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Obama quietly signed a bill for new parents everywhere when we weren't looking.

This bill is helping to change antiquated gender norms within families.

Obama quietly signed a bill for new parents everywhere when we weren't looking.

If you’ve ever had to change a child’s diaper in a public bathroom, you know it can be a nightmare if the right equipment isn’t there.

But the Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation (BABIES) Act is a step toward changing that.  

The BABIES Act, quietly signed by President Barack Obama in October 2016, will expand the number of baby changing stations in all publicly accessible federal buildings. This means that buildings like post offices, Social Security offices, and courthouses will have at least one baby changing station on each floor, and they will be in both men and women’s bathrooms.


The bill received mostly bipartisan support, too, a welcome form of relief during such a partisan time.

Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images.

The act is "important to ensure that [bathrooms] are as open, as accessible, and as family-friendly as possible," David N. Cicilline, the Democratic congressman who sponsored the bill wrote in his press release.      

Aside from added convenience, this new bill is also a step toward breaking down a notorious form of sexism.  

Historically speaking, changing tables have more commonly been in women’s bathrooms, further perpetuating the stereotype that women should be responsible for child care outside of the household.

But by putting changing tables in men's bathrooms, too, we can break down the idea that women should always be the primary caretakers for children.  

In 2015, actor Ashton Kutcher launched this discussion publicly by asking stores to make changing stations available for men and women.

His Change.org petition called out the lack of changing tables in mens bathrooms as "gender stereotyping."        

"This assumption" he said, "is gender stereotyping and companies should be supporting all parents that shop at their stores equally — no matter their gender."

Kutcher's simple act led Democratic Sen. Brad Hoylman to launch a bill in 2015 that would make changing tables required in all public restrooms in New York — such as restaurants and theaters — regardless of gender.

While the particular bill is still in committee for the city of New York, Obama's BABIES Act will help change bathrooms in federal buildings all over the U.S. This is good news because it's clear that politicians are realizing that not making family needs accessible to all is a form of gender discrimination.        

The act is also a way of breaking down hypermasculinity, too.  

Hypermasculinty, a term that expresses the exaggeration of stereotypical male behavior such as physical strength, stoicism, and aggression, is often used to put men in a box, ultimately negatively affecting them and those around them.  

Photo via iStock.

When we push the antiquated ideas that women work with the children and men serve as babysitters, we add unnecessary pressure to moms, but we also further perpetuate the idea that being a caring and attentive father somehow makes someone less of a man — an idea that couldn't be further from the truth.          

And this isn't just important for heterosexual couples, either.

Gender norms also plague same-sex relationships. Male same-sex couples, often under pressure to follow archaic masculine or feminine roles, will now have safer and more accessible options for taking care of their little ones in public.    

The bill, which was originally introduced in April, is also a pleasant reminder that our government can in fact work for us when we put partisanship aside and work to improve the lives of citizens around us.    

"This is how government should work to make commonsense reforms that make life easier for the people we serve," Cicilline said.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less