The Establishment’s Top 20 Reads Of 2017
From fundamentalist cults, to comic sans, to cool girls, to punching Nazis— and a whole lot more in between.
I n the course of assembling this list of The Establishment’s top reads of the year, we revisited last year’s compilation, and came across this line:
May the next year be filled with similarly brave, compelling, insightful, and thoughtful reads — and in every other conceivable way, be nothing like 2016.
Ah, how naive we were then. How credulous. How foolishly hopeful.
2017 has been, by every measure, even more devastating than the atrocity that was 2016. Trump has lived down to every dismal expectation, and no matter how disgraceful he acts, no matter how inhumane his policies, Congress heartily supports him, throwing our democratic norms and human rights to the proverbial wolves. (Or more accurately, perhaps, to the proverbial elephants.)
But those brave, compelling, insightful, and thoughtful reads? They have, as wished for, continued in 2017— in no small part thanks to you, our dear readers, whose financial and emotional support has kept The Establishment going during these precarious times for media.
In the face of a deteriorating Republic, publishing stories may seem like a relatively insignificant form of resistance. But elevating the voices of those who stand to lose the most is imperative to the survival of compassion, empathy, understanding, and indeed democracy itself.
By tackling crucial issues with nuanced incisiveness, these 20 stories — the most read and shared of the year — played a key part in making 2017, in some ways at least, bearable and even emboldening.
Now, please: Can 2018 actually be better than 2017?
By Ijeoma Oluo
“My son had just watched the ultimate fantasy of teen suicidal ideation. He had watched an unhappy teenage girl kill herself, and in doing so, throw all of those who had harmed her into deep regret and shame while the ghost of Hannah got to say, ‘Why didn’t you do anything about this while I was alive?’ He watched suicide as successful revenge.”
By Lauren Hudgins
“Despite the fact that Comic Sans is recommended for those with dyslexia, the gatekeepers of graphic-design decency routinely mock those who use it as artistically stunted and uneducated.”
By Hannah Ettinger
“Women in this world were treated much like those in The Handmaid’s Tale — most, like my mom, didn’t have their own bank accounts, didn’t have their own email addresses, and couldn’t leave the home without permission from their husbands. They were called helpmeets, a word taken from the King James Version of the Bible, which refers to wives as created to meet the needs of their husbands and be helpers to them.”
By Na’amen Gobert Tilahun
“The problem the privileged have with ideas of trigger warnings and safe spaces is the same they have with most pushes for inclusivity and education: being asked to consider someone else’s feelings, particularly someone society teaches is below them and barely deserving of their attention. What they see as an imposition is actually an attempt to correct an imbalance that has been in their favor for too long.”
By Ijeoma Oluo
“Yesterday, I was asked to write that I do not believe in due process. I was asked to write that I believe we should just immediately fire all men accused of sexual harassment. I was asked to write that if a few men are harmed to protect women, it’s worth it. As if that’s a real threat. As if that’s a valid fear. As if, in this world, a power shift of that magnitude is even within the realm of possibility. As if a lack of due process wouldn’t first come for women, trans people, and people of color. As if due process isn’t the one thing so many men and their enablers in this society are working so hard to avoid.”
By Liz Latty
“The fact is, most people who relinquish their children for adoption or have their children taken away from them, both in the U.S. and internationally, do so as a result of economic and racial injustice.”
By Emily Crose
“The nerd culture narrative is that we’re a group of outcasts and rejects, who built a community to cope with the awkwardness and rejection of being a pariah in a school social structure that didn’t value the same things we did. But we also brought the seeds of our own inherent caste systems with us, which in many ways perpetuated an unspoken marginalization of the girls that in some cases bordered on outright contempt. It forced the girls to find ways to evolve, and to express themselves despite the constraints that exist when the men make the rules.”
By Reese Piper
“People who struggle with executive abilities tend to get ignored. The spectrum is labeled through the ability to communicate and socialize; adapting to daily life is not often factored into the diagnostic process. Difficulty with EF is treated as a byproduct of autism, not a defining feature.”
By Shae Collins
“We don’t have to lose our shady edge in these spaces. Being a petty, shade-throwing intersectional feminist is about finding that sweet spot where humor and shade meet inclusivity.”
By Jennifer Neal
“People are often ill-equipped to discuss family estrangement without projecting their ideas of how families ‘should’ look — even when a particular familial situation doesn’t fit that narrative.
As someone who’s estranged from a sibling, this is something I know far too well.”
By Ijeoma Oluo
“Fighting racism is one of the most difficult things you will ever do. I mean, reading this essay might be a little uncomfortable, but it is NOTHING compared to the conversations you are going to have to have, the privilege you are going to have to sacrifice, and the brutality and pain you are going to have to be able to look in the eye every day. Not only will this work get harder and harder the further you dive in, you will also get what at times seems like a very small return on your efforts.”
By Sam Dylan Finch
“As long as we divide mentally ill people up into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ — or with coded language like ‘high-functioning’ and ‘low-functioning’— we replicate the oppressive hierarchies that harm all of us.
The internalized stigma that compelled me to ‘perform’ sanity was the same stigma that can lead to neglect and abuse in psychiatric settings, and further marginalize the most vulnerable mentally ill people.”
By Katherine Cross
“To speak to so vast an audience is a privilege, not a right. To speak through a newspaper or magazine column, a TV talk show, an interview on national TV, a speech at a university, or a primetime debate program, is, by its very nature, a privilege not open to all. There are billions of people on this planet, each speaking their views at any one time, but they can’t all appear on the Today show. Once again, we intuitively grasp this basic logistical matter, but forget about it entirely when a raving bigot shows up, feeling cornered by an abstract principle into insisting that he or she be given not only space to speak, but the largest possible platform and audience for it.”
By Julie DiCaro
“Women who work in sports are supposed to be hot, but not high maintenance; outspoken, but not political; knowledgeable, but not so much as to threaten the guys. The sports media landscape is littered with Cool Girls trying to master this high-wire act. Some are Cool Girls for career advancement, some are Cool Girls simply to survive. Either way, the Cool Girl is more accepted by fans than any other embodiment of woman in sports media. Women working in sports media who speak openly about equality and feminism are harder to sell to the public (as one man in the industry said to me, ‘No one wants a buzzkill on their TV’). And it’s probably not difficult to imagine how it goes over when a woman tells male colleagues that their sexist jokes and objectification of women in the workplace is inappropriate. And so the Cool Girl thrives, often leaving a trail of Regular Girl bodies in her wake.”
By Martina Donkers
“When doctors looked at me, they didn’t see a girl who danced, cycled, and played team sports. They saw a fat girl — and they based their diagnosis on stereotypes about what that meant. I’m 29 now, and my knees no longer hurt. I don’t need them replaced — but if I’d listened to the weight-prejudiced opinions of my doctors, I might have.”
By Katherine Cross
“Fascism is a cancer that turns democracy against itself unto death. There is no reasoning with it. It was specifically engineered to attack the weaknesses of democracy and use them to bring down the entire system, arrogating a right to free speech for itself just long enough to take power and wrench it away from everyone else. Simply allowing Nazis onto a stage, as the BBC did when it let British National Party leader Nick Griffin sit and debate with political luminaries on its Question Time program, is to give them an invaluable moral victory. Like creationists who debate evolutionary biologists, the former benefit mightily from the prestige of the latter.”
By Hanna Brooks Olsen
“Good job today. You did what you had to do. And good job tomorrow, when you do it again. If no one has told you that recently, I want to tell you that. Good job.”
By Katelyn Burns
“For me, the women’s march in Portland became an incredible affirmation of my womanhood thanks to the kindness and newfound friendship of a total stranger. I will never forget it. It wasn’t that my womanhood was validated by a cis woman that I’d never met before; it was deeper than that. Both of us had our own reasons as women to be there and march, and it was this shared experience of womanhood that brought us together.”
By Ijeoma Oluo
“Yes, you may be doing this to be a better person, but it does not mean that others have to see you as a better person. The things we do cannot be undone. We must find other ways to get as close to making things right as we can, but if you’ve harmed someone, you have no right to expect to be seen by them or anyone else impacted by you actions as anyone other than the person who harmed someone. You have to live with what you did as long as they do.”
By Julie Goldberg
“Any pretense of a religious foundation for Christianism breaks down on many of the issues Christianists now consider their highest priority — cutting social services, blocking access to health care, lowering taxes, undermining public education, repealing restrictions on the ownership and use of firearms, endorsing harsh law enforcement methods and restrictions on the right to vote in communities of color, defending the Mexican border, and closing the door to refugees, to name a few.”
Stay tuned for more amazing content from diverse creators in 2018!