I was asked to have a conversation with students about how I picked my research topic. It’s an old question, and the answer is often a mix of factors. Sometimes sociology books include an introduction or appendix on choosing a research project but often they do not. I’ll put it in rather unconventional terms: You’re either a Bingo researcher or a Monopoly researcher.
I came upon some graffiti in a campus women’s restroom recently and I just had to take a photo. The messages from women to other women are fascinating from a sociological perspective.
Many students resist the theories, data, and research findings about how gender and power structure our lives even though the dynamics of how women as a group are devalued surround us every day.
Years ago, I took an evening class with about a dozen other students. It was a seminar style class, meaning we sat around a large conference table and discussed the material with the professor. On the last day of class, we each had to give a presentation. We were instructed to state and spell our name for the instructor before we began—she had not bothered learning our names that semester.
Now maybe she just had a hard time putting faces and names together. But as a student, it felt like she didn’t care about her students or the class enough to take the time to learn a few names. We had even learned each other’s names during that time; why couldn’t she?
Twerking. Phablet. MOOC. Flatform. Bitcoin. Apols. Omnishambles. These are just some of the new words that were added to the Oxford Online Dictionaries in 2013. All of these words found their way into the popular vernacular of the English-speaking world during the past year and were used widely in various settings. But the unanimous choice for Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year was selfie. In fact, among the staff at Oxford there was not even any debate; selfie was the hands-down, clear-cut winner.
Do you live alone, with friends, or with family? Your living arrangements can teach us a great deal about social structure.
According to an August 2013 U.S. Census report, nearly one-third of Americans live alone now, a rise from just under one in five in 1970. Just one in five households now include children under eighteen, compared with forty percent in 1970.
These changes reflect more than just personal choices, but social changes. Being able to live alone is primarily a function of prosperity; it generally costs more to sustain a single household. The economic growth that came with industrialization and the rise of women’s wages meant that more people could afford to live on their own. As young adults get married later now than they did decades ago, they are more likely to have some time where they live alone as well. Also, people live longer now and are thus more likely to outlive a spouse and end up living alone at some point in their lives.
Issues of sex and gender are popular and common topics in sociology; we discuss the complexities of defining sex as physical (male, female) and gender as social (women, men).
We assume that males take on the gender identity of men and females that of women. Social roles are built on these identities and gender is structured into the fabric of society, including our workdays, occupational aspirations, and social obligations. Our society presumes that people are heterosexual, thus expecting men and women to prefer each other as sexual partners. These pathways and definitions are all supported by societal norms.
With more cross-cultural, biological, and social science research on the subtleties and issues in how sex, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual attraction (or orientation), we can see that these issues are all much more complex than we are taught. Other cultures have more than two genders yet our dominant social norms either do not recognize these categories at all or consider them to be viable or valid realities.
Over the last few weeks two professors’ job security has been shaken over students’ complaints after feeling uncomfortable by the content and presentation of course material. Both have made national headlines and raise serious questions about academic freedom.
The first was Dr. Shannon Gibney, a Communications Professor who was reprimanded by the Minneapolis Community and Technical College administration when three white students complained about a lesson on structural racism.
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