DAME’s Women of the Year: 2013

From fearless comedians to tireless activists, here are the women who changed our culture’s conversation.

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As Mae West famously said, “A dame that knows the ropes isn’ t likely to get tied up.” Meet the 11-plus women who changed our lives in significant ways. The ones who fought for our civil liberties, put themselves on the line to blaze a trail for the next generation, who debunked myths about our literary prowess and not only jumped into the conversation but changed it altogether, and showed some tired old-boys’-club comics that not only can we tell a joke, but one-up them. These dames know the ropes, alright.


Beyoncé: Because the queen of pop (and expert secret-keeper) surprised the world with a visual album (that features samples from Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TEDx Talk), finally declared herself a feminist, and reminded us that while identifying as one is easy, how a woman represents those ideologies in the world is still a complicated matter that always deserves further conversation. 


Laverne Cox

Because the Orange Is the New Black star reminds us that trans women make fierce feminists, and her advocacy on behalf of trans rights has never been more urgent.


Wendy Davis

Because the now-gubernatorial candidate’s 11-hour filibuster on the floor of the Texas Senate postponed detrimental anti-abortion legislation (albeit only temporarily) and ignited a cross-country movement to fight loud and hard against the attack on women’s reproductive rights.


Brittney Griner

Because coming out to SI.com and talking about being bullied as a kid in hopes of furthering the conversation with young children, when others would just want to revel about being a WNBA No. 1 draft pick for the Phoenix Mercury is what a real champion does. 



Because the 17-year-old New Zealander took the music charts by storm, then regaled the media with her unfiltered opinions and feminist outlook, which, in an era of questionable pop star behavior in the name of equal rights (we’re looking at you, Miley), is more important than ever.


Chirlane McCray

Because the new First  Lady of New York City in years—and poised to be its most active one—is her husband, Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio’s most trusted advisor, and already has bolstered the morale of the Big Apple’s most neglected communities. 


Pamela Paul

Because the first female New York Times Book Review editor—promoted this year from her position as features and children’s books editor—reminded the literary world that women and people of color are also important writers, critics, and readers and are crucial to the conversation about the written word, which is now reflected every week in their pages. Here’s hoping other literary publications follow her lead.


Sheryl Sandberg

Because Facebook’s first female board member and current COO launched a much-needed national discussion about gender equity in America’s workplace when her controversial book Lean In was published, and whether you agree with her advice or not, making people aware of rampant corporate sexism is the first step toward mitigating it. 


The Women of ‘SNL’

Because Kate, Nasim, Vanessa, Cecilia, Aidy, and Noël are proving Jerry Lewis and fellow eyeroll-inducing misogynist critics wrong: Women are effin’ hilarious, and these women in particular are making the 39th season its funniest in years. And with an out lesbian (their first), a plus-size woman (also a first), an Iranian woman, and now, finally, a soon-to-be-named black woman comic (who will show Kenan exactly “What’s Up With That”), it’s also the late-night-sketch show’s most diverse female cast ever.


Kerry Washington

Because she broke out on Scandal as the first African-American lead in a primetime network show in almost 40 years, earned a Leading Actress in a Drama Emmy nod for it (the last time a black woman was nominated was 1995), and pretty much owned SNL during her mid-season hosting gig in the midst of the uproar about the show’s lack of diversity


Edith Windsor

Because the courageous octogenarian took her lawsuit all the way to the Supreme court—she sued the federal government for a $363,053 refund in estate taxes when her wife died—resulting in a landmark victory for same-sex marriage. 

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