In 2018, women’s stories demanded to be told.
And the world listened.
Christine Blasey Ford testified in front of the Senate during the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became one of the record number of women elected to Congress; and Nadia Murad was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for bringing attention to sexual violence perpetrated by the Islamic State.
Throughout the year, stories like these shaped history and spurred change — and, in some cases, revealed the limits of progress.
Below, we’ve highlighted big moments in news about women across eight categories. These stories were told in 2018; now, they’re worth remembering.
Illustrations by Lydia Ortiz.
Women were an unprecedented political force in the 2018 midterm elections. Many called it another “Year of the Woman.”
What’s more, many women running for Congress or governor’s offices made history, including Reps.-elect Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), who became the first Muslim women elected to Congress, and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who was the first woman elected to the Senate from Tennessee.
Here are 10 other big moments in political news from the past year:
• On Jan. 21, the second annual Women’s March drew hundreds of thousands of protesters all around the world, from Beijing to Dallas. But where the first Women’s March was a rebuke of the election of Donald Trump, the official “Power to the Polls” rally in Las Vegas this year aimed to turn political enthusiasm into action.
• Female Democratic lawmakers wore black clothing to President Trump’s State of the Union speech in January as a show of solidarity with the #MeToo movement.
• Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), at 77, gave a record eight-hour speech on the House floor in an attempt to force a vote on immigration and spare recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
• The Senate passed a rule in April allowing children to be on the floor while the chamber is in session. Soon thereafter, Maile Pearl Bowlsbey, the newborn daughter of Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), became the youngest person to ever go to the floor during a vote.
• Adult-film star Stormy Daniels sued Trump in March, seeking to void the nondisclosure agreement she signed regarding their alleged affair. That led to a deluge of legal issues for Trump and his long-time attorney, Michael Cohen. Separately, the defamation lawsuit against Trump lodged by former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos quietly advanced.
• Gina Haspel, who came under scrutiny for her role in the interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after 9/11, was confirmed as the first female CIA director in May.
• In October, it was reported that the Trump administration is weighing a new definition of gender that would qualify it as “either male or female, unchangeable, and determined by the genitals that a person is born with.”
Huge strides were made in India, where a patriarchal structure and a culture of gang rape have long branded the country as hostile to women. Specifically, a trio of Supreme Court verdicts in September marked a new era for the country. The court not only decriminalized gay sex and adultery; it also overturned a renowned temple’s effective ban on the admission of women of menstruating age.
Indian women also spearheaded their own #MeToo movement, which led to a reckoning in Bollywood, the media and the government.
Here’s what was happening elsewhere around the globe:
In France… women pushed back against their version of the #MeToo movement, which was known as #balancetonporc, or “squeal on your pig.” A group of 100 prominent women signed an op-ed in January, writing that the movement was going too far. A few months later, French lawmakers passed measures to curb sexual violence and street harassment in the country.
In Canada… a van attack in Toronto in April — which killed 10, most of whom were women — brought attention to the “involuntary celibate” community. Alek Minassian, the 25-year-old who drove a van into a crowded street, posted misogynistic messages on his Facebook page before the attack and called for an “incel rebellion.”
In Great Britain… the country celebrated the royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who, as a mixed-race American woman who was previously married, represented a departure from the traditional royal family. In October, five months after they wed, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced that they are expecting a child in spring 2019.
In Yemen… the civil war continued to rage, causing a humanitarian crisis in the country. Reports found that the country’s women and children are most vulnerable to suffering and abuse.
In Central America… women fleeing violence and danger, who hope to gain asylum in the United States, shared their stories after joining the migrant caravan heading north.
In the world… Yazidi activist Nadia Murad, along with surgeon Denis Mukwege, won the Nobel Peace Prize for their work in bringing attention to sexual abuse in conflicts. Murad had managed to flee the genocide and sexual slavery enforced by the Islamic State in her village in Iraq and shared her story with the United Nations and the world.
It has now been more than a year since the cascade of sexual assault allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein sparked what would become known as the #MeToo movement. In 2018, activists turned their attention toward enacting change by collectively demanding improvements to workplace harassment policies.
In September, in a strike that organizers called the first of its kind, McDonald’s workers across several U.S. cities walked out at lunchtime, demanding that the company hold mandatory sexual harassment training and create a secure system for responding to complaints.
Then, in November — following a New York Times article that revealed the company had suppressed allegations of sexual misconduct — employees from Google offices worldwide walked off the job in protest. Google ended its forced arbitration policy, which forced workers to settle sexual harassment claims privately.
Below, the biggest #MeToo stories from entertainment, academia and politics:
It was only two weeks into the new year when a Babe magazine story detailing a date-gone-wrong between a 23-year-old woman and comedian Aziz Ansari sparked a nuanced conversation about sex in the #MeToo era. While some pushed back against the story, in which the woman described feeling coerced to perform oral sex, many women said it raised important questions about power and consent.
In April, Bill Cosby was convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand, a Temple University women’s basketball administrator whom he’d mentored. More than 60 women have accused the comedian and actor of sexual assault or harassment stretching back to the 1960s, but only Constand’s case led to criminal charges. In September, Cosby was sentenced to 3 to 10 years in prison.
The media world also reverberated with #MeToo scandals. CBS chief Leslie Moonves resigned after the New Yorker published two stories in which several women alleged he had sexually harassed them. Following a company investigation into the matter, CBS’s board announced that Moonves will not receive any severance pay, as it found him guilty of “willful and material malfeasance.”
And while the #MeToo movement derailed some careers in 2017, a few of those men began reemerging in the public eye. Louis C.K., for example, generated controversy when he performed a surprise set at the Comedy Cellar in August.
Several women authors also alleged that Junot Díaz, a famed writer and creative writing professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, had sexually harassed them.
In the political world, a few high-profile cases brought domestic abuse to light. Senior White House aide Rob Porter announced his resignation in February after two of his ex-wives alleged he was physically abusive.
And in May, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat who was known as an advocate for women, resigned shortly after four women alleged he was physically abusive.
One the year’s biggest #MeToo stories landed in August, when Christine Blasey Ford told The Washington Post that she was the woman who had written a letter to lawmakers alleging Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school more than 30 years ago.
Across Hollywood, the music industry, the publishing world and more, women staked out the importance of diversity in entertainment in 2018.
Anticipation had been building all summer for the release of “Crazy Rich Asians,” which was the first Hollywood studio-produced movie featuring an all-Asian cast in 25 years. And when it landed Aug. 15, the movie delivered, garnering praise from fans and critics alike. By the end of its U.S. and Canadian box office run, it had become the highest-grossing romantic comedy released in the last decade.
Based on Kevin Kwan’s novel of the same name, the movie brought a new generation of stars to the big screen, including rapper Awkwafina and actress Gemma Chan. “I feel that this is an exciting time,” Chan told The Lily. “Things are changing for the better.”
Here are six other stories to know:
• In the wake of the #MeToo movement, Time’s Up became a central aspect of the 2018 Golden Globes, where activists and actresses alike wore black to show solidarity with survivors of sexual assault. Over the year, the Time’s Up GoFundMe raised more than $22 million for its legal defense fund, setting a new record.
• Comedian Michelle Wolf garnered criticism for her speech at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in April. Some said that her jokes, which targeted political figures such as White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, were too harsh.
There were quite a few uplifting stories, too. Despite suffering from a kidney stone and being disappointed in her own performance, 21-year-old Simone Biles made history at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships by becoming the first woman to win four all-around gymnastics titles. And the accolades didn’t stop there: She won six medals in total, bringing her total world championships to 20 — a tie with Russia’s Svetlana Khorkina for the most by a female gymnast. She also became the first woman to earn a medal in all four events since 1987.
Here’s what else happened in sports this year:
The Olympics in PyeongChang proved history-making for several competitors from the United States.
U.S. snowboarder Chloe Kim,17, placed first in the women’s snowboard halfpipe, making history as the youngest woman to win an Olympic snowboarding medal.
Mirai Nagasu became the first American woman to land a triple axel in the Olympics.
And, at 33, four-time Olympian Lindsey Vonn became the oldest female Alpine skiing medalist in Olympic history when she took home bronze in women’s downhill.
Separately, the feminist protest group Pussy Riot claimed responsibility for an incident in which four people — three women and one man — ran onto the field during the final dressed in police uniforms.
Throughout the match, chair umpire Carlos Ramos issued a total of three violations against Williams, which resulted in a game penalty. The last one, a code violation for verbal abuse, came after Williams called Ramos a “thief.”
In an age dominated by images of “perfection,” many celebrities this year pushed back against unrealistic — and unhealthy — beauty standards. One of the most outspoken was “The Good Place” actress Jameela Jamil, who launched the Instagram account I Weigh in March to celebrate things about women beyond just their number on the scale.
“My obsession, more than my career or acting, is to try to make this world a safer place for the daughters I hope one day to bring into this world,” Jamil told The Lily in April. “I don’t want her to grow up thinking she is nothing if she doesn’t look like teenage sex doll — or whatever it is we’re all supposed to look like now.”
Here are six other big health threads from the year:
• A highly anticipated new report on breast cancer found that the majority of women with the most common type of early-stage breast cancer can forego chemotherapy after surgery.
• The Supreme Court ruled that what are referred to as crisis pregnancy centers do not have to tell their clients about the availability of their states’ contraceptive services, including abortion.
• Celebrities, including Serena Williams and Beyoncé, opened up about their struggles with potentially life-threatening pregnancy conditions, many of which affect black women at disproportionate rates.
• New government figures showed that in 2015, the latest year for which data is available, the number of U.S. abortions hit its lowest point since abortion was legalized in 1973.
• Physician Leana Wen was appointed as president of Planned Parenthood. She replaced Cecile Richards, who had held the post for more than a decade.
The world lost many high-profile women in 2018, three of whom we’ve featured below. Read our full collection of obituaries here.
One of the most celebrated singers in American history, Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul,” died Aug. 16 at 76. Her defining hits, including “Respect,” were enduring anthems of black pride and women’s liberation. Franklin was paid tribute to by singer Jennifer Hudson, former president Bill Clinton and others at an eight-hour ceremony in her hometown of Detroit.
Fashion designer Kate Spade — known for her accessible luxury handbags — died in an apparent suicide in June. She was 55. “Spade crafted a vision of fashion that was joyful and welcome,” Washington Post fashion critic Robin Givhan wrote after Spade’s death. “Countless women took delight in that. And they will remember her for it.”
Former first lady Barbara Bush died Apr. 17 at 92 — several months before her husband, former president George H.W. Bush, died at 94. She was known for being a strong matriarch of the Bush political dynasty. “Mom kept us our toes and kept us laughing until the end,” her eldest son, former president George W. Bush, said in a statement.
• Doritos said it was developing a chip for women, because women “don’t like to crunch too loudly.”
• One of China’s biggest celebrities, actress Fan Bingbing, disappeared for months.
• The Texas Board of Education voted to remove former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and deaf and blind activist Helen Keller from its school curriculum.
• Cynthia Nixon requested that the room where she was set to debate New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo be set to 76 degrees.
• The hashtags #BBQBecky, #PermitPatty and #SouthParkSusan went viral.
• A study found that Arkansas is the most sexist state in America.
• The lyrics of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” generated a national controversy.