2017 In Retrospect | The Year Of The Female

18.12.17

Was it just me, or did it feel like we stepped into this year with a big, grey cloud hanging over our heads?

A cloud created in large part by the shocking results of the United States presidential election in November of the year prior.

Yep. She lost. Hillary lost. And the pain of that was felt universally.

Her loss had a more profound impact on young Kiwis than we were expecting – mainly because none of us truly believed that Donald Trump could actually win. We believed that if American voters opened their eyes to his bullying, racism, sexism and belittling, then there was no way they would trust him as leader of the free world.

Put simply, we were wrong.

But if there was one silver lining to that cloud it’s that it ignited a modern-day revolution for women fuelled by the sentiment that enough is enough.

When people are truly sad, when they feel devastated, angry, and defeated, that is usually when they feel most compelled to stand up and do something. For that reason and so many others, I’ve decided that 2017 was the year of the female.

It began with the Women’s March on January 21st. There is something about the images from that day that will always ignite a visceral reaction in me. Seeing the hundreds of thousands of men and women – of all ages, races, and religions – take the streets of Washington to send an emphatic message to President Trump that his stance on issues of abortion, health care, gay rights, and climate change would not go unchallenged over the next four years. It was a message that reverberated around the world at more than 600 sister marches in places like Paris, Berlin, London and Sydney. Famous faces included Lena Dunham, Jake Gyllenhaal and Chance The Rapper – but it wasn’t the stars who made the marches so special, it was people like us. Young women who felt compelled to march in solidarity because they believed that their safety and their freedom were on the chopping block.

It was a march that, in a lot of ways, still hasn’t finished.

January also saw the launch of “Twenty Questions” on the blog. A weekly series of conversations with regular (see: divine, beautiful, kind, talented) twenty-somethings as they answered a list of intimate questions about themselves. It was a privilege to share these women’s stories with you. Women from all walks of life, each on their own path but bound by the universal experiences that come with being a young millennial trying to figure it all out.

On January 30th Lorde tweeted, “These old men in power have a storm coming, the likes of which they cannot comprehend.” And neither she nor the rest of the world knew just how accurate she would be, come October.

When February rolled around, my birthday month, I vowed to make 2017 my year of gratitude. I wanted to be actively grateful for having a job I truly adore and all the blessings that come with that, but I also wanted to be grateful for the really shit moments too. So I practiced gratitude when I had exhaustion and learnt to slow down, and I practiced it when toxic relationships in my life taught me tolerance and patience. I practiced gratitude when I missed out on business opportunities that ultimately made room for something infinitely greater, and I practiced it whenever I felt anxious. Because for all the pitfalls of being a highly sensitive person, I’ve realised that it also makes me a damn good sister, daughter and friend.

The year of the female manifested itself in the form of scriptwriters like Lena Dunham and Jenni Koner (Girls), directors like Greta Gerwig (Ladybird) and Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman), an ever-growing list of female comedians from Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon to Amy Schumer and Tiffany Haddish, to authors like Scaachi Koul and Durga Chew-Bose who, somehow perfectly, articulated familiar experiences like first-love, “It is always consuming though rarely nourishing”, and experiences that teach you something new about yourself, “Nook people are those who need solitude but also the sound of someone puttering in the next room. A nook person finds the dog at the party and drinks wine from a mug.”

In June, Lorde gave the world her highly-anticipated masterpiece, Melodrama. A heartbreaking-but-hopeful album that we listened to while lying on our beds staring at the ceiling. She gave us lyrics that were so raw and relatable that they could have been written by, or about, any of us.

When winter arrived we spent our nights binge-watching Big Little Lies. A female-centric, seven-part series starring Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley, Zoe Kravitz and Reese Witherspoon – who also served as executive producer because she saw an opportunity to (shock horror) “put diverse women on screen.” What began as the same glossy depiction of motherhood that we are usually sold, later unravelled to reveal six mothers who were nothing if not imperfect, complicated, multi-faceted and above all – human.

On August 1st, Jacinda Ardern took over from Andrew Little as the leader of the New Zealand Labour party, just seven weeks before an election that she would ultimately win. And policies aside, there was no denying that seeing a young, intelligent, altruistic female elected as Prime Minister was a powerful moment for Kiwi women.

Later that month on August 10th, Taylor Swift testified in court against a Denver radio DJ who reached under her skirt and grabbed her rear end, an act that he vehemently denied before suing Swift for $3 million in “personal damages”. She countersued for a symbolic $1 and won the case. Fast-forward to October 5th and that same sentiment was amplified when the New York Times released a story detailing three decades’ worth of sexual harassment accusations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and sent shockwaves around the world. What followed was the fall of dozens of Hollywood men, from Kevin Spacey to Louis C.K., at the feet of female victims who reclaimed their narratives and consequently allowed other sexual assault survivors to stand on their shoulders and scream.

#METOO created a cataclysmic bang across industries; from hotel works to the U.S. Senate, and to see women share painful experiences and then to have those feelings of pain and sadness validated by real action felt especially powerful. Almost overnight the world was finally listening, not least of all Time Magazine who declared ‘The Silence Breakers’ their 2017 Person of The Year.

Backtrack a few weeks to September 26th when Saudi Arabia made history by finally allowing women to drive, ending a longstanding policy that had become a global symbol for the oppression of women.

On November 5th, Shalane Flanagan became the first American woman to win the New York City marathon in forty years and dethroned one of the male giants of running in the process. But what was even cooler was the fact that more than half of all NYC marathon runners this year were female – a milestone in itself when you consider that until the mid 80s women weren’t allowed to participate in competitive running due to concerns it wasn’t “physically possible.”

And then there was you.

The way that women of all ages and stages have embraced The Twenties Club this year has been nothing short of overwhelming. I’m so proud of the community I’ve created, but I’m even more proud that you want to be a part of it.

I’m proud of the kind, intelligent, thoughtful women that inhabit this space; from those on “Twenty Questions” to those that have written in with their tattoo stories and breakups, career changes and office antics. And I’m proud that when it really counts, you speak up. Passionately, eloquently, with insight and with emotion. Because you’re smart enough to know that if we don’t stand together, march together, and fight together, then we will lose together.

That is the generation I recognize and resonate with. We are not the negative stereotype that is so often handed to us. We get to make a decision every day of who we want to be and how we want to show up in the world.

And because of that, I feel hopeful.

Happy new year, be safe, and I’ll see you in 2018 ♡


Header image by Holly Burgess for The Twenties Club