Women of the Year: 2012

Featuring a teacher, a schoolgirl, a spy, a CEO and an activist mom from Argentina.

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No one here is arguing with Time that President Obama is the 2012 “Person of the Year” – winning that election was no mean feat.

But he couldn’t have done it without women.

Not only did women’s issues dominate the election – who can forget the words “legitimate rape” and “transvaginal ultrasound”? – but women voted blue by over 10 percent, even more in some crucial swing states. So despite the lack of a female candidate, it was women who won this election. And there’s every reason to hope that a woman will win the next one.

Politics is just one of many arenas in which women had a huge influence in 2012. After all, this was the year in which a woman killed Bin Laden, a woman led Facebook through its historic IPO and a woman broke the Jerry Sandusky story. Whether it’s war, entertainment, human rights or just plain heroism, women set the bar.

So here it is, Merry Christmas – 13 women who did our gender proud.

Victoria Soto – Teacher

When the massacre began at Sandy Hook Elementary last Friday, Victoria Soto, a first-grade teacher, ushered her students into a closet. The gunman burst in and Soto was shot, as her cousin Jim Wiltsie told ABC News, while “huddled over her children, her students, doing instinctively what she knew was the right thing.” Hook had wanted to be a teacher since she was 3. Her mother Donna Soto told CNN, “She would not hesitate to think to save anyone else before herself and especially children. She loved them more than life.” Soto was one of six adults who were murdered that day in the protection of their young charges.


Hillary Clinton – Secretary of State

For Texts from Hillary, the best Tumblr of the year. For giving it some on the dance floor in South Africa (at the age of 65). For actually restoring America’s reputation around the world while revolution and tumult reigned in the Middle East. For working so damn hard – she’s the most traveled Secretary of State ever. So far in 2012, she’s visited 71 countries and flown over 261,000 miles. And, well, because no Women of the Year list would be complete without the Hills.


“Jen” – CIA operative

The Bush administration said it was impossible, and pointless, to find the most wanted man on the planet. One red-haired kick-ass CIA operative thought otherwise. “Jen” didn’t just locate Bin Laden and instigate the historic mission to kill him, she provided closure for an entire nation. She proved that the toughest and most dangerous job in the world could be done impeccably by a woman. She’s so badass that Hollywood “Jens” like Carrie Matheson look pussy in comparison. “Jen”, whoever you are, you just made the world a better place.


Constance Johnson (D) – State Senator of Oklahoma

For standing up to the Republican war on women and laughing in its face. When a Personhood Bill threatened to outlaw contraception in her state, Sen. Johnson introduced an “every sperm is sacred” amendment that would outlaw masturbation. The bill states: “[A]ny action in which a man ejaculates or otherwise deposits semen anywhere but in a woman’s vagina shall be interpreted and construed as an action against an unborn child.”


Jill Kelley – Tampa Socialite

For setting off the biggest political scandal of the year involving some of the most powerful men in the country, all while remaining something of an enigma. Was she schtupping General Petraeus as his mistress Paula Broadwell suspected, or were they “just good friends”? What about the FBI agent Kelley engaged to spy on Petraeus – did it go beyond him just sending her topless pictures? And what about General John Allen who replaced Petraeus as top man in Afghanistan – what’s in all those emails between them. And how does a Tampa socialite pull this off anyway?


Malala Yousufzai – Schoolgirl

“All I want is an education. And I’m afraid of no one.” That was Malala, in 2009, aged 11, when her blog for the BBC first made her a target for the Taliban. Her stories were haunting, visceral and clear-eyed, an astonishing window into a part of the world where women are treated like chattel and beheaded dissenters hang from trees in the town square. Malala is what courage looks like. She was targeted and shot by the Taliban in October, and today she struggles for life on a hospital bed. But in her suffering, she strikes a deadlier blow to the Taliban than any bomb or drone strike. Malala’s courage will live on.


Eva Mendes – Actress

You did it, Eva, and respect is due – you bagged Ryan Gosling, America’s boyfriend. But anytime you want to cut him loose, you know, that’s fine, too.


Galicia Malone – Voter

Women won the election this year. They stood firm against the war on women, and the Republicans lost. They stood up for equal pay and reproductive rights and Obama won. And the spirit of the female voter was never better exemplified than by Galicia Malone, a 21-year-old from Chicago who was so pregnant on Election day that her water had broken before she stopped to vote. That’s how you win elections.


Sarah Ganim – Reporter

For breaking the Jerry Sandusky story and winning a Pulitzer for her local newspaper, The Patriot News, at all of 24 years old – the third-youngest Pulitzer winner in history. At a time when we hear constantly about the falling standards of our media, the crumbling Fourth Estate and so on, Ganim provides the rebuttal. Having accumulated awards galore and watched Sandusky get locked up for the rest of his natural life, Ganim has taken a job at CNN. They could use her there.


Susana Trimarco – Mother

This nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize has been freeing Argentine women from sex slavery ever since her daughter was abducted and sold into a prostitution ring in 2002. Initially ignored by authorities, Susana Trimarco launched her own bad-ass investigation, visiting brothels and posing as a recruiter of prostitutes while her husband waited in the car. Sadly, she still has not found her daughter, and the 13 people accused of trafficking her were acquitted on December 12 of this year. But her foundation, instrumental in getting Argentina to outlaw human trafficking in 2008, has rescued more than 900 women and girls.


Rebel Wilson – Actress

How’s this for a fever dream? In South Africa as a youth ambassador, with no goal to pursue acting, Rebel Wilson contracted malaria and hallucinated that she won an Oscar. Fast-forward a couple years and she’s stealing scenes in Bridesmaids and What To Expect When You’re Expecting. Beloved by Hollywood tastemakers, including Judd Apatow and Michael Bay, Wilson is fearlessly funny, crashing against every bullshit boundary ever erected around women in comedy or their weight. Next year, she’ll appear in her first primarily dramatic role for Bay’s true-crime drama Pain and Gain, set to open in April.


Marissa Mayer – CEO

Last July Yahoo! hired Marissa Mayer, a rising star at Google, as its top brass, making her the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company. She has already courted controversy but not for her business moves. After taking a truncated maternity leave and daring to describe motherhood as “fun” and “easy,” Mayer, 37, found herself maligned as a spoiled mogul out of touch with the challenges of real women. Never mind that she wasn’t trying to speak for all women anyway, let’s not lose sight of the big picture here. Mayer is the head of a multibillion-dollar corporation and a new mother. Period. How many of those were there in 1982?


Anne-Marie Slaughter – Professor

The title of Anne-Marie Slaughter’s sprawling piece for the Atlantic, Why Women Still Can’t Have It All, is a bit misleading. It’s not a cautionary tale warning women that they will fail but a realistic assessment of all the challenges currently in our way. Slaughter, a former Director of Policy Planning for the U.S. State Department – and current Princeton professor – demands shifts in policy, saying that once we view parenthood as an important function to society and not as something merely gumming up the works of capitalism, then we’ll all be in a better place.

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