NFL’S #Masculinity Problem And How It Affects Us All


(The following excerpt from NFL’s Masculinity Problem And How It Affects Us All by Elizabeth Meyer, Ph.D., recently appeared on psychology To view it in its entirety click on the link below.)

The media have been obsessed with peeling back the layers of scandal in the NFL since the public release of the Ray Rice video by TMZ. What is at the root of these problems and why should we all pay attention?

First of all, the NFL represents our culture’s masculine ‘ideal’: it seeks out, develops and highly pays big, strong, tough, aggressive and muscular men. The problem is that it ignores the flip side of the coin of such extreme ‘masculinity’. When these qualities are nurtured, coached, selected, and rewarded it isn’t hard to understand why these players have problems with physical violence, aggression, and intimate relationships off the field.

Secondly, There was video that captured this display of aggression. This undeniable video graphically shows what happens when someone bigger and stronger uses that strength to win a domestic argument. This video breaks the silence around domestic violence and forces the public to acknowledge the reality that exists in many homes and relationships. It also removes the ‘he-said, she-said’ and victim-blaming that has cut short so many conversations around domestic violence in our culture.

Third, these scandals are coinciding with students return to school. I have been reading these stories at the same time as I have been following the protest on Columbia University’s campus. This protest was started by a young woman who is carrying her dorm mattress with her everywhere for as long as her rapist is enrolled at Columbia. Other students have joined her in solidarity to illustrate how our society’s misogyny and valuing of masculinity leads to rape culture and victim-blaming that force so many victims of sexual assault to recover from the trauma alone and in silence while their aggressor goes on as if nothing ever happened.

How does domestic violence in the NFL and sexual assault on college campuses affect us all? They are all outgrowths of the American masculine ideal gone to the extreme. We can not hope to raise children who will value gender equity, who will not resort to violence, and who will seek affirmative consent as long as the messages they get from popular culture, professional sports, and the news media continue to celebrate and valorize a very narrow and harmful form of masculinity. As a teacher, a parent, and author Gender, bullying and sexual harassment: Strategies to end sexism and homophobia in schools, I want very much for our next generation to live in a world with less violence and more equitable opportunities.

The way the NFL responds to this scandal, and the way the mainstream media cover such stories create a public curriculum that we are all exposed to. If we, as parents, educators, and concerned citizens want to live in a world that encourages children to express their emotions in healthy ways, to avoid physical violence when they are upset, and to seek equitable and consensual intimate relationships, we need to pay attention and care about what happens here. Our kids are paying attention, so we need to be sure to talk with them about what they are learning so they can internalize more healthy and appropriate messages about masculinity, relationships, and intimacy for a more healthy future.

Some tips for talking to your kids about the NFL scandal:

1) Start with a question: “Have you heard about this NFL thing? What have your friends had to say about it?” or “Did you see the video everyone is talking about? How did it make you feel?” Open-ended questions allow your child to start with what they know and how they feel. Let them lead the way from there to show you what they understand and how the media coverage may be influencing how they and their peers are making sense of this story.

2) Use it as an opening to talk about our culture’s notions of masculinity and romantic relationships: “The media has been nonstop on these NFL scandals. What message does the NFL send if these ‘heroes’ are allowed to keep playing until public pressure forces a different response? Do you think this affects how boys see their dating relationships? How do you think it makes girls feel?”

3) Watch a football game with them and discuss the coverage and commentary around the players and the league over the next few weeks. Use it as an opportunity to get your message in along with the mass media’s perspectives. “Do you agree with what they just said?” “Why do you think they show ads like that during football games? What message does that send about the NFL audience?” “Do you think professional athletes are role models? What happens when they behave badly?”

A Must Read: Staying Silent About #Violence Against #Women Is Despicable

Photo Credit: Aleshyn_Andrei/
By Clancy Sigal/AlterNet
Some years ago I was in a Los Angeles bar when a guy began beating up on his girlfriend or wife, knocking her off her stool while they exchanged insults and fists.  I, Action Hero, intervened and pulled the guy off her.  Furious, she slammed me with her handbag and told me to mind my own effing business.  Both he and she chased me out of the bar onto the sunlit street.  Never again, I swore, do I play referee in a domestic dispute which in this case was assault.
Due to over-coverage, even somebody living on Mars knows each tiny graphic detail of a CCTV camera of Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Rice slugging unconscious his then fiancé now wife Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino elevator last February.  And we know all about tin-eared National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell’s blunders and lies in covering up what easily could have been a murder case.
And, most sadly, Janay’s blaming the media not Ray for their predicament.  “To take something away from the man I love that he has worked his ass off for all his life just to gain ratings is horrific.”  Janay, who has a child with Ray to protect, must be under incredible pressure to unblame her husband and try to salvage their income.  We’ll probably never know her real feelings until and unless she divorces to tell her story unvarnished.
Granted, she has a point.  “No one knows the pain that the media and unwanted [opinions] from the public has cause my family. To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day is a horrible thing.”  Aside from voyeurism, what possible good comes from replaying over and over again her humiliation?  Oh yes, it contributes to that cliché, a “national conversation” about domestic violence.  In plainer words talking about how guys beat the shit out of women.
It’s amazing how easily the victim gets trod underfoot in the noise of powerful figures – including Obama and TV anchors – pointing the finger at Top People most like themselves.  Who cares if Roger Goodell keeps his $40 million a year job?
Until the Ray Rice incident I was following what appears on the surface to be an unrelated sexual atrocity.  It happens in one of my favorite pit stops, the old coal-and-steel town of Rotherham, south Yorkshire, England.  The town of 250,000 sits in the heart of what used to be the industrial north.  Think Youngstown, Ohio, with its ruined quarries, factories and mills.
Briefly, 1400 (and probably many more) girl children – some as young as 11 – were over a 17 year period until very recently gang raped, tortured, trafficked and had their lives permanently damaged by “multiple perpetrators” usually second-generation Pakistani origin taxi drivers, takeout delivery men and other mobile predators with easy access to mainly troubled white kids from chaotic families.
“One young person told us that ‘gang rape’ was a usual part of growing up in the area of Rotherham in which she lived,” said the blistering report by Prof. Alexis Jay, former chief inspector of social work in Scotland, who almost burst into tears delivering it.
Officially commissioned reports of sexual exploitation were ignored or disbelieved.   Those charged with protecting the kids – social care agencies, the police from regional crime commissioner Shaun Wright down to foot constable, and almost all the local Labour politicians – enabled the rapists by, in Prof. Jay’s words, ‘sweeping it under the carpet’, ‘turning a blind eye’ and ‘keeping a lid on it’.
Why?  One reason is that, in an atmosphere of “multiculturalism”, the cops and social workers and elected poobahs didn’t want to “give oxygen” to the far right by drawing attention to the criminals’ ethnicity.  (Most rapists were from rural Kashimir.)
It took a 2010 court case and some prison sentences for anyone to sit up and take notice.  Not quite true, since it also was the years of hard, at first ignored and often mocked journalism by Rupert Murdoch’s UK London Times’ reporter Andrew Norfolk to finally expose the full story.
Britain has had lots of recent pedophilia scandals mainly implicating Top People (comic Jimmy Savile, children’s entertainer Rolf Harris, high ranking politicians and the so-called ‘BBC ring’).  But Rotherham is different because its crimes against children strike at the very heart not of the Establishment but the socialist-Labour ideal.  (The city has voted Labour since 1933.)
Men who hate women won’t go down without a fight.  (Poor choice of words.)  Roger Goodell like south Yorkshire’s police boss Shaun Wright refuse to resign because, after all, what did they do wrong?

Clancy Sigal is a novelist and screenwriter in Los Angeles. His latest book, “Hemingway Lives!” will be published this spring by OR Books. He can be reached at

Should #Governments Target #Happiness?


(The following excerpt from Should Governments Target Happiness? by Mark D. White, Ph.D., recently appeared on psychology To view it in its entirety click on the link below.)

Governments around the world are starting to measure happiness (or subjective well-being) with the goal of a more humane process of policymaking. According to supporters, happiness-based policy will focus governments’ attention on what really matters to their citizens, their essential well-being, better than they can do by basing policy decisions on economic measures such as gross domestic product or national income that are too far removed from the day-to-day concerns of the people.

While the intentions may be good, the benefits of happiness-based policy are illusory at best and counterproductive at worst. There are fundamental problems with defining and measuring happiness, as well as implementing policy based on it, that prevent it from being a viable alternative to traditional policymaking based on GDP and other economic statistics.

First, the term “happiness” is notoriously difficult to define. Philosophers have tried to do this for centuries, identifying and detailing many types of happiness but arriving at no universal definition. Songwriters, poets, and novelists have done a better job describing happiness in all of its nuance and glory, but this does not provide a solid basis for measurement. For the most part, psychologists and economists who try to measure happiness do not worry about definitions, satisfied that “everyone knows what it is,” but with no guarantee that everyone knows it to the be the same thing. Happiness is simply too vague a concept to define precisely enough for measurement without excluding what many people consider happiness to be to them.

Second, there is no straightforward way to translate an essentially qualitative and subjective feeling such as happiness into quantitative data. Most happiness surveys consist of questions about the respondents’ current state of happiness or satisfaction with their lives, which they answer on a numerical scale with the units labeled “very unhappy” to “very happy” or “the least satisfied I can imagine” to “the most satisfied I can imagine.” Even if the definition of happiness were clear, these labels are not. For instance, how a person interprets these labels depends critically on the experiences and circumstances of his or her life. A wealthy and successful CEO may feel she has not lived up to her potential, while the janitor in her building may be very pleased with his lot in life. Human beings have the ability to adapt to their life circumstances, which explains why people living in deplorable conditions may nonetheless report high levels of happiness and well-being. This also implies that the steps on the happiness scale are inherently subjective, nonuniform, and incomparable, rendering them unable to support the mathematical processes researchers need to perform on them to provide information for policymakers.

Finally, even if there were no problems with definition or measurement, happiness-based policymaking raises numerous ethical and political issues when it comes to implementation. For example, would the government target a growth rate for happiness? This is problematic in light of the “hedonic treadmill,” by which we work hard to achieve more happiness, only to adapt to that level and strive for more. In the end, we work more and more and end up with little increase in happiness, and the same would likely hold for official happiness “stimulus.” Another concern is the possibility of significant inequality of happiness: due to adaptation, the underprivileged may report levels of happiness that mask their circumstances while the affluent express dissatisfaction and boredom. Would we then redistribute resources from the poor who seem happy to the rich who don’t? Finally, people often give up some happiness now in exchange for more later, such as when they go to school or on a diet. How would government measures focused on the now take account of investments in the future? All of these are questions that policymakers will be forced to struggle with if they choose to base policy on measures of happiness.

Given the inherently vague, qualitative, and subjective nature of happiness, it is impossible to define and measure it well enough for the purpose of policymaking. This is not a simple matter of refining statistical techniques; the problems with happiness measurement are more fundamental than that.

There is, however, a better way. Instead of trying to determine what happiness is and how to measure it, the government can trust individuals to make choices in pursuit of their own interests. Instead of trying to boost the happiness of those doing fairly well, the government can devote its resources to alleviating the suffering of the poor. Instead of targeting the general level of happiness based on arbitrary definitions and inaccurate measurement, the government can address specific problems that their citizens tell them need to be addressed.

In short, the government does not need to define, measure, and evaluate happiness in order to find problems to address. There are enough problems facing the country that are readily apparent. Liberals, conservatives, and libertarians may disagree about the scale and scope of what government should do, but I think they would all agree that the government should deal with the problems at hand rather than invent new ways to find them. In the end, that may be the best way to make people happy.

Joan Rivers Proves #Laughing At Yourself Is Good For You


(The following excerpt from Joan Rivers Proves Laughing At Yourself Is Good For You by Jason Powers, M.D., recently appeared on To view it in its entirety click on the link below.)

“I purposely go into areas that people are still very sensitive about and smarting about, because if you can laugh at it, you can deal with it. That’s how I’ve lived my whole life. I swear to you – and I’m Jewish – that if I were in Auschwitz, I would have been doing jokes just to make it OK for us.” -Joan Rivers on Larry King

Maybe Joan Rivers was your cup of tea. She wasn’t always mine. But her comments on joking about the Holocaust resonated with me as a recovering shikker because, as offensive as Holocaust jokes may be to most of us, there is no doubt in my mind that the prisoners who found a way to laugh about their plight were more likely to survive it.

After years of battling alcoholism, I know recovery would not have been possible without a sense of humor. A joke was the quickest way to turn on the light, even if briefly, when your world was engulfed in darkness.

With the sudden, sad demise of Joan Rivers, it’s unfortunate that we don’t have someone to provide us with the gallows humor that would help us cope.

Someone like … Joan Rivers.

Laughter in the face of tragedy has long been a staple of cinema and television. The movie and TV series “M*A*S*H” featured surgeons cracking wise while up to their wrists in war casualties in a mobile Army hospital during the Korean Conflict. In “Patch Adams,” a medical student treated cancer-stricken patients with humor. And in “Life Is Beautiful,” winner of the 1997 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Picture, a Jewish/Italian father helps his son survive a Nazi death camp by whimsically treating the Holocaust as a game.

But humor for survival’s sake has many real life applications as well. Repatriated Vietnam prisoners of war said making light of the intolerable was more helpful to them than religion. From naming their horrific POW camp the “Hanoi Hilton,” to scratching the note, “Smile, You’re on Candid Camera,” on the wall of a decrepit shower stall, POWs found a temporary mental escape from the prison walls. “Believe it or not,” one survivor recalled, “even under the almost worst of conditions over there, under the right circumstances, we could laugh.”

Playfulness, which forms the basis for the sense of humor, has even helped people survive the most horrible of events, like the World Trade Center attack.

One survivor reports a group of office workers who were running down flight after flight of steps, not knowing if they had the strength to make it to the bottom. By the time they had reached the 11th floor, they were exhausted and couldn’t go on. Then one woman suggested that they pretend it was New Year’s Eve. En masse they began a countdown with each flight of stairs and shouted out, “10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.” This “game” gave them the distraction and energy they needed. Encouraged by the levity, they all made it to the street and to safety.

In addiction recovery fellowships, members insist on humor. Their rule No. 62 is to not take oneself too seriously. Twelve-step meetings are the only places you can find people laughing heartily about failed suicide attempts. Doing so is not evidence of moral baseness; instead it’s a way members support one another. They know that if it isn’t funny, it’s too real. And, let’s face it, the dark desperation that leads to suicidal thoughts, let alone attempts, is wretched on a nuclear scale.

Humor is a good strategy in building resilient families and particularly useful when times are hard, says parenting expert Michael Grose, who lists humor as his No. 1 coping mechanism when children experience failure or loss.

“Come on, laugh it off,” Grose urges. “Some children and young people will naturally crack jokes or make fun of seemingly serious situations. This is a fantastic way to release. As a parent, you may need to lighten up tense situations by introducing humor of your own.”

Can a sense of humor be learned? Renowned humor researcher Paul McGhee, PhD, who teaches nurses about the coping benefits of humor, has an eight-step training program for improving your sense of humor:

Surround yourself with humor you enjoy
Learn to adopt a playful attitude
Laugh more often and more heartily
Begin telling jokes and funny stories
Play with language puns and other verbal humor
Find humor in everyday life
Take yourself lightly – laugh at yourself
Find humor in the midst of stress

In positive psychology, humor has been identified as one of 24 character strengths considered vital to human thriving. And in the first study of its kind, researchers found that people who can laugh at themselves tended to be more cheerful.

The ancient Greeks took it a step further. To them, laughter was truly the best medicine. The term “humor” derives from the Greeks’ humoral medicine, which taught that the balance of fluids in the human body, known as humours (Latin: humor, “body fluid”), controlled human health and emotion. Sickness occurred when the body fluids were out of balance.

Perhaps this explains why we often find comfort in laughter, even in the worst of circumstances. If you need an example, check out Richard Pryor’s classic standup routine on YouTube about setting himself afire while freebasing cocaine. No one has been to darker places, and no one ever made them more hilarious.

Laughter is indeed the best medicine.

For her part, Rivers made a career of poking fun at herself. “I have no sex appeal,” she once quipped. “If my husband didn’t toss and turn, we’d never have had the kid.”

She famously joked about her penchant for cosmetic surgery, saying, “I’ve had so much plastic surgery, when I die they will donate my body to Tupperware.”

Self-deprecating humor, she said, helped her survive her husband’s suicide, bankruptcy and the blackball by NBC that nearly destroyed her career. Of course humor at the expense of others, whose dress, style or body type came into her sights on Hollywood’s red carpets, would reignite her career late in life.

Lena Dunham, the celebrated young creator of the HBO series “Girls,” and a recent target of Rivers for her zaftig build and unusual evening gown choices, honored her tormentor upon news of her death, saying that the 81-year-old’s standup act was “incredible: athletic, jaw-dropping, terrifying, essential. It never stopped. Neither will she.”

But Dunham, despite the solemnity of the occasion, couldn’t help but add: “Joan is gone but a piece of her lives on. Her nose, because it’s made of polyurethane.”

Somewhere, Joan Rivers is laughing.

Jason Powers, M.D., is chief medical officer at Right Step’s family of Texas addiction treatment centers and luxury rehab program Promises Austin. He is the pioneer of Positive Recovery, a scientifically validated approach to addiction treatment that helps people discover meaning and purpose in their lives upon achieving sobriety.