2016 has been an annus horribilis. We’ve tried to think of many different ways to sum it up in a more eloquent fashion but sometimes, facts are facts.
Particularly demoralising was the election of Trump over Clinton. It wasn’t even that all of us loved Clinton, it was more the fact that Trump’s most coherent sentence the whole year was ‘Grab them by the pussy’ and he still got elected.
It doesn’t really augur that well for women that women are still voting for men like that. Because they did. Especially women over 40. Which is even more demoralising if like us you fall into that age bracket now. But in amongst it all – good things have been happening!
Some women the world over are kicking serious arse. They make us think. They make us laugh. They inspire us. They lift us up. They represent us. They ARE us.
Champagne Women of 2016
1. Bana al-Abed
Bana is the seven year old Syrian who live tweeted her experience of living through the siege of Aleppo. She and her family lived in the rebel held part of the city and gave us a tiny glimpse of the horror of growing up in a war zone. She talked of her family, her hunger, her friends, her fear and her desire for the war to end. She was an uneasy reminder to us that the ‘war in Syria’ was not a nameless, faceless thing happening to other people. In fact, Bana drove home to us that part of the collateral damage of wars like the one in Syria is our humanity, our compassion and our kindness. She was evacuated in the deal brokered by Russia and Turkey and is currently living as a refugee in Turkey.
2. Kbora Ali
Kbora is the first female Afghan refugee to join the Australian Army. When she started basic training in February she was just 50 kgs, 153cm tall, only 18 years old and had offers to study Optometry and Real Estate. As the youngest of 8 children who had arrived in Australia in 2007 as refugees, speaking almost no English, she was worried her parents wouldn’t support her decision. She undertook the application process in secret, only telling one sister who gave her full support. She told her parents only three days before beginning basic training. They were initially surprised, but are incredibly proud and supportive of her decision to give back to the country that welcomed them.
In an interview with SBS Kbora said “I guess being out of your comfort zone is where you actually grow and become stronger as a person and develop as an individual.” She’s only 18, people, and wiser than some people become in a lifetime.
3. Anne Aly
Anne is an Australian politician, political scholar, academic and counter-terrorism expert. She’s also the first female Muslim elected to federal parliament. She’s a feminist, she’s feisty, she’s fair. She is scarily smart. She’s exactly the kind of person we want representing us. She can think for herself, speak for herself and more importantly, she listens. It’s bloody refreshing to have a voice like Anne’s in Parliament and if you don’t know anything about her, get googling. She’s the future.
And she is ace at truth bombs “History is truly watching us, and we will be judged tomorrow for what we do today!”
4. Simone Biles
Simone Biles is the 19 year old pocket rocket from the US who showed up at the Olympic games in Rio and inspired a generation of young women to be strong, fearless and flexible. She won four gold medals and a bronze in Rio, was one of BBC’s 100 women of 2016, has ADHD AND a massive crush on Zac Efron. She’s the World Champion in lots and was the first female gymnast chosen to be flag bearer at the closing ceremony.
She said lots of awesome things this year in the interviews that followed the Olympics, but my all-time favourite was “I am not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. I am the first Simone Biles.” She is exactly the kind of girl that will make America great again.
5. Linda Burney
Elected in July this year as the first Indigenous female to the House of Representatives, Linda is the embodiment of progress. In her maiden speech she noted that she “… was born at a time when the Australian government knew how many sheep there were but not how many Aboriginal people.”
Sixty years later, she is an established politician, compassionate woman, good friend, proud mother and member of Wiradjuri Aboriginal nation. She is smart, she is warm and and incredibly inspiring on so many different levels. If you haven’t already – check out her maiden speech to parliament. You’ll feel all the feels.
6. Beyonce Carter
She’d already shown us that ‘GIRLS! Run the World’ but this year, Beyonce released one of the most powerful albums of all time – Lemonade. Along with her powerful statement at the Super Bowl that Black Lives Matter, Beyonce’s disruptive art provided us with powerful anthems against misogyny, infidelity, the patriarchy, and systemic racism. She’s also a kick-arse example of a female who knows herself, loves herself and doesn’t give a shit about what anybody thinks.
I didn’t even know I was a Beyonce fan until this album and she’s given me my mantra for 2017 “Bitch, I’m back / by popular demand“.
7. Clementine Ford
One of the best things about about Clementine is that everybody has an opinion on her and not one of them is ‘Meh’. I don’t always agree with her, but every single thing she writes challenges my own accepted norms and makes me think, and then rethink why I think what I think. Is there anything more liberating than a person that makes you THINK? She’s feisty, she’s caustic, she’s fierce and she’s committed to change happening. She’s not doing it politely either and for that, I absolutely adore her.
I thoroughly recommend her book “Fight Like a Girl”. It’s full of brilliance.
“Why is everyone so pathologically terrified of selfish women? The word is thrown around like an insult, as if the worst thing a woman could possibly do (aside from being fat, having sex with whomever she pleases and whenever, swearing, having an abortion, drinking alcohol, standing up for herself and being a working mother) is to decide that her life matters.”
8. Kate McLennan and Kate McCartney
Okay, I get that I cheated and these are actually two people, but they are the comic geniuses behind “The Katering Show” and this year we have needed the laughs. The Katering show bills itself as ‘the food journey of a food intolerant and an intolerable foodie” and it parodies cooking shows and food trends in such a way that we get to laugh at ourselves and pretty much everybody we know.
The two Kates absolutely skewer us with their sharp and hilarious observations such as “Sugar – bad for you since they invented the internet” and “Thermomix – the “gangbang of kitchen appliances” is a must-have “because you’ve always wanted to join a cult but don’t have the energy for the group sex”. If laughter is the best medicine than call the Kates ‘Doctor’!
9. Michelle Obama
You know who Michelle is and you know why she’s on my list. She is real, personable, kind, compassionate, funny and strong as f**k. Two things she said which I think we should all remember:
“You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all of the world’s problems at once but don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.”
“One of the lessons that I grew up with was to always stay true to yourself and never let what somebody else says distract you from your goals. And so when I hear about negative and false attacks, I really don’t invest any energy in them, because I know who I am.”
10. Turia Pitt
I’ll be honest, if somebody told me five years ago that I would never walk again because I’d suffered burns to most of my body and would have to have at least 200 operations I would probably take the opportunity to lie down and stay there.
This year, five years after being badly burned in a bushfire undertaking an ultramarathon, she competed in the Hawaii Ironman competition – considered one of the toughest in the world. And she finished.
Turia lets nothing stop her from living the life she wants to live. I admire her strength, her courage and commitment to happiness. She actively seeks out positive people because ‘negativity is contagious’.
She said, “This journey that I’ve been on has shown me that it doesn’t matter how big your muscles are – you need to have a big heart and you need to have a strong attitude and mindset.”
11. Jordan Raskopoulous
Jordan is the lead singer of the comedy rock band “Axis of Awesome”, creative director of “Insert Coin” and self confessed nerd, among other things. She is also transgender. She explained in one interview that within the trans community, “There’s the concept of ‘passing’ — it basically means to be able to walk through life without people picking up on your trans status.” Her highly public role as a performer and comedian means that that she basically had to out herself unless she abandoned all that she loved. Which thankfully for all of us she had no intention of doing it.
She did that with a video ‘What happened to Jordan’s beard’ and a new song ‘Elephant in the room’. She was ‘almost delighted’ to have something ‘mansplained’ to her earlier this year. I’m loving her for being out, proud and loud about being a woman when the world around us has been going to hell in a handbasket. Check her out.
12. Chrissy Teigen
Chrissy OWNED social media in 2016. She’s a model, brand new mum, wife, friend and absolutely hilarious. She’s called out body shamers – apologising to all that were mentally or physically affected by the sight of her ‘hoo har’ during her wardrobe malfunction at the AMAs (while thanking her laser specialist). She’s called out Trump’s spelling and politics, hit back at people that criticise her mothering decisions, spoken about fertility issues, wound up countless number of people and basically kept the entire world entertained.
She has said she’s not the kind of person that provides inspirational quotes but nearly every single one of her tweets should be immortalised. From “To all the girls out there who weren’t Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte. A shout out to all the Elaines,” to her recent response when somebody tweeted at her that “that’s not how babies should be held”: “Really? Because that’s how I’m fucking holding her.” She’s fiercely unapologetic and rocking life.
13. Sampa Tempo
Sampa the Great was born in Zambia, raised in Botswana and is now living in Sydney. She’s an extraordinary musician who identifies as a slam poet, hip hop artist and songwriter. She is a high energy performer that talks about societal imbalances and political themes within her music in a way that makes the concepts extremely accessible. She sees her music as a way of contributing to positive change in the world. She also contributed an incredibly insightful and personal piece for ‘Women of Letters’ earlier this year.
She’s released her album ‘The Great Mixtape’ this year. As a title it does nothing to tell you about the sonorous and lyrical journey that is Sampa The Great. “I’m great, I was born to be great.” As are we all.
14. Gillian Triggs
Gillian has been the most kick arse woman in Australia this year. As the Human Rights Commissioner she has taken on the Australian government over its deplorable treatment of some of the world’s most vulnerable people. She has refused to be bullied or beaten down by increasingly personal attacks from politicians and she has retained her sense of humour despite it all. She has been a voice of reason and truth in among the media spin and the vitriol.
This year she was awarded the Sir Ron Wilson Human Rights Award by the Australian Council for International Development in recognition of her outstanding contribution to advancing human rights (which is probably almost as exciting for her as making our list).
“She has given voice to the most marginalised and kept human rights at the centre of public and political debate,” ACFID president Sam Mostyn said.
15. Mariam Veisdevah
Okay, you all knew she would be on the list because we’ve raved about her before but this year she was chosen as Daily Life’s Woman of the Year which basically means we’ve been right about her all along. Mariam is the founder of the Islamophobia Register, a lawyer, human rights advocate and real human. Something many forget when they send her vile, xenophobic hate mail including rape and death threats.
She was recognised for her courage, tenacity and perseverance without the protection and resources afforded by public office. All of which is true. Also true that is that she has retained her sense of humour and her compassion, and she is wonderfully resilient.
She is one of the humans we admire most in the world. She is “…proof that you can get metaphorically smashed to pieces from every angle and still not lose hope. #Lovetriumphshate … eventually.”
16. Penny Wong
Penny makes the list because she has just gone on being Penny in the most remarkably resilient way while a number of other female politicians have played for power, not the people. We’d vote her for Prime Minister in a heartbeat.
As an openly gay politician, of Asian descent, who is a practising Christian and a Labor voter – she is the epitome of what is ‘post-modern normal’ in Australia. Most of all, I love that she is a voice of reason that breaks through the cacophony of stupidity that is our Federal government time and time again.
She once said, “You can choose not to be interested in politics, but you can’t choose to be unaffected by it.” It’s the kind of statement that makes us want to break out the pom poms and scream give us a P. E. N. N. Y. because we can’t just stand by and watch the world go by. That which we do not stand against we support. Gooooooooo Penny!