One woman, standing in the middle of no man’s land with only a shield and an unshakeable sense of purpose, drawing all the fire to protect those who cannot fight for themselves.
One woman, staring down certain death with steel in her eyes, deciding to sacrifice herself to save the people and the cause she believes in with everything she has.
Two sisters, coming together despite their differences, finally executing the man who caused them, their family, and their home so much loss.
A mother and daughter, training together in a garage, learning what it means to never feel like a victim again.
A team, finding their strengths in the wrestling ring, using their bodies for themselves and not for anyone else.
A group of mothers, putting aside the things they believed divided them, acting as a force of nature to make sure an abuser never lays a hand on his victims again.
When I looked back on my favorite media moments of the year, one theme emerged loud and clear: This was a year that so many pieces of media—from prestige TV dramas to big-budget blockbusters—let women be their own heroes. This was the year that women teamed up, fought back, and found strength in themselves and in their relationships with one another.
This was the year female characters said “No more.” No more pushing us to the background. No more telling us people don’t care about our stories because of our gender, our race, our sexuality, or our age. No more trying to divide us or painting us as each other’s enemies. No more abuse. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this was also the year more women than ever before started to say “No more” in real life, too.
This year began with women marching in the streets, joining together in shows of unity, support, and strength around the world. And as the year went on, we saw the change that can happen when women come together to speak out against the abuse so many suffer at the hands of men in power.
The strength of women—what we can do when we join together to amplify each other’s voices and protect and defend each other—was reflected in nearly every piece of media I consumed this year. It was there in quiet moments like General Leia Organa and Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo sharing a final moment of appreciation for the other’s bravery and friendship. And it was there in the big, game-changing moments like the women of Big Little Lies fighting for each other after a season of fighting each other. It happened on comedies like One Day a Time, which showed the strength of one teenage girl owning her identity and the strength of the love of her mother and grandmother as they supported her. And it happened in huge action movies like Wonder Woman, which gave us the revolutionary image of an island full of warrior women defending their home against a group of invading, power-hungry men.
Those moments, those stories, matter. They inform the vocabulary of our own resistance. (Notice that even that term—the Resistance—is a reflection of a fictional political movement led by middle-aged women.) They give us examples to follow and role models to emulate. And—perhaps most importantly—they give us a sense that we’re not alone. When we see our stories reflected in the media we consume, it makes us feel like there’s strength in numbers. It makes us feel seen after a lifetime of feeling invisible. And powerful things happen when we finally feel seen.
Everyone will have their own symbolic pop culture image of 2017. Mine is the incredible Season One finale of The Good Place, “Michael’s Gambit.” In this episode, a literal emissary from Hell in the form of a white man believes he has the power to manipulate and torture a group of four people made up of women and people of color. But his carefully laid plans unravel when that diverse group of people begin helping each other instead of working against each other.
If that kind of goodness can be found even in “The Bad Place” when people who are underestimated show kindness toward each other in the face of actual demons, then we can surely do the same in a slightly less hellish setting. There’s hope in that message—the kind of hope we need to keep fighting, keep resisting, keep speaking out, and keep reaching out.
As I look back on 2017 and toward 2018, that’s what I’m feeling more than anything: hope. There’s still so much work to be done, so much evil to fight. But I still feel more hopeful than I did this time last year, and I think a lot of that hope comes from the powerful female characters whose stories I discovered this year.
In a year with many moments of darkness, there were also many moments of light. And it’s okay if the light you held on to when you needed to make it through the long nights came from fiction—if Diana of Themyscira or the Stark Sisters or Rey or Rosa Diaz were the women you drew inspiration from when you needed it the most. Stories matter. Stories give us strength. And so many of the stories that gave me strength this year were stories of women finding their voices, finding the strength to destroy their abusers, and finding support in each other. Those stories gave me hope, and I’m going to carry that hope into 2018.
We are women. We are strong. And we won’t be silenced anymore.
Look out, 2018. We’re coming for you.