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.

True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.

Keep Reading Show less

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

Keep Reading Show less
True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.

Keep Reading Show less

Two weeks ago, we watched a pro-Trump mob storm the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overthrow the results of a U.S. election and keep Donald Trump in power. And among those insurrectionists were well-known adherents of QAnon, nearly every image of the crowd shows people wearing Q gear or carrying Q flags, and some of the more frightening elements we saw tie directly into QAnon beliefs.

Since hints of it first started showing up in social media comments several years ago, I've been intrigued—and endlessly frustrated—by the phenomenon of QAnon. At first, it was just a few fringey whacko conspiracy theorists I could easily roll my eyes at and ignore, but as I started seeing elements of it show up more and more frequently from more and more people, alarm bells started ringing.

Holy crap, there are a lot of people who actually believe this stuff.

Eventually, it got personal. A QAnon adherent on Twitter kept commenting on my tweets, pushing bizarro Q ideas on many of my posts. The account didn't use a real name, but the profile was classic QAnon, complete with the #WWG1WGA. ("Where we go one, we go all"—a QAnon rallying cry.) I thought it might be a bot, so I blocked them. Later, I discovered that it was actually one of my own extended family members.

Holy crap, I actually know people who actually believe this stuff.

Keep Reading Show less

Having lived in small towns and large cities in the Pacific Northwest, Southwest, and Midwest, and after spending a year traveling around the U.S. with my family, I've seen first-hand that Americans have much more in common than not. I've also gotten to experience some of the cultural differences, subtle and not-so-subtle, real and not-so-real, that exist in various parts of the country.

Some of those differences are being discussed in a viral thread on Twitter. Self-described "West coaster" Jordan Green kicked it off with an observation about East coasters being kind and West coasters being nice, which then prompted people to share their own social experiences in various regions around the country.

Green wrote:

"When I describe East Coast vs West Coast culture to my friends I often say 'The East Coast is kind but not nice, the West Coast is nice but not kind,' and East Coasters immediately get it. West Coasters get mad.

Niceness is saying 'I'm so sorry you're cold,' while kindness may be 'Ugh, you've said that five times, here's a sweater!' Kindness is addressing the need, regardless of tone.

I'm a West Coaster through and through—born and raised in San Francisco, moved to Portland for college, and now live in Seattle. We're nice, but we're not kind. We'll listen to your rant politely, smile, and then never speak to you again. We hit mute in real life. ALOT.

Keep Reading Show less