Cathryn Turhan

The Belle-Jar’s Unofficial List Of Women Who Were All Kinds Of Awesome In 2012.

Malala Yousafzai, being awesome.

Malala Yousafzai, being awesome.



By Cathryn Turhan

I want to you to do something for me. Presumptuous? Well, a tad, but in the words of Tilly off of Miranda, “bear with”. Now, go to Google and type in the words “Women of 2012”. Tell me what you see. Yeah, alright, not literally, but observe that, other than “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women 2012 – Forbes” proudly topping the search, Google’s related searches are the following:
“most desirable women of 2012 list
the maxim hottest women of 2012 list
top 99 women of 2012 list
askmen’s top 99 women of 2012 list
99 most desirable women of 2012 list
askmen’s top 99 ‘most desirable’ women of 2012 list
hottest women of 2012 list”
At the Belle Jar, however, we don’t judge our women on the size of their, well, assets. In either sense of the word. Rather, we invite you to take a minute to reflect on the roller-coaster of 2012, and, more specifically, all the awesome women who made it the year it was. To make it easier for everyone (mainly me, to be honest), I’ve divided it up into categories of, well, awesomeness. So, make a cup of tea, pop on the “Rolling Stone’s Women Who Rock Ultimate Playlist” on Spotify and feast on the achievements of these simply incredible people.

Pussy Riot, Being awesome.

Pussy Riot, being awesome.

Six months on, and the Olympics and Paralympics are still the most talked out events of the year. It created a unique sense of community, British pride about as far away from Nationalism (and all its hideous associations) as you can throw it, and, in a year where women made up almost half of the British team, a whole new set of amazing female role models. 18 year old , Ellie Simmonds, for example, the youngest member of team GB who won two gold medals; or Jessica Ennis– gold medallist, runner up to “Sports Personality of the Year” and the best thing to come out of Sheffield since the Arctic Monkeys to name just a few. Nicola Adams, previously unheard of, became the first woman and LGBT boxer to win a gold medal in 2012, while Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins proved that quiet perseverance wins out in the end. Across the pond, Serena and Venus Williams continue their reign as queens of the court, and Missy Franklin won five gold medals (and smashed two world records!) in swimming at the age of just 17. Britain even chose a woman as the face of the games: Clare Balding, once a relatively well-known sports journalist, is now a certified national treasure. The Olympic Games taught us that nothing, not your age, race, sexuality, ability, or gender, can stop you from doing something truly bloody awesome.

Jessica Ennis, being awesome.

Jessica Ennis, being awesome.

It will always sadden me that this section just isn’t as long as I’d like it to be. Scientific researchers and Businesspeople still seem to be largely male-orientated careers. It gives me hope, however, that I live with two biologists and two psychologists, all of whom are women, and I hope that this is perhaps indicative of a future with more awesome female scientists. Arfa Karim was one of these, a truly exceptional young woman: the youngest Microsoft Certified Professional and recipient of the ‘Pride of Performance’ honour, but devastatingly died of a heart attack at the age of 16 on January 14th. In business, it is a happier story with Marissa Mayer elected the president and CEO of Yahoo this year, and Sheryl Sandberg named on the Time 100 list (if you take anything away from this article other than eye strain, please watch her TED talk. It’s marvellous.) Finally, a year of awesome business women was rounded off by the women of the stylish, sensible and fabulously northern Ashleigh Porter-Exley triumphing over all opponents as Lord Sugar’s ‘Young Apprentice’. Literally, WIN.

Sheryl Sandberg, being awesome.

Sheryl Sandberg, being awesome.

If, like me, your idea of a cracking evening is an M&S two-can-dine-but-I’m-totally-eating-all-of-it-yes-even-the-pudding, a bottle of wine and your TV/LoveFilm account/Google Chrome, then, like me, you’ll be totally aware of who these people are, and, like  me (it’s beginning to get a bit creepy now) you’ll think they’re awesome. Take Lena Dunham, who awesomed out our screens with her funny and gripping TV series Girls, which offered a high-five to a generation of young women recently graduated/about to graduate from university with liberal arts degrees, crap boyfriends, buckets of self-awareness and self-importance in equal measure. Her show echoes the sentiments expressed by Emma Koenig, whose blog (a selection of cartoons, graphs and conversations covering everything from job hunting, self-doubt and wanking) is now a book and will soon to be made into a TV series.  She wasn’t the only awesome blogger to get us to hit refresh. Tavi Gevinson, aged 16, was so awesome in 2012 that she was invited to do a TED talk after the viral success of her blog. Closer to home, nothing quite beats a cooking programme, and the hilarious Sue Perkins, presenter of “The Great British Bake-Off”, certainly put the icing on our Tuesday night cake. (LOLLOOKIDIDAPUN). In film, Kathryn Bigelow continued to kick-ass all over Hollywood with another controversial box office triumph and four golden globe nominations, while Lana Wachowski and her brother Alan enjoyed deserved Oscar-related success for Cloud Atlas.

Lana Wachowski, being awesome.

Lana Wachowski, being awesome.

Alongside all the fantastic blogs we were reading, 2012 marked the year of the successful female author. Hilary Mantel became the first woman to receive the Man Booker Prize twice with her latest book ‘Bring up the Bodies’. On the, erm, other end of the spectrum, E.L. James topped book lists worldwide with her (in)famous erotic trilogy, but bringing an important conversation about female sexuality into the forefront. As a classicist, I’m so proud to mention the awesome Madeline Miller, whose book “Song of Achilles” won the Orange Prize for Fiction. However, perhaps the most important writer of this year was the legendary journalist Marie Colvin, whose bravery, voracious attitude and talent took her to the very depths of war-zones and her own humanity, and would ultimately cost her her life.

Marie Colvin. Whose legacy continues to be awesome.

Marie Colvin, whose legacy continues to be awesome.

So there you have it, a comprehensive list of just a few of the women who were awesome this year, and why. I have to admit, I’ve got a bit teary-eyed writing it., and for that reason there are a lot of women I doubtlessly missed out, so please comment below if there’s any that you feel need recognition. But, for now, revel in these fabulous women, learn from their staggering achievements and be inspired to do something just as awesome in the next 362 days of this year.


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