Hey ladies, you know that uncomfortable moment when you're at a bar with your girlfriends and some sketchy dude comes over to hit on one of you?

Maybe this dude elbows his way into your conversation or maybe he leans too close and tries to buy a round of drinks. Then maybe he not-so-subtly drapes a sweaty hand on one of your shoulders? Yeah, it sucks.


Image via iStock

If that sounds familiar to you, then you'll probably recognize what happens next because it's kind of awesome: Your friends close ranks and block the dude's unwanted approach.

Even more awesome? This behavior isn't limited to humans.

Scientists at the Primate Research Institute at Kyoto University have observed female bonobos employing similar behaviors when a female in their group feels threatened by a male.

In fact, according to a four-year study on bonobos (cousins to chimpanzees) conducted in the Congo, female bonobos purposely form all-female groups to keep aggressive males at bay.

Females of all ages from different families would come together in these groups, with the older bonobos looking out for the younger ones by keeping them in the center of a protective circle. Researchers even found that female bonobos from different families were incredibly tolerant of one another, and that female-on-female bonobo aggression was surprisingly rare.

Bonobos females holding each other. Photo via Georges Gobet/Getty Images.

Nahoko Tokuyama, the leader of the study, believes this ability to get along is the key to female dominance in the bonobo population.

In species that display what humans might call "stereotypically gendered behavior," males are more often observed using aggressive tactics to coerce copulation and/or acquire higher social status. This could be anything from a male trying to mate with a female to a male bonobo feeding on a tree that a female bonobo has claimed as hers.

Sound familiar? Yeah.

But in the Kyoto University study, researchers noticed female bonobo grouping together to prevent this kind of male aggression. They called these groups "female coalitions," but you or I might describe them as "deep female friendships."

If there's one thing males in pretty much every species know, it's not to mess with a group of angry women. Photo by Mark Dumont/Flickr.

If one female in a coalition attacked a male for any reason, the rest would follow suit and come to her aid.

According to Tokuyama, 69% of these female coalitions were observed forming after or during an incident of aggressive male behavior.

What's more, female coalitions rarely (if ever) lose to a male aggressor, and because the male bonobos know they can't win, they're less prone to acting out with aggression or violence in the first place.

"Males frequently direct display and charge toward females, but they seldom attack females physically, even though males are bigger," Tokuyama told Upworthy.

A coalition of female bonobos attacking an offending male. GIF via animal coalition/YouTube.

Of course, meeting aggression with aggression might not sound like the best approach to conflict resolution. And this isn't to say that bonobos of all genders are inherently violent either. But these female coalitions have been so effective that they've virtually eliminated violent outbreaks in the bonobo population.

GIF from "Game of Thrones."

Another reason researchers think bonobo groups are less aggressive than their chimp cousins? Sex. Lots of it.

Researchers have observed bonobos engaging in all kinds of sexual acts — not just heterosexual intercourse. They're down with everything from same-sex sex to masturbation to oral sex to group sex and also, uhhh, rubbing each others' genitals as a form of casual greeting when a new group comes into the area.

We humans might be inclined to call that "kinky." But to them, it's just a very, very friendly way of saying, "Hello, how are you today?"

Self-explanatory. Photo by Jaume F. Lalana/Flickr.

Of course, we can't know for certain whether bonobos are actually engaging in this behavior for pleasure.

But whatever the reason, it has helped to decrease the number of tense confrontations between individuals and groups. When everybody's gettin' it on on the reg — for pleasure, not for force — then the whole group is generally calmer and less violent.

Contrast this to the observed behavior of their chimpanzee cousins. They have plenty of sex, but theirs appears to be more about power and dominance than personal or shared pleasure. They're known to engage in rape, murder, and infanticide, and they are more likely to have violent interactions with newcomers.

(Again: sound familiar?)

Anthropological data analyzed by neuropsychologist James Prescott suggests societies that are more sexually open are also less likely to be violent. The key to understanding this correlation, however, is that it's the society as a whole that is more sexually open and not just a small percentage of individuals.

Photo by Ted/Flickr.

So, to bring it back to that guy approaching a group of women at the bar: is there anything we as humans can learn from bonobos?

It's pretty clear the combination of female coalitions of bonobos defending their own, and bonobos of all genders engaging in casual sex seems to have resulted in a less violent ape society. (In this case, let's assume that "sex" means "pleasure and fulfillment.)

While bonobos' behavior doesn't exactly translate to modern human society, it is an important reminder that if humans work to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to feel fulfilled and to feel pleasure on a regular basis, we may find ourselves living in a less violent, less aggressive society.

It's really as simple as that.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

This article originally appeared on November 5, 2013


When I saw these incredible photos Angelo Merendino took of his wife, Jennifer, as she battled breast cancer, I felt that I shouldn't be seeing this snapshot of their intimate, private lives.





















The photos humanize the face of cancer and capture the difficulty, fear, and pain that they experienced during the difficult time.

But as Angelo commented: "These photographs do not define us, but they are us."

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

A group of around 20 moms gathered at a Boston area high school to vent their frustrations loudly.

The pandemic has been hard on everyone, but there are certain groups of people who have faced particularly intense challenges these past two years. Healthcare workers? For sure. Teachers? Definitely. Parents? Um, yes.

Moms specifically? Yesssss.

It's hard to describe how hard navigating the pandemic with kids has been. Figuring out childcare when schools and daycare centers shut down, managing kids' remote or hybrid schooling, constantly making decisions about what's safe and what's not, dealing with the inconsistency and chaos of it all, weighing risks with who is vaccinated and who isn't—none of it has been easy. Many parents are also raising kids with mental, emotional, behavioral or physical challenges that have only been made harder by pandemic life.

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Peter Dinklage in 2013.

Disney has taken another step toward diversifying its iconic princesses by casting Rachel Zegler to play Snow White in its upcoming live-action version of the Grimms’ fairy tale. Zegler’s mother is of Colombian descent and her father has Polish roots. The 20-year-old actress recently wowed audiences in Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story.”

Disney has also announced that Halle Bailey, a Black actress, will play Ariel in its upcoming live-action version of “The Little Mermaid.”

Disney’s big push toward inclusivity in the casting of its princesses is definitely a welcome move, but according to actor Peter Dinklage, the Mouse may be missing the forest for the trees.

Dinklage, who was born with a form of dwarfism named achondroplasia, criticized Disney on the “WTF with Marc Maron” podcast for being hypocritical for focusing on race while completely missing the ball when it comes to people with disabilities.

"There's a lot of hypocrisy going on, I've gotta say, from being somebody who's a little bit unique," Dinklage told Maron.

"Really? Like what?" Maron asked. "What do you see?"


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