Coming off the heels of the presidential election, women entered the new year ready for action. For many, 2017 was the year for making their voice heard. To remind us of the power of our voices, here are just 10 ways that women spoke up in 2017:
The new year started with a bang as millions of people from around the world took to the streets to advocate for human rights on the first Women’s March. In the U.S., with an estimated 3.2 to 5.2 million people in attendance in over 600 cities nationwide, it was the largest single day protest in U.S. history. Outside the U.S., over 100 marches took place all over the world in cities like Kalkata, India; Nairobi, Kenya; Paris, France; Melbourne, Australia; and Lima, Peru.
An all-female Afghan orchestra made its international debut
Afghanistan’s all-female orchestra made their first international performance at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, overcoming death threats. After the Taliban imposed a music ban in the late 1900s, many conservatives from their home country see music as immoral, especially for women. Even though many of the musicians are forced to hide their music from their community, like 18 year old Zarifa Adiba, she told Reuters, “Music is my profession. Music is something beautiful. I should be proud to be a musician.”
The group, made up of students from the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, is named Zohra after a goddess of music in Persian literature.
We exposed hostile work culture
Former Uber engineer Susan J. Fowler published a blog post detailing her experience working at Uber. In her account, she described the institutional sexism she experienced and the response (or lack thereof) she received after reporting several incidents to her manager and the company’s HR. Her account spurred an investigation into her and other employee’s allegations that found many instances of misconduct, and resulted in Uber co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick stepping down from his position and the firing of over 20 employees. The incidence sparked conversation about hostile work culture not just in Silicon Valley, but in all fields, as an unprecedented number of women spoke publically about their experiences with sexual harassment.
“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” When U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell use these words to defend the interruption of Elizabeth Warren’s speech against attorney general nominee Senator Jeff Sessions, he didn’t know it would become a battle-cry for feminists around the world. Since then, it has been painted on protest signs and posters, embroidered onto t-shirts and hats, and printed on coffee mugs to remind us to not be silent and to keep moving forward.
Wonder Woman broke records
The first big-budget superhero movie with a female director shattered expectations when it became the highest grossing domestic superhero origin film of all time and the highest grossing movie with a female director, earning over $800 million worldwide. Beating Guardians of the Galaxy 2, it was the summer’s biggest movie. Gal Gadot, who served as a combat instructor in the Israeli Defense Forces, portrayed a powerful yet compassionate heroine raised by an island of female warriors – the perfect role-model for girls and women alike.
Saudi Arabian women took the wheel
Saudi Arabian’s King Salman issued a decree ending the country’s long-standing ban on female drivers. They were the only country in the world where women were banned from driving; a global symbol of the conservative kingdom’s oppression on women. Now able to drive themselves, Saudi women no longer have to spend their salaries on drivers or rely on male relatives. Leaders hope it will allow women to gain economic freedom and increase their participation in the workforce.
We united with #MeToo
While the movement was founded in 2006 by Tarana Burke, the hashtag reemerged to viral fame in 2017 as the biggest feminist hashtag of the year. It was originated by Burke to support survivors of sexual violence. In October 2017, following sexual harassment of assault accusations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, actress Alyssa Milano asked survivors to share their stories using the hashtag to, “give people a sense of magnitude of the problem.” That month, over 7 million tweets contained the hashtag. As people shared their experiences, famous actors, news anchors, politicians and more were forced to resign due to sexual misconduct allegations.
A transgender woman made history in government office
History was made after the results of Virginia’s November election revealed that Democratic candidate Danica Roem unseated incumbent Republican Bob Marshall as District 13’s representative in the Virginia House of Delegates, making her the first openly transgender person to be elected and serve in a state legislature. Marshall controlled the position for over 26 years and was one of the state’s most anti-LGBT lawmakers. Roem’s success was a great inspiration for the LGBT community, as well as other first-time candidates.
Women ran for office in record numbers
While there are more women in the U.S. Senate than ever before, with quadruple the number of women of color, women only hold around 25% of state government seats. However, after the 2016 election, a record number of women ran for office in 2017 – over 35,000 – and even more contacted national organizations who encourage women to run for elections, like Emily’s List and She Should Run. From 2016 to 2017, the number of women who contacted Emily’s List went from 920 to 19,000, She Should Run saw an increase from 1,800 to 15,000, and Emerge America had an 87% increase in application for training courses for female candidates.
The Silence Breakers were named Time’s Person of the Year
In 2017, thousands of women shared their stories of abuse, from actors to engineers to musicians. By coming forward, they defied their abusers and the stigma surrounding abuse and supported other victims, encouraging them to speak out as well. For their courage and influence and, as Time editor Edward Felsenthal stated, “For giving voice to open secrets, for moving whisper networks onto social networks, for pushing us all to stop accepting the unacceptable, the Silence Breakers are the 2017 Person of the Year.”
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Ashleen Knutsen is a science writer and editor in Los Angeles. After a decade of experience in engineering and research, she decided to pursue a career in science communications to not only spark women and girls’ interest in STEM, but to let them know that they too can change the world.