Long before Donald Trump won the most bonkers U.S. election in modern history, and broken-hearted Hillary fans popped their “It’s a girl!” balloons, many women were feeling like 2016 was…less than excellent. There were high-profile sexual assault cases, including the Jian Ghomeshi trial and the Stanford rape case, vivid accounts from female politicians of the harassment they still endure in this country, reports suggesting the wage gap is getting wider, and a seemingly endless stream of new research showing everything from poverty and climate change to air conditioning is sexist. See: tough year.
At this moment, when Trump’s “locker room talk” haunts us and disbelief has us reaching for the boxed wine, it’s more important than ever to celebrate the many astonishing accomplishments of women in 2016. The long-awaited Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry began, with a set of the country’s smartest, most compassionate women leading the way toward justice and change. Our female athletes dominated the summer Olympics, our comedians redefined funny for the feminist era, our scientists made breakthroughs in cancer research, our academics fought for refugees and our tech tycoons shook up the dude-dominated gaming world.
Abroad, voters may have chosen to Brexit, but they also elected a power-player PM in Theresa May to clean up the chaos. Michelle Obama emerged as the White House’s fiercest advocate for women. And, most heartening of all, millions of us rallied to support each other online, in front of court houses and at pride parades, in #nastywomen tees and pantsuits.
And so, after a great deal of research and deliberation, we selected 12 people — comedians, scientists, activists, artists and everyday heroes — who have challenged and amazed us this year, who made us want to think bigger and do better in our own lives.
Samantha Bee, talk-show host
For lighting up late-night with smarts and old-fashioned feminist rage
Why we love her During the nuttiest election year in U.S. history, Bee’s new TBS show, Full Frontal, became the go-to for tart, take-no-prisoners political commentary. Whether she’s ranting about gun control in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting, or delivering a visciously smart vagina monologue amid the fall out from Donald Trump’s hot-mic leak, Bee voices the anger so many people feel right now. While other late-night hosts are offering up rap battles and beer pong, Bee charges into the difficult topics and delivers something more satisfying: cartharsis.
We’re not the only ones “Sam and I started doing comedy together in the late ’90s — we go way, way, way, way back. We were in an all-female sketch troupe called The Atomic Fireballs. What Sam does now is very different from the Fireballs, but it sparks from the same place, which is: This is an injustice, how do I turn it into comedy? People will say, ‘She’s really harsh and pointed.’ When she’s very passionate about something, you see that on screen, but in her day-to-day life, you just could not meet a sweeter human being, and she really cares about other women. But the stakes in politics are incredibly high right now. She doesn’t shy away from saying, ‘Are you f–king kidding me?” — Allana Harkin, producer on Full Frontal with Samantha Bee
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