Let us begin with the obvious. For many women, 2016 was a deflating nightmare of epic proportions.
It was singular in terms of shittiness, really. One of the top news stories was the unearthing of decade-old footage of Donald Trump boasting that he likes to grab women by the pussy ― and he went on to be elected as America’s 45th president. The glass ceiling stands. Reproductive rights are under attack. It’s... not great.
But! Last year was also filled with some pretty solid moments for women in the worlds of sports, entertainment and yes, politics and reproductive rights. We swear.
In the spirit of kicking off 2017 on a more positive note, we rounded up 18 of the brightest spots for women from the last year. Onwards and (hopefully?!) upwards.
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Yes, we know how it ended. She lost. But in July, Clinton became the first woman in this country's history to be nominated for president by a major political party. And it was historic
Clinton ultimately lost the electoral college, but she took the popular vote by more than 2 million votes
-- another first for women -- and that margin continues to grow.
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In late June, the Supreme Court struck down a Texas abortion law
that required abortion providers have admitting privileges at local hospitals, and that clinics meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers -- restrictions that led to the closure of roughly half of the state's abortion clinics.
But in a 5-3 decision, the Court concluded the law placed an "undue burden" on women and their ability to access care. In doing so, they offered up the most significant legal victory for abortion rights in the United States in decades. The ruling establishes legal precedent that will make it that much harder for anti-choice legislators to chip away at women's reproductive rights (despite their constant efforts to do so
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Simone Biles went into the 2016 Olympics with an enormous
amount of pressure on her to be, basically, perfect -- and she was. She won four gold medals (the first U.S. gymnast ever to do so
) and one bronze.
Biles also perfectly shut down any attempts to describe her remarkable achievements by likening her to male superstars. “I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps,” she told Sporting News
. “I’m the first Simone Biles.”
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At 20 years old, Manuel made Olympic history when she became the first black woman
to win an individual gold medal in swimming in the 100-meter freestyle. And she embraced the milestone.
“The gold medal wasn’t just for me," Manuel said during the games
. "It was for people who came before me and inspired me to stay in this sport, and for people who believe that they can’t do it."
Manuel left the 2016 Olympics with a whopping four medals and has been hailed as the future of swimming
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Election night was a blow to women in one rather obvious way, but there was at least one bright spot: The number of women of color in the United States Senate quadrupled, as Vox reports
, from one to four. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii (who is Japanese-American) had been the Senate's only woman of color, but she is now joined by Kamala Harris of California (who is African- and Indian-American), Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada (who is Latina), and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois (who is Asian-American). Four women is by no means a lot, but it's something.
The Huffington Post
In June, BuzzFeed first published
the stunning impact statement of a 23-year-old who had been raped by former Stanford University student Brock Turner, and it instantly went viral
The 7,000 word letter -- arguably one of the most powerful statements on sexual assault ever -- offered an uncompromising look at the many ways in which sexual assault can upend a life, and how the legal system can fall terribly short.
As Emily Doe wrote to other survivors of sexual assault: "I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you."
In arguably the most memorable moment of the presidential debates, Trump interrupted Clinton -- who was answering a question about social security -- to call her "a nasty woman."
Almost immediately, #NastyWoman began trending on Twitter. Signs and swag sprung up everywhere, embraced by Clinton fans as the feminist rally cry
they'd been waiting for.
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After the election, more than 315,000 of donations were made to Planned Parenthood, many in honor of Trump and Pence. (In November, New York Magazine reported
that more than 80,000 donations has been made in honor of Pence, a known Planned Parenthood foe and anti-choice legislator
The donations were part of an even broader post-election surge in donations to organizations promoting social justice policies that run counter a Trump/Pence agenda. For example, the ACLU received millions of dollars in donations
, and immediately after the election, its website traffic increased by 7,000 percent.
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In February, "Full Frontal" premiered, making Bee the only female to currently host a late-night show. Her sharp humor was essential
during a brutal campaign season -- and in October, she also became the first female late-night host
to interview a U.S. president.
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Period talk is still woefully taboo, but that didn't stop Yuanhu -- an Olympian from China -- from being frank about what it's like to be an elite athlete who also -- gasp! -- menstruates. “My period came last night and I’m really tired right now,” Fu told a reporter
. “But this isn’t an excuse, I still did not swim as well as I should have.” The comment generated a lot of media headlines
simply for being such a straightforward acknowledgment of one of the realities for many women who compete at high levels in sports.
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In April, Beyoncé released Lemonade, a 12-track visual album that put black feminism front and center. It included lines from Malcolm X
("The most disrespected woman in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman") and generated a whole lot of discussion (and debate) among feminist scholars and writers
. It was, as The Hollywood Reporter put it
, "a masterwork by a black woman for black women" -- and in December, Beyoncé was nominated for nine Grammys.
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In October, Rae's HBO comedy "Inescure" premiered, putting the life of a modern black woman -- with the highs and lows of navigating dating, friendship, work -- front and center.
In many ways, it was remarkable simply for being unremarkable. "I say that black people don’t really get a chance to just be regular and boring and go through everyday things and this is very much a slice of life show," Rae said during a live conversation with The Huffington Post
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Over the summer, Aniston wrote an open letter on The Huffington Post
pushing back against the seemingly never-ending speculation that she is currently gestating ("For the record, I am not
pregnant. What I am is fed up,
" she wrote) and calling out the media's obsession with critiquing women's appearances. Aniston wasn't necessarily breaking new ground, but her stand was clear and assertive -- and it struck a chord
"We are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child," Aniston wrote. "We get to decide for ourselves what is beautiful when it comes to our bodies. That decision is ours and ours alone."
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The 33-year-old former refugee won a decisive victory in Minnesota
where she was elected to the state's House of Representatives. She was born in Somalia and lived for several years in a refugee camp in Kenya before immigrating to this country when she was 12.
“Oftentimes, you are told to be everything but bold, but I think that was important for me in running as a young person and running as someone who is Muslim, a refugee, an immigrant,” told The Huffington Post in an interview last fall
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In the fall, Polish legislators attempted to push on a total abortion ban within the country -- but thousands of women took to the streets to push back. In sweeping protests, women from across 60 cities participated in a nationwide strike
-- and in early October the ruling government party rejected the abortion ban.
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In an August essay for Glamour Magazine
wrote about the reasons why he is a feminist and implored other men to join the cause.
“It is absolutely men’s responsibility to fight sexism too," he wrote
. "And as spouses and partners and boyfriends, we need to work hard and be deliberate about creating truly equal relationships.” To which we say, hell yes.