March is Women’s History Month and what better way to celebrate than with a list of feminist milestones from this past year? Our timeline starts in March 2015 and tackles one feminist event a month, ending at Women’s History Month, 2016. Sit back, and enjoy a year of girl power.
Story by Natalie Heineman
March 2015: Girls Make National News
The Radical Monarchs, a group comprised of girls of color between the ages of 8-12, was formed in Oakland, California by mothers who wanted to provide a safe space for their daughters to discuss social issues. The Radical Monarchs pay homage to the Brown Berets and Black Panthers of the 1960s, as well as the Girl Scouts. The girls earn badges for participating in protests, campaigning against antiquated beauty standards, and accepting all genders and sexualities.
April 2015: Let It Flow
In April, rapper M.I.A.’s drummer Kiran Gandhi ran the London Marathon without a pad or tampon. In an essay for Medium, she explained why she decided to bleed freely: “As women, historically, we have always had to prioritise the comfort of others at the expense of ourselves.” Gandhi says she wants people to be aware of this issue. “Women and men have both been socialized to pretend periods don’t exist.”
May 2015: Canada Removes the “Tampon Tax”
In May 2015, Canada’s parliament voted to remove the tax on feminine hygiene products. This five percent sales tax outraged citizens because it referred to menstrual products as “luxury items.” Canadian women no longer have to pay tax on this necessity. We can only hope that the United States will soon follow.
June 2015: Misty Makes History
In June, Misty Copeland become the first African-American woman principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre’s 75-year history. Time Magazine named her one of 2015’s Most Influential People. When asked by Time what advice she had to share, Copeland answered, “You can do anything you want, even if you are being told negative things. Stay strong and find motivation.”
July 2015: U.S. Women’s Soccer Victory
On July 5, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer team defeated Japan to take home the FIFA World Cup. According to Fox Sports, the Women’s World Cup final was the most watched soccer match (male or female) of all time, proving that yes, people like to watch women’s sports.
August 2015: “We Can Do It!”
For the first time ever, two female officers graduated from the rigorous Army Ranger School. The women, 1st Lieutenant Kristen Griest and Captain Shaye Haver, completed the physical and mental challenges of the program that 40% of men are unable to complete. This feat contributed to the announcement that starting in 2016, all military combat roles would be open to women.
September 2015: Viola Gets Hers
In September, Viola Davis became the first African-American woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. Controversy about the lack of diversity among 2015 Oscars nominees loomed over other awards shows, such as the Emmys, but Davis points out that the flaws rest in the system, not the shows. Davis said in her acceptance speech, “the only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.”
October 2015: Amber Rose Deserves Your Respect
In October, model and activist Amber Rose hosted a “slut walk” in downtown Los Angeles to bring attention to slut-shaming. Rose, who has been dragged in gossip tabloids for her past relationships with Kanye West and Wiz Khalifa, called for women to be proud of their sexuality. During a speech at the event, Rose said, “I decided to have this slut walk for women who have been through shit. And even though I’m out here crying, I want to be the strong person that you guys can look up to.”
November 2015: Canada Leads the Way
Not only did Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau select his ministers with an equal number of men and women, he purposefully created “a cabinet that looks like Canada.” This diverse group of Canadians advise and run the various ministries, much like the U.S. President’s cabinet. When a reporter asked Trudeau why his 30-person cabinet featured 15 women, Trudeau replied, “because it is 2015.”
December 2015: A Young, Pakistani Hero
“He Named Me Malala” was released on DVD in December 2015. The documentary features 18-year-old activist Malala Yousafzai, who has spoken out from an early age on the importance of education for girls. The film narrates how Malala miraculously survived a Taliban attack, as well as her desire to be known as more than “the girl who was shot.”
January 2016: Emma Watson’s Book Club
In January 2016, actress Emma Watson started a book club on Goodreads. This group, named Our Shared Shelf, showcases a novel by a feminist writer each month. Watson said, “As part of my work with UN Women, I have started reading as many books and essays about equality as I can get my hands on.” Everyone is encouraged to join here.
February 2016: Gaga Sings for Survivors
During the 2016 Oscars, entertainer Lady Gaga took the stage and sang “Till It Happens to You” in recognition of survivors of sexual assault. She passionately belted out the song while dozens of victims of sexual violence joined her on the stage. This song was Gaga’s first Oscars nomination, and although Sam Smith took home the award, Gaga’s performance sent a powerful message that will not be forgotten.
March 2016: Michelle Obama at SXSW
At SXSW, Michelle Obama hosted a keynote entitled, “Let Girls Learn.” Moderators Queen Latifah and Missy Elliott joined Mrs. Obama on stage to answer questions about the “#62MillionGirls” campaign, which calls attention to the millions girls around the world who face barriers to receiving quality education. Mrs. Obama put out a call to action when she said in Lena Dunham’s newsletter, “you absolutely have the power to make a difference on this issue, and girls around the world are counting on you to step up and act.”