46 posts categorized "Jonathan Wynn"

July 12, 2016

Challenging Confirmation Bias: Ways to Widen Your Perspective

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

It feels like there’s a lot going on. A presidential election and all of the discussion about gun and immigration politics. Supreme Court rulings. Orlando. Black Lives Matter.

There is good reason to raise that rainbow flag or post that Black Lives Matter sign on your lawn. If you are white, straight and cisgender, the persons of color and LGBTQ folks you know might appreciate your signs of support. Someone walking by your house might take comfort in seeing some love.

There are plenty of unconscious reinforcements that support our preexisting thoughts on events, what psychologists call a confirmation bias. Confirmation bias and ethnocentricism (what sociologist William Graham Sumner described as the assessment that one’s own culture and values are superior to others) lock together. These twin forces block, slow, and alter our ability to be good allies for folks who are unlike us.

Continue reading "Challenging Confirmation Bias: Ways to Widen Your Perspective" »

June 01, 2016

Connecting Across Race

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

The Black Lives Matter movement was made possible by social media, and offers an opportunity for different groups to have a conversation about race in America.

My grandparents were very religious and active in the civil rights movement. Bomb threats were directed at churches in the Washington D.C. area that planned to house southern African Americans making their way to the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In coordination with their church, my grandparents housed dozens of men and women in their home. (For a vivid retelling of the time by one of the key figures in the movement, see John Lewis's graphic novel, March.)

Continue reading "Connecting Across Race" »

April 12, 2016

Ten Sociological Metaphors and Paradoxes

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

A few years ago, as a graduate student I was talking with an older sociologist who was cranky about how qualitative research was "too cute" in its lyrical presentation of data. I asked further about what that meant to her and she told me that she felt sociology should be "straight science." Upon further prompting she exclaimed, "metaphor has no place in sociology." Flummoxed with the conversation, I blurted, "WHAT ABOUT WEBER'S IRON CAGE!?!"

Metaphor is a rhetorical technique wherein one image stands in place of another. (Metaphor is different from a simile, wherein something is explicitly described as "like" something else.) My impolite response to a senior faculty member wasn't my finest moment. Her position, however, was astonishing because sociology is chockablock with wondrous metaphors and creative paradoxes that serve as conceptual tools for research and heuristic devices.

Continue reading "Ten Sociological Metaphors and Paradoxes" »

March 16, 2016

Masculinity So Fragile

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

Recently Will Smith's son, Jaden Smith, 17, became the face of the upcoming Louis Vuitton women's wear campaign. In the ads Jaden wears a black skirt and a fringed mesh top (you can see the photo here). This has sparked a mixture of cheers, jeers, and vitriol. Is it surprising that a gender-fluid image for a Spring 2016 fashion catalogue causes controversy? Why? Why would men—and it's mostly men—be so upset?

Here's something a little counter intuitive: masculinity, rather than being cast as the epitome of strength and power, is actually quite fragile. An undergraduate sociology student at UC Berkeley, Anthony J. Williams, added to the #masculinitysofragile hashtag to document the delicate yet heavily policed border between masculinity and femininity, and his contributions sparked an international trend. (Kudos!) This idea has been percolating in social media recently, and there are some solid sociological ideas to back all this up.

So, why the backlash?

Continue reading "Masculinity So Fragile" »

February 05, 2016

The Dead White Guys of Theory?

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

When teaching sociology—particularly theory—we'll often hear about how most of the classic readings we assign are written by "dead white guys." And when you look through the canon it is, indeed, very pale and very male.

Few women are credited in shaping early sociology. Marianne Weber influenced her husband Max and Georg Simmel, and was a powerful sociologist in her own right. Harriet Martineau translated and edited Auguste Comte's famous Cours de Philosophi Positive so well that Comte preferred her version of his book over his own. Charlotte Perkins Gilman (of The Yellow Wallpaper fame) and Jane Addams both described themselves as sociologists, taught sociology courses, published articles in the American Journal of Sociology, and were charter members of the American Sociological Society (now called the American Sociological Association). Mary Jo Deegan writes on the exclusion of women in the American Sociological Society here.

Still, I think that it is completely fair to concede that classical sociological theory has a lot of "dead" and "guys."

What about that "white" part, though? Let's examine that more closely.

Continue reading "The Dead White Guys of Theory?" »

January 20, 2016

#Pinktax and #Genderpricing: Gender in the Checkout Aisle

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

Last month I wrote a post that was critical of the state's involvement in offering a voluntary tax of the poor and desperate via the lottery. And you are likely aware that women still make less than men (79 cents for every dollar a man makes at an equivalent job), the costs of birth control mostly fall on women, and research demonstrates a "mommy penalty" with the pay gap between mothers and fathers. This time I'd like to write about how women pay more than men in the checkout aisle.

You might think to yourself, "Well, like other bathroom products, tampons could just be folded into the cost of running a normal household." If you do think that way, there's a good chance that you are a man. Because, if you are a single mother or a young woman working her way through college or a member of a lesbian couple or have two teenaged daughters, it is a frustrating fact of life that women pay for and are taxed on everyday, essential products that the other 49% of the population does not have to pay for.

Continue reading "#Pinktax and #Genderpricing: Gender in the Checkout Aisle" »

December 22, 2015

The Lottery as Gift: Who Wins?

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

I was trying to think about a good topic to write about for the holidays. We here at the Everyday Sociology Blog have covered shopping crowds and even a Durkheimian Christmas. Scanning for something commonplace, I was talking with a student who told me that her family always uses lottery tickets as Christmas stocking stuffers, and it got me thinking.

At first, it seems sort of charming: kids waking up Christmas morning for the chance to win money. I remembered, as a kid, scratching off a lottery ticket from an uncle, with a lucky coin. Certainly all those New York State lottery commercials I remember reinforced the whimsy: "Hey, you never know!" and "All you need is a dollar and a dream!" But, thinking about it more—and beyond the idea of the lottery as a form of gambling, and outside of The Hunger Games—the sociology kicked in quickly.

Continue reading "The Lottery as Gift: Who Wins?" »

November 12, 2015

“Where are You From?” Immigration, Identity, and Being a “True American”

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

I winced the second she said it. My 73-year-old cousin asked the server in a Vietnamese restaurant, “Where are you from?” Now, aside from the good chance that the family of a waitress in a Vietnamese restaurant was at one point from Vietnam, I had to interject: “She could be from South Carolina.”

My 73-year-old cousin had good intentions; of course, she is a friendly person who is interested in people. I had to slowly explain effect of being asked, “Where are you from?” repeatedly could have the unintended consequence of alienating someone, rendering someone like our server a “forever foreigner.” 

Continue reading "“Where are You From?” Immigration, Identity, and Being a “True American”" »

October 08, 2015

Water and the Tragedy of Extra Credit

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

This summer, entering the fourth year of drought conditions in California, ordinary residents followed Governor Jerry Brown’s call to cut their water usage by a quarter. All cities met their water conservation targets. The Los Angeles Times, however, cites a UCLA study finding that wealthier communities actually used more water than usual during the water restriction.

One of the study’s authors notes that “…[t]he problem lies, in part, in the social isolation of the rich, the moral isolation of the rich.” Richer areas consume three times as much as poorer ones. “This disparity,” the report notes, “reflects different land uses, built densities, climates, and the vast differences in wealth.... [T]he top 5% earns over twelve times more than the bottom 20%.” (Here is a great article on golf courses in the desert areas of Southern California.) It is a wonderful portrait of how housing and spatial segregation shapes the perspectives of residents, not unlike Georg Simmel’s seminal "The Metropolis and Mental Life."

Continue reading "Water and the Tragedy of Extra Credit" »

September 07, 2015

Summer Sci-Fi and Social Media Segregation

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

 Summertime is time for a little fun reading, and I have always been a sucker for science fiction. I recently read four sci-fi books, Robopocalypse, The Martian, On Such a Full Sea, and The Affinities. The Martian as a kind of updated Robinson Crusoe story and Sea is set in dystopian U.S. (”New China”) feeling the aftereffects of climate change, where the rich live in “Charters” and the poor live in work-cities. Robopocalypse is, well, self-explanatory.

Robert Charles Wilson’s The Affinities tells the tale of a corporation called InterAlia that sorts people into 22 “affinity groups.” These groupings reminded me of recent research on social media: how Facebook, Twitter, etc. can paradoxically limit the range of information and opinion we consume. This social media self-segregation, according to a recent Atlantic article, partially explains why some white folks don’t fully understand important events, like the Ferguson, Missouri story.

Continue reading "Summer Sci-Fi and Social Media Segregation" »

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