18 men opened up about what it's like being a man in rural America.

Brendan Stermer grew up in rural Minnesota. So when he studied abroad in South Korea during college, he found his world turned upside down.

All photos by Pioneer Public Television, used with permission.

A student at the University of Minnesota in Morris, Stermer spent a year learning about Confucian philosophy in South Korea. Then he came home and got a job at a local produce warehouse.


The two worlds couldn't have been more different, and neither could the people inhabiting them.

The men in Stermer's town and his coworkers drove pickup trucks. They lifted weights. They owned guns.

His male friends in South Korea had been sentimental and open about their feelings. They encouraged him to spruce up his wardrobe and buy expensive facial moisturizers.

As a 21-year-old guy just coming into his own, Stermer felt more than a little confused about what "being a man" really meant. So he decided to ask a few of the men he knew.

Armed with his iPhone, Stermer set out to interview the men who inhabited his rural stomping grounds about what being a man means to them.

"One defining characteristic of manhood in rural Minnesota is that people don't like to talk about themselves," he said. "I definitely got turned down a lot."

But slowly, Stermer was able to gather a motley crew of guys who were willing to open up on camera for the project, which would be turned into a five-episode web series for a local public television station.

Cops, cowboys, college students, you name it. The questions were simple and broad. And though many of the volunteers were a little reluctant once the camera started rolling, they eventually warmed up.

Stermer said it's hard to draw many conclusions from his survey since the sample size was so small, but he learned a few important things nonetheless:

1. There was a lot of confusion and disagreement on the "role" of men in a changing society.

The question that drew the widest range of responses from the men was: "What is the role of men in family and community life?"

Some felt strongly that men should be leaders, breadwinners, and providers. Others didn't think there was (or should be) any difference between how men and women were expected to behave.

Stermer said this debate continued during a public screening of his series of interviews.

"Some people were saying, 'Oh, that gives me so much hope that we've finally moved beyond this gender binary,'" Stermer said. "Which was contrasted by other people saying, 'That really causes me to feel grief because I feel like we're forgetting about the reality of the body.'"

He said he personally believes in moving beyond rigid and antiquated ideas about gender, but by listening to the different perspectives of those in his community, he at least has come to understand both points of view a bit more.

2. He noticed a lot of men in America are somewhat emotionally isolated.

In one of the episodes, Stermer asks the men, "Is there anything you don't talk to your male friends about?" The responses were striking.

One man said, "I don't share a whole lot of my private life or anything."

"Some of the softer side of the things that we do on the job," one of the police officers responded, "[like] breaking down in tears after you're at an accident scene involving minor children, infants."

It's no surprise that many men have trouble opening up, but Stermer says he was definitely affected by talking to so many men who didn't feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings with each other.

"I hope that we make space for emotional vulnerability and weakness in our perception of masculinity in our country," Stermer said. "And that more men will rediscover experiences like passion and grief and interdependence not as feminine experiences, but as fundamentally human."

3. Talking about themselves and about men's issues seemed to bring the men closer together.

It wasn't all heavy debate on gender roles and repressed feelings. In one of the more lighthearted episodes, the men share something about themselves that others might find "unmanly."

One guy joked about how he can't grow a beard. Two of the older men shared a laugh over their shared distaste for beer.

"Every group that I interviewed had a really good time," Stermer said. "I think they came out of the experience feeling closer to each other."

When all was said and done, Stermer wound up even more confused about what makes someone a man.

But that's OK, he said. In fact, maybe that's the whole point.

Stermer's goal was not to come away with clear answers, but to reflect on his own views of masculinity and to encourage others to do the same. In the end, he was encouraged to find so many different, flexible ideas of what manliness is all about.

"I think I have a more nuanced understanding of my identity as a man now," he said. "But it's definitely a topic I have a lot more questions about and I want to continue to explore."

Check out the first episode of Stermer's series, "Manhood in Rural America," or check out all the interviews online at Pioneer Public Television.

Few child actors ever get to star in an award-winning film, much less win a prestigious award for their performance. That fact appeared to hit home for 8-year-old Alan Kim, as he broke down in tears accepting his Critics' Choice Award for Best Young Actor/Actress, making for one of the sweetest moments in awards show history.

Kim showed up to the awards (virtually, of course) decked out in a tuxedo, and his parents had even laid out a red carpet in their entryway to give him a taste of the real awards show experience. When his name was announced as the Critics' Choice winner for his role in the film "Minari," his reaction was priceless.

Grinning from ear to ear, Kim started off his acceptance speech by thanking "the critics who voted" and his family. But as soon as he started naming his family members, he burst into tears. "Oh my goodness, I'm crying," he said. Through sobs, he kept going with his list, naming members of the cast, the production company, and the crew that worked on the film.

"I hope I will be in other movies," he added. Then, the cutest—he pinched his own cheeks and asked, "Is this a dream? I hope it's not a dream."

Keep Reading Show less
True

We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

This sweet story is brought to you by Sumo Citrus®. This oversized mandarin is celebrated for its incredible taste and distinct looks. Sumo Citrus is super-sweet, enormous, easy-to-peel, seedless, and juicy without the mess. Fans of the fruit are obsessive, stocking up from January to April when Sumo Citrus is in stores. To learn more, visit sumocitrus.com and @sumocitrus.

Social media spats usually end in ugly words or blocking people—unless you're Patton Oswalt.

Actor and comedian Patton Oswalt has made a name for himself off screen as a blunt yet caring, compassionate human. His raw openness after his wife's unexpected passing and his willingness to engage in conversations about depression and dadhood after her death has touched people's hearts and opened people's minds.

And once again on Twitter, Oswalt has proven that he is unquestionably one of the most kind-hearted dudes in Hollywood.

Keep Reading Show less
Tory Burch

Courtesy of Tory Burch

True

This March marks one year since the start of the pandemic… and it's been an incredibly difficult year: Over 500,000 people have died and hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs. But the pandemic's economic downturn has been disproportionately affecting women because they are more likely to work in hard-hit industries, such as hospitality or entertainment, and many of them have been forced to leave their jobs due to the lack of childcare.

But throughout all that hardship, women have, over and over again, found ways to help one another and solve problems.

"Around the world, women have stepped up and found ways to help where it is needed most," says Tory Burch, an entrepreneur who started her own business in 2004.

Burch knows a thing or two about empowering women: After seeing the many obstacles that women in business face — even before the pandemic — she created the Tory Burch Foundation in 2009 to empower women entrepreneurs.

And now, for International Women's Day, her company is launching a global campaign with Upworthy to celebrate the women around the world who give back and create real change in their communities.

"I hope the creativity and resilience of these women, and the amazing ways they have found to have real impact, will inspire and energize others as much as they have me," Burch says.

This year's Empowered Women certainly are inspiring:

Shalini SamtaniCourtesy of Shalini Samtani

Take, for example, Shalini Samtani. When her daughter was diagnosed with a rare immune disorder, she spent a lot of time in the hospital, which caused her to quickly realize that there wasn't a single company in the toy industry servicing the physical or emotional needs of the 3 million hospitalized children across America every year. She was determined to change that — so she created The Spread the Joy Foundation to deliver free play kits to pediatric patients all around the country.

Varsha YajmanCourtesy of Varsha Yajman

Varsha Yajman is another one of this year's nominees. She is just 18 years old, and yet she has been diligently fighting to build awareness and action for climate justice for the last seven years by leading school strikes, working as a paralegal with Equity Generations Lawyers, and speaking to CEOs from Siemen's and several big Australian banks at AGMs.

Caitlin MurphyCourtesy of Caitlin Murphy

Caitlin Murphy, meanwhile, stepped up in a big way during the pandemic by pivoting her business — Global Gateway Logistics — to secure and transport over 2 million masks to hospitals and senior care facilities across the country. She also created the Gateway for Good program, which purchased and donated 10,000 KN95 masks for local small businesses, charities, cancer patients and their families, immunocompromised, and churches in the area.

Simone GordonCourtesy of Simone Gordon

Simone Gordon, a domestic violence survivor and single mom, wanted to pay it forward after she received help getting essentials and tuition assistance — so she created the Instagram account @TheBlackFairyGodMotherOfficial and nonprofit to provide direct assistance to families in need. During the pandemic alone, they have raised over $50,000 for families and they have provided emergency assistance — in the form of groceries — for numerous women and families of color.

Victoria SanusiCourtesy of Victoria Sanusi

Victoria Sanusi started Black Gals Livin' with her friend Jas and the podcast has been an incredibly powerful way of destigmatizing mental health for numerous listeners. The podcast quickly surpassed a million listens, was featured on Michaela Coel's "I May Destroy You," won podcast of the year at the Brown Sugar Awards, and was named one of Elle Magazine's best podcasts of 2020.

And Upworthy and the Tory Burch are just getting started. They are still searching the globe for more extraordinary women who are making an impact in their communities.

Do you know one? If you do, nominate her now. If she's selected, she could receive $5,000 to give to a nonprofit of her choice through the Tory Burch Foundation. Submissions are being accepted on a rolling basis — and one Empowered woman will be selected each month starting in April.

Nominate her now at www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen.