One thing that shaped the feminist movement last year was the #MeToo campaign. The world, for the first time, witnessed such an upsurge of voices against sexual harassment and abuse, and the credit goes to Tarana Burke, an African-American civil rights activist who first used the term ‘Me Too’ in 2006 to raise awareness about harassment in prominent industries of the world. This campaign exposed many known and unknown predators, which gave the world a sense of pervasiveness on the issue of harassment. “There is inherent strength in agency. And #MeToo, in a lot of ways, is about agency. It’s not about giving up your agency, it’s about claiming it.”, Burke told The Guardian.
Justice Leila Seth was the first female to serve as the Chief Justice of a state High Court. Seth championed the cause of women’s legal issues, by setting up a number of commissions for eradicating discrimination between children on the basis of gender, giving adequate agency to married women, and strongly supporting gay rights and fighting against Section 377, which also came from accepting and embracing her son Vikram Seth, a prominent Indian writer with bisexual orientation. Leila Seth was also one of the staunchest advocates of justice delivery to the victim of the 2012 Delhi gang-rape case. The icon passed away in May 2017.
From the fame of ‘every single word spoken by a person of color’ YouTube videos, Dylan Marron is an actor, director, playwright, and Youtuber known for voicing LGBTQ, women’s, and people of color issues, along with challenging privilege. Due to facing discrimination because of his own race and sexuality as Venezuelan and queer, Dylan’s videos aim to expose the ‘white-washed’ attitude towards everything; from pop-culture to global affairs. His work ‘Sitting in Bathroom with Trans People’ is widely celebrated.
Breaking the glass ceiling in the 13th-century art of storytelling, Fouzia Dastango is the first woman Dastangoi, an Urdu art form. She has broken the male bastion and emerged as a prominent artist dedicated to reviving this almost forgotten art. “I had never seen a woman perform back in the day. But I was not going to step back,” Fouzia told TheBetterIndia. She also conducts story-telling workshops. For her stories, she wisely picks socially conscious issues ranging from mental health to women’s status to communal harmony. For her, being the first women practitioner of this male-dominated field also comes with the responsibility of working towards an adequate representation of women.
A fighter pilot in the Indian Air Force, Avani created history by becoming the first Indian woman to fly a fighter plane, the MiG-21 Bison, solo. This came after the government, in 2016, decided to make combat roles open to women. Alongside Mohana Singh and Bhawana Kanth, this remarkable achievement has put India on the list of the countries such as Britain, the United States, Israel, and Pakistan, where women are allowed to fly fighter jets. The country welcomes these women as role models for all Indian women who aspire to permeate supposed ‘male’ occupations and widen the horizon of representation.
Ellen is considered to be one queer icon who changed pop-culture forever. One of the first celebrities to openly embrace her sexual identity as a gay person, she has inspired countless queer persons and has also forwarded the media towards a more gender-sensitive industry and against stigma. Ellen’s talk show is one of the most popular shows catering a global audience. Her public announcement, famously dubbed as the ‘The Puppy Show’ after the Puppy episode of her show in 1997 took the media industry by storm when she uttered “Yep, I’m gay.” Ellen’s career after that was filled with resistance from people of the industry who disapproved of Ellen’s identity as a celebrity and the content of her shows, but she refused to succumb and constantly worked towards normalising queerness on TV.
Vikram Aditya Sahai
Known as Vqueeram Aditya Sahai from their social media. They are a queer activist. They actively voices for making campus spaces safe for queer persons, along with engaging in the complex spectrum of gender and non-binaries. Their works range from deconstructing gender associations, conventionality, and critiquing the current queer movements in India and around. Vikram is a regular speaker at talks, panel discussions, etc. in academia. “The idea is not to look masculine or feminine, so I don’t wax my arms. Being a feminine boy, this is how I have expressed myself,” they tells Deccan Herald on their sense of dressing and appearance which is quirky, bold, and most importantly, unafraid.