The author behind 'Mean Girls' studied boys too. We should listen to what she has to say.

Author and researcher Rosalind Wiseman calls herself a listener. Intimate conversations and interviews with hundreds of teen girls formed the basis for her hit book, "Queen Bees and Wannabes," about how to help teen girls survive the wild world of high school. The book, which was eventually turned into the blockbuster movie "Mean Girls," was lauded for its frighteningly accurate depiction of female bullying.

[rebelmouse-image 19530238 dam="1" original_size="408x230" caption="GIF from "Mean Girls."" expand=1]GIF from "Mean Girls."


By bringing an open mind to her research (she says she simply takes what young people say and translates it for adults), she exposed some important truths about the inner workings of "girl world" to parents everywhere. Since the success of "Queen Bees" and "Mean Girls," however, Wiseman has been doing work that she argues is even more exciting and important, and that's gotten far less attention: trying to understand adolescent and teenage boys.

It's work that's especially important as conversations around toxic masculinity and sexual harassment have become increasingly mainstream.

Wiseman says there are four key things she's learned in her conversations with hundreds of our country's future men about how we can better shape the next generation.

1. Listen to what young boys have to say.

It seems ironic, Wiseman says, to shout: "Hey, men need to have their voices heard!" After all, men's voices are heard almost everywhere. They quite literally get most of the speaking lines in movies (even movies about women), they hold over 80% of the seats in Congress, and in the business world, about 95% of CEO positions are filled by men. In the case of younger men, however, listening to what they have to say just might be the right thing to do.

"We think they talk a lot and take up a lot of space, but we don't often ask about their opinions," Wiseman explains. If we want to really make changes to the culture of masculinity as it pertains to boys, there's really no better way to make sure we're at least getting an accurate picture of how they see the world around them.

For her 2013 book, "Masterminds and Wingmen" (sort of the boy version of "Mean Girls"), Wiseman spoke in-depth with nearly 200 teenage boys. Contrary to expectations, Wiseman says she found many were more than eager for a chance to finally share their fears and insecurities.

There are plenty of problems with the way boys in our country are raised and problems with how we've defined what it means to "be a man." But figuring out how to fix things shouldn't be an adults-only conversation.

As Wiseman says: "It's absurd to me to tell boys what their lives are like without talking to them first."

2. Don't wait to have important conversations about what they should do if they see abuse happening around them.

[rebelmouse-image 19530239 dam="1" original_size="1200x634" caption="Photo by Dariusz Sankowski/Pixabay." expand=1]Photo by Dariusz Sankowski/Pixabay.

"There is a minority of boys and men that, for whatever reason, feel they have a right to abuse people," Wiseman explains. "Through a combination of social intelligence and privilege, they know the majority of boys and young men who don't like what they're doing are going to be silent."

Many parents refuse to even consider that their own son will eventually be faced with a challenging situation — hearing his buddies trading vulgar, sexist jokes, or seeing a teacher have inappropriate contact with a student. They certainly don't think he'd have no idea what to do or that he might be a perpetrator himself.

The majority of teens will witness some kind of abuse of power at some point, Wiseman says. We shouldn't wait until after the fact to let them know we expect them to stand up for what's right, even if it's hard.

"We have to look at them as partners in this," she says. "Tell them 'I just want you to be able to know where I stand and where my expectations are for you.'"

3. Now for the hard part  — parents and adults have to model upstanding behavior for boys to see.

Talking the talk is easy. But walking the walk is what truly matters.

Parents frequently reach out to Wiseman with the same problem: "What if I go to [holiday] dinner and Uncle Bob says some racist, homophobic comment?"

Let's face it: a lot of us freeze up, change the subject, or otherwise don't want to deal with a potential confrontation, so we laugh it off or brush it under the rug. (Billy Bush, anyone?) Then we're shocked when boys do the same thing around friends making racist or sexist or homophobic comments.

It's OK that we're not perfect parents or role models 100% of the time, but it's important to acknowledge those missteps to the boys who look up to us when they happen. Standing up for what's right in the moment is the right thing to do, but it sure can be easier to wait until the car ride home to tell your kids, "Hey, you know, what Uncle Bob said wasn't OK."

Don't let yourself off the hook though, Wiseman urges. When you tell your kid that what Uncle Bob did was wrong, own up to your own passiveness as well. Even a simple, "I didn't handle that the way I should have," can be enough.

"Just having that conversation makes it so much more likely that your son will come to you the next time he's in a tough situation," Wiseman advises.

4. Encourage them to expect better of themselves.

[rebelmouse-image 19530240 dam="1" original_size="4218x3290" caption="Photo by NatureAddict/Pixabay." expand=1]Photo by NatureAddict/Pixabay.

Wiseman says one of the inherent and tragic flaws in the way America has defined masculinity is that caring about, well, pretty much anything makes you weak. And if you're weak, you're not really a man.

Caring about something like feminism? Sexual harassment? Social justice? It can make a man an utter outcast in some social circles.

"That is a travesty," Wiseman laments. "I say to high school boys all the time … 'a man of honor is someone who shuts their mouth when horrible things are going on around you? How did that become the definition of what a man is?'"

"I wouldn't put up with that if I were you," she tells them. "You're better than this; you're stronger than this."

In response, she sees them sit up a little taller and stand a little prouder. It's something they don't hear enough.

13 years later, people are still talking about "Mean Girls" and what it says about how our society treats girls. Let's hope Wiseman's work on "boy world" has the same kind of effect.

Young men aren't always going to do the right thing. They'll fold under the pressure of having to stand up to their best friend. They'll laugh at an offensive joke. They'll make mistakes.

And so will we, as teachers, parents, and role models.

"We have to acknowledge that we suck," Wiseman concludes.

"We have to say to boys, 'Hey, I get that I'm holding you to a high standard. I understand that you don't have a lot of good role models.' It doesn't mean we're going to give up."

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan
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Growing up in Indonesia, Farwiza Farhan always loved the ocean. It's why she decided to study marine biology. But the more she learned, the more she realized that it wasn't enough to work in the ocean. She needed to protect it.

"I see the ocean ecosystem collapsing due to overfishing and climate change," she says. "I felt powerless and didn't know what to do [so] I decided to pursue my master's in environmental management."

This choice led her to work in environmental protection, and it was fate that brought her back home to the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra, Indonesia — one of the last places on earth where species such as tigers, orangutans, elephants and Sumatran rhinoceros still live in the wild today. It's also home to over 300 species of birds, eight of which are endemic to the region.

"When I first flew over the Leuser Ecosystem, I saw an intact landscape, a contiguous block of lush, diverse vegetation stretched through hills and valleys. The Leuser is truly a majestic landscape — one of a kind."

She fell in love. "I had my first orangutan encounter in the Leuser Ecosystem," she remembers. "As the baby orangutan swung from the branches, seemingly playing and having fun, the mother was observing us. I was moved by the experience."

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan

"Over the years," she continues, "the encounters with wildlife, with people, and with the ecosystem itself compounded. My curiosity and interest towards nature have turned into a deep desire to protect this biodiversity."

So, she began working for a government agency tasked to protect it. After the agency dismantled for political reasons in the country, Farhan decided to create the HAkA Foundation.

"The goals [of HAkA] are to protect, conserve and restore the Leuser Ecosystem while at the same time catalyzing and enabling just economic prosperity for the region," she says.

"Wild areas and wild places are rare these days," she continues. "We think gold and diamonds are rare and therefore valuable assets, but wild places and forests, like the Leuser Ecosystems, are the kind of natural assets that essentially provide us with life-sustaining services."

"The rivers that flow through the forest of the Leuser Ecosystem are not too dissimilar to the blood that flows through our veins. It might sound extreme, but tell me — can anyone live without water?"

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan

So far, HAkA has done a lot of work to protect the region. The organization played a key role in strengthening laws that bring the palm oil companies that burn forests to justice. In fact, their involvement led to an unprecedented, first-of-its-kind court decision that fined one company close to $26 million.

In addition, HAkA helped thwart destructive infrastructure plans that would have damaged critical habitat for the Sumatran elephants and rhinos. They're working to prevent mining destruction by helping communities develop alternative livelihoods that don't damage the forests. They've also trained hundreds of police and government rangers to monitor deforestation, helping to establish the first women ranger teams in the region.

"We have supported multiple villages to create local regulation on river and land protection, effectively empowering communities to regain ownership over their environment."

She is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year. The donation she receives as a nominee is being awarded to the Ecosystem Impact Foundation. The small local foundation is working to protect some of the last remaining habitats of the critically endangered leatherback turtle that lives on the west coast of Sumatra.

"The funds will help the organization keep their ranger employed so they can continue protecting the islands, endangered birds and sea turtle habitats," she says.

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen. Do you know an inspiring woman like Farwiza? Nominate her today!

Jennifer Lawrence

After being a Hollywood staple, Jennifer Lawrence vanished from the public eye following the release of "X-Men Dark Phoenix" in 2019.

Sure, the pandemic had something to do with that … in addition to the usual way our society treats Hollywood "it" girls, once it grows accustomed to the flavor. But in a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Lawrence opens up about some other reasons she chose to step away for a time.

Lawrence went from being a highly sought-after Oscar-winning actress to starring in less-than-successful films like "Passengers," "Mother!" and "Red Sparrow." The films were not only poorly received among critics, but commercially as well.

"I was not pumping out the quality that I should have," she told VF. "I just think everybody had gotten sick of me. I'd gotten sick of me. It had just gotten to a point where I couldn't do anything right. If I walked a red carpet, it was, 'Why didn't she run?'"

So then, why do it? As any workaholic would know, it's about so much more than money.

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Courtesy of Ms. Lopez
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Marcella Lopez didn't always want to be a teacher — but once she became one, she found her passion. That's why she's stayed in the profession for 23 years, spending the past 16 at her current school in Los Angeles, where she mostly teaches children of color.

"I wanted purpose, to give back, to live a life of public service, to light the spark in others to think critically and to be kind human beings," she says. "More importantly, I wanted my students to see themselves when they saw me, to believe they could do it too."

Ms. Lopez didn't encounter a teacher of color until college. "That moment was life-changing for me," she recalls. "It was the first time I felt comfortable in my own skin as a student. Always remembering how I felt in that college class many years ago has kept me grounded year after year."

It's also guided her teaching. Ms. Lopez says she always selects authors and characters that represent her students and celebrate other ethnicities so students can relate to what they read while also learning about other cultures.

"I want them to see themselves in the books they read, respect those that may not look like them and realize they may have lots in common with [other cultures] they read about," she says.

She also wants her students to have a different experience in school than she did.

When Ms. Lopez was in first grade, she "was speaking in Spanish to a new student, showing her where the restroom was when a staff member overheard our conversation and directed me to not speak in Spanish," she recalls. "In 'this school,' we only speak English," she remembers them saying. "From that day forward, I was made to feel less-than and embarrassed to speak the language of my family, my ancestors; the language I learned to speak first."

Part of her job, she says, is to find new ways to promote acceptance and inclusion in her classroom.

"The worldwide movement around social justice following the death of George Floyd amplified my duty as a teacher to learn how to discuss racial equity in a way that made sense to my little learners," she says. "It ignited me to help them see themselves in a positive light, to make our classroom family feel more inclusive, and make our classroom a safe place to have authentic conversations."

One way she did that was by raising money through DonorsChoose to purchase books and other materials for her classroom that feature diverse perspectives.

Courtesy of Ms. Lopez

The Allstate Foundation recently partnered with DonorsChoose to create a Racial Justice and Representation category to encourage teachers like Ms. Lopez to create projects that address racial equity in the classroom. To launch the category, The Allstate Foundation matched all donations to these projects for a total of $1.5 million. Together, they hope to drive awareness and funding to projects that bring diversity, inclusion, and identity-affirming learning materials into classrooms across the country. You can see current projects seeking funding here.

When Ms. Lopez wanted to incorporate inclusive coloring books into her lesson plans, The Allstate Foundation fully funded her project so she was able to purchase them.

"I'm a lifelong learner, striving to be my best version of myself and always working to inspire my little learners to do the same," she says. Each week, Ms. Lopez and the students would focus on a page in the book and discuss its message. And she plans to do the same again this school year.

"DonorsChoose has been a gamechanger for my students. Without the support of all the donors that come together on this platform, we wouldn't have a sliver of what I've been able to provide for my students, especially during the pandemic," she says.

"My passion is to continue striving to be excellent, and to continue to find ways to use literature as an anchor, depicting images that reflect my students," she says.

To help teachers like Ms. Lopez drive this important mission forward, donate on DonorsChoose.

Courtesy of Ms. Lopez

This story was originally published on The Mighty and originally appeared here on 07.21.17


Most people imagine depression equals “really sad," and unless you've experienced depression yourself, you might not know it goes so much deeper than that. Depression expresses itself in many different ways, some more obvious than others. While some people have a hard time getting out of bed, others might get to work just fine — it's different for everyone.

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Photo by Vanessa Garcia from Pexels

A professor's message to students has gone viral.

If you know any teachers, you probably know how utterly exhausted they all are, from preschools all the way up through college. Pandemic schooling has been rough, to say the least, and teachers have borne the brunt of the impact it's had on students.

Most teachers I've known have bent over backwards to help students succeed during this time, taking kids' mental and emotional health into consideration and extending the flexibility and grace we all could use. But teachers have their own mental and emotional needs, too, and at some point, something's gotta give.

A college student posted screenshots of a professor's message on Twitter with the comment "someone PLEASE check on my professor." It's simply incredible.

The message reads:

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