Ellie Rowe looks back on decade of wins for women across the world.
It’s been a monumental decade. For many of us, the last ten years have seen us blossom from children into (certified!) adults, move through primary, secondary and university, get jobs, learn, grow, change, make dozens of new friends, and fall in and out of love… repeatedly. However, as well as being a monumental decade for us, it has been a monumental decade for the world – particularly in terms of women’s achievements! Piggy-backing on the tails of the ever popular phenomenon that is Spotify Wrapped, here’s a definitive ‘Decade Wrapped’ of fascinating feminist achievements in the last ten years:
2010 – Kathryn Bigelow becomes the first woman to win an Oscar for Best Director
We’re kicking off our decade with a pretty big achievement. In 2010, Kathryn Bigelow made history by becoming the first woman to win the ‘Best Director’ award at the Oscars for her film The Hurt Locker. Bigelow’s film triumphed over Avatar, the film that we can all agree absolutely dominated 2010 pop culture. As only the fourth woman (at the time) to be nominated for the award in the 82-year history of the Oscars, Bigelow’s win was a defining moment for budding women directors, and showed us that in this decade women will not only be nominated, but they will win!
2011 – Adele becomes the first woman to have two singles and two albums in the UK Top 5 at once, previously only done by The Beatles in 1963
Of course, Adele’s subsequent success now dwarves this tiny little fact. However, it’s still a very big achievement and part of a string of significant moments for women in modern music. This decade has seen more and more women dominating the charts. According to a 2018 article by OfficialCharts.com, Adele’s album ‘21’ was the biggest selling album of 2011 and the biggest selling album of the 21st century so far.
2012 – Every single country sends one female athlete to the London 2012 Olympics
In 2012, the good, the bad and the Olympics came to London, and so did women from every single participating country! This was the first moment in the history of the Olympic games that every single country has had a woman athlete in their team. Women’s boxing was also included in the games for the first time.
2013 – Angelina Jolie gets a double mastectomy after discovering she has an 87% chance of developing breast cancer
Although this is technically not a feminist achievement in the same sense as other moments I’ve chosen, this is certainly an incredibly significant moment for women from the last decade. As a woman who has lived a large majority of her life in the public eye (and in an industry that values her face and her body over her physical and mental health), Jolie’s decision to undergo a double mastectomy and be so open and vocal about her decision was hugely important to breast cancer survivors and other women grappling with the knowledge that they too have the BRCA1 gene.
2014 – Malala Yousafzai becomes the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize, and Maryam Mirzakhani becomes the first woman to receive the Fields Medal Prize for Mathematics
In 2014, after being shot by the Taliban for her commitment to fighting for women’s rights to education in Pakistan (and continuing that fight now), Malala Yousafzai became the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. As a young Pakistani woman who has literally risked her life to advocate for women’s rights, Malala is one of the most important female figures of the twenty-first century – as is Maryam Mirzakhani. Little known to many, in 2014 Iranian mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani became the first woman to receive the Fields Medal Prize for mathematics. Her achievement demonstrates the vital importance of encouraging women to excel in STEM subjects.
2015 – YouYou Tu is awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine/Physiology
One of my favourite things about writing this article was discovering women that I hadn’t heard about before. Youyou Tu is one of those women. In 2015, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine for discovering and extracting ‘artemisin’, a substance which inhibits the malaria parasite and helped pave the way to millions of people surviving malaria.
2016 – Anniesa Hasibuan makes history by staging the first fashion show with hijabs
In 2016, Indonesian designer Anniesa Hasibuan made history by featuring models wearing hijabs in every single outfit on her New York Fashion Week catwalk. Not only did Hasibuan’s collection remind her audience that the hijab is both beautiful and fashionable, it was also a testimony to respecting the hijab as a reflection of one’s religion and culture, which does not have to be at odds with personal style. She was also the first Indonesian designer to be featured at the New York Fashion Week.
2017 – Beyoncé’s ‘Lemonade’
Beyoncé’s Lemonade needs no introduction, but I’m going to give it one anyway. A pivotal moment for her musical career and for pop culture in general, Beyoncé’s Lemonade is also so much more than that. In the words of Nikki Blaylock, in her article for Crack Magazine, ‘Lemonade is an iconography for black women, a pictorial novel of strength and salvation’. Filled with references to black poets, artists, actors and actresses and black culture, Lemonade has been a ‘deep immersion in black art’ desperately needed in a mainstream media dominated by white (and male) voices.
2018 – Women in Saudi Arabia become legally allowed to drive, and Greta Thunberg begins her first strike for climate change
On the 24th June in 2018, Saudi Arabia lifted the ban on women driving. This was a hugely important step for Saudi Arabian women who were previously arrested and jailed for defying the prohibition (including activist Loujain Hathloul who, in 2014, was detained for 73 days after trying to cross the border from the United Arab Emirates into Saudi Arabia). 2018 was also the year that Greta Thunberg began her very first ‘School Strike for the Climate’, which has subsequently seen her become Time’s 2019 Person of the Year, and has changed the face of climate activism forever.
2019 – Gina Martin makes upskirting illegal
Speaking of activism, 2019 saw activist Gina Martin make upskirting illegal. ‘Upskirting’ is taking a photograph underneath a person’s clothing without their knowledge or consent. After having it happen to her at a music festival, Martin launched a huge online petition and legal campaign to make ‘upskirting’ illegal, punishable by up to two years in prison and being placed on the sex offenders register. Martin is one of the few who has been brave enough to endure the gruelling lengthy process of campaigning to change the law, especially on an issue that many politicians see as trivial. However – she won, changed the law and made it that bit easier for women to take back control of their bodies when they are violated without consent.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for women to keep doing remarkable things. Here’s to the next ten years!
Artwork by Mae Farrow.