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The 'How would a male author describe you?' Twitter challenge is a lot of fun.

"She had an ass like a plump popsicle and I deigned to admire her."

Can male authors write powerful, strong, and accurate female characters? Totally. Do many struggle with it? Well...

Author Gwen C. Katz was scrolling through Twitter, reading a thread about members of marginalized groups advocating for more work written by marginalized individuals. Of course, it went haywire — especially when a man just had to jump in to assure others that he was every bit as capable of writing an accurate female character as any woman.

"I think writers should be able to write from any perspective as long as they can pull it off. It takes research, skill, and creativity, but if a good writer can't do those things, he/she isn't a good writer, right?" he wrote. "My book is a first-person [point-of-view] and the [main character] is a woman. I'm definitely not a woman. But it works because I was able to pull it off. I reject someone saying I couldn't write a female [main character] because I'm a male, because, well, I just did. It's called writing."


Oh boy. Was he able to pull it off?

"I sauntered over, certain he noticed me. I'm hard to miss, I'd like to think — a little tall (but not too tall, a nice set of curves if I do say so myself, pants so impossibly tight that if I had a credit card in my back pocket you could read the expiration date. The rest of my outfit wasn't that remarkable, just a few old things I had lying around. You know how it is."

The thread (which you can read in its entirety here) included a few other choice passages from chapter one of this mystery book, but the point was made: Some guys just don't know how to write about women without being really weird about it.

Now, maybe you're saying to yourself, "Sure, but that's just one guy that nobody's heard of." Fair point. For another example, which was uncovered by writer Julia Carpenter, let's look to renowned author John Updike:

[rebelmouse-image 19346834 dam="1" original_size="750x246" caption="Excerpt from "The Witches of Eastwick" by John Updike." expand=1]Excerpt from "The Witches of Eastwick" by John Updike.

It's not limited to books, either. Take, for instance, this 2016 Vanity Fair profile of actress Margot Robbie, which begins:

"America is so far gone, we have to go to Australia to find a girl next door. In case you’ve missed it, her name is Margot Robbie. She is 26 and beautiful, not in that otherworldly, catwalk way but in a minor knock-around key, a blue mood, a slow dance. She is blonde but dark at the roots. She is tall but only with the help of certain shoes. She can be sexy and composed even while naked but only in character."

To be sure, there's nothing necessarily wrong with describing people or characters as sexy (though, if you don't understand how women pee, maybe don't try to go into detail about that). It's just that this type of writing is so formulaic, so common.

Twitter users had a bit of fun with the format after Whitney Reynolds recently offered a challenge: "Describe yourself like a male author would."

The replies were absolutely epic, with thousands of people responding.

Thanks to a new chart from Electric Literature, creating your own personal description is as easy as spelling your name.

The result follows this format: "She had ____ like a ____ ____ and I ____ to ____ her."

For instance, if your name were Sarah, your description would read: "She had knockers like a silken princess and I longed to proposition her." If your name was Brittany, you'd get: "She had a bust like a shrill popsicle and I ached to fondle her."

Fun, right?

"The Twitter challenge originated in response to a man who was claiming that his female characters were so convincing, they proved that there's no need to elevate a wider range of voices. White male writers can do it all!" Electric Lit editor-in-chief Jess Zimmerman says. "But when writers take on characters they don't really understand or respect, what you end up with is a kind of puppet show: all the 'real people' look the same, and everyone else is just a weak, potentially offensive bit of 2D guesswork. This is not actually good for the state of literature! It's alienating to readers and impoverishing for books."

Zimmerman elaborates, clarifying that she knows it's #NotAllMen who do this, chalking the prevalence of the detached and unnecessarily sexualized descriptions as the result of a culture that never really asks men to see things from a woman's perspective.

"That's why the joke in our generator is that the woman is described according to the man's reactions: a lot of male writers, including famous ones, never get any closer to 'imagining a woman's experience' than 'imagining my experience of a woman.' But keen observation, empathy, and the ability to take on someone else's perspective are crucial novelist skills. Male novelists should relish the effort it takes to do better."

Let's all have a laugh, and for the authors in the audience, don't let your writing become an internet meme.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.

How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

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Pets

Ginger the dog reunited with family 5 years after being stolen

Ginger's family never gave up hope, and it payed off.

Ginger the dog was missing for five years before being reunited with her family.

A sweet pup is finally home with her family where she belongs after way too many years away.

Ginger the dog was stolen from her family back in 2017. Her owner, Barney Lattimore of Janesville, Wisconsin, never gave up the hope that his sweet girl was out there somewhere. Whenever he'd see a dog listed on a rescue website or humane society website that even remotely resembled his Ginger, he would inquire about the dog. Unfortunately, it was never her. You'd think that after a while he would stop, but if he had, he likely wouldn't have gotten the sweetest reunion.

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That first car is a rite of passage into adulthood. Specifically, the hard-earned lesson of expectations versus reality. Though some of us are blessed with Teslas at 17, most teenagers receive a car that’s been … let’s say previously loved. And that’s probably a good thing, considering nearly half of first-year drivers end up in wrecks. Might as well get the dings on the lemon, right?

Of course, wrecks aside, buying a used car might end up costing more in the long run after needing repairs, breaking down and just a general slew of unexpected surprises. But hey, at least we can all look back and laugh.

My first car, for example, was a hand-me-down Toyota of some sort from my mother. I don’t recall the specific model, but I definitely remember getting into a fender bender within the first week of having it. She had forgotten to get the brakes fixed … isn’t that a fun story?

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share their own worst car experiences. Some of them make my brake fiasco look like cakewalk (or cakedrive, in this case). Either way, these responses might make us all feel a little less alone. Or at the very least, give us a chuckle.

Here are 22 responses with the most horsepower:

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