Feminist Faves: The Most Popular Ms. Stories of 2020

Since stepping into the role of associate digital editor in February, I have been watching you all—that is: watching what you are reading.

Sometimes, Ms. readers’ online behavior surprised me. But more often than not, by tracking the stories that resonated with readers—the stories you shared with your friends on social media and through email, and the stories you kept coming back to over and over again—Ms. editors like myself were able to understand what feminists were concerned about, angered by, and looking forward to.

The people have spoken! The stories below are the most popular articles published this year on MsMagazine.com—measured by page views, average time spent on each page, times shared and a few other technical measures.

While they range in topic, you will find a common theme: women and their allies fighting for justice.

1. Trump Attempted to Move a Reporter to the Back of the Room. Nevertheless, She Resisted.

April 28, 2020. By Corinne Ahrens.

CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins. (CNN)

This year was a particularly tough one for women journalists, thanks in large part to the president of the United States’ obvious disdain for the truth and those who seek it—especially if said truth-seeker is a woman. Trump has called women reporters “nasty,” “horrid,” “stupid,” “disgraceful” (and more) for asking tough questions—words he never applies to men. 

So, it comes as no surprise that in April, prior to the start of Trump’s COVID-19 briefing, a White House official ordered CNN correspondent Kaitlan Collins to move from her assigned, front-row seat to the back of the room. She bravely defied that order. 

Ms. stands with Collins and other women reporters who continue to show Trump and his White House that intimidation and humiliation did not, and will not, work in a country where our press is free, and news is real. 

2. Trump Attacks “Those [Women] from Michigan”

May 22, 2020. By Audrey Andrews.

With Michigan “in the fight of its life,” Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel found no support from the president. (Creative Commons)

Another common recipient of the president’s ire: Democratic women in political leadership—such as Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel.

As writer Audrey Andrews points out:

Of course, it is no surprise that Trump chose to launch attacks against perceived political enemies in a swing state like Michigan: In 2016, the state went for Trump, but the state’s 2018 switch for Whitmer seemed to signal to many a retreat from his brash ways. … Many speculate that Trump’s attacks are an attempt to combat the 2018 “suburban revolt” at the polls, which helped elect the three women in question.

Yet despite repeated threats from the president and his supporters—including an attempted kidnapping plot (we cannot make this up)—these three brave women enforced COVID-19 safety restrictions, ran safe and fair elections, and so much more. Thanks to them, the safety and voting rights of Michiganders are more secure.

3. Black Women Mayors Healing and Leading Their Communities

June 3, 2020. By Marissa Talcott.

Black women mayors across the United States speak out against the murder of George Floyd on May 25 and actively bring their communities together. (Creative Commons)

In the midst of widespread civil unrest in the weeks following George Floyd’s murder, Black women mayors took the lead in speaking out against the murder of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black members of their communities who died at the hands of police.

At times it can be extremely difficult to balance the diverging desires of their communities, as Ravi Perry, dean of the political science department at Howard University pointed out: “The challenge of being both Black and being a woman … I think all of that plays into perhaps the cautious nature with which you see these mayors engaging their activist communities.”

But Black women leaders—like Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, San Francisco Mayor London Breed and so many others—rose to the challenge, standing in solidarity with protesters and helping to protect the safety and wellbeing of their communities. 

4. The “All-Consuming” Emotional Labor Caused by Coronavirus—and Shouldered by Women

March 31, 2020. By Andrea Flynn.

“We’ve done the majority of the at-home teaching,” Flynn writes, “setting up our own laptops at our kids’ make-shift workstations, so we can serve as teacher and IT technician while attempting to do our own jobs.” (Jeremy Hiebert / Flickr)

When publishing this piece by then-director of health equity at the Roosevelt Institute, Andrea Flynn, I had no idea how much its words would ring true, almost a year later. Her piece instantly struck a chord with bone-tired moms around the nation—and with dads pigeonholed to a specific family role, too, due to toxic masculinity—stuck in the cycle of “structural sexism.”

So many mothers I know have had stark reminders that we can only hold so much for so long. There have been more days than I’d like to admit when I hid in the bathroom to cry between participating in work conference calls and administering Google classroom tutorials.

The ending of her piece made me tear up, both then and now:

The other day someone asked me how work was going. I joked that my male colleagues are on the path to becoming “COVID famous” while I am learning elementary school math. That would make a good book title, they suggested.

I laughed. And then I cried. Because fuck if I can write a book right now. 

Of course, the struggle to continue to mother in a pandemic is a perpetual problem for the U.S.—a country which, in contrast to other parts of the world, tends to regard child care as a family problem, not a public responsibility. The conversation on creating functional child care policy for families across the U.S. is one Ms. pledges to continue to cover and amplify as we head into 2021.

5. Madame Speaker, It’s Not Just Confederate Statues That Should Go. Start with Justice Taney.

June 16, 2020. By Michele Goodwin.

Chief Justice Roger B. Taney. (Missouri Historial Society)

Michele Goodwin—host of Ms. podcast “On the Issues with Michele Goodwin”—wrote this open letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on June 16. In it, she argues for the removal of the bust of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, an outspoken proponent of slavery and vocal Confederate sympathizer whose rulings declared that Black people would never be worthy of freedom or citizens of the United States.  

Goodwin writes:

Justice Taney’s crucial role in the service of slavery and protection of slave “owners” should no longer symbolize our nation’s ideals if we take seriously protecting civil liberties, and safeguarding civil rights.  

Madame Speaker, his bust too should go.   

Goodwin urged his statue be replaced with one of Thurgood Marshall, “whose astute advocacy and principled jurisprudence not only aided in dismantling the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow, but also advanced women’s rights and equality.”

On July 22, the House passed legislation to remove all Confederate statues from the U.S. Capitol—including Taney’s.

If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting our independent reporting and truth-telling for as little as $5 per month.

6. How Telemedicine Startups Are Revolutionizing Abortion Health Care in the U.S.

November 16, 2020. By Carrie N. Baker.

(Mary Purdie / @drawnbymary)

In July, after months of attacks by Republican lawmakers on the right to an abortion under the premise of keeping women safe (yeah right), a federal court temporarily suspended FDA restrictions on distribution of the abortion pill during the pandemic.

Feminists around the nation breathed a huge sigh of relief—and immediately got to work on upping access to mifepristone and misoprostol, the two types of pills used to induce a medication abortion.

Cue: Telemedicine abortion startups, which began popping up around the country—taking advantage of the rise in popularity of telehealth, brought about by the onset of COVID-19’s stay-at-home orders.

As Baker writes in her comprehensive feature on these startups:

These new virtual clinics screen patients by video conference, telephone or text, using the new no-test, no-touch medical protocol that is now the standard of care for medication abortion (which uses pills to end a pregnancy). They then mail the medication to their patients at home, often using new online pharmacies. In total, people in 19 states and Washington, D.C., now have legal access to telemedicine abortion from a doctor within their state.  …

The pandemic has opened a door that will hard to close back up. Once people realize how safe, easy and accessible medication abortion can be, they are unlikely to go quietly back to the old days of cumbersome, over-medicalized, time-consuming and expensive abortion health care.

7. Here’s What You Need to Know About Recording the Police

July 23, 2020. By Marissa Talcott.

(Bill Dickinson / Flickr)

This year brought about a serious reckoning with police brutality, tapping into a movement that has been sounding the alarm on police overreach for decades. And video footage played a large role in that—from the bystander footage that turned George Floyd’s murder in one known across world, to the various clips that alerted us to Portland’s occupation by federal agents in July.

As Talcott writes in her piece, “In many cases, videos like these become essential in ensuring officers are held accountable for misconduct and violence—giving strength to nationwide movements for racial justice and police reform.”

It’s no wonder then that many of you wanted to get something straight: What legal right do citizens and the press have to record and publish videos of police activities?

Special shoutout to the NYU First Amendment Watch, which released “A Citizen’s Guide to Recording Police,” breaking down the legal precedent behind our right to record law enforcement officers—the report upon which this Ms. piece is based.

8. It Was Never About Saving Babies. It Was Always About Motherhood.

October 2, 2020. By Andréa Becker.

President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump with Amy Coney Barrett and her family on Sept. 26 in the Rose Garden of the White House. (White House Photo / Shealah Craighead)

This year, feminists around the world—including myself—stared in slack-jawed disbelief as Senate Republicans pulled one of the most cynical and hypocritical moves in politics: ramming through the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett. And, if that wasn’t galling enough, many of them told us we should be happy at such an appointment, calling it a win for representation. As if.

As Becker so eloquently spells out in her scathing op-ed: Barrett’s “cartoonish portrayal of idealized motherhood, and more specifically white motherhood” only serves to further emphasize that “societal ideas of what makes a ‘good mother’ in the U.S. have always described the mothering of upper middle class white women.”

Make no mistake, we should focus on her appalling record of striking down reproductive rights. However, we must not overlook the broader symbolism of her appointment: in choosing her as the woman to potentially turn back Roe, the Republican party is reminding us of their underlying, fervent wish: for women to remember their place as mothers first and humans second.

This is not “the new face of feminism”; this is a repackaged misogyny guised behind a smiling mother—a mother that values this identity so much, she wants to create a world where giving birth is no longer a choice, but a legal mandate. 

9. Five Myths About the Protests in Portland

July 28, 2020. By Susan M. Shaw, Emily Yates-Doerr, Cari Maes and Andie Thompson.

A view of a crowd on a bridge in Portland, Ore., with fists raised.

Since protests began in May, many members of the media attempted to portray the city of Portland this summer as a city in chaos, overrun by looters and rioters.

Looking the counter the popular (right-wing) media narrative, these four Portlanders visited the epicenter of the protests to see for themselves, and report back to Ms. readers. This piece outlines what they found.

They write:

Portland looks like, well, Portland. …

Collectively processing what we observed, we’ve identified five myths that we can debunk through our own personal experiences at the site, the testimony of those long engaged in the struggle against racism in Portland, and an intersectional feminist analysis of what is unfolding on the ground.

10. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—Meet Ms. Mary Hamilton

July 24, 2020. By Michele Goodwin.

Mary Hamilton [left], an African American activist whose case before the Supreme Court decided a Black woman was entitled to the same courteous forms of address typically reserved for whites. (Wikipedia)

The 1964 Supreme Court ruling in Hamilton v. Alabama deemed Black women entitled to the respectful forms of address long reserved for white women. The plaintiff was Mary Hamilton, a Black activist of the Civil Rights Movement who never stopped fighting for justice—even after being arrested, jailed and sexually assaulted.

In July, in the wake of Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) verbally assaulting his colleague Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)—calling her “disgusting” and “a “f***ing bitch”—Michele Goodwin made the connection: Hamilton and Ocasio-Cortez, though they grew up in different times, have a lot in common.

The special venom and bigotry behind such slurs lobbed at women of color are unmistakable as history teaches us.

For me, that’s why Ms. Mary Hamilton’s story comes to mind.

Runners Up: Stories 11 through 20

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Roxanne Szal (or Roxy) is the managing digital editor at Ms. and a producer on the Ms. podcast On the Issues With Michele Goodwin. She is also a mentor editor for The OpEd Project. Before becoming a journalist, she was a Texas public school English teacher. She is based in Austin, Texas. Find her on Twitter @roxyszal.