7 Women Who Did Groundbreaking Things This Year That Were Overshadowed By Men
Throughout written history (and almost definitely during the bit that wasn't written down), women's accomplishments have been overshadowed by men. Sometimes, it's deliberate. In the 1960s, Walter Keane became famous for paintings of doe-eyed waifs that later turned out to be his wife's work. Decades after claiming credit for discovering the structure of DNA, Jim Watson and Francis Crick have been accused of failing to acknowledge the vital role of the data gathered by X-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin. Kanye West rapped that he made Taylor Swift, a Grammy winner and two-time Billboard Woman of the Year, famous.
But things aren't always so obvious as it is in these examples. In patriarchal societies, women are often seen as weak or downright useless; when they accomplish something noteworthy, some people's reaction is to immediately dismiss it as impossible. Surely a woman would never be able to come up with the first computer program or write the first science fiction novel — although that's exactly what happened. (A note about that second point: Mary Shelley first published Frankenstein anonymously with an introduction penned by her husband, Percy Shelley, and to this day, people still often attribute the novel to him.) Unfortunately, the effect is the same whether or not people realize they're being sexist. Here are seven accomplishments from women in 2017 that were totally overshadowed — but which more than deserve your attention.
1. Viola Davis' Triple Crown
What do you remember about this year's Oscar ceremony? If you're like most people, your mind automatically went to the Best Picture mix-up, when La La Land was mistakenly given the award instead of Moonlight. Given that the Oscars aren't generally known for unpredictability, it's no wonder the shocking moment looms large in people's memories.
However, thanks to the tweeting accountant that caused the mix-up, a historic moment wound up being a blip on the public's radar. When she was awarded the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, Viola Davis became the first black actor to win what's known as a "triple crown" — winning an Emmy, Oscar, and Tony for her skills. (What's more, she has not one, but two Tonys.) Like everything else that happened at the Oscars this year, the press coverage was dwarfed by poking fun at the La La Land mistake.
2. The Diverse Women of Congress Took Office
In the months leading up to the presidential election, the prospect of a blobfish with a bad spray tan leading the country was a common topic of conversation. Once that blobfish became president, he became all anyone can ever talk about.
There was one aspect of the November election, though, that wasn't total garbage. Although the number of women in Congress didn't increase, the politicians that took office in January are more diverse than ever before. Currently, there's a record number of women of color in the Senate, but you wouldn't know that because all the attention has been focused on Trump.
3. New Hope, Texas Mayor Jess Herbst Came Out As Transgender
In late January, the mayor of New Hope, Texas, Jess Herbst, came out as a transgender woman. Herbst told the New York Times that she believed she is the only transgender woman to serve as mayor in the entire state, although there could have been others who never came out. Regardless, her bravery was commendable — but given that President Trump signed the first temporary travel ban around the same time, you may never have heard of Jess Herbst.
4. Mona Hanna-Attisha Marched For Science
If it weren't for Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the Flint, Mich. water crisis may never have received as much attention as it did. The local pediatrician was instrumental in testing local children to prove that the water was poisoned. In April, Dr. Hanna-Attisha was appointed an honorary co-chair for the March for Science. It's the same honor given to Bill Nye, beloved Science Guy, but far more attention was paid to Nye's contributions.
5. Peggy Whitson Spent Time With The Stars
Last month, astronaut and biochemist Peggy Whitson spent her 534th day in space — more than any other American of any gender. She's also the first woman to command the International Space Station (ISS) and the first-ever NASA ISS Space Officer. However, she receives far less attention than her male peers like Scott Kelly, who recently returned from a yearlong mission.
6. Those Who Didn't Make The 'TIME' 100 List
Since 2004, TIME has rounded up an annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. Each year, less than half of those honored are women, and 2017's list was no different. Only 40 women were honored, providing a stark example of how gender influences the perception of achievements. There are thousands of influential women in the world, yet men are far more likely to be recognized as such.
7. Michelle Obama Rocked Natural Hair
Some might not consider a hairstyle an accomplishment, but I'm writing the article, so I call the shots. Michelle Obama's lovely natural hair was the talk of the town (or at least Twitter) for all of 30 seconds before everyone's attention swung back to her husband/ultimate Dad on Vacation, Barack. Given how our culture frequently treats natural hair, it's a notable moment.