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The Establishment’s Top 20 Reads Of 2016

“Our culture treats women’s bodies as if they only have worth when they are serving someone other than themselves: men’s gaze, commercialism, the concepts of sexual innocence or ‘purity’ that uphold religious ideas. When a woman’s choice comes into it, that’s when it’s a problem. Only then. That is when she is devalued.”

By Establishment Staff

Ah, 2016: a year when everything good died and everything terrible thrived, and everything was just altogether miserable.

But hey, at least it included some interesting stories to read?

Amid the pervasive gloom, we were honored to publish work from a diverse array of voices exploring everything from rape culture as it pertains to Kim Kardashian’s nude selfies, to the surprising power of adorning oneself like a grandma toddler, to what it’d be like if we were brutally honest on first dates. At turns witty and devastating, sardonic and vulnerable, these stories remind us that, especially in a dark world, honest writing matters.

Herewith are The Establishment’s 20 most read, shared, liked, and discussed stories of the last 365 days. May the next year be filled with similarly brave, compelling, insightful, and thoughtful reads — and in every other conceivable way, be nothing like 2016.


The Real Reason Everyone Freaked Out Over Kim Kardashian’s Nude Selfie
By Jayn Griffith

Questioning Safety Pin Solidarity Revealed Why I Can’t Trust White People
By Ijeoma Oluo

“So no, I won’t trust anyone just because they are wearing a safety pin. No, it won’t give me any comfort. I will trust actions, nothing more, nothing less. I wear my blackness every single day, and people don’t have to look for it to target me. Don’t make me look for your symbol of support. Show it every day in your words and deeds.”

Depression-Busting Exercise Tips For People Too Depressed To Exercise
By Sarah Kurchak


“The fitness industry talks a lot about ‘exercise lifehacks for depression!!!’, but it seems to be coming from a place of ignorance about the cold war going on in the average depressed person’s head. Most of these training tips and listicles read like they came from people who have faced very little adversity in their lives, and who think that their own health is entirely the product of their own hard work. Even if that’s not true, these pieces are certainly written by people who haven’t let their hardships add any nuance to their argument.”

We Always Knew You Weren’t Plus-Size, Amy Schumer — But Did You?
By Ijeoma Oluo


“Amy, we always knew you weren’t plus size, but that hasn’t stopped you from building an entire career off of your ‘big girl’ persona. Isn’t it hilarious how you exist with a few extra pounds? Isn’t it shocking that you’d be considered fat in LA and would occasionally be treated the way real-life fat people are treated every day? Isn’t it inspiring that those 10 extra pounds don’t stop you from fulfilling every woman’s dream of getting dudes’ dicks hard?

Here’s the thing Amy, that shtick? That’s nothing compared to our actual lives.”

If People Had Honest First Date Conversations
By Jennifer Garam


“Me: So you have depression in your family?

Him: Oh, yeah.

Me: Cool, cool. I’m severely depressed. Most days I can’t even get out of bed!

Him: So I’ll probably try to caretake you, like I had to do with my Mom, and then wind up resenting you.

Me: That sounds about right.”

The Abuse Of Feel-Good Cop Videos
By Ijeoma Oluo


“The video is of a black woman being pulled over by police. There is terror on her face as the officer walks up to her car. His gun is at her eye level. But the officer doesn’t reach for the gun — instead, he reaches for two ice cream cones to hand over to her and her passenger. Her terror gives way to the almost tearful relief that she is not going to come to harm at the hands of these officers. At least not today.

This fear is what they want.”

No, White Women, Betty Shelby’s Manslaughter Charge Is Not Unfair
By Syreeta Neal


“The fact that a white woman who killed an unarmed man in cold blood is being held accountable for her actions is not sexist and it’s not oppressive. It’s fair. That’s literally all it is.”

Men See Themselves In Brock Turner — That’s Why They Don’t Condemn Him
By Anne Theriault


“Everyone can agree that rape is objectively wrong, but problems crop up when we try to parse exactly what rape is and under what circumstances it occurs. I’m willing to bet that more than a few men read the victim’s letter and had a pang of recognition — not of her experiences, but his. Because most men have done at least some of what Turner did.”

Yes, Amy Schumer Is Racist, And So Is Her Executive Producer
By Nikki Gloudeman


“If racism can happen in contexts outside white-hooded vigilantism, and if it indeed permeates our entire society, what now then? It’s not quite as simple as saying ‘Yep, I guess I’m racist like everyone else!’ For one thing, that ignores the nuances and degrees of racism. For another, that’s not really going to affect anything.

The most important step is owning that shit.”

Poor People Deserve To Taste Something Other Than Shame
By Ijeoma Oluo


“I didn’t understand that my mom already was ashamed and sorry. I didn’t know that she walked around ashamed and sorry every day. I didn’t see that she stood in food bank and church lines ashamed and sorry. I didn’t see that she went to holiday collection services ashamed and sorry. I didn’t see that she took us to our free dental appointments ashamed and sorry. I didn’t see that every time she passed over those food stamps to try to feed us she was ashamed and sorry. I didn’t realize that every message that had surrounded me and told me that we were poor because my mom was a bad mom who couldn’t take care of us had not only surrounded my mom, but had filled her lungs and rested in her heart.”

An Open Letter To Gloria Steinem On Intersectional Feminism
By Sarah Grey


“You’re not alone in adopting an approach to feminism that overlooks intersectionality. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that when you try to change history’s second most enthusiastic capitalist party, it usually ends up changing you.”

Those Trump Statues Aren’t Funny, And They Sure Aren’t Progressive
By Marissa Jenae Johnson


“If Trump is so awful and progressives are so upstanding, then why would you rely on hurtful and damaging punch­lines to fight back against a man whose behavior terrifies even his own party? What could possibly be more important than sticking to your progressive values around fatness and body positivity and trans-­inclusivity in the face of his genuine offensiveness?


‘Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life’ Has A White Feminism Problem
By Aaron Kappel And Jessica Friday


“In our younger days, we viewed feminism from a limited point of view, completely ignorant of how gender-based oppression intersects with racial and other forms of discrimination. Gilmore Girls felt important and fully representative of the success of the feminist movement because it was a show created, written and produced by, and about women. But in retrospect, it was only revolutionary for a specific subset of women — one with privileges not afforded to all.”

‘Toddler Grandma Style,’ The Fashion Approach That Will Set You Free
By Cynara Geissler


“Why should whimsy and comfort only be available to women under 5 and over 65? Why are we supposed to prove we are serious, smart, and professional by dressing in a color most commonly used to paint luxury condos (‘Yaletown greige’)? Because we’re supposed to make ourselves the right kind of fancy (or invisible) for men? Well, fuck men. If anything, our wardrobe options should increase when diapers are no longer (and not yet) a wardrobe staple.”

Are Mis-Gendered Band Names ‘Ironic’ Or Sexist?
By Kayleigh Hughes


“One man says one misguided thing; one group of men puts ‘girl’ in their band name. On their own these are things that wouldn’t draw much ire. But such is the nature of microaggressions. They keep building and building until they begin to paint a picture of the structural inequalities and pervasive prejudiced attitudes. Context is crucial.”

When I Said All Trump Supporters Are White Supremacists, I Meant It
By Ijeoma Oluo


“Human beings can quite easily fall in line with violent hatred and oppression; any quick glance through world history will show that to be true. Do you think that the Nazis came to power against the will of the German electorate, or with the support of the German people? Do you think that slavery was upheld purely by the few rich enough to own slaves, or by an entire society that even erected armies to defend it? And no, none of this can be excused away as ‘a product of the times’ — humans are not like wine grapes; we do not have a few ‘bad years’ that we can blame on the soil.”

My Husband’s Unconscious Racism Nearly Destroyed Our Marriage
By TaLynn Kel


“To this day, I look back and question how and why I stayed. I can see now that, this early in my relationship with Kevin and my own personal development, I was still in a lot of denial about what racism is and how it manifests. Ironically, choosing to stay with Kevin after I realized he wasn’t immune to racism, and later choosing to marry him, helped me sort that out.”

My Friends Would Rather Have Their Guts Cut Open Than Be Like Me
By Meg Elison


“My mother was the first woman I knew who moved out of her own body. She vacated it, bit by bit: her lawn of her hair turning colors and falling out, the front porch of belly and breasts disappearing overnight, the foundation of muscle repossessed and leaving her to scoot down the stairs on her disorientingly bony ass. She disappeared. Her hair grew back, but her face changed shape so sharply that friends who she hadn’t seen in a year did not recognize her. She was like any other woman; she loved the attention her new body received and being able to buy clothes in any store she saw.

But what she really wanted was to not be like me anymore.”

Yes, Trans Women Can Get Period Symptoms
By Sam Riedel


“This is a phenomenon that clearly requires greater study — in all of my research on the topic, I couldn’t find a single scientific examination of the matter. Perhaps part of the problem is that so few people know about it. The general cis population is understandably in the dark, because lots of trans people aren’t aware of it as a broad phenomenon either.”

33 And Never Been Kissed
By Joi Weaver


“I’ve sat through countless conversations with groups of women, praying that the conversation wouldn’t turn to sex, cringing inwardly when it inevitably did, and trying to laugh with the others until the topic changed and I could relax again, my secret safe. For now.”