We take a look back at the feminist moments and themes that got us thinking differently, inspired us and got us taking action to change-the-game in 2015. Here’s to further individual and collective action in 2016!
- Jessy McCabe’s Campaign – wonderful Jessy McCabe’s campaign to have female composers included for the first time ever on Edexcel’s Music A-Level syllabus. Jessy had her revelation during our Fearless Futures programme at her school in February and sought to use her courage and knowledge to rectify it – which she has done, with the support of thousands of signatories too! Edexcel took positive action to rightly include female composers and from 2016 the syllabus will now feature Clara Schumann, Rachel Portman, Kate Bush, Anoushka Shankar and Kaija Saariaho. A rich and inclusive syllabus is a victory for education – and in turn, for us all! Her story is also a tribute to the role each and every one of us can play in asking the very important question: whose stories and voices are we not hearing? And then do something about it! Jessy’s amazing work also saw her included in the BBC’s 2015 100 Women list and with huge thanks to Rupa Huq MP for raising it, her campaign was also praised by David Cameron during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons! Woo hoo!
- #Sayhername – The important #Blacklivesmatter movement was created by activists Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullor to bring into focus the systemically racist brutality by police towards people of colour in the US. The conversation surrounding the tragic victims of police brutality in large part ignored the experiences of black women and gender-non conforming women. We sadly know too well the names of Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Freddie Gray, but less so of Rekia Boyd, Sandra Bland and Mya Hall, whose stories had been marginalised. The #sayhername campaign was devised in response to this and rightly gathered huge momentum in 2015. “Although Black women are routinely killed, raped, and beaten by the police, their experiences are rarely foregrounded in popular understandings of police brutality,” says Kimberle Crenshaw, director of Columbia Law School’s Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies. Amplifying the experiences of black women and gender non-conforming women is not a competing narrative – rather it ensures that we centre all lives equally in social movements for change. For further information on how you can use your voice effectively on social media please see this powerful guide from the African American Policy Forum.
- Women’s stories gained prominence on our screens – Movies and TV are a powerful influencer of our culture. But women’s voices are rarely at the forefront, nor do they shape the perspectives we get to witness and experience. The white male lens that drives our movie-going experience is so entrenched most of us barely notice it. The statistics are staggering: Only 6 of the top 500 grossing films of all time have a woman of colour as the protagonist. Of these, 5 are animations. Women only represent 17% of crowd scenes in movies and are only 7% of directors. Women’s stories are not niche, they are 50% of humanity’s experiences and they are worthy of being told. We would like to shout out some notable works in film and TV this year: Speed Sisters, Suffragette, How to get away with Murder, Pitch Perfect 2, Transparent, Mad Max: Fury Road, Carol, Spy, Inside Out, By the Sea, Tangerine, Sicario and Star Wars: the Force Awakens. We have such a long way to go, but remember, as customers we have power – so let’s use it and act with our feet to insist on fair representation, complex characters and the full breadth of humanity on our screens!
- Periods – 2015 might just be the year of the period! Quite right, given that as you read this about 800 million women are on their period. It’s natural and normal, yet so overlooked. From Laura Coryton’s campaign to have the UK government stop taxing periods as luxury products, through to Kiran Gandhi who ran the London Marathon while free bleeding to raise awareness of the millions of women who do not have access to sanitary products across the world, and the FlowAid campaign for homeless women in the UK. While condoms are provided for free by the NHS and in homeless shelters, sanitary products are by contrast in short supply. #Thehomelessperiod was established to highlight this. When 1 in 5 mums in the UK skip meals so that their children can eat, they are also often forgoing basic toiletries, and of course, sanitary products. These campaigns have shone a light on the way gender and class intersect. We must support women to access the products they need to lead dignified lives. So #letskeeptalkingperiods!
- Au revoir to the male-female brain debate – A new study determined that there is no such thing as a ‘male’ or ‘female’ brain. Rather, we all have a ‘mosaic’-like combo of both. From a study of c.1400 brains, Daphna Joel, who led the study at Tel-Aviv University said: “What we show is that there are multiple ways to be male and female, there is not one way, and most of these ways are completely overlapping”. She also said, and it is a message we echo: “We have to treat each person according to what he or she is and not according to the form of their genitals.” Hear, hear! No one is immune to presumptions and assumptions – but we are all responsible for educating ourselves and challenging our actions and attitudes. Next time you presume something about someone’s capability or potential based on a gender norm, think again and smash the thought before it takes root! #smashgendernorms
You’re no doubt thinking that there has been an important technological invention missed off, or a prominent woman becoming leader of a country that we have ignored. You’re right! In limiting our shout-outs to 5 themes during 2015 we inevitably exclude hundreds and thousands of countless actions by fearless people around the world, changing the game for our collective futures. The good news is that everything is connected. Our vision of a gender equal future has no exceptions, and leaves no one out. Every front requires our effort and persistence. So, what fearlessness will you bring to 2016?