The Year Women Told Their Stories of Violence and Harassment – and People Actually Believed Them

From global campaigns about sexual abuse to on-screen entertainment with fun takes on gender roles, 2017 helped confirm to women worldwide that they're not alone.

A still from Wonder Woman.

A still from Wonder Woman.

On the threshold of 2018, The Wire revisits some uplifting moments from 2017. Here’s This Year in Hope.

When that stray elbow inevitably brushes our breast on the metro platform, we still pause to wonder if it was intentional, but there’s nobody else to confirm or refute our experience, so we keep walking. Women second guess the ‘small stuff’ all the time – did I just get flashed? Was it just me or was he staring at my chest? Does he text other people this late? Did that really just happen? It’s as if there’s a thin screen that divides our reality from the version the rest of the world seems to be living in.

In a year otherwise marked by political catastrophes, I found solace in a wide variety of stories told by women for women. Socially, the global magnitude of the #MeToo campaign felt like a cleansing, cathartic force had taken over my newsfeed. And it wasn’t just women’s decision to share their accounts that was astounding, but the fact that millions more actually believed them.

Trust is often a luxury for women, but it was abundant here. The professional fallout for men like Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K. also confirmed women’s status as an important demographic force – studios and production houses can’t afford to alienate women anymore, and it only makes it worse if the perpetrator in question identified as a feminist.

And while Bollywood has escaped the same rage (for now), #MeToo and women like Kangana Ranaut, Swara Bhaskar and Varnika Kundu gave us the language and courage to share our stories and stand by them in the face of backlash.

Also read: #MeToo Campaign Showed That Misogyny is a Deeply Cultural Issue. Here’s Why It Was Sorely Needed

The same confidence in women’s stories that animated #MeToo also produced great entertainment on screen. I’ve always struggled to articulate why books and movies about women don’t feel right, but several TV shows and movies this year went well beyond chick-lits’ and rom-coms’ flat portrayals of womanhood.

Big Little Lies, Fleabag, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Wonder Woman, the video for Charli XCX’s ‘Boys’, the lyrics to Dua Lipa’s ‘New Rules – 2017’ were full of complex women with difficult narratives as well as fun takes on gender roles. Big Little Lies and Fleabag both looked at how sex isn’t just about pleasure but often a mix of coping mechanisms, power relations, denial and consent.

Patty Jenkins’s Wonder Woman reduced multiple women, including me, to tears because it was inexplicably emotionally overwhelming to see women being physically strong on screen. I realised only later that the inexplicability was due to the lack of a male gaze, go figure. Charli XCX directed a mesmerising video in which she managed to objectify dozens of men while they indulged in stereotypically female activities like pillow fights and cuddling teddy bears – all against a Barbie-pink background. Lipa exemplified practically every sleepover conversation about fucbois with the lyrics, “If you’re under him, you ain’t getting over him.”

A still from the music video for ‘Boys’.

For the most part, the constant negotiation between realities is an exhausting, lonely endeavour, but nothing beats the satisfaction of confirming that you’re not alone and that you don’t have to accept it as your lot in life. (#femalefriendships?)

And no one thing captured the spirit of this solidarity as well as Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls – a book of reinvented fairytales about real pioneering women, written by two women and illustrated by 60 female artists. Even though its epigraph is meant for young girls who don’t yet know how little it takes to be declared a ‘rebel’ by nervous adults, these are the words that’ll carry me into 2018 and, hopefully, adulthood.

To the rebel girls of the world:

Dream bigger
Aim higher
Fight harder
And, when in doubt, remember
You are right.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls,
Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo

Nehmat Kaur is a culture writer based in New Delhi. She writes a weekly column for The Wire called Name-Place-Animal-Thing and tweets @nehmatks.

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