Women of the Year 2011 (my personal list)

So, ok. We might not be talking engineers and political leaders here but this is my round-up of the awesome, inspiring women who have touched my life in some way this year.

The Top Ten (in no particular order)

1. Jessica Valenti
Her book The Purity Myth caused a stir in 2009 and the documentary of the same name was released this year. You might not think a film about the American obsession with virginity and religious right’s campaign for abstinence-only sex education would resonate too much over here but sadly it does. The following line is indicative of this and is what prompted me to include her in my top ten: “Women are still led to believe that their moral compass lies somewhere between their legs.”

2. PJ Harvey
The Mercury Prize awarding body is well known for its bizarre decisions (Speech who?) but this year I had to agree unequivocally that the best woman won. Powerful, beautiful and political, Let England Shake is definitely one of my albums of 2011 and the raw vocals of Ms Polly Jean have long been on the soundtrack to my life.

(Oh and if you’re wondering why Adele “Why should I have to pay tax?” Adkins isn’t on my list, well… I suppose it’s because I just don’t think she’s all that great.)

3. Edith Zimmerman / Jane Marie
A joint entry not because I consider them a single entity but because they perform the same function in my life, namely co-editing thehairpin.com. Many’s the hour I’ve spent giggling over text message analysis and wondering whether my man might be a scrub. In fact I’d go as far as to say that without the hairpin to distract me, I might have actually done some work this year and then where would we be? Not writing meaningless blog posts about my life and opinions, that’s for sure.

4. Leah Debrincat
Ok, so there is a chance this one made the list because I fancy her but that’s totally allowed. In a year that saw me plunge into the murky waters of London’s cabaret circuit, belly dancer Leah Debrincat stood out as a rare example of talent, style, AND technique. Plus, she’s gorgeous. I said hi to her once in a bar. It went a bit like this:

Me: “You were amazing.”
LD: “Oh, thanks.”

Talk about chemistry. (You can read the full, unbiased review here.)

5. Clarisse Thorn
I actually wrote to this woman recently and asked if she’d like to be my friend. You see, there are so few people writing intelligently on pro-sex feminism that when I came across her manifesto on Feministe.us I had to write to her. A Chicago-based writer, her blog is a must-read for anyone who understands that sexuality and feminism can coexist peaceably (or not, depending on what you’re into).

6. Sarah Berry
I first got in touch with Fannying Around founder Sarah in October about a feature I was thinking of writing. Three weeks later I was lying legs akimbo on her floor while her mate Jamie smeared me with blue gunk. Friendly, exuberant and just really passionate about fannies, it quickly became clear that she was going to be a very hard woman to say no to. Her enthusiasm for sex – whether education, therapy or the activity itself –  is infectious and I look forward to working with her more in 2012.

7. My flatmate
At the start of 2011 my awesome friend Loula said “fuck you” to her unsatisfying job and went traveling for four months. When she got back she announced she was going to work in television and promptly got herself work experience on a well-known drama series. Within six months she had not only been offered a job, she had been promoted to assistant script editor. Super talented, she is also hugely supportive of my hair-brained schemes to save the world through the medium of sex and, quite possibly, contemporary dance. And as if that wasn’t enough to put even the most loyal friend off, she still finds time to sit at our kitchen table drinking coffee and bitching about books and feminism.

8. Nancy Upton
She didn’t change the world. Hell, she didn’t even manage to change American Apparel’s mind but her piss-take plus size model competition entry was witty, relevant and still completely gorgeous. And anyone prepared to take on hypocrisy and pretentiousness, albeit in their own small way, gets my vote.

9. Kristen Wiig
Hilarious, brilliant and now the co-writer of a $288 million grossing movie. Contrary to some of the nonsense spewed about it, Bridesmaids was not a feminist film. But it was a silly, funny, honest film about women and we haven’t seen one of those in a fucking long while so hurrah for Kristen.

10. Matilda
I fell in love with Roald Dahl’s fictional five-year-old girl all over again this year thanks to Tim Minchin’s beguiling musical adaptation. Feisty, fearless, and fighting for justice (both social and poetic), Matilda is everything I wanted to be when I grew up. And if I’m honest she still sort of is.

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