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7 Essays To Read: Volunteering At An Abortion Clinic, Patriarchy, And Stupid Questions

This week, Kaye Toal writes about volunteering at an abortion clinic and what she wishes people understood about abortions. Read that and other essays from Gawker, Harper's Magazine, Medium, and more.

Posted on November 6, 2015, at 3:29 p.m. ET

1. "Volunteering at an Abortion Clinic Made Me Lose Patience With the Abortion Debate" — BuzzFeed Life

Anyone who really wants to understand what’s at stake in the debate over abortion should spend some time outside the places where it happens. For two years, Kaye Toal's job was to walk patients from their cars to the door of an abortion clinic, shielding them from angry protesters. Those two years were exhausting and revealing. "There are protesters who claim they are there out of love, and maybe some of them are," writes Toal. "But the protesters I saw that day, and many days since, were not." Read it at BuzzFeed Life.
Haejin Park / BuzzFeed / Via buzzfeed.com

Anyone who really wants to understand what’s at stake in the debate over abortion should spend some time outside the places where it happens. For two years, Kaye Toal's job was to walk patients from their cars to the door of an abortion clinic, shielding them from angry protesters. Those two years were exhausting and revealing. "There are protesters who claim they are there out of love, and maybe some of them are," writes Toal. "But the protesters I saw that day, and many days since, were not." Read it at BuzzFeed Life.

2. "Dear 14-Year-Old Boy, You Are Not Entitled to Sex" — Medium

In a powerful letter addressed to his teenage self, Hanif Abdurraqib details everything he wishes he had been taught about sex. The letter criticizes the way boys are taught to become men, how they "become men" at the expense of women's bodies, and how patriarchy hurts not only women but men as well. "Patriarchy impacts everyone more severely than it impacts straight, cis-gendered men," Abdurraqib writes. "But it will also hurt you. It will also limit your imagination, the type of good that you allow yourself to be. It will limit your ability to love and be loved for far too many years." Read it at Medium.
skipsterling.com / Via medium.com

In a powerful letter addressed to his teenage self, Hanif Abdurraqib details everything he wishes he had been taught about sex. The letter criticizes the way boys are taught to become men, how they "become men" at the expense of women's bodies, and how patriarchy hurts not only women but men as well. "Patriarchy impacts everyone more severely than it impacts straight, cis-gendered men," Abdurraqib writes. "But it will also hurt you. It will also limit your imagination, the type of good that you allow yourself to be. It will limit your ability to love and be loved for far too many years." Read it at Medium.

3. "Winter Is a Black Hole: How I Deal With Seasonal Depression" — Gawker

Seasonal depression is a very real thing. In an essay for Gawker, Dayna Evans describes what it feels like to her. "November is usually busy enough to stave off the desperation that will hit later, thankfully. But the fear and paranoia are there: The sun is setting before 5 p.m. and one night spent bored and alone in the gathering dark might pull me under permanently." Though there's no foolproof remedy for the winter blues, Evans shares the ways in which she deals with seasonal depression. Her essay alone is a source of comfort. Read it at Gawker.
jimcookeillustration.tumblr.com / Via gawker.com

Seasonal depression is a very real thing. In an essay for Gawker, Dayna Evans describes what it feels like to her. "November is usually busy enough to stave off the desperation that will hit later, thankfully. But the fear and paranoia are there: The sun is setting before 5 p.m. and one night spent bored and alone in the gathering dark might pull me under permanently." Though there's no foolproof remedy for the winter blues, Evans shares the ways in which she deals with seasonal depression. Her essay alone is a source of comfort. Read it at Gawker.

4. "I Forgot to Find My Husband at a Black University" — BuzzFeed Ideas

Jamilah Lemieux was told to find the love of her life at Howard University. At that time, however, she barely liked herself. "It was hard to walk into the club or the ‘Caf with those pretty slim girls who had been high school dance captains and debutantes without feeling like I just didn’t have what it took to find that husband I had come to find," she writes in a piece for BuzzFeed Ideas. Read it here.
Chris Kindred for BuzzFeed News / Via buzzfeed.com

Jamilah Lemieux was told to find the love of her life at Howard University. At that time, however, she barely liked herself. "It was hard to walk into the club or the ‘Caf with those pretty slim girls who had been high school dance captains and debutantes without feeling like I just didn’t have what it took to find that husband I had come to find," she writes in a piece for BuzzFeed Ideas. Read it here.

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5. "The Zola Show and Why It Was Hard to Look Away" — The Cut

There's something strange about the way we reacted to the "Zola story" that broke on Twitter last week. It's a tale about a stripping trip to Florida gone horribly wrong — one in which a woman is forced into prostitution and a sex worker is outed against her wishes, among many other horrific events. Yet the public treated this narrative as entertainment. "Why are we not more disturbed by the horrifying acts that unfolded before us 140 characters at a time?," asks Anna Pulley in a piece for The Cut. "It’s especially troubling when one considers that we don’t generally, as a people, delight in such things." Read it at The Cut.
Christoph Wilhelm / Getty Images / Via nymag.com

There's something strange about the way we reacted to the "Zola story" that broke on Twitter last week. It's a tale about a stripping trip to Florida gone horribly wrong — one in which a woman is forced into prostitution and a sex worker is outed against her wishes, among many other horrific events. Yet the public treated this narrative as entertainment. "Why are we not more disturbed by the horrifying acts that unfolded before us 140 characters at a time?," asks Anna Pulley in a piece for The Cut. "It’s especially troubling when one considers that we don’t generally, as a people, delight in such things." Read it at The Cut.

6. "The Mother of All Questions" — Harper's Magazine

A few years ago, Rebecca Solnit gave a talk on Virginia Woolf, and during the Q&A that followed, the audience asked not about the writer's works or influence on literature but about whether or not Woolf should have had children. This question is something familiar to Solnit, who has been interrogated on whether or not she wants children before. For Harper's, Solnit reflects on society's tendency to ask all the wrong questions — and our tendency to seek happiness through one-size-fits-all recipes. Read it at Harper's Magazine.
Helena Perez García / Via Flickr: helenaperezgarcia

A few years ago, Rebecca Solnit gave a talk on Virginia Woolf, and during the Q&A that followed, the audience asked not about the writer's works or influence on literature but about whether or not Woolf should have had children. This question is something familiar to Solnit, who has been interrogated on whether or not she wants children before. For Harper's, Solnit reflects on society's tendency to ask all the wrong questions — and our tendency to seek happiness through one-size-fits-all recipes. Read it at Harper's Magazine.

7. "Is It Possible to Be Happy on Instagram?" — The New Republic

Instagram and the ways in which the photo-sharing platform is making everyone miserable has reached peak fascination. In response to Essena O'Neill's denouncement of Instagram, Elizabeth Winkler contemplates the ways in which the app has and has not changed our lives — and the idea that living often includes performance and deception. Sometimes these 'grams, Winkler argues, "allow people to perform in a way that feels powerful to them, to show something that they’re often compelled to hide. Amidst all the faux happiness, it can be striking to see people acknowledge and display the less sunny sides of life." Read her defense of Instagram at The New Republic.
Jewel Samad / Getty Images / Via newrepublic.com

Instagram and the ways in which the photo-sharing platform is making everyone miserable has reached peak fascination. In response to Essena O'Neill's denouncement of Instagram, Elizabeth Winkler contemplates the ways in which the app has and has not changed our lives — and the idea that living often includes performance and deception. Sometimes these 'grams, Winkler argues, "allow people to perform in a way that feels powerful to them, to show something that they’re often compelled to hide. Amidst all the faux happiness, it can be striking to see people acknowledge and display the less sunny sides of life." Read her defense of Instagram at The New Republic.

Want to read more?

For next year: Scaachi Koul offers some tips on what to do when a racist comes to your Halloween party, and Meredith Talusan explains why trans women have complicated relationships with Halloween. Alex Mar describes her obsession with other-dimensional witch travel. Laurie Penny explains how to be a genderqueer feminist. John Paul Brammer recounts what happened when his childhood bully hit him up on a gay dating app. Kelley L. Carter and Sheridan Watson interviewed numerous celebrities on why they chose historically black colleges. Ariane Lange rewatched Charlie's Angels with her childhood best friends for an essay on girl trios and friendship. Daniel Dalton interviewed philosopher Mark Rowlands, pondering 6 important questions. He also recalls 9 lessons life taught him about crying while male. Meredith Talusan writes about how she stopped liking men from gay porn fantasies after her transition and what actually happens when trans people use public restrooms. Kirsten King sends a letter to her teenage self. Meghan Daum reveals what it's really like to be an editorial assistant in publishing. Lauren Paul remembers a childhood of struggling with her hair and identity. And finally, Bim Adewunmi praises the effortless diversity of Aziz Ansari's Master of None.

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