106 posts categorized "Sex and Gender"

November 17, 2014

Aging, Living, and Dying

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

As a college professor, my students are almost always the same age—with a few outliers—but I continue to get older, which occasionally becomes more salient. Recently we screened the documentary The Central Park Five in our department, a film focusing on the attack on a jogger in 1989 and the subsequent rush to judgment that led to the wrongful imprisonment of five teen boys. The incident took place when I was a college student living in New York, and before most of the students in attendance were born. When we talked about the film, they were just as interested in hearing more about what it was actually like to be alive in the 1980s, as though I were a visitor from another era.

Admittedly, even I was struck by how old the hairstyles, clothes, and cars appeared in the documentary and I marveled at how quickly time can pass by. While focusing on the day-to-day challenges of everyday life, it’s easy to overlook the passage of big chunks of time until others point it out.

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October 06, 2014

Sociology, Murals, and Communities

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

Have you seen any murals in your community? If so, do you know what they depict? Do you know the history behind them? Finding such murals can be a good exercise for your sociological imagination.

There is one mural right next door to my college: The Great Wall of Los Angeles. It is a half-mile long, located along the interior wall of the Los Angeles River – yes, our river runs within a concrete channel, built to control the unruly flow of water. With our current state of drought, however, we don’t have much water flowing so we can see the entire mural!

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September 11, 2014

Gender and Sexual Assaults on Campus

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

As we go back to school, there has been a lot of talk about preventing sexual assault on campus. This is not a new problem. In fact, I wrote a blog about rape and sexual assault two years ago.

Much of the discussion is about assessing the rate of sexual assault on college campuses, but even after the Clery Act, it’s often difficult to know what the actual numbers are or how to prevent it. However, the prevention tips and policies are one-sided, typically focusing on how potential rape and sexual assault victims can avoid being victimized.

It’s like saying to a murder victim, don’t get in the way of your potential murderer. Blaming the victim is not an effective way to deal with any issue.

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July 29, 2014

The Never-Ending Beauty Shift

Peter rydzewskiBy Peter Rydzewski

Sociology Ph.D. student, University of Maryland

The idea that physical characteristics can be socially developed may be difficult to consider at first. According to Raewyn Connell, however, “bodies are both objects of social practice and agents in social practice” (p.67). This means that while most of our appearance is commonly attributed to gene composition and biological parents’ body characteristics, discussions about the power of gender expectations, although sometimes missed, continue to play a large role in the development of the way that we look.

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July 14, 2014

Advertising Co-opts Social Science

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

Have you seen the videos circulating that purport to be stories informed by social science? They are passed on to “enlighten” us about social issues and solutions.

I have a few examples to share with you.

The first is the Dove Evolution video about manipulating images for advertising. That one has been around awhile and does a good job of showing us how images change from the original photographs to what is actually published. (Jean Kilbourne does this well in her video, Still Killing Us Softly.)

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June 27, 2014

#YesAllWomen

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

When I was in high school, I met an old friend at our local park for a picnic. She had moved after elementary school so we were attending different schools and hadn’t seen each other for some time. We spread out our blanket, sat down, and proceeded to share food and stories.

Before long, a man came along, probably in his mid-late twenties, sat on our blanket and attempted to join in with our conversation. We both just looked at him for the first few minutes, shocked that he would be so bold. He continued talking to us, flirting, and asking us what we were “into.” We asked him to leave—we were not looking for a party or anyone else to talk to—but he refused to leave. Long story short, we had to leave the park to get rid of him. He tried to follow us but we made a lot of noise once we were nearer to other people and he wandered away. I never went back to that park.

I was reminded of this incident after the Isla Vista (Santa Barbara) murders occurred and the hashtag #YesAllWomen emerged and burned up the internet.

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June 09, 2014

Sports and Representations of Gender and Sexuality

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

Laverne Cox’s June 2014 cover story in Time magazine was a very big deal for the transgender community. There she is on the cover in the checkout aisle at the grocery store: in a blue dress, eyes locked to the camera, looking slightly downwards, walking forward. If you study gender, sexuality, and the media, it is a good moment for thinking about the importance of visibility.

It’s not the only recent example of representations of gender and sexuality making headline news, however. A few weeks ago, the twittersphere erupted when University of Missouri linebacker Michael Sam, upon learning that the St. Louis Rams drafted him, kissed his boyfriend in celebration. Broadcast on ESPN, it was seen as controversial by some people, and a watershed moment for others.

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May 27, 2014

What Can Improv Teach Us About Gender?

Peter_rydzewskiBy Peter Rydzewski

Incoming sociology Ph.D student, University of Maryland

The idea that social interactions are thought of as “performances” is a common theme throughout sociology. It speaks to the ways in which human behavior is “acted out” under an umbrella of shared norms, roles, expectations and assumptions, meaning that individual expressions are, in reality, more subject to group agreements than personal vitality.

I’ve spent the past 15 or so weeks in an improvisational theatre class. My sociological and observational instincts set in immediately after the first class session because, indeed, it was the perfect example of a real, physical stage on which social acting could take place. Erving Goffman famously describes this as the “front stage.” In my observations, this is where other students constantly looked and judged, hoping to understand our movements as part of a scene with an overall message or continuing storyline. And because the situations were fictional and the settings were imagined, the performers had to use voice and bodily comportment to express something that everyone could implicitly comprehend.  This goal was often accomplished with performances of gender.

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May 23, 2014

Costumes: Special Occasions as Performance

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Recently, I received a package on my desk. It was a black gown with a decorative, brightly colored velvet hood and an oddly-shaped hat. There was no note, no explanation, but I knew what it was for.

In any other context, the arrival of an unusual outfit would be strange, maybe even disconcerting; it is not something I would personally have chosen to wear, as it is bulky and way too warm to wear in the late spring. I am expected to wear this outfit for our university’s commencement ceremonies, just as others on our faculty and around the country are.

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May 20, 2014

Drafts and Objectification

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

“With the first pick of the 2014 draft, Nick selects Ashley from AP Physics…”

Like many of my fellow beleaguered Buffalo Bills fans, I spent last weekend tracking the 79th annual NFL Player Selection Meeting—the draft—hoping that my team will finally find the pieces needed to string together its first playoff season in 14 years. There was another draft, however, making a lot of news in California.

In Orange County a different kind of selection meeting was happening. Senior boys from Corona del Mar High School gathered at an undisclosed location and in ceremonial garb for an annual ritual. The boys were “drafting” girls to be their prom dates. Although many of the boys claim there is no money involved others say that boys exchange cash to “trade up” to a better position in the draft to select the girl they want to go to prom with. One year a kid paid $140 to draft the girl he wanted to bring to the prom.

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