Pop Culture Events From 2015 No One Realized Were Going To Be So Important For Women

It's time to pour yourself a glass of wine, sit down and celebrate the fact that 2015 has been an awesome year for progressive feminism. Within pop culture, it's been a year like no other, filled with incredibly vocal women using their influence to try and encourage positive change (like Viola Davis and Patricia Arquette), women who refused to let society dictate who they could be and who stood up for their rights to be who they are (like Ellen Page and Caitlyn Jenner) and where women weren't just allowed to merely be on the screen but where they actually owned those screens too. (Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, anyone?)

Though it can sometimes be easy to predict how important a future release or event could be to feminism (check out the 2016 Pirelli calendar for inspiration!), often times, the most important events are the ones that we don't realize are going to make quite the impact that they do. These are pop cultural moments that maybe hit us completely out of the blue (but made us realize how much we needed them in our lives, like the existence of Amy Schumer, or the indie-film Tangerine) or which created constructive discussions around inequality, human rights, gender, race and sexuality in ways that we could never have predicted.

All of these moments, no matter how big, small or silly they may seem, were all vital for women and turned out to be so much more important than we could have ever realised.

1. Mad Max: Fury Road

When the film was first announced, few anticipated how little the plot line would center on lead protagonist Max and how much it would be centered on a pack of tough women fighting back against an oppressive, dystopian regime. The film was so feminist that men's rights campaigners tried to boycott it.

2. Amy Schumer

Comedy Central on YouTube

Schumer was everywhere this year, and thankfully so — her comedy was both brilliant and feminist. With her formidable comedy show Inside Amy Schumer as well as the release of her first feature film Trainwreck, Schumer gave us honest portrayals of women and made devastatingly funny commentary on gender and sexual politics which we were definitely all ready for.

3. Ellen Page Delivers Emotional Speech At The Time To Thrive Conference

Human Rights Campaign on YouTube

When Page was announced as a guest speaker at the Time To Thrive Conference, it hardly made waves in the press — however her deeply emotional speech (in which she talks about how society wrongly imprints "ideas" onto us regarding our gender and sexuality) did. While Page might have come out during the speech, the most important part of it lies in the main message she emotional delivers during it: That nobody should have to suffer the experience of having to lie about how they define their gender or sexuality in order to make society more comfortable with them.

4. Tangerine Becomes The Surprise Indie Hit Of The Year

Magnolia Pictures & Magnet Releasing on YouTube

The runaway indie hit of the year, Tangerine was a critical hit and received countless accolades for being one of the best films of the year. Shot entirely on iPhones, Tangerine is a film which stars two trans women of color, and focuses on something real: Friendship.

5. Patricia Arquette Fights For Wage Equality During Oscar Speech

Oscars on YouTube

After winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress back in February, Arquette used her time at the podium to demand that women receive equal pay. Since that speech (which was so powerful that it animated Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez out of their seats in riotous support) many Hollywood actresses — including Sandra Bullock and Jennifer Lawrence — have become clearly more vocal about exposing wage inequality within their own industry.

6. Bryce Dallas Howard Wears Heels In Jurassic World

I know, you're totally rolling your eyes at this — but Howard making the decision to wear heels throughout the entirety of Jurassic World has actually brought the absurdity of women wearing heels in action roles to greater light (I can't even jog for the bus in heels): For example, Krysten Ritter recently made it clear that Jessica Jones won't be wearing heels anytime soon. However you feel towards heels, it definitely seems like we're now one step closer to women being seen as capable action heroes and not just tokenized, sexy extras.

7. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Not only did The Force Awakens pass The Bechedel Test but it also provided us with a feminist hero (in the form of Rey, played by Daisy Ridley): a woman who clearly doesn't need a man to save her at any time. For a blockbuster movie with a fanbase which has been incorrectly credited as being mostly for dudes all this time (wrong!), The Force Awakens will surely persuade other major movie studios that they can develop awesome, complex, and strong female characters in movies — which also make a ton of money.

8. Jessica Jones

Though tons of us were super excited for the Marvel Universe's first female superhero actually leading one of their stories on screen (finally!), none us realized quite how empowering the final product was going to be. Showing a brave portrayal of trauma alongside complex female characters and sub-plots which explored lines of consent and domestic abuse, Jessica Jones became not just a female superhero, but a damn fine feminist one which we can proud of.

9. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Like Jessica Jones, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt also dealt with the aftermath of a deeply traumatic experience, but this time with a comedic twist. If Jessica Jones is empowering for her strength, then Kimmy Schmidt is empowering in her gallant zeal for life. We might have all been excited for Tina Fey's Netflix show because it's a new show from Fey, but it became important after its premiere for it's determination to show survival as a kaleidoscopic experience; one which sometimes needs comedy in order to happen.

10. Caitlyn Jenner On The Cover Of Vanity Fair

Though we all knew that Jenner's Vanity Fair cover would cause some pretty big waves and some even bigger discussions online, I'm not sure that any of us realized just how quickly Jenner would actually break the internet by doing so. While I can't understate the power and importance of Jenner being the first transgender woman on the cover of the magazine, one of the most crucial parts of the event was how it ushered transgender rights into a brighter public light.

11. Viola Davis Emmy's Speech

Divinely inspiring and definitively thoughtful, Davis' speech at the Emmy Awards was a celebration for diversity and a call to arms for complex female characters to continue to be written, following her becoming the first African-American woman to ever win an Emmy.

So if that was 2015, then just imagine what potential 2016 has in store for us...

Images: Walt Disney Pictures; lies/Tumblr; Mattsmurdass/Tumblr