2012 was shaped by women making headlines for accomplishing feats in various sectors of human society, heck they even have two of the most popular online memes this year with Texts from Hillary and Mckalya is not impressed. So if the criteria for selection is an individual, group, idea, or object that “for better or worse has done the most to influence the events of the year,” why shouldn’t women be TIME’s Person of the Year? Look Mr. President, I’m really happy for you, and I'mma let you finish, but women had one of the biggest impacts on 2012.
Marissa Mayer became Google’s first female engineer in 1999, but she outdid herself this year by becoming the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company when she was hired by Yahoo!. This feat only became more astounding when she revealed she was pregnant – and the company knew that when they hired her. These two things together set new heights to what women could achieve in the workplace and scored a big win for working moms.
In the written world, E.L. James’s book Fifty Shades of Grey became a publishing phenomenon. The fan fiction-turned-novel became the fastest-selling and best-selling paperback of all time and sold over 65 million copies. The book is already on its way to becoming a highly anticipated movie and has resulted in more open discussion about sexual practices involving bondage, dominance, and sadism/masochism.
2012 was the first time in the history of the Olympic games that every participating country had at least one woman representing them – and Saudi Arabia was even represented by two women. Many of these female Olympians became heroes at home, and some brought shame.
Gabby Douglas, once a victim of bullying, became the first U.S. gymnast to win both the all-around and team golds in a single year and the first African American gymnast to win the Olympic all-around title. British heptathelete and gold medalist Jessica Ennis continued to be the proud example of a strong woman role model in the UK. Habiba Ghribi became Tunisia’s first woman medalist and dedicated it to all Tunisians. Women boxers were included for the first time in the history of the games. Meanwhile, several women’s badminton teams were disqualified for deliberately trying to lose matches in order to face easier contenders; this unprecedented event sparked a controversy over if doing so should be considered cheating or strategy.
U.S. and International Politics
This is easily the sector where women had the most notable impact. A popular progressive theme was the "Republican War on Women." It started with two-year bills in state legislatures carried over from the 1,000 anti-women bills submitted last year. Then in late January, the Susan G. Komen Foundation announced it would stop funding Planned Parenthood resulting in giant blowback from donors and their executive Karen Handel being fired. The following month got worse. Sandra Fluke went from an unknown law school student to the face of the woman’s movement when Rush Limbaugh called her a “slut” and a “prostitute” for speaking to House Democrats about mandating insurance coverage for contraceptives.
What ensued for the rest of the year were women, women’s issues, and women voters becoming front and center of the political dialogue. We saw Ann Romney steal the bleak show at the Republican convention. Michelle Obama knocked one out of the park in the Democratic convention the following week. The press corp saw so much pressure (and justifiably so) from an online petition that they added Candy Crowley as the first female debate moderator in 20 years – and then Crowley made headlines for fact-checking Romney in the middle of the debate.
By the time the election dust settled on November 6th, “binders full of women” had made their voices heard and even broke some records. Planned Parenthood-backed candidates overwhelmingly won their races. Extreme Tea Party candidates like Todd Akin were defeated. Tammy Baldwin became the first openly-gay Senator in U.S. history. New Hampshire became the first state in history to be completely represented in Congress (both in the House and the Senate) by women – and as a bonus now has a woman governor. In general, women made strong gains in the House and Senate; in fact, there are now more women in the U.S. Senate than ever in its entire history.
But don’t think women only made an impact in the U.S. Park Geun-hye was elected South Korea’s first female president. Punk band Pussy Riot quickly became one of Amnesty International’s most popular campaigns when they were arrested in Russia for speaking out against the Russian Orthodox Church’s support of Vladmir Putin. In the Middle East, one of the biggest impacts women had in politics in 2012 came from a 15-year-old Pakistani named Malala Yousafzai. At first, Pousafzai blogged anonymously about the plight of the Taliban imposing Sharia law and its impact on girls receiving proper educational opportunities. Then she revealed who she actually was to the world. On October 6th, she was shot in the head, but survived. Now she is a household name in Muslim countries and a glimmer of promise that equality for women may one day come to the region. How’s that for audacity of hope?
The funny thing is, TIME nominated many of the women named here as candidates for Person of the Year and, individually, most didn’t deserve the title anymore than President Obama. But when you look at what women actually accomplished in 2012, the records set, the barriers broken, and sheer number of major controversies and dialogues spawned from them in various sectors, it’s hard to deny that the sum is so much greater than the parts.