2015 was an amazing year for feminism and strong women everywhere. I think in 2015 we became more united and victorious in our fight as a species for equality for all. Below I have listed 15 women who, in those 12 short months, gave something to humanity that took us forward, and therefore inspired me! I hope you enjoy it.
1- Emma Watson
'If nor now, when? If not me, who?' UN conference 2015
Emma has grown into a wonderful, freethinking and graceful young woman that many admire. She consistently uses her position as a celebrity to speak out against inequality, with 2015 seeing her become an icon for the future of feminism.
Watson's speech for the #HeForShe Campaign at the United Nations earlier this year was undoubtedly a landmark moment for modern day feminism, with her calling out men for failing to promote feminist ideals, stating that equality was their fight too. She managed to deliver a compelling and poignant speech about an issue that has been tackled for hundreds of years, creating a wave of support and pride in equality, even causing Malala Yousavzai later admit to Emma herself in an interview that the speech caused her to finally call herself a feminist.
What I am most appreciative of though, is that Emma was advised to avoid the actual word 'feminist', as if it is some sort of taboo. Luckily for us Emma is an intellectual and strong minded individual, eventually ignoring advice that 'it was alienating and separating' (as she deliberated in her interview with Porter). I completely appreciate the idea that this was to make the speech more relatable, but I am proud that Emma used a word that is so often misunderstood, misrepresented and ultimately avoided.
'World Leaders sitting there, look up because the future generation is raising their voice.' UN General Assembly
What a wonderful young lady I have the pleasure of writing about. In 2012 Malala was shot in the head by the Taliban for her campaigns demanding that girls should be educated. From such an awful experience Malala only grew in both strength and wisdom, now being at the forefront of the battle for modern feminism. This year we saw Malala urge world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly to promise that every child receive 12 years of safe, free and quality education, adding that the world leaders should 'think about their own children. No one leader would want their own daughter, their own son, to be neglected of education, to be neglected in society and not given full rights'.
Earlier in 2015 we also saw Malala celebrate her 18th birthday by opening the Malala Fund's "Malala Yousavzai All-Girls School" near the Syrian border, providing education to more than 200 Syrian girls. What an amazing thing to provide!
Malala, a massive Emma Watson fan (even going as far to say that Emma is her inspiration), has also admitted her aspiration to one day become Pakistanis Prime Minister, which would be pretty awesome.
3- Chrissy Teigen
'I think it's our responsibility as women to show our flaws and how we're far from perfect.' Mashable
Chrissy isn't a feminist as such, which is cool, you don't need to be to do something that inspired. She did however something honourable and brave this year that left a massive impression on the world of media.
Teigen is well known for her modeling, mostly implied or in the nude. Earlier this year she sat down with Mashable to discuss what feminism was to her and how she deals with her insecurities. Something that stood out to me was her opinions on photo-shopping and editing photos. As scary as she finds it, she also finds it empowering to be seen exactly how she is. She was published on the cover untouched by Women's Health in September.
that isn't the news that got everyone talking though. In September Teigen brought up an issue on a show hosted by Tyra Banks that stuck a chord with so many women, including the host. On being asked about pregnancy and starting a family Chrissy said that it hurt her that she was being asked because no one understood the real struggle she was going through. She had been having fertility treatment for a while with her husband John Legend, and said she found the question to be extremely nosy.
At the end she said, 'One day you're going to ask that to the wrong girl who is really struggling and it's going to be really hurtful to them and I hate that.' This is what was so profound. That she had made a point that it was not someones right to ask what another intended to do with their womb, and more importantly, how heavy that question could be. With one in seven couples struggling to conceive, it is understandable that we should learn to be a bit more courteous.
'I am a woman with thoughts and questions and shit to say. I say if I'm beautiful, I say if I'm strong. You will not determine my story- I will. I will speak and share and fuck and love and I will never apologise to the frightened millions who resent that they never had it in them to do it.' EW, October
Schumer is a wonderfully funny comedian that has been making waves all year with her Inside Amy Schumer sketches, highlighting everyday sexism in a comedic way whilst raising awareness. Tackling issues such as sexist stereotypes, equal pay and reproductive rights, Amy hilariously tickles our funny bone whilst making a very clear message that is appreciated by men and women alike.
Amy also tackles an issue with feminism that I also often think should be challenged, I have an inherent belief that a woman who takes sexual ownership and is proud of her sexuality, promiscuity and/or sexual endeavours is a matriarch for feminists everywhere. Amy writes most of her characters in her sketches as highly sexualised, owning it because, hey, it's okay to be a woman and want to have sex! Her film Trainwreck, released in 2015, also depicts in a comedic setting what it's like for a woman who is sexual in the 21st century.
Schumer also released a picture of herself late in 2015 in the near nude via Annie Leibowitz' annual calendar of distinguished women . The reason she was applauded for this was the realness of her pose, with her lace undies, cappuccino and slight rolls on her belly, showing that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes because real beauty is loving yourself. Brilliant role model for younger and older generations alike.
'No one should have to hide who they really are, no matter what his or her name, gender, status or orientation' Happy Hippy Foundation, May 2015
I know this is gonna get some criticism but just hear me out on this one! 2015 has seen Miley twerk her way across every billboard, magazine and TV show possible, but whilst she's been doing all that twerking, she has also been making some very valuable points and doing good for lots of people.
Miley Cyrus set up the Happy Hippie Foundation earlier this year (you can read more about that here, it's great stuff!) supporting LGBTQ and homeless youth. There are some 1.6 million homeless youth in the U.S, half of which identify as part of the LGBTQ community. Cyrus set up this non profit charity to support these youths through the online shop, donations and the Backyard Sessions, held in her backyard, which will feature artists such as Elton John and Ariana Grande.
Cyrus has also been very vocal about her opinions regarding the massive movement we all know as #freethenipple. 2015 was the year of the nipple, and Miley became one of it's ambassadors. Back in August Miley made a wicked appearance on Jimmy Kimmel live. Kimmel admitted he felt embarrassed at Miley's choice of clothing (or lack thereof), asking her what her father would say. Not one to back down, Miley just pointed out that her going topless has nothing to do with her as a person, even making a few jokes along the way. After dancing around the topic she drew focus to the actual issue; the way society sexualises women's breasts.
"The nipple, what you can't show, is what everyone has, but the jug part that everyone doesn't, you're allowed to show underboob. I've never understood the way it works."
Cheers Miley, for standing up for the right for our bodies to be just that, a body!
6- Zendaya Coleman
'It's so hard for women to be happy for one another, like genuinely happy. Once you find that, you know you've found true SELF happiness' Twitter
Zendaya is a Disney princess that everyone loves, but throughout 2015 she has often been found tackling everyday sexism, racism and beauty standards. Zendaya regularly challenges comments from the public online, as well as the media for not portraying young women effectively. Earlier this year Coleman outed Modeliste Magazine for editing a photo of her, making her extremely skinny regardless of the fact that she is already petite. Zendaya immediately took to the Internet to deliberate to her fans that this was not acceptable.
'Had a new shoot come out today and was shocked when I found my 19 year old hips and torso quite manipulated. These are the things that make women self conscious, that create the unrealistic ideals of beauty that we have. Anyone who knows who I am knows I stand for honest and pure self love. So I took it upon myself to release the real pic (right side) and I love it. Thank you @modelistemagazine for pulling down the images and fixing this retouch issue.'
Coleman also had a run in with Fashion Police panelist Giuliana Rancic, who suggested that Coleman's dreads probably smelt like 'patchouli oil and weed'. Zendaya commented on this, pointing out how Rancic had attempted to stereotype her by her age and race in the most hideous way. Rancic argued that this was not a racist comment, but none the less it was rude, offensive and degrading to a teenage woman on the red carpet.
What's so great is that in the end Zendaya made a lasting impression on Barbie, with the manufacturer creating a doll in her likeness, including that dread lock hairstyle that she wore to the Oscars. This was praised by feminists and activists against racism and body image. This was a brilliant outcome!
7- Serena Williams
"I don’t have time to be brought down, I’ve got too many things to do. I have grand slams to win, I have people to inspire, and that’s what I’m here for" Good Morning America
This year saw tennis champion Serena Williams win her 21st Grand Slam. Unfortunately it was not just her brilliant talent that caused a stir. Serena, being a sporting champion with four Olympic gold medals, five Wimbledon championships and 21 Grand Slam singles titles, was criticized for her physique rather than praised for her talent. Labeled as manly by twitter trolls and bloggers alike, even sporting commenters had the audacity to weigh in on Williams' appearance, completely overlooking her victories.
Serena took all of these comments in her stride, pointing out the sexism not only in the comments made against her image, but also against her feisty attitude on court. Her outbursts on court are have previously been met with fines but Williams points out that men rarely receive much less criticism for similar behaviour.
8- Jennifer Lawrence
'Could there still be a lingering habit of trying to express our opinions in a certain way that doesn't "offend" or "scare" men?' Lenny Letter
Actress Jennifer Lawrence is best known for her roles in the Hunger Games series and her quirky and refreshing attitude to being in the public eye. One thing Lawrence avoided however, was delving into her opinions regarding equality (etc.). That is until she made a stand against gender pay inequality in a public letter on the lennyletter.com, simply stating "Why do I make less than my male Co-stars?"
The actress opened up about her view on feminism, remaining 'ever so slightly quiet', never being one to 'join conversations that feel like they're trending'. Lawrence went on to discuss how she felt after that Sony hacking incident resulted in her wages (along with all her co-stars) being published. When she saw, she found out how much less she was being paid than 'those lucky people with dicks', and felt instantly angry at herself for not fighting for a wage. It wasn't because she needed the money, and it wasn't to prove a point. It was about the principle, that she didn't negotiate for more due to her fear of being labeled as spoiled or difficult.
Lawrence went on to change this, and a few weeks before her open letter on the Lenny letter, she spoke her mind, giving her opinion in 'a clear and no- bullshit way; no aggression, just blunt'. The man she stated was working for her responded as if she was yelling at him, saying 'whoa! We're all on the same team here!'. This shocked Lawrence because she stated that all the men had been making their voices and opinions heard all day with no problems, yet when it came to her, she had somehow offended.
Lawrence went on to say 'this might have NOTHING to do with my vagina, but I wasn't completely wrong when another leaked Sony email revealed a producer referring to a fellow lead actress in a negotiation as a "spoiled brat". For some reason, I just can't picture someone saying that about a man'.
9- J.K Rowling
'Are you the sort of person who gloats when they see a woman fall, or the kind that celebrates a magnificent recovery? #TeamMadonna' Twitter, February
J.K Rowling has always been a role model for young women, being an inspirational woman herself by rising from her status as poverty stricken single mother to household name and a top selling author. She is truly wonderful, but it's not just her remarkable imagination and writing talents that keeps Rowling in the public eye. For years now J.K Rowling has been a spokesperson for feminism.
This year has seen J.K Rowling demonstrate support for Emma Watson's speech, saying that 'Hermione would be proud'. Rowling also battered bullies on behalf of Serena Williams in the height of all the sexist and racist remarks she received (mentioned earlier).
When a play was released with black actress Noma Dumezweni was cast as Hermione Granger, J.K Rowling simply responded "Brown eyes, frizzy hair and very clever. White skin was never specified. Rowling loves black Hermione".
'The only thing that separates woman of colour from anyone else is opportunity' Emmys 2015
Viola Davis is first and foremost a wonderful actress. This year she became the first black woman, ever, to win Outstanding Lead Actress at the Emmys for her role in How to Get Away With Murder.
Though this is a small thing to mention on my my list of inspirational women of 2015, I found this really affected me as someone of mixed heritage. I gave up on acting rather young because my race often stopped me from getting the theatre parts I dreamed of playing. Women like this inspire me to start again. Thanks Viola, and to all the people who as Viola put it 'took us over that line'!
'I'm a progressive. But I'm a progressive who likes to get things done' Oct 2015 Democratic Debate
Hillary Clinton is the first woman to run for president, which in itself is a pretty big deal. Hillary is a forward thinking (she did an interview in Sept 2015 with Lena Dunham focusing on feminism), outspoken feminist. She is a big supporter of planned parenthood, and fights for equality for both men and women.
Hillary changed her whole image in 2015 to appear more 'human'. Though this may seem like a ploy, I personally find it refreshing that she is willing to make that 'sacrifice' to be deemed as real rather than perfectly polished. Human is what more people need to see. Being human, and all the flaws that come with it, is frightening!
Clinton has been taking to twitter to alter the way people view the #gendercard. In a string of tweets Hillary challenged maternity and paternity leave, family rights, equal pay and even her campaign. This sort of promotion gets attention whilst pointing out the issues she would tackle as president.
Hillary also wants to do something for the future, which is what is really great. She sees these students with so much debt they can't ever work for their future. She wants to compress their debt so that they may be able to build their future. She also makes time for LGBT and transgender rights and equality. It would be great to have someone have such a powerful position so that they may make some real changes.
'My fantasy has always been a room full of Hollywood power bitches enjoying breakfast food' THR Women in Entertainment Breakfast 2015
Lena Dunham is a well known writer and actress. She seems to be able to do everything with class, humour and intelligence, which is really nice to see. Lena inspires me because she has loads of the same core beliefs as I do when it comes to feminism.
I'm not sure if you've noticed, but I do.not.ever bring other women down. I may not agree with what they do, or understand their decisions, but I honestly believe as human beings it is our job to support one another, and therefore as a female it is my job to support other women. Lena says something very similar in her video describing feminism in 8 points.
Lena contributes a lot to the world of feminism, including but not limited to her TV show girls and her new website with Jenny Konner, the lennyletter.com which discusses feminism and every day life, with celebrities often making an appearance.
13- Amber Rose
'So it really doesn’t matter what you do in life, people can call you that name because they are uncomfortable with your sexuality. That’s all it is.' The Guardian, October
Amber Rose did something in 2015 that just had so many people going WOW, wait what?! She released a video along with many public protests called the 'SlutWalk'. Half of us have done it or seen other girls do it, and up until now it has been something of degradation and disrespect. Amber wants to end slut shaming, and promote sex positivity.
Amber is taking words such as 'Whore, Slut, and Hoe and challenging the way they degrade women in a sexual manner. A former stripper herself, she has even been degraded by the father of her child for her outward sexuality, something he later apologised for.
Amber wants to change the image of women who own their sexuality, after all men who are sexually free are often praised, and yet when women do the same thing it is portrayed as dirty and shameful. This double standard is often questioned, and I appreciate the efforts Amber is going through to challenge this. She has been criticized for her keenness to make being a slut acceptable, but I think people who say this could be missing the point (though of course I could be completely wrong). I think she is challenging the meaning of the word, just like spinster is to bachelor, slut is to stud. These nouns represent the same people just of a different gender, so why does one glorify that person whilst the other only shames?
Thanks Amber for making us think and for tackling rape culture!
14- Ariana Grande
'I... do not. belong. to anyone. but myself. and neither do you.' Twitter, June
Ariana, a Nickalodeon princess in the flesh, has made some wicked comments this year that have highlighted every day sexism and gender stereotyping.
I posted earlier this year about her interview with #LiftOff in which she challenged the questions asked of her, stating that they were sexist and stereotypical.
Ariana has also made some similar points in June to Amber Rose (mentioned above). Grande took to twitter to vent after being called 'Big Sean's Ex' one too many times. This double standard infuriated her because she has her own career and is her own person, and it is misogynistic. She went on to say 'I am tired of living in a world where women are mostly referred to as a man's past, present, or future PROPERTY/POSSESSION'. From this she mentioned other things that also echoed that of Rose, including pointing out how men are regaled for the women they claim to be with, yet women are labeled sluts.
Some have argued that perhaps Ariana undermines her feminist movement by performing whilst scantily clad and singing suggestive songs. But, like Amber, Ariana has deliberated that she makes these choices FOR her, not for the men. That she wants to feel sexy for herself, which I find empowering. I love Ariana as a role model because I think it's important for a woman to be a free thinker and in control of her own life, not conforming to what they think a feminist 'should' look like.
15- Michelle Obama
'My education is the starting point for every opportunity I've had in my life' HerCampus
Throughout 2015 Obama has been urging young women to stay in education and make a future for themselves. The Obamas set up a government scheme called Let Girls Learn promoting the providence of education to the 62 million young girls out globally that are currently going without.
These efforts are government wide, working with charities such as The Peace Corps and USAID. In summer 2015 Michelle launched the #62milliongirls social media campaign asking individuals to tweet a photo of themselves and what they learned at school, highlighting how education matters to everyone.
Later in the year a speech delivered by Obama urged girls to stay in education by appreciating that there are 62 millions girls who would give anything to be in their place. She offered advice such as seeking help from tutors and asking questions, and supplied a pretty cool motivational power playlist to empower girls.
It's great to see such great efforts put in to the future women of the world so that the next generation may be different.
I hope you enjoyed reading that as much as I enjoyed writing it. It has been a tough week trying to narrow it down to just these 15 women, as so many people inspire me each and every day to do more, try more and learn more. Who was your inspiration in 2015? I would love to know. Please comment below and subscribe!