstyles on social media under the hashtag #SupportThePuff, in solidarity with Bahamian student Tayjha Deleveaux. Deleveaux had been suspended from high school for wearing her hair in an “afropuff” hairstyle. In response, her fellow students went on strike, and a petition garnered thousands of signatures.

    In South Africa in September, meanwhile, 13-year-old Zulaikha Patel led a silent protest at Pretoria Girls’ High School after students with afros were told that their “exotic” hair was inappropriate for school. A video of the diminutive Patel facing up to hired security guards quickly went viral, and inspired similar protests around the world.

    “I was prepared for this,” said Patel. “I was fighting for every black child in this country. It’s time our cries are heard.”

    Image: Instagram / zulaikha.patel.with.thee.afro

  • Emma Watson encourages women to get in touch with their sexuality

    “I wish it had been around longer”

    The erstwhile Hermione Granger’s endorsement of sexual pleasure research website OMGYes had us punching the air. “I wish it had been around longer,” Watson told Gloria Steinem at a talk in February. “Definitely check it out.”

    OMGYes (mission statement: “Women’s sexual pleasure has hidden in the shadows for too long”) features “touchable” tutorials based on studies of over 2,000 women. In 2016, this shouldn’t be particularly radical – but the reaction to Watson’s offhand recommendation proved that we still don’t expect soon-to-be Disney princesses to even mention S-E-X. Kudos to Watson for reminding us that every woman deserves a good time in bed.

    Image: Rex Features

  • Beyoncé releases Lemonade

    “Do you want your daughter to have 75 cents when she deserves $1?”

    As well as being the worst year on record, 2016 will also be remembered as the year Queen B got political. When her sixth studio album, Lemonade, dropped in April, it was quickly deemed Bey’s magnum opus: a roiling, magical meditation on and celebration of black womanhood.

    In the same month, the star spoke about feminism and the gender pay gap, telling ELLE: “Do you want your daughter to have 75 cents when she deserves $1?” But neither did she shy away from aligning herself explicitly with black feminism: in August, she brought four mothers of African-American men killed by police officers as her guests to the VMAs.

  • Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo launch a feminist children’s book

    “We are really thinking of the book as a modern fairytale”

    Fed up with the passive princesses in children’s stories, Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo decide to take matters into their own hands. In April, the couple launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a book about real-life inspirational women. The result, Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, is now the most crowdfunded book in history and tells the stories of 100 women from Frida Kahlo to Serena Williams to the Brontë sisters.

    “We are really thinking of the book as a modern fairytale that children will read at bedtime before they go to sleep,” says Favilli.

    Image: Instagram / _fracavallo

  • Theresa Kachindamoto breaks up child marriages in Malawi

    “If girls are educated, they can be and have whatever they want”

    The senior chief or Inkosi of Malawi’s Dedza District, Theresa Kachindamoto has informal authority over more than 900,000 people. She hit the headlines in April when she asked the Malawian parliament to increase the minimum marriage age from 18 to 21, to help break the cycle of rural poverty.

    But Kachindamoto has also banned sexual initiation camps for girls, dissolved child marriages (over 850 in three years) and sent the children involved back to school. “If [girls] are educated, they can be and have whatever they want,” she says.

    Image: UN Woman/Ryan Brown

  • Nicola Thorp launches petition against having to wear heels at work

    “Aside from the debilitating factor, it’s the sexism”

    In May, actress Nicola Thorp set up a petition calling for a change in the law after she was sent home for refusing to wear heels at her temp receptionist job. “Dress codes should reflect society,” she said, adding: “Aside from the debilitating factor, it’s the sexism issue.”

    Thorp’s petition was signed by over 150,000 people, and the issue went on to be debated in parliament. In a statement, the government said: “We expect employers to act in accordance with the law, which is clear that dress codes enforced by employers must be reasonable and include equivalent requirements for both men and women.”

    Image: Rex Features

  • Robin Wright shares how she fought for (and won) equal pay

    “You’d better pay me or I’m going to go public”

    Claire Underwood, Robin Wright’s character in House of Cards, is famously steely. And in May, the actress – who has appeared in every episode of the political Netflix series and is listed alongside co-star Kevin Spacey as an executive director – revealed that she employed some of Claire’s mettle to fight for equal pay.

    Wright explained that she took no prisoners when lobbying studio bosses. “I was like: ‘You’d better pay me [the same as Spacey] or I’m going to go public.’ And they did.” Bravo.

    Image: Rex Features

  • Proud feminist Sadiq Khan is elected Mayor of London

    “I’m obsessed about being a feminist in City Hall" 

    The former Tooting MP, elected Mayor in May, made his feminist beliefs clear from his first day in office. Not only did he appoint women to the majority of roles in his mayoral team, he also published City Hall’s first ever gender pay audit.

    “It's like feminism on steroids when you become a dad of daughters, because… the evidence tells us if you are a girl you’re less likely to be able to fulfil your potential,” Khan said. He added that he was “obsessed about leading by example and being a feminist in City Hall."

    Image: Rex Features

  • Teenagers in Nepal use photography to bust stigma around periods

    “We must eliminate taboos through education”

    During their periods, teenage girls from the Nepalese village of Sindhuli have traditionally been ostracised: separated from their families, banned from going outside, and even forbidden from looking in a mirror. But in May, we brought you news that seven Sindhuli teenagers had been using photography to share their feelings with families and friends, in an effort to challenge menstrual taboos.

    “Keeping adolescent girls inside without sun for many days is not good,” said 15-year-old Sabina Gautum. “We must eliminate such superstitions and social taboos through education.”

    Image: Water Aid

  • Diana King, Collette Devlin and Kitty O’Kane demand to be prosecuted for illegal abortions

    “We know that going to jail is a possibility”

    In May, retirees Diana King, Collette Devlin and Kitty O’Kane handed themselves into a Derry police station, asking to be prosecuted for obtaining and taking illegal abortion pills. Saying that they wanted younger activists to stay out of prison, they added that they hoped a trial would bring attention to Ireland’s “ridiculous” abortion laws. “We know that going to jail is a possibility,” said King, 72. “But we will be saying that we don’t think that we have done anything wrong.”

    While the women wait to hear whether they will be prosecuted, the pro-choice Repeal the 8th movement has been gathering momentum. Thousands of campaigners took part in #RepealThe8th solidarity protests in cities around the world in September, from Dublin to New York to Phnom Penh. 

    Photo: Facebook

  • These women foil a date rape in Santa Monica


    Monica Kenyon, Sonia Ulrich and Marla Saltzer were out for dinner in California this May when they spotted Michael Hsu slipping something into his date’s drink. Ulrich followed the unsuspecting woman into the bathroom to tell her what had happened, while Saltzer informed the restaurant’s management.

    Hsu was arrested and charged with administering drugs with the intent to commit a sex crime. The following day, Ulrich posted an account of what had happened on Facebook, where it swiftly went viral.

    Unfortunately, in December a judge ruled that evidence of Hsu’s crime wasn’t collected properly, meaning it will be thrown out. However, he could still be charged with poisoning.

    Image: Facebook / Sonia Ulrich

  • “Emily Doe’s” victim impact statement goes viral

    You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me”

    We don’t know her real name, but we all know “Emily Doe’s” story. In January 2015, the 23-year-old was raped by Brock Turner while she lay unconscious behind a dumpster near Stanford University, California. At Turner’s trial in June this year, she stood up and addressed her rapist directly, beginning with the now-immortal words: “You don’t know me, but you’ve been inside me, and that’s why we’re here today.”

    Doe’s blisteringly powerful letter went viral as soon as it was published online, and was praised for its unflinching critique of rape culture and its message encouraging sexual assault survivors to seek justice. When Turner was sentenced to just six months in prison, it only highlighted Doe’s bravery in speaking out.

    Image: iStock (picture posed by model.)

  • Men in Iran take hijab selfies

    “They have witnessed how their female relatives have been suffering”

    In Iran the wearing of headscarves in public is enforced by the so-called ‘morality police’, who punish women who expose their hair with fines or imprisonment. To protest the country’s stringent policing of women’s clothing, some brave Iranian men took to social media in July to share photos of themselves wearing hijabs alongside their female relatives – who kept their hair uncovered.

    “They have witnessed how their female relatives have been suffering at the hands of the morality police and humiliation of enforced hijab,” said journalist Masih Alinejad, who started the #MenInHijab campaign.

    Image: Facebook / My Stealthy Freedom

  • Jennifer Aniston pens searing essay about tabloid sexism

    “We get to determine our own ‘happily ever after’”

    Few celebrities understand what it’s like to have your body, face and love life ruthlessly and relentlessly scrutinised quite like Jennifer Aniston. And this year, the 47-year-old actress decided she’d finally had enough.

    In a scathing online op-ed published in July, Aniston directly addressed tabloid speculation about her personal life, concluding: “[Women] are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child. We get to decide for ourselves what is beautiful when it comes to our bodies. That decision is ours and ours alone… We don’t need to be married or mothers to be complete. We get to determine our own ‘happily ever after’ for ourselves.”

    Mic drop. Aniston out.

    Image: Rex Features

  • Lydia Rye and Melanie Jeffs lead research making street harassment a hate crime

    “It made me feel deeply vindicated”

    Thanks to research led by Melanie Jeffs and Lydia Rye, Nottinghamshire police became the first city in the UK to expand its definition of hate crime to include misogynistic incidents (from unwanted sexual advances to physical approaches) in July. Given that 64% of women of all ages have experienced sexual harassment in public places, it seems about time.

    Sadly – and predictably – the two women later found themselves the targets of online abuse. However, Rye said that the abuse made her “feel deeply vindicated that this work was done. Those commenting were proving the very need for this categorisation.”

    Image: Ursula Kelly Photography, Nottingham Citizens

  • Leslie Jones speaks out against online racism and sexism

    “Stop letting the ignorant people be the loud ones”

    When Saturday Night Live’s Leslie Jones starred in the all-female Ghostbusters reboot, she was subjected to a torrent of horrific racist and sexist abuse online – from vicious trolling to having her personal website hacked.

    Jones didn’t take the cyber-attacks lying down, but she also refused to pretend that they hadn’t devastated her. In July, when advised to simply “ignore” the trolls, she replied, wisely: “Stop letting the ignorant people be the loud ones. We have to make people take responsibility for the hate they spew. We have to stand up to it.”

    Image: Rex Features

  • Muslim women hit back at racist, sexist stereotypes with viral hashtag


    In August, powerful, successful and outspoken Muslim women hit back at Donald Trump’s sexist and Islamophobic rhetoric with the hashtag #CanYouHearUsNow. Trump had insinuated that the Muslim-American mother of a slain US soldier wasn’t “allowed” to speak – an insinuation tapping into the myth that Muslim women, particularly those who wear hijab, are fundamentally oppressed.

    In a typical tweet, Dr Dalia Fahmy wrote: “As a politics professor I lecture to many silent men, because I’m the expert in the room.” Alya Chaudry posted: “Donald, I'm Muslim and no one would dare tell me I'm not allowed to speak. Your claims just show your ignorance.” Preach.

  • Olympic athlete Fu Yuanhui challenges stigma around periods

    “It’s because of my period”

    Following the 4 x 100-metre medley relay at the Rio Olympics in August, Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui gave a refreshingly frank explanation for why she hadn’t performed as well as she’d hoped. “Because my period came yesterday, I'm feeling a bit weak,” she said.

    It was an offhand remark, but it made waves. Periods are rarely discussed openly in sports – and tampons are stigmatised in China, where they’re seen by many as unhygienic and unsafe. As a result, Yuanhui was widely praised for busting period taboos in both her chosen sport and her home country.

    Image: Rex Features

  • Reshma Bano Quereshi walks at New York Fashion Week

    “Beauty lies in the soul”

    In August, 19-year-old Reshma Bano Quereshi walked in her first ever New York Fashion Week show. But the teenager from Mumbai wasn’t just another new model: she’s an acid attack survivor, beauty blogger, and an activist fighting against the unregulated sale of acid in India.

    There are an estimated 1,000 acid attacks in India every year, and the vast majority of victims are women. Quereshi herself was left with a severely disfigured face and a missing eye after her estranged brother-in-law attacked her with acid, after he mistook her for her sister. She told press at New York Fashion Week that she was thrilled to have had the chance to “show the world that beauty lies in the soul and not in looks”.

    Image: Caters News Agency

  • Aheda Zanetti pens powerful essay about France’s burkini ban

    “What you see is our choice”

    Local authorities in the French towns of Cannes and Nice banned burkinis from beaches in August, claiming that they were a sign of “Islamic extremism”. In response, the burkini’s inventor, Australia-based designer Aheda Zanetti, wrote an essay explaining that she created the garment in 2004 to “give women freedom, not to take it away.”

    “Who is better, the Taliban or French politicians? They are as bad as each other,” Zanetti said. “I don’t think any man should worry about how women are dressing – no one is forcing us, it’s a woman’s choice. What you see is our choice.”

    Image: Getty

  • Louiza Patikas makes domestic violence a national talking point

    “It could happen to anybody”

    Until this year, actress Louiza Patikas had received relatively little attention for voicing the character of Helen Titchener on BBC soap opera The Archers. But when Helen’s husband Rob became emotionally and physically abusive towards her – culminating in her stabbing him in self-defence – the country sat up and listened. Millions tuned into Radio 4 in September to hear The Archers episodes where Helen appeared in court charged with attempted murder: the hashtag #FreeHelen trended on Twitter, and coercive control became a national talking point. A JustGiving page set up in Helen’s name, meanwhile, has so far raised over £170,000 for Refuge. (Helen was found not guilty.)

    “It made me realise [domestic abuse] could happen to anybody,” Patikas said of her character’s storyline. “We probably all know at least two people who are going through the same thing and have no idea.”

  • Nicola Sturgeon breaks silence surrounding miscarriage

    “There are many reasons women don’t have children”

    When a successful woman has no children, many are quick to assume that she must have prioritised her career over starting a family. In September, Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon challenged that myth by revealing that she had wanted children, but suffered a miscarriage in 2011 – a sign, if ever there was one, that we should just stop talking about whether women have children or not.

    “There are many reasons why women don’t have children,” she wrote on Twitter, adding: “Sometimes, for whatever reason, having a baby just doesn’t happen.” Sturgeon said that she hoped her speaking out would challenge some of the “judgements that are still made about women – especially in politics – who don’t have children”, and help break the “‘taboo’ of miscarriage.”

    Image: Rex Features

  • gal-dem go from strength to strength

    “We championed women of colour in so many different ways”

    Frustrated with a lack of diversity in mainstream media, Liv Little launched gal-dem – an online magazine written by women of colour – in 2015. But it was in 2016 that the fledgling media empire really began to take flight. In September, the team celebrated its first birthday by publishing their first print issue; in October, they took over the V&A with a night of talks, music, films and workshops; and in November, the website won a prestigious Comment Award.

    “[gal-dem] have championed women of colour in so many different ways, against a backdrop of unfavourable politics both here and abroad,” says opinions editor Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff, adding: “In 2017 we're only going to get better. Big things coming.”

    Image: Ailsa Fineron/gal-dem

  • Saudi women campaign to end male guardianship system

    “This is not only a women’s issue”

    Thousands of Saudi women signed an online petition calling for an end to the country’s guardianship system in September. Under strict current laws, women cannot travel, marry or leave prison without the permission of a man (usually their father, husband or son). Male consent can also be required before a woman is able to take a job or receive healthcare.

    A report by Human Rights Watch condemned the guardianship system this summer, sparking a hashtag: #IAmMyOwnGuardian.

    “Women should be treated as a full citizen,” said activist Aziza Al-Yousef, who has been fighting against the guardianship system for a decade. “This is not only a women’s issue, this is also putting pressure on normal men.”

    Image: Getty

  • Polish protestors pressure government into dropping plans to restrict abortion

    “Women are very furious”

    Thousands upon thousands of women marched through the streets of Poland in October to protest against proposals for a near-total ban on abortions, on a day dubbed ‘Black Monday’. “Women are very furious. They’re very scared,” said pro-choice campaigner Marta Szostak, adding that she had never seen “that large amount of women going to the streets fighting for reproductive rights.”

    And in a heartening sign of the power of direct action, the protests worked. Just days after Black Monday, Poland’s parliament voted overwhelmingly to reject the bill for the abortion ban – with the government saying that the protesters had given ministers “food for thought”.

    Image: Rex Features

  • Kelly Oxford launches #NotOK hashtag in wake of Donald Trump’s sexual assault comments

    “Anyone denying rape culture, please look at my timeline now”

    After the now-infamous tape surfaced in which Donald Trump can be heard bragging about groping women’s genitals, Canadian writer Kelly Oxford decided to open up a conversation about sexual assault. “Women: tweet me your first assaults. They aren't just stats,” she wrote on Twitter in October. “I'll go first: Old man on city bus grabs my ‘pussy’ and smiles at me, I'm 12.”

    The response was instantaneous and explosive, as over a million women from around the world shared their own experiences. “Anyone denying rape culture, please look at my timeline now,” Oxford tweeted, adding: “This is not nothing… Not our shame anymore.”

    Image: Rex Features

  • Michelle Obama delivers fiery critique of Donald Trump

    “Strong men don’t need to put women down”

    In an impassioned speech in October, Michelle Obama also condemned Donald Trump, saying that his language in the ‘Trump Tapes’ had “shaken me to my core”.

    “I can’t believe I'm saying that a candidate for President of the United States has bragged about sexually assaulting women,” said Obama, adding: “Strong men, men who are truly role models, don’t need to put down women to make themselves feel powerful.”

    In the aftermath of the First Lady’s speech, she was found to be more popular with voters than her husband, Trump or Hillary Clinton, and both the Republican and Democratic parties, prompting calls for her to run for president in 2020 – a request which she has, alas, politely rebuffed.

    Image: Rex Features

  • Latin American women protest violence against women

    “We are saying ‘enough!’”

    In October, thousands of women took to the streets across Latin America to march against gender-based violence, as part of a growing movement known as #NiUnaMenos (“not one less”). “We are saying ‘enough!’” said one of the organisers of the protest, Sabrina Cartabia. “We won’t go back to being submissive and we won’t tolerate any more of the misogyny or violence that all us women have to deal with.”

    Black-clad protesters, predominantly women, walked out of work across Argentina after 16-year-old Lucia Perez was abducted, drugged, raped and murdered in the Argentinian city of Mar del Plata. Solidarity demonstrations also took place in Mexico, El Salvador, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.

    Image: Rex Features

  • Women in France, Iceland and the UK walk out of work to raise awareness of the gender pay gap

    “When women protest, they make visible what is invisible”

    The year might be 2016, but the gender pay gap is still a very real problem. (Currently, there’s not a single country in the world where women out-earn their male counterparts.) To raise awareness of the issue, women in Iceland and France (pictured) walked out of work early in October and November respectively.

    “When women protest, they make visible what is invisible,” said French women’s rights minister Laurence Rossignol. “I support them.”

    We launched our own #EqualPayDay initiative right here at Stylist in November, leaving the office 18% early and calling on our readers to do the same (we even provided you with a handy email template to send to your boss). Over 171,000 people engaged with our social media campaign to ditch the desk – so let’s make next year’s #EqualPayDay even bigger…

    Image: Rex Features

  • Kamala Harris, Tammy Duckworth and Catherine Cortez Masto are elected to the US Senate

    “It is time to fight for who we are”

    It was a bleak US election for feminism, but there were some victories. Before 2016, there was only one woman of colour on the US Senate: Japanese-American Mazie Hirono. In November, however, Hirono’s club of one expanded when Kamala Harris (who is half-Indian American and half-African American), Tammy Duckworth (Thai American) and Catherine Cortez Masto (Latina) were elected to the Senate.

    The three newcomers are experienced politicians with solid feminist records on pushing for abortion rights, equal pay for equal work and the protection of domestic violence services. Upon winning, Harris tempered her celebrations with a rousing call to arms in the wake of Trump’s presidential election victory. “Do not be overwhelmed,” she said. “Do not throw up [your] hands when it is time to roll up our sleeves and fight for who we are.”

    Images: Rex Features

  • Hillary Clinton concedes the US election to Donald Trump

    “We have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday someone will”

    Hillary Clinton has never been a unifying feminist figure (who is?), but one thing seems certain: as president, she would have been a vastly more committed defender of women’s rights than Donald Trump. And after an election campaign marred by shocking misogyny, her gracious, defiant concession speech to Donald Trump in November was enough to bring a tear to the eye of even the most ardent Bernie Sanders fan.

    “To all the little girls watching... never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world,” said Clinton, adding: “I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday someone will – and hopefully sooner than we might think right now.”

    Image: Rex Features

  • Zainab Abdulla teaches Muslim women self-defence

    “We’re not passive receptacles for bigotry”

    In the wake of Trump’s election victory, there was a dramatic surge in hate crime in the US, with many Muslim women – especially those who wear the hijab – reporting feeling particularly vulnerable.

    In response, Zaineb ‘Zee’ Abdulla launched seminars to teach women how to fight back against so-called “hijab grabs” (in which attackers attempt to tear a woman’s hijab from her head) in November. The 24-year-old Muslim therapist and self-defence teacher from Chicago also posted videos of her lessons on social media, where they quickly went viral.

    “We’re not passive receptacles for bigotry, we fight back, we stand up for our rights,” Abdulla said. “This is my country as much as it is John Smith’s.”

    Image: Facebook/Zee Abdulla

  • Chimananda Ngozi Adichie dismantles sexist assumptions about make-up

    “Women are a multiplicity of things”

    The end of this year saw author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie cement her place as one of our favourite feminists. During a BBC interview in November, she shut down a right-wing journalist who tried to tell her that Donald Trump wasn’t racist. “I’m sorry, but as a white man, you don’t get to define what racism is,” said Adichie. “You really don’t.”

    A week later, the new face of No.7 beauty also dismantled the tired assumption that intelligent women shouldn’t care about the way they look. “Women who like make-up also have important and serious things that they’re doing in their lives,” she said, adding: “Those can co-exist… Women are a multiplicity of things.”

    Image: Rex Features

  • Sisters Uncut block bridges in London to protest domestic violence cuts

    “You block our bridges, we block yours”

    British grassroots feminist collective Sisters Uncut first came to mainstream public attention in 2015 when they stormed the red carpet at the Suffragette premiere. In 2016, they’ve continued fighting the good fight – most notably blocking bridges around the UK in November to highlight the devastating impact of funding cuts for women’s refuges and other domestic violence services.

    The symbolic protest came ahead of Chancellor Phillip Hammond’s Autumn Statement, as women carried banners reading “You block our bridges, we block yours”. “To escape [domestic violence], you need a bridge to safety,” the group wrote in an essay for the Telegraph. “Domestic violence services are those bridges.”

    Image: Rex Features

  • Protestors shut down child rape bill in Turkey

    “Take your hands off my body”

    In November, thousands of people took to the streets of cities across Turkey to protest against a bill that would allow men who sexually abused underage girls to escape punishment – if they married their victims. Demonstrators in cities including Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir marched with placards saying, “Rape cannot be legitimised” and “AKP, take your hands off my body” (referring to the ruling party that proposed the bill).

    And, just like the Black Monday marhes in Poland, the protests had an impact. The government withdrew the bill at the end of November, saying that they had taken into account the reaction of “the opposition and civil society”.

    Image: Rex Features

  • Amber Heard reminds domestic violence survivors: “You are not alone”

    “You’re not alone, and we can change this”

    This year, Amber Heard filed for divorce from Johnny Depp, alleging that he had been emotionally, verbally and physically abusive throughout their relationship (the former couple settled the case out of court in August). Since then, the actor has used her profile to speak out on behalf of domestic violence survivors.

    In November, the actor gave a reading of the Stanford rape survivor’s victim impact statement and deftly explained the challenges facing women in abusive relationships in a moving video. In a powerful open letter published in December, Heard explained why she, like so many women, resisted the label of “victim”.

    “Telling someone safe is the beginning of choosing yourself,” she said, adding: “You don’t have to do it alone, you’re not alone, and we can change this.”

    Image: Rex Features

  • Native women lead protests at Standing Rock

    In December, it was announced that the US Army will not grant permission for the Dakota Access Pipeline to drill under the Missouri river – marking a major victory for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. Native American activists and their supporters had been fighting hard against the pipeline, which they said would contaminate their water source and destroy sacred sites.

    And Native American women have been widely recognised as “the backbone of the Standing Rock movement” – facing shocking levels of police violence along the way. Many at Standing Rock highlighted the significance of women as the protectors of water and life in Native American culture, in some cases drawing on matriarchal tribal structures.

    “Women are the backbone of every tribe and every indigenous community,” Caro Gonzales, a 26-year-old member of the Chemehuevi tribe, told the Guardian.

    Image: Rex Features