When we look back at 2015, what are we going to remember? It’s hard to have perspective when the year’s not quite over, but we’re pretty sure that for years to come, we’ll be feeling the ripple effects of the work women in 2015 put into the fight for gender equality. Here are just some of the women who rocked 2015, and will likely continue shaping the feminist future for years to come:
Entertainment: Viola Davis
From the first episode of How To Get Away With Murder onward, Viola Davis grabbed our attention and never let it go. Her riveting performance led her to getting an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series — the first black woman to receive the honor. Her speech, which addressed racial inequality within the acting and arts worlds, is already the stuff of legends.
Also notable: Ava DuVernay, director and activist. Melissa Rosenberg, Jessica Jones showrunner. Jill Soloway, Transparent showrunner.
Politics: The women of Saudi Arabia
When it comes to women’s rights around the world, there are a lot of countries that still, politically and culturally, don’t recognize women’s autonomy, let alone actively uphold equality. But in 2015, none other than Saudi Arabia, a country of almost 30 million, has allowed women to vote for the first time ever. Though that alone isn’t the end all be all of women’s rights, the in-country activism that led to this landmark decision should be applauded and it has set the tone for future activism in the country.
Also notable: Hillary Clinton, Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State.
Reproductive health: #ShoutYourAbortion — Amelia Bonow and Lindy West
Women’s reproductive rights have been attacked, quite literally so, in the U.S. and around the world. Two activists, Amelia Bonow and Lindy West, created the online #ShoutYourAbortion campaign to help destigmatize one of the still most-contentious medical procedures in the world. By showing the reasons and realities of women who receive abortions, Bonow and West helped change the conversation past politicized pro-choice/pro-life rhetoric. As West’s column for The Guardian put it: “I set up #ShoutYourAbortion because I am not sorry, and I will not whisper.”
Also notable: Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood.
Sports: U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team
The U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team is fun to watch, but you know who’s won three World Cups? The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, and they clinched their third title this summer over 4th of July weekend, naturally. But just as important as their win, the aftermath of the women’s team highlighted the ridiculous pay gaps and double standards still present in the sports world, even between teams with wildly disparate professional successes.
Business: Whitney Wolfe
The tech world is notoriously bro-y, so when Whitney Wolfe cut ties with her Tinder co-founders over sexual harassment allegations, there was real reason to fear that the 26-year-old entrepreneur might step out of that world forever. Instead, she turned around and created Bumble, which fixed many of the problems that have historically congealed around women in digital free-for-all spaces.
Trans rights: Laverne Cox
One of the best storylines from season three of Orange is the New Black deals with Cox’s Sophia Burset and the transphobia that tragically bursts from within the prison. Cox herself made history by being on the cover of TIME last year, but now she’s become the de facto face of trans rights in America. Her support of other trans people is crucial in building a public cultural climate of acceptance, and of course, she’s shining across the entertainment world.
Also notable: Jazz Jennings, trans teen whose new reality show debuted this year. Caitlyn Jenner, reality star who received the ESPY’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
2015 seems to have been the year that marginalized communities began to really take advantage of digital organizing tools to rally around causes. Some of our favorite movements came out of the STEM field, including #ILookLikAnEngineer, started by Isis Anchalee, #ILookLikeASurgeon, started by Dr. Heather Logghe after witnessing and relating to the outpouring of frustration began by the #ILookLikeAnEngineer tag, and #DistractinglySexy, which showcased female scientists responding to a former male Nobel Prize winner’s assertion that women in labs are distracting.