Despite the setbacks, these moments were worthy of unadulterated joy.

By Claire Zillman
December 28, 2016

This year has felt like a giant step backward for supporters of gender equality and women’s advancement. Instead of its first female commander-in-chief, the United States got a president-elect who won the White House even after being caught on tape bragging about groping women. Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s first female president, was ousted from power, and South Korea’s first female president, Park Geun-hye, now seems poised to meet that same fate. The United Nations failed to vote in its first-ever female security general, despite having seven qualified women candidates. (It did, however, manage to briefly appoint the buxom and scantily-clad character of Wonder Woman as honorary ambassador for women’s empowerment to the horror of UN staff).

Meanwhile, the IMF’s first female chief, Christine Lagarde, was convicted of negligence in a trial over a government payout in 2008—though she will keep her job. And some bright, still rising business stars, including Theranos’ Elizabeth Holmes and Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, plummeted like fireballs back to earth. Even what seemed like glimmers of hope—Lebanon created a ministry of women’s affairs, for instance—were tainted with misogyny: The nation’s first-ever minister of women’s affairs is a man.

But behind these attention-grabbing headlines women were at work, fighting for equality, defying cultural stigmas, and delivering everyday acts of courage that are often still necessarily to succeed in what remains a man’s world.

So as this year mercifully comes to a close, let’s honor the moments when 2016 gave women something to celebrate.

1. When Icelandic MP Unnur Bra Konradsdottir breastfed while responding to a bill in Parliament and no one cared.

 

2. When Swedish activist Maria-Teresa Asplund stared down neo-Nazis during street marches—twice.

Asplund encounters police as part of a counter-protest against the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement in central Stockholm in November.
JONATHAN NACKSTRAND—AFP/Getty Images

3. When the Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker Bowles, stepped out in the United Arab Emirates with this all-woman security team.

 

4. When women in Iran were banned from bicycling because the Supreme Leader of Iran said it threatened a woman’s chastity, but they bicycled anyway.

 

5. When hundreds of women in yoga pants paraded past the home of a man who wrote a letter saying women should stop wearing them.

"Women are fed up with the policing of our wardrobe," said organizer Jamie Burke.
Kris Craig—AP

6. When the largest-ever all-female expedition sailed to Antarctica to study climate change and promote women in science.

It was a project of Homeward Bound, an organization aimed at heightening the impact of women in science to influence policy and decision making.
Courtesy of Homeward Bound

7. When Shirin Gerami became the first female athlete to represent Iran in the Ironman triathlon, and she did so while wearing a hijab.

She finished the 2016 IRONMAN World Championship triathlon in October in Kailua Kona, Hawaii.
Sean M. Haffey—Getty Images for Ironman

8. When places like Buenos Aires, Argentina and Nottinghamshire, U.K., made catcalling a crime.

Forms of sexual harassment in public in the Argentine capital could earn perpetrators a $60 fine.
Eitan Abramovich—AFP/Getty Images

9. When the women of this lesbian motorcycle gang started delivering breast milk to babies in need.

 

10. When Unionen, Sweden’s largest union, introduced a hotline to which women could report incidents of ‘mansplaining.’

"The Union wants to raise awareness of mansplaining and suppression techniques," according to Unionen's website.
Courtesy of Unionen

11. When a woman at Alphabet’s annual meeting called out a male attendee for referring to the company’s chief financial officer Ruth Porat as “the lady CFO.”

"I was floored by what I had just heard," said Danielle Ginach of Sonen Capital.
Joe Scarnici

12. When startups finally realized women deserve a better breast pump.

Naya Health smart breast pump
Lawrence M. Nienkark

13. When activist investors pushed Wall Street banks to close their gender gaps.

"Given the financial benefits of diverse leadership teams, the female talent gap is simply bad for business," said Arjuna Capital's Natasha Lamb.
Chris Hondros—Getty Images

14. When high-school dropout Susan Kiefel was named Australia’s chief justice.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull described her story as "an inspiration."
DAN PELED—EPA/Redux

15. When Ginella Massa became the first person wearing a hijab to anchor a major nightly newscast in Canada.

"It's really exciting to be recognized as the first. It's also pretty sad that it's taken this long," said Massa.
Courtesy of CityNews

16. When Peggy Whitson, 56, became the oldest woman to fly into space.

She had already racked up more time in space than any other female astronaut.
Kirill Kudryavtsev–AFP/Getty Images

17. When women in Congress called for a new Smithsonian museum of women’s history.

There's room on the Mall yet.
Buyenlarge—Getty Images

18. When Ellen DeGeneres received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and didn’t hide her emotions.

"It’s easy to forget now...just how much courage was required for Ellen to come out on the most public of stages almost 20 years ago," President Obama said.
Alex Wong—Getty Images

19. When Illinois and New York decided that tampons and other feminine hygiene products should not be taxed as “luxury items.”

Nothing luxurious here.
Bloomberg for Getty

20. When Hollywood stars like Emmy Rossum, Gillian Anderson, Jennifer Lawrence, Charlize Theron, and Robin Wright fought for wage equality—and won.

Rossum reportedly held out to earn more than her Shameless co-star William H. Macy.
Alberto E. Rodriguez—Getty Images

21. When the most successful female Everest climber of all time—Lhakpa Sherpa, who works at a 7-Eleven in Connecticut—broke her own record by summiting Everest a seventh time.

The Nepalese climber completed her seventh summit in May.
Prakash Mathema—AFP/Getty Images

22. When ex-Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson accused the network’s former chair and CEO Roger Ailes of sexual harassment and other women at the broadcaster backed her up.

Carlson received a $20 million settlement from the network in September.
Slaven Vlasic—Getty Images

23. When women in France and Iceland walked off the job to protest their nations’ persistent gender pay gaps.

Supporters of women's rights demonstrate at Republique Square in Paris in November.
Anadolu Agency—Getty Images

24. When German nun Sister Lioba Zahn started playing the stock market to keep her convent afloat.

Last year, the convent's portfolio yielded a 2.6% return.
Georgi Kantchev—The Wall Street Journal

25. When Serena Williams protested the gender qualifier in the title of “greatest female athlete of all time.”

“I prefer the word ‘one of the greatest athletes of all time,'" said the tennis superstar.
Clive Brunskill—Getty Images

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