It's impossible to sum up 2015 with just one word. It was a year full of victories, as we saw when the Supreme Court made banning same-sex marriage illegal or when nearly 200 countries vowed to combat climate change. It was a year full of tragedies, with police brutality inspiring the #BlackLivesMatter movement and hundreds of mass shootings in one year alone clouding the U.S.'s reputation and the minds of every man, woman, and child with a mother, father, daughter, son, niece, or nephew who may one day die at the hands of gunfire. And, of course, it was a year full of legitimate greatness, with Adele's "Hello" making phone calls cool again; Amy Schumer's "Trainwreck" proving that women are not only most definitely funny, but that audiences love to see funny women; and Caitlyn Jenner's Vanity Fair cover proving it's never too late to embrace who you really are.
But through cheers, tears, and sing-alongs (who doesn't still have "Hello" on repeat?), Bustle's editors and exceptional writers have followed the biggest stories of each day, penning thousands of essays and reported articles that surrounded the issues women (i.e., we) cared about most in 2015. And what follows is 51 of the best. Why 51? I simply could not select just 50. Seems Bustle's offerings in 2015 are just as tough to narrow down as 2015 itself.
"There were honestly so many positive comments on all the photos I posted and it's overwhelmingly flattering. I appreciated each and every one of them. But aside from appealing to my obvious vanity, these comments held so much power, being the very fuel to the body-positive movement fire. People were loving and supporting not only me, but what I was doing."
"This weekend, a man wearing a skull mask posted a video on YouTube outlining his plans to murder me. I know his real name. I documented it and sent it to law enforcement, praying something is finally done. I have received these death threats and 43 others in the last five months."
I Recreated Disney Princess Hairstyles With Senegalese Twists, Because Girls With Braids Can Have Some Fairytale Fun Too
"On a normal day, I'd probably think there was no way I could imitate Disney princess hair. I usually don't enjoy styling my own hair, plus none of them were exactly rocking Senegalese twists like me. Then I thought, why not? If Tiana could kiss a slimy frog (gross!) and Ariel could trust a horrid octopus (kudos to Ursula for understanding the power of a little black dress), then Summer Arlexis could give her twists a makeover, Disney princess style! After all, if my girl Poca and the kick-ass Mulan could break a few stereotypes, then so could I."
"More and more, though, Wilde says, women are taking matters into their own hands and proving that 'institutionalized sexism has changed.' 'Fearless' actresses like Sandra Bullock and Charlize Theron are taking roles that were originally meant for men; 'Incredible' filmmakers like Ava DuVernay and Gina Prince-Bythewood are making major strides for women of color; 'Inspired' female writers and directors-in-training are sending Wilde and her fellow producers scripts in which 'nine out of ten' are meant to be directed by women. As Wilde says, 'if we wait for Hollywood to hand us things, it'll just never happen ... There are so many films with five guys and one girl. I'm f*cking over that! I want to see five girls and like, maybe a guy,' Wilde says."
"It's more than just dressing up in a costume. These are things that can affect a person for years on out later. The boost of confidence that you get from being able to be in such a social setting with that kind of like ... social armor, because it is your costume, I think after awhile, you don't need the costume anymore when you start to realize that people are very genuine with their responses."
—Bianca Consunji, Evan Engel, Lou Marillier, Katie Cropper Klein
"I used to like to think that what we call 'aging gracefully' is simply the result of more smiles than frowns in a lifetime. That might be true, but it seems that I frown and furrow whenever I write or think deeply, which luckily, is much of the time. I also laugh a lot. If my face ends up showing more of a history of thinking and writing than laughing and lounging, and that ends up making me invisible in our society, I'd like to say I wouldn't care. But honestly, I suspect it's really going to suck."
"Though I'm still not entirely sure what was in Oregon since I never made it, I like to envision my wagon arriving in a fruitful land where gold, burritos, and happiness flow aplenty. Which sort of sounds like the life we're all still looking for, amirite? But be careful replaying the Oregon Trail, because these days there are different obstacles to overcome, like that Netflix and chill lifestyle. If you think you've got what it takes to make it to Oregon, test your luck yet again."
—Rosanne Salvatore, Dawn Foster
What Is Vagina Steaming? I Tried This Gwyneth-Approved Procedure And Managed Not To Burn My Crotch (But Only Barely)
"On one hand, who am I to say that I know better than centuries of traditional Korean medicine? I mean, I can't even figure out how to integrate my Google calendars. On the other, the new v-steam trend set off all my alarm bells for "stuff ladies with too much time and money on their hands do to their vaginas." I mean, remember vajazzling? Isn't v-steaming just vajazzling for a post-recession, neo-crunchy world where kale is the new Paris Hilton? I decided to do some real-life research."
"We have a lot in common, you and I. We both love pretty things, the power of a carefully chosen outfit, and Thai food. We're both in love with someone who tries their hardest to make us feel our best when we're at our worst. But while you seem to like yourself all the time, I don't. You look in the mirror every day and feel happy and ready to take on the world. A lot of times, I do too. But some days, I just feel tired. Or anxious. Or like I have to find some way to feel OK, but can't. I hate that. But you never feel that way, right? Tell me what that's like."
Awards Shows & Diversity: From The Grammys To The Oscars, A Breakdown Of Which Awards Show Recognizes The Most Minority Artists
"While there is undoubtedly no facet of the pop culture world that couldn't stand to broaden its horizons, it's worth delving back into the histories of these varied art forms' respective awards circuits to determine which has done the best job of acknowledging a diverse collection of outstanding artists over the past 20 years ... and, most importantly, why it's doing the best job of that."
"When I began my cancer treatment in 2012, walking was how I took stock of myself. I was shocked that a shuffling gait was all I could manage for days after my mastectomy. In the fall I started chemo, and walking was as strong a chronicle of my decline as the strands of falling hair. By the end of the twelve infusions, I would get winded after walking a single block. My hips ached from effect of the treatment on my joints. I walked anyway."
"'I did the "Drive Me Crazy" video with Britney — I did not want that to be the title of the movie, and I tried to fight Fox on that. I did not want it to be called "Drive Me Crazy" ... "What, some little teeny-bopper is going to come in and rename our movie? No. She's going to be a flash in the pan" ... I was a little wrong.'"
—Kelsea Stahler, Kenny Suleimanagich, Bianca Consunji, Katie Cropper Klein
"'I think the biggest barrier was probably just saying it to myself.'"
—Julie Alvin, Emily Geraghty, Kenny Suleimanagich
"Here are 54 of stories about how Planned Parenthood has helped American women over the years, from providing birth control to abortions to cervical cancer screenings. Take a look at what they have to say, and then join them — and me — in saying: I stand with Planned Parenthood. Yesterday, today, and for as many more tomorrows as we have."
"During a recent rewatch/bingewatch session, I found myself wondering about one of those details. As a New Yorker myself, I can attest that it's very common knowledge that, just because you were able to secure a couch or certain table at a neighborhood coffee shop a few times definitely does not mean you will always be able to secure that couch or table. New York is a busy city with a lot of people! It's just unrealistic to expect that your spot will always be free when you walk in to an establishment. So... how was the couch at Central Perk always free for the gang? A few more episodes, and I had an answer in the form of a previously unnoticed background prop, right in front my eyes."
Remembering Michael Brown & Others Who Died In Police Encounters, Because They Should Be Known For More Than Their Deaths
"The victims' families have spoken emotionally about the people they lost. Brothers, sisters, and parents let the world know the young men and women whose final moments have so haunted us, many of them sharing photos and stories that told us a far deeper story of loss than the ones you might have seen in the media so far. One year after the Michael Brown shooting, these families would like you to know more about the people whose tragic deaths helped to launch the #BlackLivesMatter movement."
"When Tiffany Rajah started her freshman year at University of California, Berkeley, she carried 124 pounds on her 5-foot-3 frame. By her second semester, stress from difficult classes in her pre-med track became overwhelming. She started replacing snacks with coffee and 5-Hour Energy drinks, and she frequently skipped meals so that she could spend more time studying for her biology and chemistry classes. 'I found myself getting four to five hours of sleep daily and missing dinners to study,' says Rajah, whose family first noticed she was thinner when she came home at Christmas. They commented she looked good because 'it wasn't too drastic' yet. By the end of her freshman year, Rajah says she weighed no more than 110 pounds. Now in her junior year, she has dropped to just 100."
"Before this week I have made bread exactly zero times in my life. I wasn't even a huge bread fan until I read The Hunger Games. But these books make hearty, grain-filled bread sound like cake. So, I stopped taking my ability to buy loaves for granted and started to actually eat it every once in awhile. It was only a matter of time before I made some from scratch ... Plus, the recipes are super simple. I know because I only messed a couple loaves up out of 12, which means the odds were in my favor."
"Every September 11 that passes feels different than the last. Maybe for some people the ache of it seems to fade over time, which is only natural human behavior — but for those of us who were so young when it happened, the tragedy of it only seems to heighten with every passing year. We knew the death count when we were children, but we could not fathom the personal loss of them. We saw the footage, but we couldn't process the unthinkable horror of it. But when you're 13, or 17, or even 24, it means something different. The understanding starts to sink in. The ripples of the tragedy are not just somebody else's ripples, but something you are a part of, and can empathize with, and can finally start to realize in its full horror."
"There's a lot of power in stripping down. Not just in the sense of spending time with and growing to know (and maybe even love) your naked body, but also in its ability to relate to and inspire others. Others who may not often get to see bodies like theirs represented in the media or the glossy pages of their magazines. So with the goal of trying something new and maybe learning a little something along the way, Bustle's own Kelsea Stahler, Anna Parsons, and I visited Shutter Bug Boudoir with photographer Michelle Wild for an afternoon of doing just that: stripping down."
—Marie Southard Ospina, Emily Geraghty, Bianca Consunji, Katie Cropper Klein, Lou Marillier
"Dear Non-Existent Daughter,
I don't have the words to describe the hope you've given me for the future. I mean, I literally don't have the words to describe anything about you, because you're not real. Since I have decided to not have children, you will never exist; as a result, I don't spend an awful lot of time thinking about you (sorry)."
"Viall joined us on this week's edition of Bustle's sex and relationships podcast I Want It That Way to talk about behind-the-scenes Bachelorette gossip, how to cope with a breakup, and what's going on with his love life now. He's learned a lot from his experiences on The Bachelorette, and he says that, like with many relationships, his dalliances with Bristowe and Dorfman helped him further hone his ideas of what kind of a woman he is looking to date. 'That's the great part about dating, and the great part of relationships sometimes not working out,' Viall tells Bustle. 'You get to know yourself and, more importantly, what you want in life.'"
—Julie Alvin, Anna Parsons, Gabrielle Moss, Kathryn Kattalia, Rachel Krantz, Noel Howard
"The phrase "I could never pull that off" has always been a pet peeve of mine. At best it's a backhanded compliment; at worst, it's a reveal of low self-esteem. And honestly? It's my professional fashion editor opinion that we should stop limiting our wardrobes with nonsense rules. Despite being 5'3" with "really weird, wonky ankles" (thanks, person I worked with during college), I happen to love wearing midi skirts, and I'm pretty fed up with people who tell me I'm brave for doing so. But opinions, like a DIY organic dye job, pale in comparison to science, so I gathered up some co-workers, put them in some outfits they swore they'd never be caught dead in, and dragged them out into wild. It was time we got to the bottom of this damned phrase. Is it true that people can't, in fact, pull something off?"
"But this video can save you from some of that embarrassment. And it will give you the joy of watching some silly, imaginative stabs in the dark. Maybe you'll learn something — I was happy to discover that I am a unicorn! Well, depending on the... umm... horses involved."
—Lea Rose Emery, Emily Geraghty, Kenny Suleimanagich, Lou Marillier, Katie Cropper Klein
"It would be too easy to say that Shark Tank gives female entrepreneurs a much-needed voice or that it's stifling them as much as ever. Believe it or not, Shark Tank is more nuanced than that, and it has a complicated relationship with gender, from the way it presents female entrepreneurs to the way it describes female consumers to who actually scores a deal at the end of the day. At one moment, Shark Tank will support the business ambitions of women, and a second later, it will reinforce age-old stereotypes about what women should want in life."
"As a highly socially anxious person, my predominant concerns before the catwalk revolved around, 'Will I throw up on the cameras?' and, 'What if I stumble?' But a pretty remarkable thing is realizing that I really wasn't concerned with how I was aesthetically perceived. Sure, I knew that I would've felt more comfortable (and subsequently 'prettier') had my bangs been left curled. And I knew that there probably existed less awkward arm and hand placement than the in-pocket look I ultimately went for. But I figured that, no matter what, the point of Carrie Hammer's show was to be me — to embrace the things about me that society (as some kind of all-encompassing entity) still generally considers 'bad' attributes, be it my cellulite-y thighs or chubby cheeks or my broad shoulders."
—Marie Southard Ospina
"There are so many options for the campaign logo of the most promising female candidate we've ever seen. Clinton has several instant identifiers, like her signature hairstyle and her iconic initials. She's been in the public eye for so long that people of all ages will recognize them. Many of the ideas designers have dreamt up for new logos are centered around the image of a dominant H; even Clinton's official logo relies on the immediate recognition that will associate with a giant H."
—Zoe Ferguson, Dawn Foster
Is Female Viagra Safe? Addyi Might Pose More Risks Than Benefits For Women, Some Medical Researches Say
"The buzz around flibanserin is immense and confusing, particularly for the reason highlighted in O'Neill's letter. Are women's health nonprofits and politicians supporting flibanserin specifically, or are they inevitably boosting a drug simply by advocating for more research into women's sexual health? As Even the Score has pointed out, there is certainly a problem when women's sexual health gets pushed to the wayside. But the dissenting medical researchers say that flibanserin, in its current form, may not be the answer."
Who Is Charles DiLaurentis? 'Pretty Little Liars' Author Sara Shepard Shares Her Best Guess On Bustle's 'Taking This One To The Grave' Podcast
"In an interview with Bustle's podcast Taking This One To The Grave, the author of the PLL book series Sara Shepard shares which [Charles] theory she's most partial to, as well as which fan favorite character she still hopes could turn out to be Big A. Of course, like many fans, Shepard has adjusted her theories over the course of Season 6. 'My big theory [was] that Charles was somehow related to the DiLaurentises and that's where it stopped," she explains. "I feel like all of the suspects have been exhausted and I heard that they're not going to invent a new character to be A, so who could it be?'"
—Samantha Rullo, Kelsea Stahler, Christine DiStasio, Jackie Berstein, Noel Howard
"This issue is personal to me. I'm a gay Hoosier. I grew up and came out in Indiana. As you can imagine, Indiana wasn't, and sometimes still isn't, the most pleasant of residential places for gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals. Over the years, Indiana has actually managed to progress, albeit kicking and screaming; in 1977, before I was just a twinkle in my grandmother's eye, the state decriminalized homosexual activity (clap, clap). Twenty years later, in 1997, Bloomington, Indiana began recognizing civil unions; a few scattered counties followed suit. And then, on Oct. 6, 2014, gay marriage in Indiana officially became legal when the Indiana Supreme Court refused to further deliberate the Baskin v. Bogan case. Victory at last! Sorta."
"'My mother is gay,' I said into the microphone when it was time for questions. It was only the second or third time I'd articulated it aloud. I let it hang in the air for a second, the truth, reverberating over the AV system. 'How can you say that she shouldn't have the right to marry someone she loves?' I was baiting her, and knew it. I had never once thought about my mother remarrying and had no idea if she'd be interested. I had no idea how I would feel about it. That wasn't the point. We weren't really talking about marriage. We were talking about bigotry."
—Margaret Wheeler Johnson
"You know them and you probably love them — but do you know where vibrators come from? Obviously there's no Sex Toy Stork that drops them off, so most of us found our first vibrators online, in a sex toy shop, or in the form of a "back massager" sold at Sharper Image. But the vibrator has a long and fascinating history, filled with hysteria, weight-loss gimmicks, and even court cases."
—Rachel Krantz, Dawn Foster
"When we immediately blame mental illness in cases of mass violence committed by white, male shooters, we're perpetuating racism; we're hurting the mentally ill, who are more likely to be the victims of crime than perpetrators of it; and we are being ignorant. The real "illness" is this misguided mindset that other people — in this case, maybe, women — were doing something wrong that needed to be corrected, and therefore Houser had the power to correct it."
—Josephine B. Yurcaba
"Over the years, the scrapbook marked 'Bieber Antics' has gathered virtually zero dust on mental bookshelf. That's due to the fact that Bieber is constantly making mischief, and I'm regularly withdrawing that book to add another instance of ridiculous Bieb-havior. Whether said mischief has been of the fictional variety (throwing a party at Usher's house in the 'One Time' video), or the very real variety (drag racing, vandalism charges, breaking Selena Gomez's heart), The Biebs has garnered himself a reputation of being a bee in America's bonnet. But following what has been at times a somewhat dubious apology tour, and a strangely emotional VMA performance (TEARS!), the tide of public opinion is turning for Bieber. With the help of charts, we're ready to take a look back at how he became the swoop-banged young man he is today."
—Arielle Dachille, Dawn Foster
"Tinder can be a very weird place, so why not test the limits of its weirdness? For a few days, I used only Donald Trump quotes on the dating app to see how the opposite sex would respond (and if they even noticed). Of course, Trump is notorious for saying dumb and incredibly offensive things, and now that he's actually running for president, everything Trump says is being scrutinized more than normal. I figured: Why not use his quotes on the unsuspecting public and see what they think?"
"It's been difficult for me to come to terms with what I went through, and I hadn't told anyone in my life about it until recently. I was convinced that since my abuser and I were in a (sort of) relationship and had previously had consensual sex, what had happened between us that day was not as bad as it felt. I repressed all of the shock my body had absorbed during my assault, stuffing it far back into the recesses of my mind. After my assault, I stopped dating and I ignored my sexual body, my naked body. And I refused to think about how the events of that day had caused this change."
"In the world of pharmaceuticals, the idea of a male birth control pill that works like the female version has been percolating for decades. And if you pay attention to splashy headlines, there have been serious steps forward in the past ten years. It seems that every few months a new discovery is heralded as the newest, most effective way of producing widespread male contraception, only to be superseded by an even shinier, fancier idea. The overall impression is of a scientific field crowded with viable options for sperm-stopping, allbursting to be produced. But is this picture realistic?"
J.K. Rowling Supports Black Hermione In 'Cursed Child' & That Means So Much To Me As A Black 'Harry Potter' Fan
"Hermione Granger not only could be black, but makes more sense to me as a character if she is black. And, even if she wasn't black, no matter what race you ascribe to her, it doesn't change the fact that she is a stereotype-busting character that any woman of any color can project themselves onto and find, in her, a role model that they can learn from and grow with. The fact that her skin color is open to interpretation just makes her even better."
I'm a Trans Woman, And Gay Marriage Isn't Enough To Protect ME From These 7 Threats To My Health And Well-Being
"With gay marriage having been such a national priority for so long, one of my biggest fears is that many of the more privileged members of the LGBT community and our allies will believe that the struggle for our rights is now over, and the war won. Millions of dollars have been spent for this victory, and I can see why many feel it's a time for celebration. Maybe it is, but we should lose focus on pushing for legal protections, recognition, and acceptance for every letter in LGBTQQIA. In the end, marriage equality is cold comfort for many of us when still we face a litany of hazards and indignities on a daily basis simply for being who we are."
This Controversial 'New York Daily News' Cover On The San Bernardino Shooting Is Right, And I Believe In God
"I believe that God put us on this earth to create our own paths and to make our own choices, and prayer can help guide us into action in our own lives. No, God isn't fixing this. It's our responsibility to decide our own fates. It's time politicians extend their hands across the aisle and put an end to this kind of rampant gun violence, instead of simply crossing their hands and bowing their heads in prayer."
"Every day, products and services are engineered to make us feel bad about our butts. In my search for the worst of offenders, I found butt pads, girdles, harnesses, creams, gels, electrodes, potions, and even spells cast by covens of witches. I'm not here to judge you: you are free to do whatever you please with your butt. With that said, I wanted to take a peek at some honest reviews of these products to see if they actually do what they promise to do. Because I'm helpful like that."
—Jackie Bernstein, sponsored by Inside Amy Schumer
"In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, I think it's important for me to try to explain — and the best way I can convey what it feels to have OCD is to put it into photos. Whereas most people just see a backpack or a pair of shoes, I see my disorder. But the fact that I can recognize and admit to these parts of my OCD — without stigma or shame — is more than a step in the right direction. It's part of my recovery."
"Jenner's transition is wrapped up in a complex narrative of intersecting privileges as a white transgender woman with considerable funds and power: She knew what transition looked like for her, and she could afford to pay whatever it took. Along the way, she happened to access considerable passing privilege."
"I stopped being angry at the version of me with the B, the girl who was leading my parallel life. I have no idea where she is now; probably in some itchy work pants, working in an office building back in my hometown at a job she doesn't particularly love, with all her ducks precariously in a row. I don't think of her often, but now when I do, I feel kind of sorry for her. If her life went the way I planned it for her, there would have been so much she'd have missed. So much that, when I look back on the life I have right now, I wouldn't have traded for the world."
"I don't doubt that Kim Kardashian is a feminist, but more than that I don't doubt that she shies away from labels in order to please as many people as possible. If she doesn't call herself a feminist, she doesn't have to worry about backlash from people who are either against feminism or are just afraid of the word."
"When it came time to decorate pumpkins this year, the theme was a no-brainer. How could we communicate so many feelings and ideas through seasonal squash? Emojis, duh! Standard jack-o'-lanterns have been done every which way, but something about their round shape just screamed "emoji-fy me."And so, that's exactly what I did. With minimal tools (and no squishy innard mess), you can totally make your own — very little artistic skill required."
"Part of the fabric of the Bond character is his hubris, and to an extent, his machismo. He knows he's got a way with women and he uses it to his advantage. Bond's got an immense sense of self and often acts with intentions that, perhaps deep down, are from a well-meaning place, but that often exude the Big Man on Campus vibe. But who's to say that a woman can't also embody those characteristics? It would seem that the real impetus is on the Bond fan to accept that a woman can do those things, more than it is on the potential gender-swapped film to prove that fact."
'Room' Actor Brie Larson Reveals Her Intense Transformation For The Abduction Story That Could Win Her An Oscar
"Brie Larson is staring at me with the intensity of a laser. We're sitting alone in a dark room at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, illuminated only by a photographer's studio light. It's an awkward space for an interview — a vacant room except for the single light and our two metal chairs, but she doesn't seem to mind. Brie Larson has just spent many months on a 10-foot by 10-foot sound stage filming Lenny Abrahamson's Room, so the small, dim, and barren surroundings don't seem to bother her at all."
"There's a huge contrast between my personal dating life and the weddings I go to. These weddings — they've already found their matches, they found their love. And my personal dating life is a disaster, but my business is not, and you can have two parallel lives like that."
—Bianca Consunji, Kenny Suleimanagich, Lou Marillier, Emily Geraghty, Katie Cropper Klein
One Year After 'Rolling Stone's Disastrous "A Rape On Campus," Here's How University Of Virginia Classrooms Have Changed
"[UVA law professor Anne] Coughlin says that, as a law professor who teaches gender issues, campus rape has always been a welcome topic for discussion in her classroom. Like many feminists, she believes the Rolling Stone story did a disservice to rape victims, their advocates, and "the entire movement." Even though Jackie's credibility about what happened to her on that now-infamous night in 2012 was damaged, no one can say for sure exactly what, if anything, happened to her. Which is why things need to change. One year after the Rolling Stone story was published, UVA's classrooms are no longer the same. The shift has occurred at a campus-wide academic policy level and according to choices made by individual professors."
"For the next seven days, I would support as many women-owned businesses as humanly possible, even if it meant I had to go out of my way to find them. In my relationship, equal division of household responsibilities was the new name of the game, because as rad as my boyfriend is, he does half the cleaning I do — and that's in part because I've never really asked him to do more. Obviously, making small changes in daily conversation was also a pretty big priority. I promised myself I would no longer remain silent if I was confronted with chump remarks that made me feel icky. In the same settings, I would also fast from gossiping, especially if it was about a woman I considered a friend. Phew, here we go."
—Gina M. Florio
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