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2014 Was a Tough Year To Be Female

What kind of year was 2014? It was a tough year to be female. Most of the time I consider myself lucky to be a woman living today rather than one born generations earlier. I marvel at how much easier I have it than my mother and all the women before her. And I am lucky; I have the ability to make choices -- about my education, life partner, reproductive rights and career -- that none of them ever had. Looking back at the year we had, though, wasn't it still way too tough -- too dangerous, even -- to be a woman or a girl in 2014?
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What kind of year was 2014?

It was a tough year to be female.

This year...Boko Haram kidnapped nearly 400 Nigerian schoolgirls during two separate sieges. Most of the students kidnapped during the first incident were set to write their final high school graduation exams that day. The girls, aged 16 to 18, have since been sold into marriage for about $12 each.

This year ... ISIS distributed pamphlets outlining its rules for enslaving and raping women and girls.

This year ... Amnesty International released a report detailing how scores of girls -- some as young as 10 years old -- have committed suicide after being raped and tortured by ISIS members in Syria and Iraq.

This year ... marked 25 years since a lone gunman stormed into an engineering class at Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique, ordered all the men out of the room and then shot nine female students. In just 20 minutes he gunned down 24 women throughout the school, killing 14 of them. A suicide note in his pocket listed 19 prominent women he planned to murder, blaming "the feminists, who have always ruined my life."

This year ... Jeff O'Neil of Vancouver's CFOX Radio suggested on-air that a host at another station should ask Justin Trudeau which female political figures he would like to "f---, marry or kill." It took CFOX almost 10 hours to issue an apology. The station rejected calls to fire O'Neil, saying he would be taken off the air temporarily instead.

This year ... Zahra Abdille and her two sons were murdered by her husband in Toronto, even though she had seemingly done all the 'right' things that abused women are supposed to do: she earned a master's degree while raising her kids; she found a job as a public health nurse; she moved to a women's shelter with her children for three weeks. But she also made too much money to qualify for either long-term housing assistance or legal aid to fight for sole custody of her kids.

This year ... Apple and Facebook each offered to pay female employees $20,000 towards the cost of freezing their eggs. Neither company increased the length of paid maternity leave allowed for their female workers in the U.S.: 17 weeks at Facebook and 14 to 18 weeks (four before birth, 14 after) at Apple. If the two companies put the $20,000 towards extending paid maternity leave instead, it would allow new moms at Apple and Facebook to stay home with their babies for almost two more months with full pay.

This year ... a group of male dentistry students at Dalhousie University formed a special group on Facebook. They posted comments about raping unconscious women and polled group members on which female classmates they would like to "hate f---."

This year ... the above phrase entered many people's vocabulary for the first time. That's because a former CBC employee accused radio host Jian Ghomeshi of saying he wanted to "hate f---" her after a work meeting. About a dozen women told similar stories about Ghomeshi, alleging that he choked, punched, slapped, sexually harassed or sexually assaulted them. Toronto Police charged Ghomeshi with four counts of sexual assault and one count of what the Criminal Code of Canada calls overcome resistance, choking.

This year ... after the Ghomeshi allegations, the hashtag #BeenRapedNeverReported went viral around the world.

This year ... several women also came forward to tell their stories of allegedly being drugged and raped by Bill Cosby. Large-scale outrage erupted over the allegations -- but only after another male comedian mentioned them onstage. Cosby's career and image remained untainted up until this year, even though the first abuse allegation was made 12 years earlier and a civil suit involving 14 women was filed back in 2005 (and settled by Cosby out of court in 2006).

This year ... we watched grainy footage showing football star Ray Rice sucker punch his fiancée Janay, knock her out cold and then drag her unconscious body out of an elevator.

This year ... female celebrities made headlines for their bodies instead of their talent. In desperate attempts to remain tweetworthy, Rihanna showed up basically naked at the Council of Fashion Designers of America gala, Kim Kardashian posed full frontally nude for Paper magazine and Madonna, 56, posed full frontally nude for Interview magazine. Although Jennifer Lawrence was horrified when private nude photos of her were stolen and posted online ("a sex crime," she said, which "sexually exploited and violated" her and other hacked female celebrities), the privacy breach made her one of the top Google searches of 2014.

Most of the time I consider myself lucky to be a woman living today rather than one born generations earlier. I marvel at how much easier I have it than my mother and all the women before her. And I am lucky; I have the ability to make choices -- about my education, life partner, reproductive rights and career -- that none of them ever had.

Looking back at the year we had, though, wasn't it still way too tough -- too dangerous, even -- to be a woman or a girl in 2014?

By Christine Wong

This was originally published on The Purple Fig

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Social Media
If there's one thing Twitter has shown us this year, it's that there's power in numbers. Over and over again, women came together online to join virtual hands in solidarity, whether it was #BeenRapedNeverReported following the Jian Ghomeshi scandal, #YesAllWomen following horrifying shootings in California, or #takedownjulienblanc to prevent "pick-up artist" Julien Blanc from speaking in countries across the globe. And though many of these issues had a decided focus on women, it was heartening to see men also join in on the conversation.
Malala Yousafzai's Nobel Peace Prize
AP Photo/Matt Dunham
Not only is Malala Yousafzai the youngest person to ever win a Nobel Peace Prize (which she shared with fellow children's rights advocate Kailash Satyarthi), the 17 year old is fighting specifically for the opportunity for girls to get an equal education to boys.
A Feminist In Power
Colin McConnell/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Kathleen Wynne was elected premier of Canada's most populous province, Ontario, in a majority win in June, but to us, her best moment came only weeks ago in a speech at the Women of Influence conference. Among her many unapologetically feminist remarks was this:
Girls Playing With Boys
AP Photo/Kyle Terada, Pool
Mo'€™ne Davis became the first female pitcher in Little League World Series history to pitch a complete-game shutout — and in Canada, Team Canada goalie Shannon Szabados signed on for a full year with men's team Columbus Cottonmouths, and bobsledder (and athlete of the year) Kaillie Humphries will be one of the first women competing alongside men on the World Cup circuit this season.
Emma Watson Talks Feminism For Everyone
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez via Getty Images
When UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson stood up in front of the United Nations to launch HeForShe campaign, she made a point to discuss when men advocate as feminists, everyone can benefit.
Standing Up For Justice
Rinelle Harper, a 16-year-old Aboriginal woman who was assaulted and narrowly managed to escape with her life, made a speech to the Assembly of First Nations last week. Her ordeal has called renewed attention the hundreds of missing and murdered aboriginal women in the country, and her bravery in being publicly identified helped arrest the men who allegedly attacked her.
Egg Freezing Goes Mainstream (Ish)
Science Photo Library via Getty Images
For women who want the option of putting off having kids (or are still unsure about having them at all), more and more companies (most famously this year, Apple and Facebook) are offering egg freezing as part of their benefits packages. While some felt this could add pressure to work even harder at your job, we say choices are a good thing.
Breastfeeding In Public
Johner Images - Nyman, Fredrik via Getty Images
We're not saying that women have managed to win every battle over feeding their babies in public, but when you have a male, teen Starbucks barista on your side, you know it's becoming less of an issue.
Mutual Respect For All Moms
Mom guilt didn't go away in 2014 (and let's be honest, probably never will), but one blog post on our site by a doctor and mother from Australia completely blew up in the best way possible. In it, Dr. Carolyn Ee perfectly explains both sides of the stay at home/working mom quandary — and reminds mothers they're all really in the same boat.
Female Superheroes
With the change from a male to a female Thor this year, Marvel Comics demonstrated its serious commitment to getting all those lady dollars — and we couldn't imagine investing our money in a better place than stories that show strong, tough women who can act as role models for young girls.
Laverne Cox On Time
As the first transgendered person on the cover of Time, Laverne Cox became the face of a new way to define gender. "This is for my trans siblings out there and for anyone who has ever been told that who you know yourself to be at your core is not legitimate," she wrote on Facebook.
Men Making Their Families A Priority
Dads have always played a massive role in family life, of course, but this year, it was at the forefront. The combination of a couple of high-profile stories of fathers leaving their jobs to spend time with the kids, like Mohamed El-Erian and Max Schireson, and commercials (like this Cheerios one) that worked to change the perception of dads, showed a marked change in assumed stereotypes.
Laughing In The Face Of Oppression
When Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arinc made statements to the effect of, "[A woman] should not laugh loudly in front of all the world and should preserve her decency at all times," Turkish women responded by posting pictures of themselves with wide grins, looking both decent AND gorgeous, under the hashtag #direnkahkaha.