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This man is helping end toxic masculinity one kitten lunchbox at a time.

Cats are the undisputed rulers of the internet.

And because recent research suggests that our feline friends would murder us all if they weren't so small, it's probably best that we continue appeasing them by purchasing shirts, mugs, and all other manner of cat-branded accoutrements to continue showing our undying fealty to these juggernauts of the animal kingdom.


There's one problem, though: Despite the fact that cats are metal AF, they're somehow still seen as animals "only girls like."

Ridiculous, right? One man certainly thought so. And he's doing something about it.

In an April 2 Facebook post that's gone viral, David Pendragon told a story that's both heartbreaking and uplifting.

It involves his cousin's 10-year-old son, who was bullied for bringing a dope-ass lunchbox covered in a violently hued array of kittens to school.

From Pendragon's post:

"My cousin, Emily, has a 10 year old son named Ryker. Ryker, who loves cats, was very excited to get his new lunchbox. Unfortunately because of its colors, or because it has cats, or both he was teased about it by other boys in his class. He even wanted to stop taking his lunch so he wouldn't be teased about it any longer."

How messed up is that? Spoiler alert: very.

Of all the everyday disappointments of being a kid, I can think of nothing sadder than being told you shouldn't enjoy something just because it's "girly."

My cousin, Emily, has a 10 year old son named Ryker. Ryker, who loves cats, was very excited to get his new lunchbox....

Posted by David Pendragon on Monday, April 2, 2018

What's wrong with being "girly"? Absolutely nothing.

But it's that kind of thinking that can trap boys in patterns of toxic masculinity (via harmful messages like "men don't show emotions," "men don't cry," and "men should reject anything that's considered to be feminine") and demean women.

And yet, as a society, we continue to perpetuate this idea for no other reason than "that's the way it's always been."

But it hasn't.

Did you know that pink used to be a "boy" color?

A quick bit of history: It wasn't until the 1940s that blue became synonymous with boys. In fact, for a long time, Smithsonian.com notes, boys would wear white dresses and have long hair until the age of 6 or 7. This was seen as gender neutral. When colors came into the picture, pink was initially seen as the most "masculine" option.

In 1918, pink was prescribed for boys due to it being a "more decided and stronger color," having been derived from the bold color red. For girls? The "delicate and dainty" blue.

But it got even more complicated, with shifting trends suggesting that blue and pink weren't about gender at all, but about babies' coloring. Have a blond kid? Wrap 'em up in blue. Your baby's first hairs showing up a dark auburn? Swaddle 'em in pink.

In 1927, Smithsonian.com adds, Time magazine published an article informing parents which colors were "appropriate" based on sales at top department stores. The color for boys? Pink.

So, what changed? Manufacturers interpreted these changing customer preferences and switched things up. Generations since have been passing down the idea that boys and girls have specific, gender-prescribed color preferences.

And sometimes, when these views are challenged, moral panic ensues.

Remember what happened when Target decided to go gender neutral for in-store signs advertising kids' clothes and toys? Or the much-to-do that occurred when a father bought his daughter a "Little Mermaid" doll? (That kid's got good taste, by the way. Ariel's the undisputed best of all the Disney princesses.)

Forcing kids into gender roles at a young age is harmful.

As Cassandra Stone points out on Scary Mommy, making kids choose what they like based on how their genitalia looked at birth is breaking their spirits and setting them on a path of self-denial.

Why shouldn't a girl love monster trucks? And why shouldn't a boy love kittens? Or dresses? There really isn't any reason except a desperate clinging to archaic thinking. (Check out FDR rocking a white dress and long hair in 1884. He grew up to be president.)

And isn't that what we should really be focusing on — making the world a safer place for everyone to express themselves? It's more important to make sure that all kids learn it's OK to be themselves.

Pendragon agrees. That's why he's stepping up for his cousin in the best way possible.

"So I have ordered the same lunchbox for myself and proudly carried it to work today at my large, conservative, corporate workplace," he wrote. "I've told anyone who asked the story behind my lunchbox and ... they all stand with Ryker too."

"There's no one way to be a man," he added. "Men can be colorful. Men can be expressive. Men can be emotional and silly and gleeful."

Most importantly? Men (and boys) can step up for others to end the notion that we can't like what we like and feel what we feel. It's up to us to encourage each other to just be ourselves.

Education

12 books that people say are life-changing reads

Some books have the power to change how we see ourselves, the world, and each other.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Books are powerful.

As a participant in the Amazon Associates affiliate program, Upworthy may earn proceeds from items purchased that are linked to this article, at no additional cost to you.

Out of all human inventions, books might just be the greatest. That may be a bold statement in the face of computers, the internet and the international space station, but none of those things would be possible without books. The written recording of human knowledge has allowed our advancements in learning to be passed on through generations, not to mention the capturing of human creativity in the form of longform storytelling.

Books have the power to change our lives on a fundamental level, shift our thinking, influence our beliefs, put us in touch with our feelings and help us understand ourselves and one another better.

That's why we asked Upworthy's audience to share a book that changed their life. Thousands of responses later, we have a list of inspiring reads that rose to the top.

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Community

Man uses social media to teach others ASL so kids don't experience what he did as a child

Every child should be able to communicate in a way that works best for them.

Man teaches people ASL so no child experiences what he did

People start communicating from the moment they enter the world usually through cries, faces, grunts and squeals. Once infants move into the toddler phase the combine all of their previous communication skills with pointing and saying a few frequently used words like "milk," "mama," "dada" and "eat."

Children who are born without the ability to hear often still go through those same stages with the exception of their frequently used words being in sign language. But not all hearing parents know sign language, which can stunt the language skills of their non-hearing child. Ronnie McKenzie is an American Sign Language advocate that uses social media to teach others how to sign so deaf and nonverbal kids don't feel left out.

"But seriously i felt so isolated 50% of my life especially being outside of school i had NONE to sign ASL with. Imagine being restricted from your own language," McKenzie writes in his caption.

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Family

Wife says husband's last name is so awful she can't give it to her kids. Is she right?

"I totally get we can’t shield kids from everything, and I understand the whole family ties thing, but c’mon."

A wife pleads with her husband to change their child's name.

Even though it’s 2023 and schools are much more concerned with protecting children from bullying than in the past, parents still have to be aware that kids will be kids, and having a child with a funny name is bound to cause them trouble.

A mother on Reddit is concerned that her future children will have the unfortunate last name of “Butt,” so she asked people on the namenerds forum to help her convince her husband to name their child something different.

(Note: We’re assuming that the person who wrote the post is a woman because their husband is interested in perpetuating the family name, and if it were a same-sex relationship, a husband probably wouldn’t automatically make that assumption.)

"My husband’s last name is Butt. Can someone please help me illuminate to him why this last name is less than ideal,” she asked the forum. “I totally get we can’t shield kids from everything and I understand the whole family ties thing, but c'mon. Am I being unreasonable by suggesting our future kid either take my name, a hybrid, or a new one altogether?"

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Joy

Bus driver comes to the rescue for boy who didn't have an outfit for school's Pajamas Day

“It hurt me so bad…I wanted him to have a good day. No child should have to miss out on something as small as pajama day.”

Representative Image from Canva

One thoughtful act can completely turn someone's day around.

On the morning just before Valentine’s Day, school bus driver Larry Farrish Jr. noticed something amiss with Levi, one of his first grade passengers, on route to Engelhard Elementary, part of Jefferson County Public School (JCPS) in Louisville, Kentucky.

On any other day, the boy would greet Farrish with a smile and a wave. But today, nothing. Levi sat down by himself, eyes downcast, no shining grin to be seen. Farrish knew something was up, and decided to inquire.

With a “face full of tears,” as described on the JCPS website, Levi told Farrish that today was “Pajama Day” at school, but he didn’t have any pajamas to wear for the special occasion.
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via Imgur

Memories of testing like this gets people fired up.

It doesn't take much to cause everyone on the internet to go a little crazy, so it's not completely surprising that an incorrect answer on a child's math test is the latest event to get people fired up.

The test in question asked kids to solve "5 x 3" using repeated addition. Under this method, the correct answer is "5 groups of 3," not "3 groups of 5." The question is typical of Common Core but has many questioning this type of standardized testing and how it affects learning.

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Image from YouTube video.

An emotional and strong Matt Diaz.


Matt Diaz has worked extremely hard to lose 270 pounds over the past six years.

But his proudest moment came in March 2015 when he decided to film himself with his shirt off to prove an important point about body positivity and self-love.

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