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Michael Ian Black makes some great points about how we raise boys.

There's nothing wrong with healthy masculinity, but there's a toxic variety as well.

Michael Ian Black makes some great points about how we raise boys.

"Boys are broken," wrote comedian Michael Ian Black on Feb. 14th.

Just hours earlier, a gunman shot and killed 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The tragedy led Black to get a bit introspective about his gender and speculate the role society's more toxic messages play in these much-too-frequent massacres.

"Until we fix men, we need to fix the gun problem," he wrote on Twitter. "The last 50 years redefined womanhood: Women were taught they can be anything. No commensurate movement for men who are still generally locked into the same rigid, outdated model of masculinity and it's killing us."


A week later, The New York Times published an op-ed by Black tackling the issue in more detail.

"Too many boys are trapped in the same suffocating, outdated model of masculinity, where manhood is measured in strength, where there is no way to be vulnerable without being emasculated, where manliness is about having power over others," Black wrote. "They are trapped, and they don’t even have the language to talk about how they feel about being trapped, because the language that exists to discuss the full range of human emotion is still viewed as sensitive and feminine."

The point he was making was that we aren't doing enough as a society to encourage and support boys and men emotionally. He's right — and there's data to back him up.

On March 7, LGBTQ student organization GLSEN shared some interesting findings related to Black's argument. It's the same point that's been made a number of times before by writers like Bryan Epps, Lauren Sandler, and Jennifer Wright: Society's outdated vision of masculinity can be harmful.

The argument is not "anti-men" or "anti-boys," but a plea to provide the necessary support to sidestep toxic masculinity.

According to GLSEN, a study of the 31 mass school shootings between 1995 and 2015 found that "each shooter was male and all experienced challenges to their performance of masculinity, through homophobia and other forms of gender policing," to which they responded by trying to "prove their tormentors wrong."

Disturbingly, it looks as though teachers are actually getting less involved in trying to protect their students from bullying.

Creating an environment where bullies thrive unchecked is bad for all students. When that bullying centers on how boys express their masculinity, it simply results in more bullies and, occasionally, violence.

The way we talk to and about boys fosters unhealthy personal expectations, leaving many to feel isolated, alone, and afraid to seek help when they need it.

"Globally, boys are allowed far less space than girls to act outside the norms forced upon them," GLSEN tweeted.

Of course, as the group notes, "most boys experience some gender policing and don't commit acts of mass violence like in Parkland." It's not meant to be an excuse for atrocities, but maybe a bit of an explanation.

There's nothing wrong with being a man, but maybe we do need to rethink what it means to be one.

"Our society's typical notion of what it means to be a man might keep boys from reaching out or accepting help," GLSEN tweeted, continuing:

"It may also lead them to assert masculinity via weapons that are often exalted as symbols and tools of masculine strength and power. ... There is no one cause of mass school shootings. Nor should there be one response. Yet, for the wellbeing of young people of all genders, it's crucial for EVERYONE (in schools and elsewhere) to expand our ideas of what being a man can and should be."

"We know ourselves to be men, but don't know how to be our whole selves," Black tweeted.

The last two tweets from his thread tell the whole story — the fragility, the fear, the need for help. Having these tough, honest conversations, however, are a great place to start changing the world for the better, for children of all genders, not just boys.

"We’re terrified of being viewed as something other than men. We know ourselves to be men, but don’t know how to be our whole selves. A lot of us (me included) either shut off or experience deep shame or rage. Or all three. Again: Men are terrified," Black wrote. "Even talking about this topic invites ridicule because it’s so scary for most men (and women). Men are adrift and nobody is talking about it and nobody’s doing anything about it and it’s killing us."

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
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Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

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Two weeks ago, we watched a pro-Trump mob storm the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overthrow the results of a U.S. election and keep Donald Trump in power. And among those insurrectionists were well-known adherents of QAnon, nearly every image of the crowd shows people wearing Q gear or carrying Q flags, and some of the more frightening elements we saw tie directly into QAnon beliefs.

Since hints of it first started showing up in social media comments several years ago, I've been intrigued—and endlessly frustrated—by the phenomenon of QAnon. At first, it was just a few fringey whacko conspiracy theorists I could easily roll my eyes at and ignore, but as I started seeing elements of it show up more and more frequently from more and more people, alarm bells started ringing.

Holy crap, there are a lot of people who actually believe this stuff.

Eventually, it got personal. A QAnon adherent on Twitter kept commenting on my tweets, pushing bizarro Q ideas on many of my posts. The account didn't use a real name, but the profile was classic QAnon, complete with the #WWG1WGA. ("Where we go one, we go all"—a QAnon rallying cry.) I thought it might be a bot, so I blocked them. Later, I discovered that it was actually one of my own extended family members.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.