The future is female. But so is the present.
Here is a salute to the women in 2020 who brought us hope, who dared, who made us smile, who made their presence felt.
2020 is the year of pause, reset, step back and begin again. Sometimes, darkness curdles thick and we seek external guidance and motivation to get back up. That’s exactly what these women in 2020 have provided: inspiration with their very existence, leading by example and paving new roads.
The US Vice President-elect has had a long career of pushing through frontiers on the political front. Kamala Devi Harris, born to a Jamaican father and an Indian mother, has an inspiring tale of an array of firsts. Her simple “We did it” tweet upon the declaration of the election results resonated with millions who have gone historically and systemically invisibilized and underrepresented in the global superpower’s decision-making. Lauded with the epithet “female Obama,” Harris has risen from an SF district attorney to the helm as only the third woman VP of the US.
A beacon of hope for women in 2020 who have been doubly marginalized across the axes of sex and race, Harris has shown that it’s possible and that greater visibility can be realized. Noticed for her eloquence, she developed her election campaign around a rhetoric of visibility, urging women of color to share their stories and herself shared the media spotlight with those who needed to be heard. Raised by her mother to grow confident and self-assured in her American identity, she proclaims:
“You can do anything. And you can do everything.”
The Hallyu wave sweeping over the world is a testament to the demand for and the quality offered by non-Western media and its ability to be regarded with the same respect in the mainstream. Kpop giants BTS and Blackpink have been leading the journey on the musical front, providing a complete package of entertainment and artistry that has driven unprecedented response. The four-membered girl group is ruling the arenas of both pop music and the biggest fashion moments of the year and in 2020, they’ve secured their crown, labeled as the Group of the Year by the likes of Variety and Bloomberg.
As their group name suggests, Jennie, Lisa, Jisoo and Rose have come to symbolize a symphony of delicate sophistication and boldness, this take-on-the-world attitude exemplified by a proud fan in their Netflix documentary who exclaims, “They’re the baddest b*tches!” With chartbuster Girl Power anthems, tight choreographies, impeccable style and multinational identities, Blackpink epitomizes what it means to be global superstars with an added onus of POC and cultural representation. Their success story is a tale of immense hard work, rigorous training and precious friendship.
“All my diamonds, they yellow or bright white (Bing)Pretty Savage, Blackpink
Got ’em blind, can’t find me, I’m outta sight (Sight)
If you mad, stay mad, we not alike (Uh-uh)
S-A-V-A-G-E, keep it pretty, pretty savage”
Time’s Kid of the year
For the first time ever, to acknowledge the ones who are brimming with hope for the future, Time has named its Kid of the Year. the title in 2020 has been granted to a 15-year-old Indian American technological innovator (and baking aficionado!) who hopes to tackle issues like water contamination with her passion for science. Gitanjali Rao, who at the age of 12 was given a grant for a device meant for detection of lead levels in water, has also developed Kindly, an app and Chrome extension that can detect cyberbullying.
In her interview with Angelina Jolie, she expressed her joy and enthusiasm for all things science, her foray in the kitchen included. Aspiring for greater representation of women of color in STEM, she says:
“There shouldn’t be one of me. There shouldn’t be one Gitanjali.”
Women-led Finnish government
It’s been exactly a year since an all-female coalition government took over the reins in Finland. With 12 women cabinet members and the youngest Prime Minister ever- Sanna Marin, aged 34- the country has another feather under its cap in terms of bridging the gender gap. Also to be noted is that the other four party leaders are all women too: Li Andersson, Maria Ohisalo, Katri Kulmuni, Anna-Maja Henriksson, the first three also being under 35 years of age. With prompt response in the face of COVID-19 and progressive policies, the government continues to be a flag-bearer for women in 2020 to take leadership roles.
The 2020 visual album, Black is King, reads as Beyoncé’s musical homecoming. Though not insulated from criticism, it certainly figures a powerful cultural and discursive reclamation of Black identity. Inspired by the 2019 film The Lion King, it takes the perspective of the African diaspora and depicts how, to be king again, one must take a journey inward and homeward. Legacy must be embraced, it is one’s roots that form the most secure base for growth.
Described by Kinitra Brooks as “an aural and visual rendering of Afrofuturistic Blackness in the 21st century,” this picturesque affirmation of Black pride arrives timely, when the BLM Movement is at its peak, becoming a source of identification and motivation in the fight against racial violence.
Working with a legion of African artists such as Wizkid, designers and dancers and her daughter Blue Ivy, Beyoncé presents to us a vibrant montage of the African landscape and culture. The collage combines languages like Zulu, tribal art forms and dances like the Nigerian Zanku. Like her earlier works, here too Beyoncé features a “Brown Skin Girl” squad comprising Lupita Nyong’o, Kelly Rowland and Naomi Campbell, a wonderful sight for women in 2020 who have often been made to feel insecure in their bodies.
“Be bigger than the picture they framed for us to see.”
For those who might have been under the illusion that she was a one-(verbal)hit wonder with her “How dare you?” resonating throughout 2019, we’ve got news. The formidable 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden isn’t slowing down anytime soon- Greta Thunberg understands the urgency of the issue and how lacing we still are in attempting any real change. From her cross-Atlantic voyage to patiently waiting a whole 11 months to sock Trump with his own words, our fiery and charismatic young fighter is busy participating in protests and programs to ensure putting our planet first.
“I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean… Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.”
So far, 58 women have been awarded the Nobel Prize in its run of over a century. In 2020 however, for the first time, 4 winners out of the total 12 awardees were women. Andrea Ghez, an American astronomer, shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with two others (Roger Penrose and Reinhard Genzel) for providing experimental evidence of the existence of a supermassive black hole at the centre of the galaxy.
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna for the development of a new method of genome editing. Louise Glück was honoured with the Nobel Prize in Literature for her remarkable and prolific poetic presence that is a mellow orchestra of transience and distinctive reflections.
A soft light rising above the level meadow,A Myth of Devotion, Louise Glück
behind the bed. He takes her in his arms.
He wants to say I love you, nothing can hurt you
but he thinks
this is a lie, so he says in the end
you’re dead, nothing can hurt you
which seems to him
a more promising beginning, more true.
At the age of 60, the transgender activist and entrepreneur was a reliable and respectable innovator who navigated transphobia with her indefatigable spirit. Found murdered in October this year, the President of the Coimbatore District Transgender Association and the founder of the Covai Trans Kitchen, Sangeetha was working ceaselessly to provide employment to the transgender community, especially when adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Grace Banu, a trans rights activist, expressed her grief, “There is no one to speak for us.”