Looking back on the stories that have made the headlines this year, it’s easy to feel an overwhelming sense of hopelessness at the way many women are being treated, whether it’s ownership of their own bodies (rape, the threat to abortion rights) or the insidious culture of sexism that permeates all aspects of the media we consume.
It can seem like things are going backwards – all the achievements the generations before ours fought so hard for are being clawed back by misogynists and fundamentalists.
However, a LOT of good stuff happened this year too and we need to celebrate that, as well as being aware that we must never take anything for granted – there are plenty of fights that need to be fought and many rights that we enjoy which could easily slip away through apathy.
And even the bad things that have happened this year are a sign of progress. It’s not always linear, and sometimes we have to take one step back before we can take two steps forward. But 2012 was the year when everyone discovered that women know how to shout, how to complain, and how to make themselves heard.
So, here’s our by-no-means definitive list and please weigh in in the comments to let us know about the issues that made you feel hopeful or angry in 2012.
Women bishopsThe votes were cast and to the dismay of the majority, the decision went against allowing women bishops. But all is not lost, according to Kirsty, who urged us not to give up on the Church of England just yet…
Chris BrownWho shall represent all men who think it’s acceptable to beat women and remain defiantly unapologetic about their actions. The fact that he’s in the public eye and has influence over his thousands of fans makes his attitude even more sickening. However, don’t forget that as public as social media allows Chris Brown to be about his actions, it also means the rest of the world can make it clear what they think of him. With every foul-mouthed rant on Twitter, the world is seeing Chris Brown, and men like him, for what they really are.
AbortionThe case of Savita Halappanavar highlighted how many women around the world do not have access to safe, timely and legal abortions and the comments from politicians like Todd Akin and Nadine Dorries reminded us that unfortunately the right to choose really isn’t one that we can take for granted.
With American pro-life campaigns like 40 Days For Life coming to the UK, 2012 was the year abortion rights in the UK were top of the agenda for the first time in 20 years. We need to remember this, we need to remain vigilant, and we should never be complacent.
RapeWe end the year with protests in New Delhi over a 23-year-old medical student who was gang-raped on a bus, highlighting the country’s vastly unreported rape problems. In a year that saw a slew of high profile figures in the British media accused of sexual assault and in some cases rape in the 1970s and 80s, the issue is more on the agenda than ever.
The Detective Coleman-Farrow case (where the senior officer in the Sapphire Unit, which specializes in sexual assault, falsified paperwork, failed to submit forensic evidence, and falsely told victims of sexual assault that their cases had been dropped) shows that archaic attitudes towards victims of sexual assault and rape are still prevalent in the police force. Caroline’s moving account of taking her own sexual assailant to court shows us just how far the justice system also has to go.
Benefit cutsBecca’s piece on growing up on benefits showed us that the government’s benefit cuts are a social issue, something that everyone should care about, whether it affects us or not.
However, there’s no denying that the benefit cuts will impact women disproportionally with child benefits and tax credits under attack. It's also gone largely unnoticed that the new Universal Credit will only be paid to one bank account per household, removing many women’s financial autonomy, at a time when they’re getting less money than ever in the first place.
In fact, does this government even realise women HAVE the vote, we have to wonder… The silver lining to this cloud is that the less engaged with women the government becomes, the more vocal, engaged and furious women grow, as we’ve discovered…
OlympicsI don’t think anyone could have predicted the euphoria that swept the nation this summer when the Olympics and Paralympics put sport firmly in the spotlight. Team GB’s achievements were breathtaking and it was SO inspiring to see female athletes like Jessica Ennis, Ellie Simmonds, Katherine Grainger and Natasha Baker being recognised for their incredible talents, efforts and spirit.
SlutwalksSlutwalk wasn’t invented in 2012, but boy did it take off. Whether you agree with the principle of reclaiming the word slut or not, there’s no denying how heartening it is to see this movement becoming a such a huge part of our lexicon in such a short space of time.
Ban Page 3When Lucy Holmes set up a petition calling for No More Bare Boobs in the Sun, no-one could have predicted it would have gained over 62,000 signatures in a few short months. Squeamish Kate may have disagreed with signing the petition but the comments around her piece were fantastic.
This is a great example of how this campaign did plenty to reignite the debate around Page 3 and the sexualisation of women in the media – yet another example of 2012 being the year that wimmin came back onto the agenda in a big way. Also, the best thing about this story was hearing that the police who were called to move the protestors on promptly signed their petition – brilliant!
Hilary Mantel doing the doubleThe fact that shortlists for literary awards are still depressingly male-dominated means we definitely do still need the Orange Prize to recognize women’s fiction and it was incredibly gratifying to see Hilary Mantel become the first woman to win the Booker twice. After scooping the prize in 2011 for her historical novel, Wolf Hall, she did it again this year with Bring Up the Bodies, the second book in the trilogy that follows the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell.
Angela Merkel, Julia Gillard, Hillary ClintonToo often the media gets sidetracked by female politicians’ clothes, hair, make-up, marital status and whether she’s a mother or not. Thankfully these three incredible women couldn’t care less – they’ve got more important things to do, like rebuilding the economy of Europe, trying to solve global conflicts and refusing to be silenced by snide, institutional sexism. We can watch this clip too many times...
Lady blogsThe term may make you cringe, but there’s no doubt that the raw, unapologetic writing that you find on Jezebel, the Hairpin, the Frisky, Vagenda and yes, our very own xoJane.com and xoJane.co.uk has shaken up the internet. This is where women feel able to voice their opinions and share experiences with others which they may never have before.
MalalaThe story of Malala Yousafzai, the 14 year old blogger in Pakistan who was shot by the Taliban for her activism was angering and inspiring in equal measure. Her tenacity and bravery are an inspiration to everyone.