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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 No commensurate movement for men who are still generally locked into the same rigid, outdated model of masculinity and it's killing us."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"Too many boys are trapped in the same suffocating, outdated model of masculinity, where manhood is measured in strength, where there is no way to be vulnerable without being emasculated, where manliness is about having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that's been made a number of times before by writers like Bryan Epps, Lauren Sandler, and Jennifer Wright: Society's outdated vision of masculinity can be harmful.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."

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

Screenshot via Technorites/YouTube

Most of what we hear about climate change are the challenges and potential disasters it will lead to if not mitigated. What we hear less about are the odd ways in which it's already altering our world—sometimes in big, visible ways.

Since satellites began recording Arctic sea ice levels in 1979, scientists have expressed concern about the melting ice. Not only does the planet rely on Arctic ice for regulating weather patterns, but wildlife who call the Arctic their home rely on it for survival. Polar bears are considered vulnerable to the impact of climate change, and though their numbers are holding fairly steady overall, their movement patterns are changing as their icy habitat melts.

At the same time, the movement patterns of their southern cousins, grizzly bears, are also changing. Grizzlies can be found as far south as Wyoming and up north in Alaska. But as global temperatures rise, grizzlies have moved farther north, even going as far as the high Arctic.

With polar bears moving south to find land and grizzly bears moving north to find colder temps, the two are crossing paths. The birds and the bees habit applies to bears, and since polar bears and grizzly bears share similar DNA, they are able to breed.

And they have. Hence the hybrid species known as the "pizzly bear." Also known as "grolar bear". Also known as "polizzly." (If we have to deal with a climate emergency, we can at least take a moment to appreciate getting the word polizzly out of it.)

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.