Archives for Media
"I'm a proud husband, father," declared a local candidate for office. After his name, it was the first thing he said about himself in his official statement published in the Voter Information Pamphlet I was studying. His website and television ads are filled with marriage and family iconography. There he is with his wife. Here he is with his kids. There he is with his wife and kids. What is he trying to tell me with this information and this imagery? Is it just a basic statement of something about him? That sounds reasonable enough, but then why does it have such a salient place in his campaign materials?
If you are single and you dare to write about marriage and single life, there is a criticism that will be flung at you over and over again. As a single person, it is yours alone. Married people can write about the same topics and get a free pass. Here's an example of what I'm talking about.
Time magazine, it seems, cannot get enough of telling single people and their children that they are just not as good as married people and theirs. Sometimes Time seems to be in the marriage-promotion business, peddling ideology rather than reporting. Most disturbingly, it does so under the guise of telling us what science has supposedly shown. On those rare occasions when a Time article on marriage lets in a dissenting voice, that voice gets trampled by the end. Time is on the side of married people and their families. I think it always has been.
Chieh Huang has been called the "real-life dream boss." He is CEO of Boxed, a company that delivers groceries and household goods in bulk. His employees get workplace perks that are the envy of many who toil unappreciated for other companies. He's generous, respectful, and loved. But I think he practices big-time discrimination.
I like to think of myself as a media-savvy person. I don't just buy whatever stories or sentiments the media is selling. I have a critical perspective. Recently, I was reminded that my sense of skepticism isn't always there when it should be. I interviewed people who were adopted for How We Live Now, and even included a whole section on an amazingly innovative community of adoptive families called Hope Meadows. Yet after all that, I still continued to be a sucker for all those tear-jerker stories in the media of people adopted as young children who meet their biological parents for the first time when they are adults. The meetings are always joyful and intensely emotional, as if these are the most positive and most consequential experiences imaginable. So what's wrong with that story?
Thirty years ago, in June of 1986, Newsweek published that infamous article that lit up the media and conversations everywhere, even before social media was there to help. It was about how women who had reached the age of 40 and were still single were more likely to be killed by a terrorist than to ever marry. Twenty years later, Newsweek retracted their scare story. In doing so, they engaged in even more stereotyping and stigmatizing of single women, telling them with one example after another that no matter what they had achieved or how meaningful they thought their life was, it just wasn't as worthy as it would have been if they just got married.
For the first time ever, the President of Taiwan is a woman. The 59-year old Tsai Ing-wen is also single. That did not sit well with a Chinese military official, who believed that her single status rendered her "erratic": "As a single female politician, Tsai Ing-wen does not have the emotional burden of love of 'family' or children, so her political style and strategies are displayed to be more emotional, personal and extreme."
Getting mental illnesses taken as seriously as physical ones has been a long-lasting struggle. Medical insurance hasn't always covered mental health treatments the way it routinely covers treatments for physical problems. And too often, uninformed laypersons assume that seriously depressed people, for example, should be able to just snap out of it. In part because of the assumption that mental health is under our conscious control in a way that physical health is not, people suffering from mental health problems are more likely to be stigmatized. And that stigma, in turn, can stand in the way of seeking the help that is needed.
What's really important to you? What goals have you set for yourself that mean a lot, so that when you achieve them, you might be tempted to gather round you all the important people in your life to celebrate with you?
More and more over the past decades, social scientists have been studying happiness. You've probably seen headlines declaring the happiest countries, or the science-based paths to a happier life. Some of the studies are based on huge numbers of participants. It is possible to do surveys of that many people when you ask simple questions that are easy to code. Often, happiness is measured by people's answer to just one question. They indicate how happy they feel (or how satisfied they are with their life) on a rating scale by choosing one of the numbers. For example, the scale might range from 1 to 9, with 1 indicating the least happiness and 9, the most. But what if happiness means different things to different people?