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Year of the Woman

In Hindu mythology, when Shiva opens his third eye, it is considered a terrible warning for the cosmos. It means he is angry enough to incinerate anything that comes in his way. In somewhat similar fashion, in 2017, women across the world seemed to declare war — on harassment, abuse, rape, inequality and every form of injustice. Across the world, there was a furious outpouring of rage against men in power, men on the street, men at home, and in families.

Anger, however, is only one facet of the fight for empowerment. Concomitantly, the year saw women stack up achievements on an unprecedented scale. Whether in sports or the arts, whether sailing the seas or making music, whether leading protests or directing movies, women made their presence felt. Significantly, this happened in a social milieu that was not necessarily supportive. In Kashmir, young girls fought the burqa and social stigma to play ice hockey and football.

In Chennai, women were murdered for rejecting proposals. In Delhi and Bengaluru, working women were raped in taxis. Poets and novelists, journalists and activists and rap artistes were viciously trolled. The message, as it always has been, is still clear: women are not going to be allowed easily into spaces traditionally dominated by men. Simultaneously, the dissimulation will continue: that society ‘honours’ women and thinks of them as goddesses. As Virginia Woolf said, “Imaginatively, (woman) is of the highest importance; practically she is completely insignificant. She pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history.”

In 2017, what we have seen perhaps is the beginning of a reversal of this order. A sign that history’s hands are being forced. And what better way to acknowledge it than to celebrate a few names from the vast multitude of women who stood out this year. Making the final list wasn’t easy given how many deserved acclaim, but we tried to be representative and we tried to find names that would have otherwise gone unsung.

The Chinese calendar says 2017 was the year of the rooster, but we say it was the year of the hen.

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