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Social Workers and Superheroes

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Social Workers and superheroes – what do they have in common? According to a TED talk by Anna Scheyett, they have more in common than you’d expect. In this article, I will look at and builds upon some of the ideas that Anna talks about as it relates to Social Workers and superheroes. I’m going to extend ‘superheroes’ to mean any fictional, fantasy or sci-fi character who could be seen as a superhero.

Anna states that Social Workers aim “To promote and support individual and community wellbeing, and to fight social injustice”. So how well does this hold up? According to the National Association of Social Workers, the profession supports people across ‘all backgrounds’ and through some of life’s most difficult challenges. 40% of Red Cross mental health disaster workers are Social Workers. And, as Anna points out, Social Workers are there for people across the lifespan, from birth to death.

She frames Social Workers as being there to remedy broken connections between different levels of the system. They negotiate legal, educational, welfare, and family systems. Social Workers have to identify the difficulties in the relationships and connections, whilst communicating in a way that each level of the system can understand them. Essentially, Social Workers are multi-lingual. That’s a superpower in of itself.

Their role among several layers of the system also requires the ability to emulate a wide range of different superheroes, depending on the situation. Sometimes that requires Professor X levels of knowing who is where, doing what, and when. On other occasions, it requires being an investigative curious person, with powers of compassion and understanding on a level with The Doctor. Sometimes it requires fortitude like Lara Croft, speed and dexterity like Spiderman, or strength like Superman.

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Social Work is more than a job. Like superheroes, it’s a vocation; a way of life. And, like the best superheroes, Social Workers don’t ask for any treatment or considerations. They do what they have to do.

Most superheroes aren’t trained. They are born a certain way, they become a certain type of person through accident or circumstances beyond their control. They are pushed and impassioned to save the world.

Unfortunately this requires having the financial means by which to achieve a Social Work higher education course and not all potential superheroes get to train at the Superhero Academy.

It’s not a given that all superheroes will be empowering to the ‘little people’. They save the day, certainly, but not all superheroes will also provide the tools for people to support themselves. There are salient examples of empowering superheroes, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The most notable thing about Buffy is that she reaches out into the community around her. Whilst she is strong and supports others, she also receives support from them – her mother, her friends, her partners, colleagues, and her guide Giles who is like the policies and procedures which guide Social Workers. The power of community in Buffy usually keeps people well and safe. Social Workers, likewise, harness the power and support that is already out there, to keep people well and safe.

This is what Anna mentioned – the strengths-based approach to pulling people’s best from them. Another honourable mention for Professor X is required here, as he empowers mutants to teach, learn and grow. In her TED talk, Anna references Social Workers developing programmes for bullying and school dropouts, and Social Workers at higher levels of policy and management. In the X-Men world we can see mutants working at a range of levels – The Beast being in politics, for example, whilst others are in education, or on-the-ground activism.

It’s also possible that Social Workers are beyond being like most ‘superheroes’. Unlike many superheroes, Social Workers don’t just put the ‘bad guys’ away in prisons, for example. Social Workers also work within the prison system, to support the ‘bad guys’ and their families towards more positive futures. Of course, Ant Man is a notable exception of ex-con superhero. Mental health and wellbeing problems are rife within prison institutions, and Social Workers are equipped to deal with these added difficulties, without getting stuck in a ‘bad guy’ mentality.

Alongside Sherlock Holmes, Social Workers like their evidence. Anna mentioned evidence-based practice in her TED talk. Evidence-based practice can support people to make decisions with a greater likelihood of a positive outcome, and reduce the effects of human bias. This, however, has to be balanced with a therapeutic humanity. Gilgun (2005) suggested that Social Work still has a journey to take in order to integrate the evidence base with practice.

There are also issues with the evidence base of the social sciences suffering from publication bias where null results are far less likely to be published, making it less clear which interventions probably won’t work. Finally, especially with psychological research, there is a risk of comparmentalising and segregating different ‘problems’ without looking at the whole person. However, being naturally social in origin puts social workers in a good position to integrate different types of social and psychological evidence.

A final note, however, should be made about the system. A number of superheroes try to change the system in which they live, rather than tackling the symptoms such as crime. Some have argued that an evidence-based epistemology, part of the medicalised system of physical and social wellbeing in the global West, undermines the human part of being a social worker. Others argue that Social Workers are covering the slack for governments that don’t care about their most vulnerable. Like all superheroes, there are mistakes where innocents get hurt. Sometimes this is under the weight or targets and bureaucracy. Sometimes it’s because the superhero academy accepted inappropriate candidates.

Pain, frustration, loneliness, stress, hard work, community, problem-solving, ethical dilemmas, joy and triumph are part of any superhero’s repertoire of experience. And, like any superhero, it’s not done for their own personal gain, but because this world isn’t perfect and it needs someone within the system to support the greater good. As already mentioned, superheroes and Social Workers do all of this is without expecting the thanks and kudos that are rightfully deserved.

So, let’s take a moment, then. For all the superheroes, both real and fictional. For all the people who have found their superpower thanks to a Social Worker. And finally, for Social Workers themselves – special, multi-talented breed of superhero, stay empowered!

Chey is a mental health worker from the north of England. She currently works with adults with learning disabilities. Her interests include gender, sexual and racial equality, human rights, social inclusion, older citizens, mental health and wellbeing, poverty and disability rights. She has participated in a range of charity and/or fundraising projects over the years, and looks forward to your ideas for the next one!

60 Comments

I work with the greatest social workers in Denver Public Schools!! 

Is someone selling those T shirts pls i want one. Social worker through and though

James Herold James Herold says:

Your a understander baby when needed!

I want work please involved me

proud to be a registered social worker…

Jean Harvey Jean Harvey says:

U will be a great one to…. I’m very proud of you…

I am a socialworker:-D

Julie Austin Julie Austin says:

I was looking at the word ‘power’ Kelsea.

To me the shirt has always had a strengths based meaning. It’s as if saying “being a social worker is my strength, what are yours?” If you look at it that way the shirt isn’t unethical. 🙂

Social work and superheroes…are my two favorite things!!! ?

You got your shirt yet Kristen? ?

Julie Austin Julie Austin says:

Am I the only social work student to find this a bit of a contradiction with the ethos of social work?

Am a proud social worker

Tommy Blake Tommy Blake says:

Jody Wilkes,Kim McLeod,Zoila Castillo,Dana Francey,Angel Lynn

Sabina Ali Sabina Ali says:

Volunteer( i started like that than got my degree)
Takes determination to help not necessarily a diploma

Sabina Ali Sabina Ali says:

:))
And a mother
Double super power

I can sleep all day.

Kidman Utd Kidman Utd says:

Proud to be a social worker

I am a social worker

I am also social worker

Jamie Bhyde Jamie Bhyde says:

We need your help. PTSD is really a matter to worry & rate of suicide because of PTSD among soldiers is increasing.Plz help. http://bit.ly/veterans-care-ptsd

I want to have one. Where can I order? Pls 🙂

Sanna Ware Sanna Ware says:

I am a MOM and WIFE!!! Enough said

Mychele Hope Mychele Hope says:

Im just the one social workers dump their work load on …..

Proud of you love you

i am a real social worker , social worker is great

Then why are you on this page?

Kaya pala love Allen, SuperMeow mo ako 🙂

There is good and bad in every profession it doesn’t make them all bad.

Hahaha!!! Oh my!!??

Anonymous says:

Tiffany Ann Olson

Scott Prince Scott Prince says:

Because the ones I know are life sucking leeches that are only out to make themselves look good.

why don’t you like social workers ????

I used to be one, did 6 impossible things before lunch.

You don’t have to be a social worker to be involved. Volunteers are needed all time in different sectors of social services

Anonymous says:

Social worker

This is for you Michelle Reich.

Bec Plain Bec Plain says:

Graduation shirts? Anne, Gwen?

Scott Prince Scott Prince says:

Not liking social workers

Em McMillan Em McMillan says:

Brandee Norman what im going to wear to grad

Care for mother’s seperated from their children, and see that a mother does what she can. Have a compassionate appraoch to families and it is needed. I wanted to always work with kids and families.

Scott Flick Scott Flick says:

Jackie Confer

Veronica Bos Veronica Bos says:

use to be a Foster parent

Greg Pagett Greg Pagett says:

Without a degree in social work. How does one get involved?

Social work and superheroes…two of my favorite things!!! <3

I need this T-shirt!

Amy Karwowski Marcie Hill Sarah Moellenberg Sarah Jenny and every social worker I know (well, most of them anyway!)

Culture

Why We Are Just Learning About Harvey Weinstein?

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Photo Credit: People Magazine – Courtney Love and Harvey Weinstein Taylor Hill/FilmMagic; Venturelli/WireImage

Why has it taken almost three decades for Harvey Weinstein’s absurdities and gross sexual misconduct to come to light? He was a champion of women’s rights, an avid supporter of the progressive movement and a sought-after democratic donor. How did the people not know? Was there some oath of silence friends, colleagues, and staff members took which protected this man for so long?

While some may plead the fifth, it is clear that sexual harassment and discrimination against women is commonplace in Hollywood and unfortunately throughout mainstream and greater society, but it still doesn’t answer the question of why it took so damn long for the public to learn about Weinstein’s behavior. Sure there were non-disclosure agreements and possible gag orders that were strategically attached to pitiful sums of money to hush Weinstein’s multiple victims, but even still the question remains, Why?

Some believe that the answer is simple, misogyny. The misogynistic views that have been embedded in the very fabric of this countries DNA and have been allowed to permeate throughout American culture since this nation’s founding is definitely a good starting point. This misogynistic culture has caused many to turn a blind eye when they see it happen or remain silent when they encounter it themselves. The real kicker is that holding misogynistic views isn’t just a male-only issue.

Women perpetuate these views too which is evidenced by how many women voted for Trump despite the Access Hollywood tapes. Not that it is right, but perhaps the culture of misogyny that has persisted over the years has made it okay for both men and women to perpetuate and accept less than ethical and violent behavior against women.

With a long history of disrespect, disregard, and marginalization of women in this country, it would be ludicrous to ignore the influence that this attitude towards women has had within families, communities, and society as a whole. Despite the historical context that helps explain the 20+ years of silence, the question of why still remains. There have been many strides towards inclusion and improved parity for women. Women have continued to evolve and remain outspoken in various efforts to advocate for themselves and close disparity gaps, so again, why was this allowed to continue for so long?

Outside of the obvious cover-up and threat to one’s reputation; undoubtedly there is a certain intimidation that comes with “going public” about issues like this, especially when your livelihood, reputation, and in extreme cases, your life, is on the line. A victim is even more subdued when the perpetrator holds clout such as Weinstein, Cosby, and others who have been ousted for similar acts.

Arguably so, the tolerance for this type of behavior and misconduct is steadily dwindling and is a strong indicator as to why the people are just now learning about Weinstein’s gross behavior. Still, look at how long it has taken to get here. The tolerance for this type of behavior has to be high, for goodness sake, Trump was recorded on tape bragging about grabbing women by their meow’s, yet he was still elected the leader of the free world. This seemingly renewed assault on women has resulted in a call to action for individuals to protect rights that were hard-fought for and losing them would be a detriment.

This new movement of resistance has definitely brought light to the multiple injustices experienced by women as well as exposed several high-powered individuals and corporations for their unscrupulous behavior. However, as with any major change, hitting people in their pockets have always garnered both attention and change when all other forms of advocacy and protesting have been exhausted.

The threat of bad publicity and potential boycotts has been the impetus for many public apologizes, forced resignations/terminations, policy changes, and organizational change and perhaps is the reason why we are just learning about Weinstein’s actions. The Weinstein Company has since fired Mr. Weinstein in an effort to save face.

While the power of the purse has definitely seen many individuals stand on the side of “right” and condemn the actions of Weinstein in an effort to save face and maintain their bottom line, many of these same individuals such as Ben Affleck has been ousted for being perpetrators of illicit behavior against women themselves. So not only does the question of why still linger, but the question of what does it really take to resolve these kinds of issues arises as well? Perhaps no one at all really gave a damn about Weinstein’s actions outside of his victims and a small group of their supporters consisting of friends, family, and loved ones. For those A-list celebrities, writers, and producers who were fortunate to ”

So not only does the question of why these allegations lingered for so long is burned into our minds, but the question of what will it really take to resolve and address these kinds of issues in today’s society remains? Perhaps no one at all really gave a damn about Weinstein’s actions outside of his victims and a small group of their supporters consisting of friends, family, and loved ones.

For those A-list celebrities, writers, and producers who were fortunate to “make it” but were victimized, perhaps some made peace with their new-found success and opportunities and chose to put the Weinstein experience behind them. Either way, it’s good that the skeletons are no longer in the closet.

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Entertainment

Actor Terry Crews Comes Forward About Being Sexually Assaulted by Hollywood Exec

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Actor Terry Crews takes to Twitter to discuss being sexually assaulted by a Hollywood Executive in the wake of the firing of Harvey Weinstein for sexual assault after years of accusations.

Actor Terry Crews

Did you hear the Expendables star say last year?

How is it the criminal justice system doesn’t seem to be able to touch these folks?

Power and privilege keep a lot of people silent.

He just validated a whole lot of women who deal with this on the regular. It’s not easy to come forward.

There is strength in numbers and knowing you are not alone.

Both men and women are affected by sexual assault and rape culture, and it will take more men becoming advocates as well as coming forward to tell their stories because they have stories too.

Reactions from Twitter

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Entertainment

The Y Wants Everyone to Take a #SelfieWithSomeoneNew

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Today, the YMCA of the USA (Y-USA) is launching a new social media campaign, #SelfieWithSomeoneNew. Inspired by the Y’s new “Us” national campaign creative, #SelfieWithSomeoneNew is an opportunity to highlight how the Y uniquely brings people together. To help raise awareness for the campaign, the Y will partner with long-time member and supporter, actor Ethan Hawke.

Photo Credit: (YMCA of the USA)

The Y is encouraging people to meet someone new, strike up a conversation and discover what they have in common, then, take a selfie and post it to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #SelfieWithSomeoneNew and tag @YMCA.

Whether it’s a new neighbor down the street, a parent at your child’s school or a person you see every day on your commute home, the Y hopes people will take a few extra moments to get to know one another in order to build a stronger, more connected community.

To encourage participation, the Y is partnering with Oscar-nominated actor, Ethan Hawke, a long-time Y member and former Y camper. To help drive momentum, Hawke will be taking a selfie with someone new at his local Y while encouraging others to do the same.

“I am excited to support the Y and help shine a light on the work they do,” said Hawke. “They are so much more than a gym. They create community. I started going to the Y as kid when my parents didn’t know what to do with me all summer. Since then, the Y has been a staple in my life; my refuge when I am an out of work actor, or the place that has taught my children to swim. I hope we can raise awareness about everything the Y does in communities all over the country.”

Because of the Y, people who may not have met otherwise, come together, whether they are kids in an afterschool enrichment program, adults in a cancer survivorship group or families volunteering. These are natural and easy ways for people to find commonality and even unity among perceived differences.

“For more than 160 years, the Y has brought people together – no matter their differences – and helped build stronger, more connected communities,” said Kevin Washington, President and CEO, Y-USA. “#SelfieWithSomeoneNew is a great way to illustrate how we can all take small, but meaningful steps towards unity with something as simple as a photo.”

The Y is one of the nation’s leading nonprofits strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Across the U.S., 2,700 Ys engage 22 million men, women and children – regardless of age, income or background – to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve the nation’s health and well-being, and provide opportunities to give back and support neighbors. Anchored in more than 10,000 communities, the Y has the long-standing relationships and physical presence not just to promise, but to deliver, lasting personal and social change. ymca.net

For more information on how to participate in the Y’s #SelfieWithSomeoneNew campaign and to learn more about the Y’s “For a better us.” campaign, visit ymca.net/forabetterus.

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