Our Favorite Stories from 2017
From 'Game of Thrones' to prison relationships to the people mobilizing against Trump's most hateful policies, here's the work we're most proud of this year.
Illustrations by Ben Thomson, Eleanor Doughty, and Cathryn Virginia
2017 has been a seemingly unending nightmare of a year; now, at long last, it's drawing to a close. Having to make sense of this stream absurd senselessness has been difficult, but we've tried our best, publishing stories that spanned subjects as diverse as the blatant erosion of civil rights under the Trump administration, to art and pop culture, to witchcraft, to very cool women and non-binary people making important change, to that one tenacious lizard from Planet Earth 2.
Below are some of our favorite stories from the year, selected by our staff, in no particular order:
Endometriosis affects one in 10 women worldwide, but shockingly little is known about it—we still have no clear idea what causes it, how to prevent it, or how to cure it. This piece follows a woman, Chloe, who struggled with agonizing endometrial pain for years, fighting against a woefully unequipped medical establishment to seek a measure of relief.
Our "Youth, Interrupted" series followed three transgender kids throughout the country, whose lives were dramatically interrupted by anti-trans "bathroom bills" that prevent them from using public restrooms that correspond to their gender identity. The fight over bathroom equality is often framed as an ideological battle; this documentary series, hosted by staff writer Diana Tourjee, aims to show the real human cost. In addition to Trinity (above), a 13-year-old trans girl living in Delaware, Tourjee met with Vinnie Holt, a teenager living in North Carolina, which was briefly home of the most country's notorious bathroom bill, and with Gavin Grimm, the trans teen whose case nearly went to the Supreme Court. Together, their stories show the heartbreaking reality of this form of state-sanctioned discrimination.
The idea of breaking silence has been pervasive in 2017, culminating with TIME magazine naming "The Silence Breakers" its annual person of the year. But what comes next? In a rather prescient essay, Lauren Oyler argues that merely naming oppression doesn't go nearly far enough, and that simply "breaking the silence" isn't an effective end in itself: "Often, hypocrisies and lies flourish regardless of the shards of broken silence lying at our feet. Our voices are being heard; the people in power just don't care."
America's healthcare system is broken, but the scope of this brokenness can feel dizzyingly incomprehensible. In this piece, Gabby Bess compares the experiences of two cancer patients—one in Australia, which has a single-payer system, and one in Boston, where a diagnosis can be a death sentence for someone without the means to pay for screenings and treatments. "Health care should be a right. People should be able to have basic scans, testing, and things that can catch major diseases before they become a problem," the patient living in Boston told her. "My life will most likely be shortened because of this, and that's not fair to me. This could have most likely been prevented."
Game of Thrones's sensationalized use of nudity and sexual violence has long attracted criticism—especially from those who argue that the show has used rape as a shallow plot device. What is the actual extent of the problem, though? Sara David watched hundreds of hours of the show and documented every instance of rape, death, and nudity to catalog how female characters are (mis)treated on the beloved fantasy show.
Following the initial instatement of Trump's "Muslim ban," a dystopian policy that blocked citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US, we collected testimonies from dozens of people who would be affected, all of whom expressed fear, anger, and hope for dramatic change. "We've seen this happen throughout history—we won't let it happen again," said one woman, Sumaya, 27. "Love overpowers hate. You can't divide us. You can't divide us with your rhetoric."
As abortion access becomes increasingly inaccessible for women throughout America, more and more are attempting to take matters into their own hands. At least once a day, an American woman contacts Woman on Web, an abortion-pill-by-mail service based in the Netherlands. These emails, in which women beg for help, are nearly identical to letters sent to contraception activists in 1917—nearly 60 years before abortion was legalized in the US.
Last winter, before Chelsea Manning had been pardoned by President Obama, she corresponded with Broadly through the mail from a maximum-security facility in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. She's been free for six months now (and has managed to become one of the best people on Twitter in that time period!). This profile, written before anyone knew she'd be free, reveals the depth of her courage and resilience. As she wrote to us then: "If you can still fight when the odds appear to be against you, and when it looks like you might be fighting it alone, then you are genuinely brave."
In this piece, Amanda Knox—who was imprisoned in Italy between 2007 and 2011 for a murder she didn't commit—shines a light on the nuanced, often very tender relationships that incarcerated women share with each other, reflecting on her friendship with an Italian woman she met in prison. "Relationships in prison are sometimes about sex, but more often they're about human connection," she writes. "Because prison is an awful place: It is designed to deny people their desire to connect."
"Maladaptive daydreaming" is a little-known disorder; those who suffer from it are physically unable to stop daydreaming, consumed with vivid, intense fantasies to the extent that their real lives suffer. We spoke to the psychologist who first reported on maladaptive daydreaming, as well as several people who spend hours a day immersed in their own imaginations.
Possibly one of the bravest investigations ever undertaken by an adult: What happens when you attempt to learn to skateboard while surrounded by cool Williamsburg teens, some of whom are wearing bucket hats? This is part of a celebrated series of Gabby Bess trying new things—which also includes the paleo diet, crystal healing, and getting into the "daddy" discourse like two years late.