Courtesy Martha Peterson

It was 1975 when Martha Peterson’s plane landed in Moscow and launched her assignment as an American case officer for the CIA inside Russia.  After training at CIA headquarters in Virginia, she would be one of the first women in U.S. history to embark on such a mission.  Less than two years after her arrival on a cold November day in Moscow, she would be ambushed at a drop site, arrested, and hauled in for questioning by KGB agents. 

By Miguel Discart from Bruxelles, Belgique (2014-04-07_20-23-08_NEX-6_DSC01281) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The conversation about masculine and feminine expectations and how we socialize children has been going on in academic circles for decades.  But it’s only recently that a mass shooting like the one in Orlando launches a different narrative.  Of course, the predictable yet important debate about gun policy is re-engergized.  But the emerging profile of the shooter at the Pulse nightclub who killed nearly 50 people has also generated a wider, public conversation about the effects of hypermasculinity on boys and young men. 

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The Orlando shooting has reignited talk of gun control measures… Republican U.S. Senators are grappling with whether and how to get behind the presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump.  And a three-judge panel is considering the legality of voting law changes in North Carolina… Could that case wind up in the Supreme Court? 

Language is widely considered to be as much a function of gender as any other gender expression – whether clothing, gender-normative interests such as interior decorating, or personality traits.  But is language so different between the sexes? 


From vocal fry to uptalk, women’s voices have come under greater scrutiny in the media, with some calling these trends an epidemic.  But sociolinguists view these innovations much differently. 

You may have heard people complain about women’s use of uptalk—a rising intonation at the end of a phrase that sort of sounds like asking a question.  While some say uptalk has the effect of making women sound uncertain, Caroline Myrick, a sociolinguistics instructor at North Carolina State University, says all genders use it to indicate something else entirely:

Bonnie Monteleone

When you use a disposable diaper, some scientists would tell you the plastic in that diaper actually stays in the environment for hundreds of years.  The plastic bag you brought home from the grocery store?  Estimates vary, but some put the number of years it takes to decompose as high as one thousand.  Whether those numbers are accurate or more research needs to be done doesn’t change what we know about how plastics are showing up in oceans all over the world – and not only harming marine life – but becoming part of the human food chain. 

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  North Carolina’s state legislature passed HB2 earlier this year, otherwise known as the “Bathroom Bill”, and unwittingly launched a broader, national conversation about how public policy impacts minorities – specifically people who are transgender.  Performers canceled concerts, companies shelved plans to move to or expand in North Carolina, and revenue from tourism dropped. 

Psychology Today - https://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/name/Abigail_Garner_MSW,LCSW-A_Wilmington_North+Carolina_272075

Earlier this month, President Obama ordered public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.  A local therapist is advising schools in other ways they can accommodate transgender and gender nonconforming students.  

By Bundesministerium für Europa, Integration und Äusseres (Arbeitsbesuch Mazedonien) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Syria’s civil war erupted five years ago in the summer of 2011.  According to Al Jazeera, it is the deadliest conflict of the 21st century thus far.  To put that into perspective, the United Nations estimated the death toll to be a quarter of a million people as of last August.  But that’s a fraction of the people who have fled the violence in Syria.  The BBC puts the number of displaced people at 11 million.  And all sides in this conflict have engaged in war crimes -- torture, rape, kidnapping… Public amputations of fingers, hands, feet – and gruesome executions are commonplace. 

We’ve spent week after head-scratching week following outrageous developments – often in the form of Tweets -- from Republican presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump.  We’ve witnessed the convention-shattering roller coaster of the Hillary Clinton / Bernie Sanders contest.  And, as North Carolinians, we’ve enjoyed the national spotlight for several months thanks to the recent passage of HB2…

Today, we’re getting professional help.  In the form of laughter.