Top nine most influential women of 2014


Pop trifecta Taylor Swift, Beyonce and Nicki Minaj (left to right) have made waves this year with their commercial and artistic success. (Brooke Kushwaha)

Brooke Kushwaha, Assignments Editor

Most Influential Women of 2014

In response to Emma Watson’s being named “Feminist of the Year,” I’d like to bring forward several other game-changing women in no particular order. Success is not a competition or a popularity contest–we have Miss America for that.

  1. Beyoncé Knowles

Media outlets often pit Queen B and Watson against each other for the imaginary title of “Best Feminist.” While Beyoncé received criticism for citing domestic abuse in “Drunk in Love,” her self-empowering beats and boss (not bossy) attitude made her a role model for many women. With the help of activist and author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Beyoncé brought feminism to mainstream pop culture.

  1. Malala Yousafzai

The youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai has been promoting educational rights for women since age 15 and writing for the BBC about life under the Taliban since she was 11. A year after she was shot in the head by the same terrorist group, she spoke in front of the United Nations reaffirming her goal for worldwide education. Her selflessness and activism prove that there’s more to the millennial “ME” generation than just selfies.

  1. Emma Sulkowicz

Otherwise known as the “Columbia Mattress Girl,” Sulkowicz grabbed headlines for her protests against sexual assault at Columbia University. The student resolved to carry her mattress around with her until her alleged rapist is convicted. Emma’s defiance sparked a nationwide discussion of rape on college campuses, one that will likely continue into 2015.

  1. Taylor Swift

You knew you were going to see her on here. While I don’t believe that Taylor Swift singlehandedly change the face of American pop music, her album “1989” sold more copies its first week than any other album since Eminem’s “The Marshall Mathers LP.” Her hit singles “Blank Space” and “Shake It Off,” regardless of your musical opinion, were apt criticisms of the media’s treatment of women. 2014 (and 1989) became the year Swift got back at her critics, in a scathing satire I’d like to see more of.

  1. Nicki Minaj

While we’re on the subject of pop powerhouses, Nicki Minaj has gone uncredited for too long. Her success in the rap industry and candid interviews shed light on gender dynamics in one of the most male-dominated professions in music. Minaj’s delivery is simultaneously smooth and hard to swallow when she points out how women often have to work twice as hard as men to be taken seriously in business. Her subversive and overtly sexual image also turns typical hip-hop gender roles on their head. There’s a reason Minaj is the only woman on the list of Top Paid Hip-Hop Artists.

  1. Laverne Cox

Feminism is every woman’s issue, and Laverne Cox’s advocacy for transgender rights also falls under that umbrella. According to the Human Rights Campaign, trans women face a 1 in 12 risk of being murdered in a hate crime. Cox’s portrayal of Sophia Burset in the TV series “Orange is the New Black” brought sympathy to trans issues and made her the face for transgender rights. Her appearance on the cover of Time Magazine made her the first transgender person to do so, but she will not be the last.

  1. Shonda Rhimes

During her acceptance speech at the Women In Entertainment Breakfast, Rhimes spoke about breaking the “glass ceiling” for women in professional life. As the show runner for three top TV shows, Rhimes is credited with jumping two hurdles as a woman and a person of color. However, Rhimes challenged this perception by acknowledging all the women before her, who paved the road for her success. Shondaland’s casual, un-pandering diversity and complex female leads also make her TV empire one of the most progressive on television.

  1. Anita Sarkeesian

Sarkeesian is a feminist video blogger known for examining women’s role in popular culture. More specifically, Sarkeesian was the main target of #GamerGate, an Internet uproar over the marginalization of women in video games. Sarkeesian received rape and death threats for defending women in gaming, and Utah State University even received emailed terrorist threats for allowing Sarkeesian to lecture there. If anything, the backlash against Sarkeesian only proved her point that gamer culture is less than welcoming to women.

  1. Elizabeth Holmes

The youngest self-made female billionaire, 30 year-old Holmes is also a Maverick. She formed and now leads Theranos, a health technology company that revolutionized blood testing, after graduating from St. John’s and subsequently dropping out of Stanford. Honestly, it’s a wonder why we don’t have a statue of her on the Quad.