Gender Focus Picks the Best of 2015

by | December 28, 2015
filed under Blogging, Books, Pop Culture


At the end of each year, our editors and contributors pick their favourite movies, TV shows, music, blogs and more from the previous 12 months. Here are our favourite things from 2015:

Favourite Movie:

Jessica Critcher: Mad Max: Fury RoadAfter I wrote my review for Gender Focus, I ended up seeing it four more times in the theatre, for a total of six. I was just so in love with the cinematography, the dialogue, and the world-building, not to mention the kickass ladies. Every time I watch it (because of course I bought it) I discover another little nuance that makes me fall in love with it all over again. It seriously might be my favourite film of all time.

Poster for Meet the PatelsMichelle Toven: The MartianIt’s an optimistic celebration of science and exploration, and humanity coming together for a greater purpose, with fun easter eggs for the nerds out there.

Patricia Kmiec: Meet the Patels is a seemingly light-hearted documentary about comedian Ravi Patel (and his hilarious family) on his search for love. While pegged as a film about “an almost 30-year-old Indian-American who enters a love triangle between the woman of his dreams … and his parents,” Patel’s journey raises a number of complex questions of how race, culture, and family shape one’s love life. However, the most impressive (and intriguing) subtext is the subtle critique of modern Western courtship rituals and the assumption of their superiority over ones rooted in more traditional models of romance.

Jarrah Hodge: Until a couple of weeks ago I would have said Mad Max: Fury Road. But I fell in love with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The plot wasn’t the strongest, but it felt so incredibly satisfying to see women and people of colour wielding lightsabers and flying tie-fighters. It’s like I had been waiting for it, without knowing, since my childhood. And Rey is everything.

Favourite Band/Song:

Sarah Sahagian: “High By the Beach” by Lana Del Rey.  What can I say? I like the idea of telling off controlling ex-boyfriends. Songs like that will always be winners in my books.

Felix: 2015 brought back Adele and Missy Elliot, but it also brought back the riot grrl staple Sleater-Kinney. No Cities To Love was without a doubt my jam this year.

Patricia: For fans of cheesy pop music, Fifth Harmony is the American girl group that we’ve been waiting for, for twenty-five years. In 2015, they did not disappoint!

Lyndsay Kirkham: Kathryn Joseph. Loving her new album.

Favourite Book Read in 2015:

Roxanna Bennett: The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley. The first in the Worldbreaker Saga Trilogy, The Mirror Empire is…look, just read it. I don’t love epic fantasy but I could not put this book down and have never read anything like it. Blood witches. Matriarchal warriors. Gender fluid characters. The female gaze. The bloodthirsty female gaze. Highly recommend.

Cover of Throne of GlassMichelle: Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass books. I unabashedly love YA fantasy with kickass women at the center.

Sarah: Why Not Me? By Mindy Kaling. I recently read Mindy Kaling’s memoir, Why Not Me?, and let me say that I’d like to have Kaling as a personal cheerleader living inside my head. In her new book, Kaling discusses why we should all care a little less about being likeable, and drops truth bombs about everything from being a bridesmaid to getting spray tans for sex scenes.

Kaling is not perfect, but she’s not trying to be. She’s not afraid to show you that it takes effort to be as accomplished as she is. However, while she’s exceedingly confident, Kaling in no way claims to have all the answers. Why Not Me? Is a hilarious must-read that will give you the confidence to march into your boss’ office and demand a raise.

Jarrah: Kate Mulgrew’s memoir Born With Teeth. It felt less like reading a book and more like connecting with a new friend. The overarching theme of Born With Teeth is the importance of “the work” (acting) to make it through the most difficult times in life. For Mulgrew, these difficult times included living through siblings’ deaths, relationship upheaval, sexual assault, and the excruciating pain of giving her daughter up for adoption when she was twenty-two. If you want more of my thoughts on it, check out my longer review at The Mary Sue.

Issue/Cause That Most Inspired You the Most

Lyndsay: I continued to be inspired by the incredible Saadia Muzaffar, founder of Tech Girls Canada.

Sarah: This spring, I was fortunate enough to meet and work with people from The Ontario Coalition for Better Childcare. If you are not familiar with them, they are a group of kickass passionate people trying to bring safe and affordable childcare to Ontario. This is no easy feat. Childcare in Toronto can easily cost $1700 for an infant. Tragically, we live in a world where some parents have to quit their jobs all together, because their after-tax income is not sufficient to pay the daycare bills. This is a gross injustice that has financially oppressed too many Ontarians for too long. I encourage you to check out The Ontario Coalition for Better Childcare’s website here.

Roxanna: The national inquiry into the missing, murdered and indigenous women and girls. It gives me hope that the government will finally investigate and find some resolution and justice for the victims and their families.

Felix: My favourite writer, S. Bear Bergman. He’s a trans guy who absolutely insists on having family and tradition in his life, completely blowing up the narrative that queer people leave home and never come back.

Best Place You Travelled:

Jessica: I had always wanted to go to Japan, and this year I did it. Japan is whooping our asses in the fields of public transportation and public restrooms. And themed restaurants. And vending machines. And, just, so many common sense things. It was very humbling not being able to read or understand all of the social conventions, but overcoming that is one of the best parts of traveling abroad. I got pretty good at saying “excuse me” and “I’m sorry” in Japanese everywhere I went. I’ve been ruined on sushi though, so now I’m going to have to go back.

Sarah: I was fortunate to visit Brussels last winter. Given that frites, waffles and chocolate are three of my favourite things, this was gastronomic heaven for me. Oh, and the stunning architecture in the famous Grand Place wasn’t too shabby either, I guess.

Jarrah: When I got a new job in Ottawa I decided to do a road trip out there from Vancouver. Probably my favourite part was Vulcan, Alberta (photos are here), but I also really appreciated the Tunnels of Moose Jaw tours and the, sadly now closed, Dionne Quintuplets Museum in North Bay.

Favourite TV Show:

Jessica: Jane the Virgin. Enough people I trust recommended it to me that I decided I should check it out, and I’m so glad they did. But I’m still on season one because that’s all they have on Netflix, so no spoilers. It has all the fun and drama of a telenovela without taking itself very seriously, AND, I don’t have to tune out my inner feminist to enjoy it.

Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones and Rachael Taylor as Patsy "Trish" Walker

Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones and Rachael Taylor as Patsy “Trish” Walker

Felix: This year I finally discovered The Golden Girls. Not contemporary by any sense, but 2015 goes down as the year I learned from my elders the beauty of that perfect IDGAF attitude.

Roxanna: How to choose just one? Jessica Jones. I’ve been waiting for this show, the adaptation of the Marvel comic Alias, for a long time and it did not disappoint. It was triggering to watch; David Tennant’s depiction of Kilgrave (The Purple Man) was harrowing. Kilgrave is the epitome of a charming abuser. But it was so worth the wait to see a funny, flawed, smart heroine like Jessica Jones brought to life by Krysten Ritter.

But then there’s also Hannibal, which has most complicated female characters ever seen on television. Also the most visually arresting TV show of all time. And Sense8see my recap of the entire season for why.

Best Experience of the Year for You Personally:

Felix: Being heard in a human rights tribunal by the government of BC. Myself and a group of 7 others, along with an awesome legal team headed by barbara findlay, have been working for a few years to have gender taken off of birth certificates in BC. This August we had an early settlement meeting with StatsCan, which definitely didn’t end in a settlement, but I still count it as a victory because we will be headed to court sometime next year.

Michelle: Not one single occurrence, but the process of starting to write again and actually letting other people read it.

Lyndsay: Best and most difficult would have to be moving to Vienna.

Sarah: This past spring I received an offer from the fabulous Inanna Press to publish Good Girls, a YA novel I co-wrote with a friend. I have to say, that was one of the happiest professional moments I could ever imagine. In my personal life, I got engaged to my long-time partner. I’m lucky to report that I’ve had a year full of lovely events. I feel very fortunate.

Other Favourite Blogs:

Patricia: Stuff Mom Never Told You features both blogs and podcasts on everything from Beyonce’s feminism, to Gilmore Girls fandom, to America’s maternity leave crisis and a STEM women hall of fame. Just the right amount of clever and quirk.

Lyndsay: Hmmmm. This is a tough one but I’d probably have to say Open Culture. Not really a blog but where I find myself most often.

Jessica: This is a pretty shameless plug, but: I started reviewing mobile games on Hardcore Droid. It has been a ton of fun, and I’m playing all kinds of games in genres I might not have tried otherwise, from a vampire dating sim to a rough and tumble space marine title. It has been enlightening to expand my videogame comfort zone.

Felix: Black Girl Dangerous continues to rock. Their posts are so succinct and on-point, I don’t even know where to start quoting when I re-post them. Every sentence is integral, and golden.

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