Longform You Have to Read: 2014, Year of the Feminist

In a world where you have more options for satisfying your longform reading needs than ever, your friends here at Flavorwire are taking the time once a week to highlight some of the best that journalism has to offer. Whether they’re unified by topic, publication, writer, their status as classics, or just by a general feeling, these articles all have one thing in common: they’re essential reading. This week, we take a look back at one of 2014’s most complicated words: feminism.

Well, actually, it’s not that complicated. As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie put it in her TED Talk “We Should All Be Feminists,” sampled in Beyonce’s song “***Flawless”: “A feminist is a person who believes in the social, economic and political equality of the sexes.” This year, feminism came back into the national conversation in a variety of ways, whether it was a celebrity starlet’s feminist awakening or the secret feminist history of Wonder Woman.

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Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet,” Amanda Hess, Pacific Standard, January 2014

In an article that rightfully spurred discussion when it came out at the beginning of the year, Hess details the horrifying and — ugh — commonplace harassment that women on the Internet deal with on a daily basis. What’s most dispiriting, here, is law enforcement and the legal system’s inability (and/or unwillingness) to address this abuse.

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How Beyoncé Pushed Me to Call Myself a Feminist,” Janet Mock, JanetMock.com, September 2014

In a year when once-ambivalent celebrities, from Beyoncé to Taylor Swift, figured out how to embrace the word feminist, Mock shares the personal story of how she once felt trepidation around the word and the label. For Mock, it took conversations with bell hooks and seeing Beyoncé on the VMAs, along with the work of Barbara Smith and Audre Lorde.

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The Last Amazon,” Jill Lepore, The New Yorker, September 2014

Consider this very entertaining article a warm-up for Lepore’s 2014 book, The Secret History of Wonder Woman. The themes are all there, in miniature: how Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston (who also dreamed up the lie-detector test) was inspired by his two “wives,” the independent women in his life and his household, Elizabeth Holloway and Olive Byrne. Even more interesting, Lepore links Wonder Woman’s idealistic feminism to Margaret Sanger’s birth control activism. Imagine that, comics that served as a form of liberation for women!

not that kind of girl

Roxane Gay Talks to Lena Dunham About Her New Book, Feminism, and the Benefits of Being Criticized Online,” Roxane Gay, Vulture, October 2014

Two of the year’s most talked-about feminists — Gay, the author of bestseller Bad Feminist, and Dunham, the Girls creator and source of all blog content — discuss the latter’s essay book, Not That Kind of Girl. The pleasure comes from the personal in this interview — we get to see what Dunham wants people to get out of her work (which is never the conversation), and she says that “I just think feminism is my work.”

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The Gaming Industry’s Biggest Adversary Is Just Getting Started,” Sheelah Kolhatkar, Bloomberg Businessweek, November 2014

Anita Sarkeesian, the feminist media critic, has been dealing with scary online harassment this year in the name of Gamergate. In this piece, we get to hear what Sarkeesian’s life is like, and come to understand how harassment is just the constant “background radiation” in her life these days. An October speech in Utah was canceled due to shooting threats; weeks later, she’s on The Colbert Report, explaining feminism.