An All-Too-Human Grind: A Review of the Film Grinder

Filmmaker Brandon Ruckdashel has deftly answered the call for #HollywoodMustDoBetter with his film Grinder. I’m certain that it had been included in GLAAD’s Studio Responsibility Index (2016), it would have received a good rating for avoiding many common stereotypes of films dealing with LGBT issues.

It’s too easy for an impressionable teenager searching for affirmation and love to be groomed and manipulated, especially by an abusive, power-driven predator who promises to make dreams of success, love, and admiration come true. We meet 16 year old Luke grappling with his journey of self-discovery, his abusive home environment, and flirting online with Rich. With 50% of gay and lesbian youth reporting they are rejected by their parents for their sexual orientation, it is no surprise that after his father’s homophobia violently erupts, Luke runs away to the city towards Rich and the promise of acceptance and opportunity. He joins the “gays and lesbians [that] make up about 40 percent of all homeless youth.” To watch his innocence methodically taken from him in a myriad of ways is unsettling, and yet, that his story happens daily to many young people in his situation is truly heartbreaking.

When Luke comes to the city, he meets a photographer named Tim employed by Rich. Tim’s identity and sexual orientation struggles are exemplified by his literal running to escape who he is and what he wants:

Model: “What are we looking for?”

Tim: “Something that adds texture…without taking away from the focus.”

Model smokes cigarette. “I’m trying to quit.”

Tim: “I’m trying to take care of myself.”

He photographs Rich’s men for a profitable living. When behind his camera, Tim is at his most comfortable and emotionally intimate with his male subjects, albeit at a distance. Physical intimacy only happens not with his female fiancé, who is always absent, but with his male partners after self-hating and drinking. Tim develops a fascination with Luke, and not unlike many of us feeling the weight of our choices over many years, possibly sees a younger version of himself with all the hope and simplicity in life he still wished he had. Tim fights to give Luke the opportunity and freedom he so desperately wishes for.

The real Grinder here is not the app. Rather, it is overcoming the male meat grinder stuffed with toxic masculinity, homophobia, self-loathing, hatred, identity, power, striving, and finding one’s place in the world. To become successful, how far will you go, and what will it do to you along the way? What are the paths for young men like Luke to grow up with love and support to become the man he wants to be? Or the paths for men like Tim to escape toxic masculinity and embrace his own multifaceted place in the world? How can we help more men find them, and demonstrate support? Unfortunately these men are stuck in the grinder. However, daybreak, and the possibility of new beginnings, await.

Additional Resources:

SEQuEL 2017 Conference Proposals & Registration #SEQUEL2017

Quantity Across the Curriculum is a faculty-driven program for quantitative reasoning at Bridgewater State University. QuAC's mission is to increase student and faculty engagement and success with numbers in all disciplines of higher education.

Quantity Across the Curriculum is a faculty-driven program for quantitative reasoning at Bridgewater State University. QuAC’s mission is to increase student and faculty engagement and success with numbers in all disciplines of higher education.

Southeastern Massachusetts Quantitative Engagement and Literacy is an annual meeting of higher education faculty and staff around teaching, learning, and student success with quantitative literacy across the curriculum. Faculty and staff from the region are invited to attend, present, and share.

Thursday, January 12, 2017,
8:30am – 2:30pm, at

Bridgewater State University
Burnell Hall 132
100 Burrill Avenue
Bridgewater, Massachusetts

Math anxiety and avoidance not only interfere with students’ test-taking success; they can also keep students from engaging with quantitative content elsewhere in their coursework and career. SEQuEL 2017 invites proposals and sharing around how to understand and mitigate our students’ (and our own!) anxieties around numbers, and locating and building instead on quantitative strengths in the college classroom.

To register for SeQUEL 2017, click here.

Call for Proposals

We invite proposals for presentationsworkshops, and round tables.

Proposals will be reviewed by conference organizers, and this call will close October 31, 2016. Presenters will be notified on November 18th.

To submit a proposal, click here.

Source: SEQuEL 2017

inSocialWork Podcast #199 – Karen Zgoda, Dr. Melanie Sage, Dr. Jonathan Singer, and Dr. Lauri Goldkind: Technology-Mediated Assignments for Real World Learning

kzgoda_msage_jsinger_lgoldkindThis podcast contains follow-up conversation from our CSWE 2015 #swtech session!

Listen to the podcast here: inSocialWork Podcast #199 – Karen Zgoda, Dr. Melanie Sage, Dr. Jonathan Singer, and Dr. Lauri Goldkind: Technology-Mediated Assignments for Real World Learning

Have you considered incorporating technology or social media into your courses? If you have, then you are not alone. However, it can be daunting, given that there seems to be an increasing push to use these digital tools but not much direction as to how to do it. In this podcast, four social work educators talk about how they have used digital tools in their teaching. Professors Karen Zgoda, Melanie Sage, Jonathan Singer, and Lauri Goldkind offer examples from their work as they share thoughts about, and experiences with, integrating technology-mediated assignments into their coursework.

Karen Zgoda is an instructor in the School of Social Work at Bridgewater State University. She starting hosting online social work chats in 2000 and is currently a collaborator and chat host for the #MacroSW Twitter chats focused on macro social work practice. Karen previously wrote the SW 2.0 technology column for The New Social Worker Magazine and served as an AmeriCorps VISTA member and project coordinator at CTCNet working on digital divide issues. Her research and pedagogical interests include technology in social work and education, macro social work, social policy, and research methods.

Melanie Sage, PhD, is an assistant professor and BSSW program director at University of North Dakota, where she conducts research in areas of both child welfare and technology. She has trained over 1,000 social workers in the ethical use of social media and is especially interested in how technology is used in child welfare practice and in social work classrooms. She teaches coursework in direct practice with individuals and families, children’s mental health, and motivational interviewing. Dr. Sage holds a PhD in social work and research from Portland State University and an MSW from East Carolina University and spent most of her pre-academic social work career in child welfare and mental health settings. Currently, she’s working with colleagues, Dr. Laurel Hitchcock and Dr. Nancy Smyth, on a book titled “Teaching Social Work with Digital Technology.” You can join her for conversation and virtual coffee on Twitter: @melaniesage.

Jonathan B. Singer, PhD, LCSW, is an associate professor of social work at Loyola University Chicago and founder and host of the Social Work Podcast. His practice, teaching, and scholarship focuses on suicide intervention, cyberbullying, family-based interventions, community services, school social work, technology, and podcasts. Dr. Singer is the author of 45 publications, including the 2015 book “Suicide in Schools: A practitioner’s guide to multilevel prevention, assessment, intervention, and postvention.” He has given over 100 academic and continuing education presentations nationally for the U.S. Military, community mental health agencies, school districts, and clinical social work organizations. He can be found on Twitter as @socworkpodcast.

Lauri Goldkind, PhD, teaches at Fordham across the foundation and advanced year curricula as well as in the masters of nonprofit administration program. She holds an MSW from SUNY Stony Brook with a concentration in planning, administration, and research and a PhD from the Wurzweiler School of Social Work at Yeshiva University. Her practice experience was focused in the in youth development, education, and juvenile justice realms. Prior to joining the faculty at Fordham, she served as Director of New School Development and Director of Evaluation at the Urban Assembly (UA), a network of specialized public schools located in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Manhattan. At UA she supported principals through the new school process, helping them earn start-up grants valued at over $500,000 per school; additionally, she provided technical assistance to principals and school-based staff on data-driven decision making, development and maintenance of data management structures and the effective use of data to improve student achievement.

Direct podcast link here.


APA (6th ed) citation for this podcast:

Episode 199 – Karen Zgoda, Dr. Melanie Sage, Dr. Jonathan Singer, and Dr. Lauri Goldkind: Technology-Mediated Assignments for Real World Learning. (2016, September 12). inSocialWork® Podcast Series. [Audio Podcast] Retrieved from

Film Review: A Young Man’s Future

Watching someone struggle with mental illness is never easy, and even harder when you are in love with the person suffering. This film is about two young men, Jeremy and Scott,  trying to succeed in college while navigating the challenges in forming a romantic relationship with each other and learning how to cope when Scott develops schizophrenia. Watching a loved one slip into deep schizophrenia is particularly challenging on many levels, a process  Jeremy accurately describes as “I feel like I’m going crazy.”  My heart broke many times watching Scott travel deeper and deeper into his illness. Unfortunately these struggles with mental health are all too common, and while untreated mental illness is an avoidable tragedy in this country, this film deftly lays bare the struggles faced by those coming to terms with their mental illness. No Restrictions Entertainment has a reputation for creating unflinching astute portrayals of the human condition in struggle; we get to watch characters make tough, individual choices to cope and persevere, and are reminded that these choices are easier when surrounded by supportive loved ones. Hopefully you walk away thinking about your own choices and are reminded to be supportive of those struggling.

You can find more information about the film on its Facebook page. Side observations: Scott looks like a young Michael Hutchence and has an awesome, rotating collection of funny cooking aprons.

#PulseOrlandoSyllabus, #PulseOrlando & #MacroSW

pulse-orlando-header-672x372This post created by Karen Zgoda, Patricia Shelly, MSW, @UBSSW,  and one of my former students Sheri LaBree, MSW. It is cross-posted to reach as many as possible.

Resources: (another resource list – an Orlando Syllabus for Social Workers – is posted below )

#PulseOrlandoSyllabus – Extensive resources crowdsourced and collected by librarians

Park, H. and Mykhyalyshyn, I. 2016 (June 16). L.G.B.T. People Are More Likely to Be Targets of Hate Crimes Than Any Other Minority Group. New York Times. Retrieved from:


Note: Many tweets about #PulseOrlando use “Latinx” instead of Latina/o. Why?
“The ‘x’ makes Latino, a masculine identifier, gender-neutral. It also moves beyond Latin@ – which has been used in the past to include both masculine and feminine identities – to encompass genders outside of that limiting man-woman binary.
Latinx, pronounced ‘La-teen-ex,’ includes the numerous people of Latin American descent whose gender identities fluctuate along different points of the spectrum, from agender or nonbinary to gender non-conforminggenderqueer and genderfluid.”

Here is a Macro Social Work version of an #OrlandoSyllbus. It can help us understand the facts and the complex layers of meaning of the June 12, 2016 massacre at the Pulse nightclub. It includes some implications for social work practice.

Please note the #PulseOrlandoSyllabus,  listed below,  is extensive. It includes current articles, in addition to less recent publications.


Intro by Sheri LaBree, MSW:

Much has been written in the media regarding the massacre that took place in Orlando on June 11th. Politicians, pundits and other talking heads have discussed the motives of the attacker, the morals of those that were injured or killed, and of course, they have talked about gun control.

What do we know, nearly two weeks later? Very little. We know that 49 individuals were murdered, and dozens were injured.

The attack occurred at a “gay nightclub.” To me, this label is misleading. Pulse, the nightclub where this occurred, was a sanctuary for the LGBTQ community. It was a safe place. Or at least it was supposed to be.

These people were more than “just” gay. They were sisters, brothers, cousins, coworkers, friends. Like all of us, their lives cannot be neatly divided into labels. The murdered include a social worker, an accountant, a dancer, and an aspiring nurse, among others.

Was this massacre a hate crime against the LGBTQ community? Was it the work of an Islamic terrorist? We may never know. Here’s the question: does it matter? These are people who faced discrimination and obstacles that most of us will never encounter, based solely on their sexual identity. Their lives should be celebrated. They should not be labeled, because they deserve so much more.

The importance of LGBTQ identity is a subject far too big to discuss here. My message is that we should remember the people who were murdered as whole people, with full lives that are multi-faceted and complex.

ORLANDO SYLLABUS FOR SOCIAL WORKERS Compiled by Karen Zgoda and Pat Shelly




  • On Orlando and Beyond. (2016).  Danna Bodenheimer.
    There isn’t much for me to say about Orlando that hasn’t already been said. Most of the debates about the underlying causes of this massacre have happened somewhere in the media or on Facebook. That said, it seems irresponsible and avoidant to write about anything else this week – because, the fact is, even with everything that has already been articulated, we need to keep talking. And talking and talking and talking. And while I have no overarching goal in talking about what happened in Orlando, there are a few points that I would like to make that feel particularly relevant to us as clinical social workers.

Hate Crimes


( *6 Articles from #PulseOrlandoSyllabus with focus on LGBTQ, Trans, and people of color:)


Queer Muslims

Social Work


Impact on Children

 Gun Control Policy & Actions