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Livia Gershon

Livia Gershon is a freelance writer in Nashua, New Hampshire. Her writing has appeared in publications including Salon, Aeon Magazine and the Good Men Project. Contact her on Twitter @liviagershon.

Punch and Judy by George Cruikshank, 1828

When Puppet Shows Were Too Violent For Kids

How much violence do we accept in our entertainment? 19th-century Punch and Judy shows were misogynistic, murderous, and definitely not for children.
A student standing at a crossroads

Why Everyone Doesn’t Value Choice to the Same Degree

Studies show that college-educated white Americans value having choice -- and yet having too much choice can paralyze and lead to dissatisfaction.
A woman sitting alone on a bed

A Brief History of Masturbation

In the U.S. and Europe, there's still discomfort around the topic of masturbation. But we’ve come a long way from tying it to mortal sin and insanity.
The cover of Gharbzadegi by Jalal Al-e-Ahmad

Progress Is Not the Same as Westernization

Jalal Al-e Ahmad, a political and literary writer in pre-revolutionary Iran, had ideas about how his country could modernize in its own, non-Western way.
Three women wearing corsets

How Colonialism Shaped Body Shaming

When did heaviness and curviness in women become connected with the idea of "savagery"? It has a lot to do with 19th-century imperialist world views.
A little girl playing superhero

Why Playing Superhero Is Good for Kids

It's hard to know how to respond to imaginative play that looks violent. Some experts say it's best to go ahead and let little kids play superhero anyway.
George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, Barbara Bush. Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton at at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.

Why Did Christianity Thrive in the U.S.?

Between 1870 and 1960, Christianity declined dramatically across much of Europe. Not in America. One historian explains why.
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_F._Francis_(attrib)_-_Still_Life_of_Strawberries_and_Cream.jpg

The Invention of Dessert

The English word “dessert” emerged in the seventeenth century, derived from the French verb “desservir.” But the concept has changed a lot since then.
An advertisement for Ivory Soap from the Christian Herald, 1913

Using God to Sell Soap

Ivory Soap got its name from Psalm 45.
Johann Friedrich Dieffenbach

Surgery for Stuttering

In the 19th century, Europe and the United States saw a "mania for operating."
the Publick Universal Friend

The Genderless Eighteenth-Century Prophet

In 1776, a 24-year-old Quaker woman named Jemima Wilkinson died of fever, and came back to life as a prophet known as the Publick Universal Friend.
Antique engraving of a view of the State Street, Boston. Mid 1800s.

The Birth of the Modern American Debt Collector

In the 19th century, farm loans changed from a matter between associates into an impersonal, bureaucratic exchange.
The editorial staff at Reuters Press Agency, circa 1900.

The Invention of Journalistic Objectivity

In the contemporary United States we tend to expect journalists to separate fact and opinion. It's actually a relatively new phenomenon.
Illustration of a man surrounded by women

A 19th-Century Catfishing Scheme

In the late 1800s, a U.K. scheme lured lonely bachelors with newspaper advertisements supposedly placed by wealthy women.
Protesters Demand Resignation Of Puerto Rico's Governor Ricardo Rossello, July 22, 2019

“Jokes” about Genocide in Puerto Rico

The resignation of Puerto Rico's Governor Ricardo Rosselló echoes an incident from the 1930s.
Satan's fall from heaven, into the logo for Chapo Trap House.

Satan, the Radical

There is a long history of leftist thinkers embracing Satan, usually just as a way to shake up political rhetoric.
Benedictine nuns from Eibingen Abbey in Germany

Nuns Don’t Have Midlife Crises

Why Benedictine nuns report higher levels of happiness and satisfaction than their non-monastic counterparts -- and what we can learn from them.
Eleanor Club, Chicago

Co-Living, the Hot New Trend of 1898

Chicago's "Eleanor Clubs" were designed to give young, working women affordable and congenial places to live.
A person looking up into the night sky

Will AI Restore Our Sense of Wonder?

According to philosopher Max Weber, science led to humanity's disenchantment. But reaching AI Singularity might spark our sense of wonder all over again.
Someone pouring a glass of gin

Is Alcoholism a Moral Failing?

Cultural explanations for alcoholism have changed significantly throughout the years, sometimes blaming social problems, sometimes psychological.
A DuPont ad for Orlon, 1953

What We Mean By “Better Living”

How advertising used the phrase “better living” to portray big business as a force for moral good and continuous progress.
Bobby Seale at John Sinclair Freedom Rally, 1971

African-American GIs and German Radicals: An Unexpected Alliance

In December 1969, radical German students reached out to the increasingly politicized black GIs. Together, they organized a series of rallies and teach-ins at German universities.
Erotic Confessions

Before the Internet, Cable TV Was for Porn

Although porn never became a big part of the cable TV business, it was central in debates over its regulation.
An advertisement for Pernot Liqueur

The Trouble with Absinthe

When temperance advocates won the ban on absinthe in 1915, many of them saw it as the first step in a broader anti-drinking campaign.
King (Kabaka) Mwanga from Buganda (1868-1903)

Anthropologists Hid African Same-Sex Relationships

Sex between people of the same gender has existed for millennia. But anthropologists in sub-Saharan Africa often ignored or distorted those relationships.