It was supposed to be a funny, lighthearted evening of comedy for women. And it was — until some dudes made it about them.

In November 2016, comedian Iliza Shlesinger hosted a women's-only comedy night at the Largo in Los Angeles. The event, Girls Night In, "was a singular evening that encouraged women to get together, talk and laugh about the things we go through as well as donate some money to Planned Parenthood," Shlesinger said in a statement.

Photo by Brandon Williams/Getty Images for International Myeloma Foundation.


Two men — George St. George, 21, and a male companion — decided to buy tickets to the show anyway. Staff at the theater told the men it would be best to sit in the back row for the event prominently advertised as being "no boys allowed," then later denied them entry altogether.

Now St. George is suing Shlesinger for discrimination, claiming he was not allowed to attend due to his gender.

This is not the first time St. George's attorney, Alfred Rava, has filed lawsuits essentially claiming "reverse sexism."

Rava sued after not receiving the Mother's Day promotion at an Oakland A's game and sued Club Med for a women-only promotion. He's done this dozens of times, both as the plaintiff and the attorney on the cases.

But this lawsuit isn't exactly subtle: In the 14-page lawsuit, Rava even compares St. George being asked to leave to the "...Montgomery City Lines bus company in Montgomery, Alabama circa 1955 morphing into the Woolworth’s department store lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1960."

And before you ask: No, St. George was not publicly humiliated, pelted with food, or dragged away and arrested for trespassing. He was simply offered a refund and asked to leave.

We have yet to know if a judge will determine that St. George's claims hold water in the courts. But they simply don't hold water in the real world, and here are three reasons why.

1. Despite his attempt to appeal to ideas of fairness and equality, St. George is filing a case to solve a problem that simply doesn't exist: reverse oppression.

Reverse oppression (be it sexism, racism, or what have you) is not a thing and never has been.

In 2015, Melissa A. Fabello over at Everyday Feminism did a great job breaking down exactly why, but here's the part everyone (especially dudes like St. George) needs to read:

"...yes, all people can experience stereotyping (assumptions that all people in one group are similar), prejudice (dislike toward a group based on those stereotypes), and discrimination (refusing access to resources based on that prejudice).

However, only oppressed people experience all of that and institutionalized violence and systematic erasure."

There you have it. When the Largo didn't allow St. George and his companion into the space to make a mockery of an event, this action was not reverse sexism — or in any way akin to the suffering endured by those in the civil rights movement.

These men have every right to feel hurt or bummed out that they were not allowed to attend (though let's remember: they got a refund), but since no one in the history of time has ever mounted a successful campaign to violate, subjugate, disenfranchise, harm, or forever silence men because of their gender, this incident is by no means oppression.

Please, tell me more about the systemic oppression and erasure of men. I am genuinely curious. Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images.

2. If St. George wanted to truly stand up for men that day, he could've. But he didn't.

He could have supported organizations that support male survivors of sexual assault, or he could have spoken out against toxic masculinity and the dangerous attitudes and traditions that don't always allow for boys and men to express a full range of emotions. Hell, he could've raised money to support prostate or lung cancer research, the most common cancers among men.

Of course he didn't do that because he's not really interested in bettering the lives of men. He just wants to silence, shame, and disrupt the work of women. Men like St. George and Rava are cowards in activists' clothes.

[rebelmouse-image 19346257 dam="1" original_size="750x499" caption="If he isn't already, St. George's time may be better spent signal boosting the voices of male survivors who have shared their stories of sexual assault and misconduct, like Terry Crews, Anthony Rapp, and countless others. Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images." expand=1]If he isn't already, St. George's time may be better spent signal boosting the voices of male survivors who have shared their stories of sexual assault and misconduct, like Terry Crews, Anthony Rapp, and countless others. Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.

3. In fact, it's because of men like this that women need a space to feel safe, encouraged, and supported in the first place.

Living as a woman comes with the emotional burden of sexual harassment, the constant threat of gender-based violence, microaggressions, and a substantial wage gap.

Not-so-shockingly some women just want a space, without men, to celebrate, talk, share, and commiserate, even if just for one night. To the men who understand and support this: Thank you. To the men who can't wait to shit on something that doesn't center them: Do better.

Photo by Araya Diaz/Getty Images for Hollywood Wilshire YMCA.

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.

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