According to Variety, this year, women directed five percent of all studio films and just 16 percent of all television episodes. (Women of colour directed only three percent of all episodes.) Yes, those numbers are frightening, but it’s worth taking our wins where we can. Female-driven narratives were arguably some of the most compelling, entertaining stories told on screen this year — take Orange is the New Black, Jane the Virgin, Trainwreck and Carol, for example.
And while some might balk at the idea of stars descending from their ivory towers to wade into complex gender politics, 2015 also marked a palpable sea change in celebrity conversations, shifting away from the usual who-are-you-wearing red-carpet schtick and towards issues like the pay gap, aging, feminism and diversity. Below, we’ve recapped a few of the most powerful, hear-us-roar moments provided by Hollywood’s golden girls this past calendar year.
10. The debut of Jessica Jones
We’re down with Supergirl and all, but a foul-mouthed, hard-drinking badass who confronts her long-time abuser and makes no apologies? Yeah, we can get on board with that, Netflix.
9. The Ava DuVernay Barbie sells out
This fall, Selma director Ava DuVernay called for her female colleagues to forget the Hollywood boys’ club and “build a village” of their own. It’s exactly that kind of galvanizing power that inspired Mattel to unveil an Ava DuVernay doll as part of its “Sheroes” line back in April. DuVernay’s fans even convinced the toy company to maufacture a mini-model of the director in December — it sold out online in 17 minutes.
8. Reese Witherspoon drops the A-word
“Ambition,” that is. In a speech delivered at Glamour’s Women of the Year awards, Witherspoon advocated for women abandoning their complexes around success and self-belief.
7. Pirelli celebrates female achievement — not just boobs and bums
In tie for 2016, the trade calendar replaced its usual roster of barely clothed models with crazy-inspiring women like Patti Smith, Serena Williams and the very hilarious Amy Schumer.
6. #AskHerMore elevates celeb interviews
Created by The Representation Project in time for red-carpet season, #AskHerMore pushed entertainment journalists to ask female celebs more creative questions than “Who are you wearing?”
5. Jennifer Lawrence says “f-ck it” to the pay gap
“Why do I make less than my male coworkers?” Fair question, J-Law. In October, the perennial cool girl enlightened readers of Lena Dunham’s new newsletter, Lenny, on Hollywood’s staggering pay gap and resolved to be a more aggressive player in her own negotiations.
4. But before J-Law, there was Patricia Arquette
In a now-viral Oscars speech, the Best Supporting Actress winner first congratulated her fellow “beautiful, powerful nominees,” then got right to work to call out the pay gap, and not just in Hollywood. “To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation: We have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality rights once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America!” Go, Patty.
3. Amy Schumer calls out the media’s expiry date for women
Scene: Schumer, Tina Fey, and, yes, Patricia Arquette throw a jaunty picnic in the woods to toast Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ “Last F-ckable Day.” (That’s when Hollywood decides actresses are too old to be attractive and starts giving them old lady parts. This usually happens in their mid-40s.) Anyway, the skit was hilarious.
2. Viola Davis talks diversity at the Emmys
Not only is Davis the first African-American winner in the Best Actress in a Drama category, but she used her victory to make a powerful speech. “The only thing that separates women of colour from anyone else is opporunity,” she said. “You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.”
1. Female filmmakers and stars speak out in The New York Times Magazine
In a landmark longform feature, many of Hollywood’s best known actresses, directors and screenwriters spoke candidly with journalist Maureen Dowd about sexist double standards and hiring discrimination in the film industry. “Male directors who act out are seen as moody, eccentric geniuses,” wrote Dowd. “Women are dragons.” Looks like they’re ready for a fight.