2014: It was a good year for…
From feminists to cannabis smokers – the groups that have had cause for celebration this year
Feminism has been one of the biggest buzzwords of 2014, with scores of celebrities coming out in vocal support of gender equality. In a year when the F-word was no longer such a taboo, Beyonce sang at the MTV music awards in front of a giant screen emblazoned with the word, incorporating parts of the author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's speech on feminism into her song. Emma Watson's heartfelt speech to the UN on gender equality also sought to redress the idea that feminists are "aggressive, isolating, anti-men and, unattractive"."The zeitgeist is irrefutably feminist: its name is literally in bright lights," writes The Guardian's Jessica Valenti.
With some of them earning more than £20,000 a month, 2014 has been the year of the video blogger. Zoella, real name Zoe Sugg, is a British fashion and beauty blogger with over seven million subscribers on YouTube and a book that smashed all records in the process of becoming the fastest selling debut novel of all time. "After you go shopping and you discuss what you got with your friends – [my videos are] like that, but millions of people watch you doing it,'" the 24-year old explained to the Daily Mail.
The vloggers are "commercially very savvy. For example, they agree to vlog about a product, Instagram it and then Tweet about it for a certain price." explains Kate Ross, managing director of the digital marketing agency eight&four.
2014 has been one of the biggest years for space exploration since the Moon landing nearly five decades ago. The Mars rover discovered evidence of a lake on the red planet, "bolstering evidence that the planet most like Earth in the solar system was suitable for microbial life", according to Reuters. Separately, scientists at the European Space Agency managed to land a spacecraft on a comet as part of its decade long Rosetta mission – one of the most important achievements in the history of space exploration. Not to be outdone, a team of British scientists managed to decipher the meaning behind a cow's moo.
Cannabis users in the US
Marijuana can now be legally bought and sold in states across the US and surveys show that the majority of the American population are in favour of nationwide legalisation. Last month Bob Marley's family announced that it would be launching the first global cannabis brand based on the life and legacy of the Jamaican icon. In July, The New York Times called on the US government to repeal the ban on marijuana, comparing it to 1920s era prohibition. It argues that the ban "inflicts great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol."
The royal family has had a lot to celebrate in 2014. Prince George marked his first birthday just before the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge announced that they were expecting their second child, and the Duchess beat out fashionistas Kate Moss and Cheryl Cole to be voted Britain's greatest style icon. The couple also charmed fans across the pond with a trip to New York earlier this month. "No other couple in the world has the power to fill a room like the Cambridges can right now," says Max Foster at CNN. "America's fascination with this fairytale is unmatched."
Meanwhile, the Crown Estate boasted record earnings this year, and the value of its assets reached a record £9.4 billion thanks to rising property prices, according to the BBC.
Women in the clergy
The Church of England's General Synod finally voted to allow the creation of women bishops, bringing to an end one of its longest-running controversies. This month, Reverend Libby Lane became the UK's first woman to hold the leadership position in the church. The divisive issue had dominated religious debate in recent years. The new legislation will alter the leadership profile of the Church of England and marks a milestone on the wider issue of women's rights. It comes two decades after the first female priests were ordained.
Gay people in the UK (excluding Northern Ireland)
In March, gay rights campaigners celebrated as the first same-sex marriages took place in England and Wales. David Cameron said the change in the law shows that the UK is "a country that will continue to honour its proud traditions of respect, tolerance and equal worth". In a historic move, the Archbishop of Canterbury said that the Church of England would drop its opposition to same-sex marriage. "The law's changed; we accept the situation," said Justin Welby.
In November ticket sales for the female international friendly at Wembley Stadium outstripped those for the men's and more than 1.4 million women and girls now play the sport regularly, The Guardian reports. "When a girl says she plays football now, it doesn't raise eyebrows or cause surprise the way it used to do," said Kelly Simmons, director of the national game and women’s football at the FA. "We now have broadcasters on board, commercial partners – the women's super league has gone from amateur to semi-pro to professional. It is happening step by step, but I think it’s fair to say it's accelerated quicker than anyone would have dreamed," she said.
The one per cent
While the rest of us deal with the rising cost of living and stagnating wages, there's one group of people who remain unaffected by the lingering effects of the recession and subsequent cuts: the super rich. Numerous reports show the gap between the richest one per cent and the rest of the population continues to grow. The super-rich received 45 per cent of the total income growth during the dot-com boom, 65 per cent during the housing bubble period and a "stunning 95 per cent" during the current recovery, according to Mother Jones.
First-time house buyers
The government's flagship housing scheme Help to Buy has helped over 71,000 across the UK buy a new home since it was launched last year, according to official figures. First-time buyers, along with most other people buying a home, have also benefitted from the major reforms to the stamp duty system outlined by George Osborne in his final Autumn Statement before the general election.