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Glamour Women Of The Year Awards Honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Lena Dunham, Zaha Hadid And Others

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LENA DUNHAM
AP

A female Supreme Court justice, a Disney Channel starlet, the world's preeminent female architect, five female Olympians and a woman famous for eating cupcakes naked on TV walk into Carnegie Hall. No, that's not the best and weirdest dream we've ever had; it actually happened Monday night at the Glamour Women of the Year 2012 awards. We have the pictures to prove it.

The evening, hosted by Glamour editor-in-chief Cindi Leive, kicked off with Katie Couric and Andy Cohen playing a game of "Celebrity" on stage. Then Arianna snuck up behind Cohen when he couldn't name her. Then Newark mayor and #Sandy Twitter hero Cory Booker came on to recognize the female nurses, Coast Guard members and other women who played a huge role in rescue and relief efforts after the hurricane. And that was before anyone accepted an award.

Over the course of the ceremony, Glamour presented Women of the Year awards to Jenna Lyons, president and executive creative director of J.Crew; iconic photographer Annie Leibovitz; architect Zaha Hadid, the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize, her field’s highest honor; sexual abuse survivor and activist Erin Merryn; Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, whose documentary on acid violence against women in Pakistan has helped bring perpetrators to justice and won the 2012 Oscar for Best Documentary Film; Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; mother-daughter humanitarians Ethel and Rory Kennedy; "Girls" creator and star Lena Dunham; actress Selena Gomez, of "Wizards of Waverly Place" fame and five of the women who brought home gold from the London Olympics: gymnast Gabby Douglas, swimmer Missy Franklin, track and field star Allyson Felix, judo queen Kayla Harrison and soccer player Carli Lloyd.

The acceptance speeches featured many highlights -- Merryn's impassioned call for sexual assault education in schools, Obaid-Chinoy's tribute to the women in her documentary -- but the first of our two favorite moments came when Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who noted that "the judiciary is not a profession that ranks very high among the glamorously attired,” told the crowd how proud she was, as the second women appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, to be the first Supreme Court justice ever named a Glamour Woman of the Year.

Our other favorite moment happened when, equally charming in an entirely different way, honoree Lena Dunham interrupted her own speech to remove her heels. "I have to take my shoes off, you guys," she told the audience. "I'm so sorry!"

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And did we mention that Chelsea Clinton made a cameo to salute the women who ran for Congress on Nov. 6, or that Cynthia Nixon paid tribute to Nora Ephron with a performance of the late writer-director's 1996 Wellesley commencement address, joined by actresses Grace and Mamie Gummer, who happen to be Meryl Streep's daughters? They did.

Backstage and at a dinner Glamour held after the ceremony, HuffPost Women approached honorees and attendees with a question that seemed to fit an evening celebrating the accomplishments of extraordinary women: What do you appreciate most about being a woman? And because, as Jenna Lyons told us, Glamour honored these women not just for being female but for what they've done, we also asked some of them how they found the courage to do what they did. Here's what they had to say:

RUTH BADER GINSBURG, Supreme Court Justice

What do you appreciate most about being a woman?

The experience of being alive and giving life -- I have two children. Men and women have comparable experience, but the one thing [women] can do is bring a new life.

How were you brave enough to do all the things you did when there was hardly anybody else doing them?

I was not alone. The women's movement had come alive at the end of the 1960s. We had an equal rights amendment in the Congress. There [were] women all over the country alert to the need for change, that things weren’t right when half the population was not having access to half the important positions. So it was an exhilarating period. The women's movement of the late '60s, early '70s, that’s what woke me up.

Women made historic gains in the recent election, but there's still a wage gap, and women now hold 20 percent of seats in the Senate and at least 81 of the 435 seats in the House. Are you optimistic about the progress women have made, or is change coming too slowly?

The progress has been enormous in my lifetime. When I graduated from law school, there were virtually no women on the federal bench. Women were 3 percent of the lawyers. In my entry class there were 9 women out of over 500. Now women are half the law students. They are judges in state courts, federal courts across the land. To me the progress has been exhilarating. We're not all the way there, but we are moving in the right direction.

ZAHA HADID, architect and Pritzker Prize winner

What do you appreciate most about being a woman?

I don't know what it's like to be a man. I think that being a woman, on the one hand it's difficult. On the other hand, it's given me a lot of freedom to do what I want. People would not bother me because I was not -- there was no stereotype of a female architect. They did not know how to behave. I was on [the] one hand very heavily criticized but on the other hand I was left alone.

How were you brave enough to do what you did when no one was listening and no other woman was doing it?

I don't know. I must have been thick-skinned. I really thought it would be okay at the end. I was supported by many people. People who work with me, my students, my church, my family. But I think you have to really also believe not only in yourself, you have to believe that the world is actually worth your sacrifices.

SANDRA FLUKE, attendee, activist and law student

What do you appreciate most about being a woman?

The incredible power that you're about to see from women in this country. I was just working on something that I was writing today about how women and people of color and young people especially are about to have this amazing opportunity to shift the political conversation in this country for the good of all of us, toward more progressive policies, and it's a really amazing and important time to be part of that.

How were you brave enough to do what you did?

What I did doesn't compare to what either [Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Zaha Hadid] did. But what I find amazing -- I was thinking about Erin [Merryn], the awardee that stepped forward and talked about the abuse that she had suffered and has done so much for young girls and young boys as well that makes it possible for them to come forward and talk about it. It just exemplifies what we can all do. We can all step forward and face what we're afraid of, and people will support us when we do that. It’s so amazing to see so many women tonight who have done that.

LENA DUNHAM, creator and star of HBO’s “Girls”

What do you appreciate most about being a woman?

Wow, I think that probably changes on a day-to-day basis. Besides the obvious, which is, like, a greater range of fashion options and an ability to blame my emotions on hormonal ups and downs, which could be considered a minus but I’m really enjoying, I think I'm excited about the fact that I get to have a child if I want to. I'm really excited about the way that women are making themselves heard at this point in history.

I've never wanted to be not a woman. I've never literally had envy about one aspect of being a boy. Even when I recognized that there were things that were unfair about the male-female dynamic, I've never felt jealous. It seems like being a guy is boring. Being a girl is so great.

JENNA LYONS, president and creative director, J.Crew

What do you appreciate most about being a woman?

I think for me the best thing about being a woman is that I get credit for things that I think I should just be doing anyway. There's no differentiation. I don’t think about it in terms of being a woman. Being gracious, being attentive, being curious, being interested are requirements for everyone. As much as the people in this room are being honored for being a woman, I think what they’re being honored for is what they’ve done. I would look forward to the day when there's no differentiation. It’s about what you do.

GABBY DOUGLAS, gymnast and 2012 Olympic gold medalist

What do you appreciate most about being a woman?

Good question! I just appreciate that I can inspire so many young girls and just tell them that anything is possible and follow your dreams and don’t ever stop. Don't let anyone tell you that you can’t do it because you really can.

How were you able to do what you did?

I'm not going to lie. It takes the courage, the family, the God, everything. But at the end of the road, it's just been amazing and fun. Your sacrifices are always going to pay off.

TYRA BANKS, attendee, model and media personality

What do you appreciate most about being a woman?

That one day, if I had a child and I was on a desert island, I could feed that child, unlike a man could.

KAYLA HARRISON, 2012 Olympic gold medalist in judo

What do you appreciate most about being a woman?

Being a woman, in one sense you have all these things you feel like you have to overcome and you have to do in order to be considered equal. But I think that being a woman just gives you that much more potential. You have that much more of a way to showcase yourself and be the best that you can possibly be, and that’s what being a woman is to me.


KATIE COURIC, presenter, journalist and host of the “Katie” show

What do you appreciate most about being a woman?

I think we're so much more versatile than men. We can be girl girls and we can be tough as nails. I think that we can achieve great things and wear great clothes -- I think our clothes are much more interesting, don’t you? And I think we're still coming into our own. I’m so tired of "The Year of the Woman" because I feel like every year should be The Year of the Woman, and it seems like we never tire of that expression. I feel that sexism is so five minutes ago. While it still exists, and women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, and there are still Neanderthal attitudes out there, I think for the most part people accept that women are as competent as men. And yet I still think we can celebrate our differences, too. I think we’ve gotten to that point.

GAYLE KING, attendee and editor-at-large for O, The Oprah Magazine

What do you appreciate most about being a woman?

I was at a women's luncheon today [with] all of these powerful women, and I walked in the room and I said, "I just so enjoy being a girl." You look at the variety of people there, the different ethnicities, the different ages, and every woman doing something different and really strong. I felt so good and so proud to be a part of the group. So I think that women are fearless. And when you put women in charge amazing things happen.

We are more nurturing, we're better problem solvers without trying to be. We don't have that macho thing that most men have. We really just want to get it done and we want to get it done efficiently. I admire that about us as women. Companies run by women, they're better run, and women think of things that men don't, something as simple as allowing people [time] off for their Halloween. Anne Sweeney told me at Disney that for the first time -- no one had ever thought, You know, why don’t we let the people have the afternoon off just so that they can go trick-or-treating with the kids. Nobody had ever thought of that. That’s what I mean. We're fearless and we’re willing to try new things. Always.

I love how women’s brains work.

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