8 Things That Prove The Past Year Wasn't Completely Horrible For Women

The first year of Donald Trump’s presidency has been infamously bad for women, a seemingly endless onslaught of macro and microaggressions.

However, on International Women’s Day — 24 hours in which we are encouraged to consider equality, hope, justice, empathy, respect, forgiveness, and tenacity — it seems counterproductive to think about all the bullshit President Donald Trump and his administrators have lobbed at us. This is supposed to be a day for celebrating our achievements and the progress we’ve made since March 8 of last year, and for reigniting a sense of purpose in the months ahead. With that in mind, it seems more effective to focus on the good, rather than the bad.

The past year hasn’t been a total wash, and has in fact brought the occasional victory our way. Below, we’ve corralled eight of the things to happen to women, to give you something to celebrate.

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Women in Saudi Arabia gain the right to drive

In September, Saudi Arabia announced that it would lift its ban on women driving, removing one roadblock to women’s autonomy within the kingdom. Saudi women enjoy very few rights, and although that’s slowly changing, those who work outside the home previously relied on male family members or wage-burning car services to get them to and from their jobs. The hope is that letting women drive will let them enter the workforce in larger numbers, and ideally allow them to gain some economic independence. The new policy will take effect in June, and women are already learning the rules of the road.
Photographed by Sage McAvoy
#MeToo and Time’s Up

In October, back-to-back bombshell reports confirming the open secret of Harvey Weinstein’s sexually predatory behavior. For many, Weinstein’s misconduct recalled the casual abuse they’d experienced in school, at work, on dates, in the street — basically, everywhere — and people started speaking up, sharing short memories online, accompanied by the #MeToo. The hashtag bloomed into a full-fledged movement, story after story surfacing in the news cycle and toppling powerful men across pretty much every industry.

The staggering volume of corroborating evidence meant a vast demand for solutions, and on Jan. 1, the Time’s Up initiative announced itself with an open letter in the New York Times. A legal fund for those who have experienced harassment and discrimination on the job, Time’s Up also pledged to push legislation to punish companies that turned a blind eye to misconduct, champion gender parity in the film industry, and raise awareness on the red carpet during awards season.
Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images
Danica Roem became the first transgender state legislator

In November, Democrat Danica Roem became the first transgender woman to be elected to any state’s legislature, beating “chief homophobe” incumbent Bob Marshall for a seat in Virginia’s House of Delegates. Formerly a reporter and currently a member of a death metal band, Roem defeated a man who vied for sex-segregated bathrooms and took a hardline against gay marriage, and she did so by paying close, consistent attention to the issues that most affected the people in her district. And in a year marked by unflagging animosity toward LGBTQ communities, her victory meant hope: “What I hope people across the country are able to see in [our victories] is that transgender people can be really good at doing their jobs in elected office; we can make really good legislators,” she told Time. “Just by being in office, our mere presence fundamentally changes the equation.”
EAN DAVEY/AFP/Getty Images.
Australia legalized same-sex marriage

As 2017 wrapped up, Australia finally legalized gay marriage, lawmakers passing the final bill (with only four no votes) in December. Despite a number of documented cases of violence against LGBTQ communities, public opinion was behind legalization, as the New York Times reported. And then, the country’s 22 failed attempts to pass same sex marriage legislation since 2004 made this victory particularly meaningful.
Clay Enos/Warner Bros/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock
Women made strides on screen

We know that women, especially women of color, get sidelined in the entertainment industry. The past year hasn’t changed that, but it has given us a number of milestones to celebrate. Over the summer, Wonder Woman became the highest-grossing live-action film to be directed by a woman and ultimately, the highest grossing superhero origin movie of all time. HBO’s Big Little Lies, the product of women’s creative efforts through and through, swept the Emmys and proved that stories about women can be universally compelling. Tiffany Haddish became the first Black female comedian to host Saturday Night Live. Rachel Morrison became the first woman in the Oscars’ 90-year history to be nominated for best cinematographer. And across award show ceremonies, red carpets were given over to calling out gendered biases in film, music, and television.
Nicole Craine/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Roy Moore lost because Black women refused to let him win

In what could optimistically be interpreted as a reversal of the 2016 and a good political omen for the left, Doug Jones became the first Democrat in 25 years to win Alabama’s U.S. Senate seat. The victory was yet more meaningful because Jones beat out Republican Roy Moore, a man accused of child molestation and sexual misconduct many times over. Many heralded the win as a win for women, which it was — because despite the state’s apparent efforts to disenfranchise them, the Black women of Alabama organized a campaign and voted Moore down. While most of Alabama’s white women (63% of those who voted) went with the child abuser, 98% of the Black women who cast their ballots chose Jones.
Women in Iran are making a public statement about personal freedom

In late December, an Iranian woman named Vida Movahed launched a push for personal freedom for women in her country, climbing atop a telecom box and publicly removing her hijab. By early February, Iranian authorities had arrested 29 women who joined the protest, stationing themselves on elevated platforms around Tehran and either taking off their headscarves and waving them like flags, or standing, fully covered, in solidarity. Although police are still taking protesters into custody, the images highlight the idea of choice — whether or not a woman covers her head should be up to her — something Iranian women aren’t often allowed.
Courtesy of Craig Sjodin/ABC
Frances McDormand brought inclusion riders to the Oscars stage

“I have two words to leave you with tonight, ladies and gentleman: inclusion rider,” Frances McDormand said, concluding her acceptance speech for the best actress award at the 90th annual Oscars. Many scratched their heads at this, and apparently, asked the internet: “Inclusion” topped Merriam-Webster’s top searches Sunday night.

The idea actually comes from Stacy L. Smith, director of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. In 2014, Smith penned a guest column for the Hollywood Reporter suggesting big stars state in their hiring conditions that the film must cast roles such that the landscape onscreen mirrors real life diversity. Smith told NPR she had no idea McDormand would bring up the idea in her speech, but was “elated and thrilled” to hear her introduce it to a mainstream audience. Here’s hoping Hollywood listens.
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