The most powerful feminist moments of 2019

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Kayleigh Dray
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This emotionally-charged video will definitely inspire you to keep fighting the good feminist fight. 

Who run the world? 

From Serena Williams and Johanna Konta, to Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 2019 has seen countless women stand up and speak their truth in the name of feminism. We’ve smashed taboos, united to end violence against women, made history (again!), refused to conform, and called out misogyny wherever and whenever possible.

This powerful and emotionally-charged video (as a matter of fact, it reduced editor-in-chief Lisa Smosarski to tears) wraps up some of 2019’s most iconic feminist moments. 

Here, we reveal the stories behind the footage…

1) Serena Williams vows to never stop fighting for equality

When Serena Williams lost to Simona Halep in this year’s Wimbledon final, she found herself under fire from critics – including tennis legend Billie Jean King – who suggested the 23-time Grand Slam champion should take a break from activism to give more of her attention to tennis.

Williams, however, was quick to shut down that idea.

“The day I stop fighting for equality and for people that look like you and me will be the day I’m in my grave,” she said in her post-match interview.

2) Michelle Williams highlights the importance of equal pay at the 2019 Emmys

Just days after writer Adele Lim walked away from the Crazy Rich Asians sequel following a pay dispute, Michelle Williams took to the stage to accept the award for outstanding lead actress in a limited series or movie for Fosse/Verdon at the 2019 Emmys.

Keen to use her moment in the spotlight to help other women, Williams began her impassioned acceptance speech by stating: “When you put value into a person, it empowers that person to get in touch with their own inherent value and then where do they put that value?”

She continued: “The next time a woman, and especially a woman of colour, because she stands to make 52 cents on the dollar compared to her white male counterparts, tells you what she needs in order to do her job, listen to her, believe her, because one day she might stand in front of you and say thank you for allowing her to succeed because of her workplace environment — and not in spite of it.”

Read the full story here.

Michelle Williams
Michelle Williams

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3) Democrats wear white in solidarity with suffragettes

In February, the women of the Democrats dressed in white for President Donald Trump’s State of the Union to remind him, and his administration, that women will not relinquish their rights their ancestors fought for.

“Today, we stand together wearing white in solidarity with the women of the suffrage movement who refused to take no for an answer,” said Rep. Brenda Lawrence. “Women had to march, make demands and fight for right for the voice and have the right to vote. The women’s movement was full of fighters who refused to be treated as second class citizens, but still today, 100 years after women received the right to vote, the battle continues. 

“Our very existence, it seems, is resistance in light of the times we find ourselves in.”

She continued: “This White House administration has tried to close its doors on women, but we will not be locked out. The administration that has closed its eyes to women, we will be seen. To an administration that refuse to listen to us, we will be heard… 

“We are here to let every woman in America know we’ve got your back. And we are not backing down, and we will continue to fight for every woman in America.”

4) Regina King’s speech on how it’s 50% women moving forward

Regina King’s Golden Globe acceptance speech for her incredible work in If Beale Street Could Talk was, in a word, epic.

“So often, everyone out there that hears us on a red carpet and they say celebrities are using the time to talk about ourselves when we are on our soap box and using a moment to talk about the systemic things that are going on in life, time’s up times two,” the actor said.

“The reason why we do this is because we understand that our microphones are big and we’re speaking for everyone. I am going to use my platform to say right now that in the next two years, everything that I produce and I am making a vow. And it’s going to be tough to make sure that everything that I produce, that it’s 50% women.

“I just challenge anyone out there who is in a position of power, not just in our industry, in all industries. I challenge you to challenge yourselves and stand with us in solidarity and do the same.

Regina King at the 2019 Golden Globes 

5) Green Party MEP Molly Scott Cato’s brilliant comeback 

It was the best of times for basically everyone, but it was the worst of times for Robert Rowland, the Brexit Party’s MEP for the South East England.

Earlier this year, he addressed a question on Brexit to Green Party MEP Molly Scott Cato in the European Parliament. Barely bothering to hide his sneer, he asked why she was so sure a Canada+ style post-Brexit trade deal would leave the UK in financial jeopardy, because “as far as I’m aware she does not have any degree in economics.”

“Obviously you haven’t been paying much attention to my CV because I was and I remain a professor of economics,” replied Scott Cato.

6) Johanna Konta refuses to let journalists patronise her

British player Johanna Konta lost in straight sets in the Wimbledon quarter finals of this year’s competition to Barbora Strycova. Cue a male journalist using the post-match interview to spell out some of Konta’s errors, before saying: “Do you not have to look at yourself a little bit about how you cope with these big points? Because it’s all very well saying it is a lot to do with your opponent but there were key points when you perhaps could have done better.”

“I don’t think you need to pick on me in a harsh way,” Konta replied calmly. “I think I’m very open with you guys and I say how I feel out there and if you don’t want to accept that answer or you don’t agree with it then that’s fine. But I still believe in the tennis I play and still believe in the way I competed and I don’t much have else to say to your question.”

The journalist, however, was unsatisfied with her response and went on to question her desire to succeed - something which Konta was unwilling to let lie.

“Please don’t patronise me,” she said. When the journalist insisted he wasn’t, Konta continued: “No, no you are. In the way you are asking your question you are being quite disrespectful and you are patronising me. I am a professional competitor who did her best today and that’s all there is to that.”

Read the full story here.

Johanna Konta was knocked out of Wimbledon 2019 by Barbora Strycova.
Johanna Konta was knocked out of Wimbledon 2019 by Barbora Strycova.

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7) MP Rosie Duffield shares her powerful story of domestic abuse in parliament

Rosie Duffield left fellow MPs in tears earlier this year when she detailed the verbal abuse, gas-lighting and financial control that she experienced over a course of months in a relationship.

Duffield also made an important point that domestic abuse doesn’t “look” a certain way – it can be happening to anyone in any form. “Domestic violence has many faces and the faces of those who survive are varied too. Sometimes there are no bruises. Abuse is very often all about control and power. It’s about making themselves feel big or biggest,” she said.

Her finishing message was a call for anybody who is in an abusive relationship to reach out, saying: “If anyone is watching and needs a friend, please reach out if it is safe to do so and please talk to any of us because we will be there and we will hold your hand.”

Read the full story here.

8) Women in India walk 10,000km to raise awareness about rape

Rape is one of the most under-reported crimes in India – with some estimates indicating 90 to 95% of rape cases remain unreported.

“We are marching to change society’s attitudes to sexual assault,” Divya Srinivasan, an Indian lawyer who specialises in women’s rights, told The Independent at the time of the march.

“Every day, survivors are silenced, discriminated against, threatened, intimidated, and coerced into settling or dropping their cases,” she said. “An intersectionality of vulnerabilities creates even more difficulties for women and girls who are further marginalised on the basis of class, caste, religion and disability.”

9) Phoebe Waller-Bridge continued to smash taboos

Phoebe Waller-Bridge, oh she of Fleabag fame, was beyond stunned to pick up four awards at this year’s Emmy Awards. 

“I find writing really, really hard and really painful, but I’d like to say just honestly from the bottom of my heart that the reason that I do it is this,” she said, jokingly gesturing at the Emmy award in her hand. “So it’s made it all really worth it guys! A huge thank you to the Fleabag family who have been behind every single word of this.

“It’s just really wonderful to know that a dirty, pervy, angry, messed-up woman can make it to the Emmys, so thank you so much,” she added.

2019 Emmy Awards: Phoebe Waller-Bridge accepts her award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for Fleabag

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10) Netflix smashed period taboos at the Oscars

An anonymous Oscars judge said it could not be done. That Period. End of Sentence is “well done, but it’s about women getting their period, and, as such, men would not vote for it because it’s just icky”.

Thankfully, this misogynist idiot was proven to be 100% wrong: Netflix’s Period. End of Sentence was named the Best Documentary Short at the 91st Academy Awards.

“I’m not crying because I’m on my period or anything. I can’t believe a film on menstruation won an Oscar,” filmmaker Rayka Zehtabchi said in her acceptance speech.

Read the full story here.

11) The world’s first all-female spacewalk took place

On 18 October 2019, astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir secured their place in history books by venturing out of the International Space Station’s (ISS) Quest airlock and into the vacuum of space.

The pair spent just over five hours outside the ISS to fix a failed power unit, in the world’s first all-female spacewalk.

“It’s a sign of the slowly growing number of women in the astronaut corps,” Kathy Sullivan, who became the first American female to walk in space in 1984, said of the spacewalk. “The occasional woman as a bit of a novelty on a crew or a spacewalk or on a mission control console is giving way to the normalcy of more gender-diverse teams in all these arenas and women regularly taking on high-stakes tasks and leadership roles.”

Read the full story here.

12) Ursula von der Leyen elected first female European commission president

Earlier this year, Ursula von der Leyen was named the first female European commission president.

After the announcement of the result, she said: “The trust you place in me is confidence you place in Europe. Confidence in a united and strong Europe, from east to west, from south to north. The confidence in a Europe that is ready to fight for the future rather than fight against each other.”

13) Glenn Close’s powerhouse speech at the 2019 Golden Globes

Glenn Close, who won the Golden Globe for best actress in a drama motion picture, was recognised for her performance in The Wife, in which she plays the unfulfilled spouse of a narcissistic, Nobel Prize-winning husband.

In a powerful speech, she said the role taught her that women need to “follow our dreams”.

It is “expected” that women will be “nurturers”, Close said. “We have our children. We have our husbands if we’re lucky enough, and our partners, whoever. But we have to find personal fulfilment. We have to follow our dreams. We have to say, ‘I can do that, and I should be allowed to do that!’”

14) Alex Borstein’s story of her grandmother fighting the Nazis

Mrs Maisel star Alex Borstein won the award for a best supporting actress in a comedy series during the 71st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards. When accepting her award, however, she veered away from the jokes and instead told a touching story about her grandmother’s bravery fighting the Nazis.

“My grandmother turned to a guard,” she said. “She was in line to be shot into a pit. She said, ‘What happens if I step out of line?’ And he said, ‘I don’t have the heart to shoot you but somebody will,’ and she stepped out of line. 

“For that, I am here and my children are here. So step out of line, ladies, step out of line.”

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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