The Most-Read Ms. Stories of 2021

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Ms. readers are fed up. 

Fed up with the Supreme Court’s disinterest in women’s health, maternal health and the rule of law. Fed up with crafty anti-abortion lawmakers and mega-donors playing with Texans’ lives. Fed up with the stench of Trumpism that lingers in American politics, despite a change in administration. Fed up with unrealistic expectations hoisted upon women both at work and at home, as we enter the third year of a global pandemic—as well as all the unnecessary lives lost. Fed up that we are still trying to convince lawmakers that policies associated with women and families—like paid leave and affordable childcare—are actually good for the entire population, as well as the economy. Fed up with the backslide on women’s rights taking place both here in the U.S. and abroad. Fed up that in the year 2021, they’re still trying to tell us what we can and can’t do to our own bodies. Fed up that daughters and granddaughters and nieces are fighting the same battles that their mothers and grandmothers and aunts passed down to them—like protecting abortion rights, or ensuring the media we consume is free from sexist, racist tropes.  

You know how I know? Your reading patterns. 

I know we are tired. I’m tired too. But I’m so glad you brought those big feelings to Ms. And just know: Your rage, your activism and your voice are making a difference. I channel the powerful words of the late bell hooks to remind us all: “On one hand we’re being told that feminism failed, but if it failed, why do people want to go back and take away some basic successes of the movement?”

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.


1. Apparently We Don’t Need Abortion Because of Adoption … “or Whatever”

Dec. 14, 2021. By Shanta Trivedi.

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The Trumps with Amy Coney Barrett and her family on Sept. 26, 2020, in the Rose Garden of the White House. (White House / Shealah Craighead)

Amy Coney Barrett’s suggestion that adoption is a simple alternative to abortion is shocking. To have that suggestion come from a mother of seven children—who has both been pregnant and been through the process of adoption—is dangerous. …

Imagine if Barrett’s vision of the world comes to pass and the almost 900,000 women who had abortions in 2017 carried their children to term. If even half of those took advantage of safe haven laws, that would double the number of children in foster care that year alone, stretching an already overburdened system. In a state like Texas, where one out of five children is poor and foster children already sleep on the floor of agency offices, life is already bleak.

But as is often the case for conservatives, Barrett’s pro-life argument ends at the point of birth. Because of course, if a mother doesn’t want her child, once it is born, she can give it up for adoption or whatever.


2. The Supreme Court Revealed a Lack of Respect for Precedent and Women’s Health—And It Won’t Stop There

Dec. 15, 2021. By Seema Mohapatra.

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Pro-choice activists outside the Supreme Court on Dec. 1 for oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. (Center for Reproductive Rights / Instagram)

Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land. Even still, Republican state legislators have been ignoring such protections, emboldened by the now heavily conservative-controlled Supreme Court to pass extreme laws essentially banning abortion. …

The recent signals by the Supreme Court that it will end abortion care protections are extremely worrisome. As it is, the U.S. does not have universal healthcare. Abortion care (where it is available), contraception and assisted reproductive technologies can only be accessed by those who can afford them, either via insurance coverage or their own pocketbooks. People of color are less likely to have access to such care as it is—even without the Supreme Court further restricting such care.

Forced pregnancy harms Black women most of all, and too often, abortion discussion ignores that this is inherently a healthcare access and equity issue—both for the women unable to access abortion care and the children they may already have.  

This is not just about interfering with a pregnant person’s right to liberty and privacy. The Supreme Court is engaging in a colorblind constitutional analysis that ignores the disparate impact of their rulings on abortion on the health and well-being of people of color.


3. The Supreme Court’s Latest Inaction on Abortion Is a Constitutional Disaster

Dec. 13, 2021. By Kathy Spillar.

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Supporters with the Center for Reproductive Rights outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday night, the night before oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. (Instagram)

A disaster.

That was my first reaction when I heard the news early Friday morning about the Supreme Court’s ruling on two emergency appeals to block enforcement of the Texas law S.B. 8 banning most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.


4. A Tip For Women Working From Home: Turn The Camera Off

Feb. 10, 2021. By Wendy J. Fox.

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“Always having to be ‘on’ and perform is exhausting, and for women, it’s much harder.” (Duncan Rawlinson / Flickr)

“Always having to be ‘on’ and perform is exhausting, and for women, it’s much harder. We now have the added layer of wondering if we look friendly, if we are smiling enough. Should we talk with our hands, or keep them by our sides? What does our background say? When kids pop up, it’s cute when it is Dad on camera, but it’s seen as a distraction when it is Mom.” …

For female employees feeling the grind of keeping up appearances, this is perhaps the most salient tip for working from home of all: Simply decline being on video. When a manager asks for the camera to be switched on, it’s worth remembering that it is fine to say no. After all, if this is really about professionalism, that’s a decision one can make for herself.


5. AOC vs. Boebert: Addressing the Hollow at the Heart of Trumpism

Nov. 27, 2021. By Laura Packard.

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Left: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) “Tax The Rich” dress at the 2021 Met Gala. (Instagram) Right: Rep. Lauren Boebert’s (R-Colo.) “Let’s Go Brandon” dress at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago. (Twitter)

Ocasio-Cortez supports taxing the rich as a matter of policy—to help pay for an expanded social safety net in America. Per AOC, “The time is now for childcare, healthcare, and climate action for all. Tax the Rich.” As Congress debates sweeping reforms through the Build Back Better bill, she took the opportunity to advocate without speaking a word. 

According to Boebert about her own dress, “It’s not a phrase, it’s a movement!” But a movement for what? “Let’s Go Brandon” is a euphemism for “F*** Joe Biden.” How does that help anyone other than bumper sticker and button salespeople? 

On the coattails of Melania Trump’s jacket—emblazoned with “I Really Don’t Care, Do U?”—the Trumpist message seems to be whatever gets attention and supposedly makes liberals mad. There’s no substance to their style: no policy agenda or plans to make America greater—just trolling, fame seeking and self-enrichment.


6. The Most Chilling Women in History You Should Know About

Oct. 17, 2021. By Carmen Borca-Carrillo.

Sada Abe, Darya Saltykova, Leonarda Cianciulli and Amelia Dyer. (Public Domain)

Women don’t have to be benevolent heroes—instead, they can be vengeful spirits, unfeeling tyrants, and even, at their core, villains.


7. A “Prisoner of War” Story: The Life and Captivity of Lisa Montgomery—The First Woman To Be Executed by the Federal Government in 68 Years

Jan. 11, 2021. By Natalie Schreyer.

Left: Lisa Montgomery in kindergarten at age 5 or 6. By this time, she had experienced physical and emotional abuse and neglect, and her only caretaker, her half-sister Diane, had been removed from their Ogden, Kan., home by child services. Right: Lisa Montgomery at her first wedding to her stepbrother Carl Boman, who subsequently beat and raped her and recorded the rape on video. She was just 18 years old at the time of her marriage. (Photos courtesy of attorneys for Lisa Montgomery)

In early January, at the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Ind., the U.S. government executed Lisa Montgomery after a flurry of legal efforts failed to outlast a Trump administration that was determined to put a lifelong victim of torture and severe mental illness to death.

She was the first woman to be executed by the federal government since 1953, and the 11th execution since the Trump administration reinstated the use of capital punishment after a 17-year suspension.

Lisa spent the last days of her life inside a prison suicide cell, hallucinating her abusive mother’s voice, suffering nightmares of the sexual torture she had endured, and drifting away “in a house in her mind,” just as she did while trying to survive being raped as a young teenager. 

But as her attorney, Kelley Henry, said, “Lisa was much more than the tragic crime she committed, a crime for which she felt deep remorse before she lost all touch with reality in the days before her execution. Lisa was also much more than the horrors inflicted upon her, the sexual violence and abuse she endured at the hands of those who were supposed to love, nurture and protect her.”

Before her death, Ms. published the following investigation of Lisa’s life, from a childhood of pain to motherhood behind bars—the story of a woman failed by every layer of our society, including, on the last night of her life, the United States Supreme Court.


8. “Madan Sara” Tells the Story of Haitian Women Both Ordinary and Extraordinary

Feb. 28, 2021. By Régine Jean-Charles.

“To talk about Madan Sara is to talk about Haitian women,” according to Madan Sara‘s filmmaker Etant Dupain. (Madansarafilm.com)

The documentary focuses on two “madan sara”—business women who purchase, distribute and sell food and other essential items in Haitian markets. As the Haitian economist Camille Charlmers explains, “A madan sara is a person who specializes in commerce; they are pillars of the Haitian economy.” These women have mastered their profession, understand their worth in the global economy, and take pride in their craft. …

This feminist film is unequivocal in making the point that government neglect of the madan sara population results in their marginalization. Or, as one of the women featured puts it, “We aren’t safe in cars, homes, in the market”—emphasizing how the lack of security has deleterious effects that are exacerbated by the intersections of gender and class. Madan Sara makes clear that the government’s lack of support, investment and outright neglect is a form of structural violence that has resulted in widespread harm.

And yet, the film showcases the ingenuity, brilliance and steadfast nature of these women in a nuanced way. Extolling the perspicacity of madan sara, another expert opines: “They really know what they are doing. They need more support, sure, but they know what they are doing.”


9. Better Start Opening Your Husband’s Mail, Ladies

Feb. 10, 2021. By Emily Klein.

“If it hadn’t been for little miss wifey,” writes Klein, “who decided to snoop and take a closer look, our full family EIP payment would’ve been headed for the recycling bin.” (Martin Haesemeyer / Flickr)

Economic Impact Payments (EIP) to American families started rolling out by mail and direct deposit at the end of December, but many eligible citizens are still on deck to receive payments. But there’s a big surprise in store for eligible tax-paying women who file jointly with a male spouse: Your check will likely be addressed to your husband, and your husband only, not you.


10. Educating Texans on How to Get Abortion Pills Online: “Your Nearest Provider Is In Your Pocket”

Aug. 31, 2021. By Carrie N. Baker.

College students learning about abortion pills from Plan C advocates. (Plan C)

“We went on an abortion road trip to let people know that you don’t need to go on a road trip anymore to get an abortion,” Plan C co-director Elisa Wells told Ms. “You can get an abortion by mail basically anywhere in the United States, including in Texas.” …

On their website, Plan C offers detailed information on how to find abortion pills online. Wells says the online abortion clinic AID Access, which provides physician-supervised medication abortion, is offering advanced provision of abortion pills to people in Texas for $105.

“If people want to be prepared for if their period is late, they can go to AID Access and order a set of pills for their medicine cabinet,” said Wells.


Runners Up: Stories 11 through 20

You may also like: Feminist Faves: The Most Popular Ms. Stories of 2020.

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About

Roxy Szal is the digital editor at Ms. and a producer on the Ms. podcast "On the Issues With Michele Goodwin." Before becoming a journalist, she was a Texas public school English teacher. She is based in Austin, Texas. Find her on Twitter @roxyszal.