18 World Highlights That Made 2018 GREAT

Okay, so 2018 was bad, like really bad. Brexit was Brexit and Trump was, well, Trump, there were countless school shootings, new cases of sexual assault that came to light, a load of really poor choices by filmmakers, (one being casting Scarlett Johansson to play a trans person and another being creating Insatiable, a film that perpetuated 'fat shaming' culture), and... to be honest I'm already so bored of writing this sentence.
So 2018 was rubbish a lot of the time... but it wasn't all rubbish! When bad things happen, especially when they're big things, they can take over and make us completely forget the amazing things that happened also. So, let's not dwell on how chaotic, corrupt and crap 2018 was any longer. Instead, let's go down a happier road, a road that celebrates all the wonderful things this year brought into our world, because there were a lot! Whether it be a new episode of Black Mirror or Lena Waithe turning up to a religious-themed Met Gala wearing an LGBTQ+ rainbow cape, 2018, as bad as it was, was pretty marvellous. So, I've compiled a list of 18 world highlights which show why 2018 was so GREAT!

1) Women took no sh*t
Women had ZERO time for ignorance, intolerance, misogyny or basically just anyone who wanted to oppress or silence them this year, which resulted in amazing victories, progress and important conversations. The year began with a Women's March, one year on from one of the most remarkable events of political action when millions of women (and allies) gathered worldwide to protest in the streets for change. So, why not do it again? The Women's March dominated at the start of the year and was a sign of the resilience, tenacity and bravery to come from women. The rest of the year included some truly inspiring, and quite frankly badass, actions from women, whether that was Tess Holiday shutting down Piers Morgan and his fat shaming of happy plus sized women, or women in Iran protesting against the compulsory hijab rule, removing their hijabs outside to take a stand against violations of their rights. Curvy women marched through London in their underwear with Simply Be to show every body is beautiful and worthy of representation, gymnasts who had their lives stolen by Larry Nassar, spoke out to show that he is nothing and they are everything, Frances McDormand asked all female nominees at the Oscars to stand for an applause, a statue of Matilda staring down Donald Trump was unveiled in Buckinghamshire, women in Saudi Arabia were allowed to attend football matches for the first time and we celebrated the 100th anniversary since (some) women gained the vote thanks to the Suffragettes and Suffragists. I could go on, however, I guess the point I'm making here is that women were so inspiring this year, (as always) and the fire of passion and rage they ignited this year will surely burn brightly well into 2019.

2) Kids were just EVERYTHING
Whitney Houston sang, "I believe the children are our are future, teach them well and let them lead the way...” and I think 2018 showed that our futures are in safe hands so long as the youth of today are in charge. Earlier this year, we had A March For Our Lives, in which children showed that, if they are old enough to be killed by guns, they are old enough to have an opinion and protest so future generations won't have to. Children shouldn't have to be making TV appearances, debating with politicians or being photographed for TIME Magazine in protest against ludicrous gun laws in America but, alas, they showed that, so long as those in power will not make changes to protect them, they will scream, shout and stomp through the streets. Brave speakers and influential figures at the March For Our Lives included Emma Gonzalez, a remarkable young woman who named all 17 victims of the Parkland shooting before standing in silence for the amount of time it took for a gunman to kill them, forcing everyone to listen and think about what is going on. There was also Naomi Wadler, an 11 year old who stood up and said, "I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper." She went on to do more speaking that year, telling the truth about the violence black girls experience and how the world needs to be made safer for people of colour. In other news, a 14 year old named Nonso in Ireland was granted leave to remain in Ireland after his friends and classmates fought for him, his brother and mother as they faced deportation when their application for asylum was denied. Children really did make 2018 and I pray that we can all carry on their work next year and make necessary changes so the world is safe for future generations to grow up in.

3) Countries said YES to love and YES to being yourself
There are still 72 countries in which it is illegal to be gay, however, in 2018, we got one step closer to worldwide inclusion. Homosexuality was decriminalised in India, which is a massive step in the right direction towards equality. It means that 1.3 billion people are now free to love whoever their heart desires without feeling as though their love is a crime. Portugal also became the second country in the world to vote to ban unnecessary surgery on intersex children. Hopefully more countries will follow in their footsteps next year to ensure their laws keep trans and intersex people safe. Additionally, Uruguay passed a comprehensive transgender law which included trans people having the right to update their legal name without approval from a judge and the right to have an operation and hormone treatments paid by the state, as well as 1% of government jobs having to be reserved for trans individuals. 2018 was 20GayTeen and so much more. It was a beautiful year of love, acceptance and inclusion in so many forms and I hope it was an indication of how 2019 is going to be.

4) The royal family grew
Meghan Markle married Prince Harry this Spring, which was such a joyous time for, not just people of the UK, but billions worldwide, as we watched their magical, fairytale-like wedding ceremony on TV with tears streaming from our eyes and our hearts bursting with love. The couple represent unity, inclusion and a new age of royals. They are also bringing a new life into the world next year, as Meghan is expecting a baby! The royal family also had more weddings this year, as Princess Eugenie married Jack Brooksbank AND the first ever same-sex royal wedding took place when Lord Ivar Mountbatten, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, married James Coyle in the Summer. Oh, Kate and William welcomed baby Prince Louis as well! Here's to more royal magic in 2019!

5) The Winter Olympics were the best
Yes, the Winter Olympics DID happen this year... I can't believe it either. I guess that shows just how long this year seems to have felt. But, the Winter Olympics were an incredible time, a time of breathtaking moments and celebrations after years of hard work paid off for inspirational athletes. The Olympics introduced us to fantastic athletes and gave us moments such as Adam Rippon becoming the first openly gay US male athlete to win a medal in the Winter Olympics and Mirai Nagasu, who became the first ever American woman to land a triple axel at the Winter Olympics, who is the daughter of immigrants and showed the world that immigrants do in fact make America great. Just like any Olympics, these were a time of unity.

6) Everyone (well, most people) had zero tolerance for Trump
Even when Trump was being more Trump than ever before, millions of us remained strong, united and determined in the face of his vile politics and oppression. An amazing event took place in the UK where thousands protested peacefully against the Trump administration and said NO to fascism, racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia and hatred as they took to the streets with banners and balloons to make the message clear: he is NOT welcome in the UK. Throughout this year, diverse groups have united to show solidarity with those he has abused and to show strength when he was trying to suppress them. Although Trump may still be President going into 2019, it gives me great reassurance to know there is such a massive army of people against him and more than determined to stand up for those on the receiving end of his nastiness. 

7) Diversity and representation were EVERYWHERE
Everyone deserves to feel represented, to see themselves up on billboards, on magazine covers, TV adverts and to feel as though they and their bodies are accepted. In 2018, we saw such colourful, beautiful representation and diversity everywhere. Tyler Mitchell was the first black photographer in Vogue history and his first shoot for them wasn't anything small, he photographed BEYONCE for their cover! Razor brand, Billie, also became the first ever razor brand in 100 years to show body hair on women in an advert, helping to normalise body hair on women and offer women a choice as to whether they want to remove it or not. ASOS made a rainproof jumpsuit especially for people in wheelchairs and had wheelchair users model it in adverts, something us able bodied folk take for granted, yet ASOS' intentions were so loving and pure, Gap helped break down the stigma surrounding breastfeeding as they showed a breastfeeding mother in a campaign and Tommy Hilfiger created the 'Adaptive' clothing line, a range designed especially for people with disabilities in a bid to make getting dressed easier whilst still letting people feel empowered and look good. Here is to more inclusive advertising and diversity in mainstream media in 2019!

8) The fight against period poverty gained momentum
Towards the end of 2017, Free Periods, a movement campaigning for the end of period poverty and for all girls on free school meals to be given free sanitary products, really took off as hundreds marched outside Downing Street. In 2018, legislation listened and in March, it was decided that tampon tax funding will go towards ending period poverty and an incredible £1 million will be shared between 10 projects in order to benefit those who have periods. As well as that, this year, every school, college and university in Scotland now will provide students with free sanitary products. No one should be held back by their period and with thousands struggling to fund the monthly inconvenience every day, it is imperative that we continue to discuss the heartbreaking impact period poverty is having on people in our countries through the new year and that we do not stop campaigning until everyone can have an affordable, safe and hygienic period, no matter their socioeconomic class. 

9) Women were given more ownership over their bodies
"My body, my choice," a mantra that came into full force this year. Ireland finally lifted its ban on abortion as it repealed the 8th, meaning women shall no longer need to illegally order unsafe abortion pills online or travel to access the procedure. Previously, women in Ireland could not get an abortion legally, even if the pregnancy was a serious risk to health, the result of rape, incest or where the foetus was likely to die before or shortly after the birth. As ridiculous as it is to be voting for women to have autonomy over their own bodies, this was a monumental victory, not just for the women living in Ireland today, but women worldwide and especially those who have fought tirelessly for decades for this change. Also, it was announced in August that women in England will now be able to take the abortion pill at home, which is a huge step in the right direction and shall allow women who choose to have abortions to do so safely and without feeling ashamed or degraded. May we give more power and trust to women in 2019 and may more changes be made to allow women the right to decide what happens with their own bodies. 

10) Fur was banned because real fur is so gross
This year, for the first time, London Fashion Week was entirely fur free as they said 'NO' to real fur, showing there is zero room for cruelty in fashion. Things like this are big achievements for animal rights activists. Out of 80 designers in the September line-up, none of them used real animal fur in their designs. The list of designer brands who announced they would be going fur free grew this year too, with Gucci and Burberry pledging to stop using real fur in their products. MPs too called for a ban on the sale of real fur to be considered this July and the Labour Party pledged to ban all fur imports in June after two petitions with over 500,000 signatures called for the government to take action. May 2019 be even more fur free because a future without fur is possible! 

11) The NHS turned 70
The incredible NHS turned 70 years old on 5th July, something that should never be taken for granted. This was an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of the National Health Service and the contributions it has made to our country, especially when struggling financially with little support from those who ought to be protecting it. It was also a chance to pay thanks to the unsung heroes who are very much the bones of our NHS, including doctors, nurses, porters, cleaners and volunteers who continue to work tirelessly every day to improve and save lives with love and care and to ensure we have access to free health care, something millions of people across the globe die without. 

12) Football came home (sort of)
The World Cup also happened this year... wow, even that seems like a lifetime ago, right? And as England reached the semi-final, optimism and patriotism were alive and well in our country as we gathered in our thousands to watch the matches in our football kits, waving our flags and chanting at the TV screen. Alas, it was not meant to be, however, something greater than the trophy seemed to come home for our country at this time. Okay, we may not have won the World Cup, but the unity that was so rife in our country at that time, especially at such a bleak time in terms of politics and social issues, was something special. I have zero interest in football and couldn't hold a conversation with you about the game for longer than five minutes, however, I can fully appreciate, and do really love, the power it holds and the bonds it creates. This summer, it was amazing to see people in such high spirits around our country as we celebrated the achievements of a great team. It was also amazing to see people having a positive thing to focus on in hard times, something that acted as an escape when things were rough, something that connected them with friends, family and strangers across the country when they felt like they had nobody on their side.

13) Movies were just really damn great
Okay, does anyone else feel like cinema really stepped it UP this year? Movies were on a whole new level. They had us singing and dancing in the aisles of the cinema, biting our nails in suspense, sobbing with heartache and laughing harder than ever before, this year, films transported us into whole other worlds, worlds beyond our imaginations, and often gave us hope and purpose when we were struggling to find it in the realities surrounding us. We had Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again! which made pretty much everyone just want to move to Greece and run a hotel wearing frills and serenading everyone with ABBA songs whilst dancing on a boat at any given opportunity. We had Bohemian Rhapsody, which took us on a trip down Queen memory lane and brought a whole new burst of life to some of the most iconic songs, and one of the most iconic people, of all time. We had Love, Simon, the film LGBTQ+ people had been waiting for for decades, as it meant they finally got to see their very own love stories told on the big screen. We had action, horror, romance and sci-fi as we discovered new fictional stories to take into our hearts, but also found true-life stories of unsung heroes from the past. 2018 was such an exciting year for films in terms of advanced technology, representation, intricate stories and impeccable acting, and I can only begin to imagine what 2019 holds.

14) Toxic masculinity was challenged
In 2018, it wasn't just about women. The conversation surrounding toxic masculinity and the impact it has on men and their mental health came to light more so than ever and it was really refreshing to hear men telling their stories of struggle and to see so much support offered in return. In March, This Morning helped raise awareness of the 84 men who take their own lives each week with Project 84. They had 84 statues standing on the roof of their TV studio for the week to represent the real men who lose their lives to suicide and to emphasise how powerful and terrifying that statistic is. Terry Crews also offered some powerful words on toxic masculinity and how society deters men from speaking out on things affecting them and how toxic masculinity encourages violence and misogyny. Men should feel safe to open up about their experiences because anyone can experience sexual assault. Talking is the first step on the path towards dismantling patriarchal oppression and raising awareness and it was inspiring to see so much talking being done this year. The conversations must continue and grow next year, and not just during mental health awareness week, but at all times.

15) People were called the heck OUT
2018 was the year of calling people out... and I was so here for it. Okay, perhaps the whole 'call out culture' has got out of hand and attacking people for merely breathing rather than listening and educating them with understanding and patience is absurd, however, when people have been in the wrong, society hasn't been afraid to tell them this year and it has opened up some long overdue dialogues and created a real social shift on certain issues, with people realising that, actually, they can't just recklessly say or do things without thinking anymore. Whether it was men being called out as perpetrators of sexual assault at awards shows, Kim Kardashian West being called out for promoting appetite suppressant lollipops or Piers Morgan being called out for being ignorant as per usual, society, young people in particular, took real pride in telling people when they were in the wrong this year and, honestly, it was kind of everything. Here's to more of that in 2019... but not just calling out people for the sake of it, jumping on hate bandwagons and refusing to see other people's points of view whilst ramming our own ideas down their throats.

16) Trans was just so beautiful
Laverne Cox appeared on the cover of Cosmopolitan South Africa in January, becoming the magazine's first ever openly trans cover girl, and this was just the start of an incredible, prosperous year for the trans community. As horrible as it was at times, with people like the US government wanting to define gender as something that is unchangeable and assigned at birth, the light of the trans community and trans activists shone so brightly this year and it was incredible to see so much representation and success for them. There was Munroe Bergdorf appearing on TV to represent her community with her documentary 'What Makes A Woman?', there was the ITV drama, Butterfly, which told the story of a trans child on her transitioning journey and showed the reality for many trans kids and their families, there was Aaron Philip who became the first black, disabled trans model with Elite NYC, there was Sephora who offered beauty classes for trans/non-binary people, hosted by trans cast members themselves, to help make life easier for trans people using make-up, there was Joshua M. Ferguson, who became the first to be given the gender neutral option on their birth certificate in Canada... and then there were thousands of victories, both big and small, every day, even if that was just surviving. The fight for trans inclusion, representation, rights, acceptance and visibility is far from over, however, some beautiful progress was made this year and it made my heart so happy to see these communities thriving. 

17) The conversation around banning plastic began
The banning of plastic, plastic straws in particular, rose to the surface this year, as more businesses and companies took it upon themselves to reduce their plastic consumption. For example, Wagamama announced that they would no longer be serving drinks with plastic straws and will instead be using biodegradable paper straws. There were many petitions that took off and campaigns that were started in order to raise awareness of what impact our plastic usage is having on the environment. It was great to see people's eyes opened this year and to see people committing to reducing their plastic usage, especially as it's such a simple thing we can all do to contribute towards a healthier world. Let's continue the talk and action into 2019, but also not without considering those who rely on plastic, such as disabled folk, who require plastic straws as the alternatives are not always either available or suitable.

18) Little acts of kindness
Yes, so many amazing things happened which made headlines this year. Laws were passed, protests were held, lives were saved and art was made, however, it isn't all always about the big things. What truly keeps our world going are the small acts of kindness, things that are usually unnecessary yet people do them anyway, things that often require minimal effort yet leave a lasting impact. Things like people holding doors open, even when they feel rubbish on the inside, people smiling at you, offering a 'please' or a 'thank you,' helping you pick something up that you've dropped in the street or carrying your bag onto a train for you... all of these things are the glue that keep our communities held tightly together and we would struggle to function without them. So, as important as it is to celebrate the massive achievements and positive changes 2018 brought, it is just as vital to shine a light on the everyday things that make us smile because, even when all is falling apart around us, the goodness of humanity truly does always prevail and it's the people we love and strangers around us who are there for us.

What were your 2018 highlights?
Wishing for your 2019 to be filled with love, happiness, health and success, in all forms.

Happy new year.

Love, Emily

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