127 posts categorized "Sex and Gender"

June 05, 2017

The Brumble

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

As a professor at a large northeastern university, I spend a fair amount of time listening to students talk. Particularly before class, as I do some last minute shuffling of my notes or plugging in my PowerPoint, I’ll overhear conversations. There’s a common—but assuredly not universal—male speech pattern I’ve noticed. It’s a kind of low, back-of-the-throat mumble I started to call a brumble (i.e., bro + mumble).

Two years ago, there was quite the uptick in interest on how some women speak with a kind of rasp or “creaky voice”—an example is Zooey Deschanel’s character on New Girl--and the term “vocal fry” became quite popular. This corresponded with other supposed concerns over how women speak, like using “uptalk” or, more technically, “high rising terminal” (i.e., ending every sentence with a high note, implying a question) and, like, dropping “like” in a sentence. The idea of vocal fry becoming problematized as a characteristic of young women’s speech was seen as pervasive enough that even feminists like Naomi Wolf spoke out to say that women should drop vocal fry and “reclaim their strong female voices.”

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March 27, 2017

Signs of Gender

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

You might be seeing new restroom signs popping up in public or private spaces. Single-person bathrooms are getting a makeover in many places with the gender specific labels replaced with gender “neutral” labels. Thus, anyone who has to go, can just go, without concern about using the “right” room.

Here’s a photo I took the other day of a room newly re-labeled. This is a very inclusive sign, as it says “all gender” and even has the accessibility icon:

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March 08, 2017

Thinking Beyond the Case Study

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Case studies are singular examples that seem to illustrate a phenomenon. Textbooks would be dull without them, and journalists often use interviews to add color to their stories. But case studies can become so alluring, and seem to illustrate interesting patterns so well that they can encourage us to draw conclusions without further investigation.

Take the case of Kitty Genovese, a 28-year-old woman who was stabbed to death in Queens, New York, in 1964. Her case gained notoriety because there were purportedly dozens of witnesses to the attack who did not call the police. This led researchers to study something they called the bystander effect, positing that the more people who observe an event take place, the less likely they are to take action because they presume that someone else will.

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January 09, 2017

Sociology and the Culture of Sex on Campus

Thumbnail_Press - Lisa Wade (c) Babs Evangelista_300dpiBy Lisa Wade

Associate Professor of Sociology, Occidental College

When new students move into their residence halls to start their first year of college, they become a part of an institution. In many ways, it is a “total institution” in the tradition of the sociologist Erving Goffman: an organization that collects large numbers of like individuals, cuts them off from the wider society, and provides for all their needs. Prisons, mental hospitals, army barracks, and nursing homes are total institutions. So are cruise ships, cults, convents, and summer camps. Behemoths of order, they swallow up their constituents and structure their lives.

Many colleges are total institutions, too. Being a part of the institution means that students’ educational options are dictated, of course, but colleges also have a substantial amount of control over when students eat, where they sleep, how they exercise, with whom they socialize and, pertinent to our topic today, whether and under what conditions they have sex.

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December 12, 2016

Gender in the Darkroom

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Journalist Susan Faludi has been writing about gender for decades, from her 1991 book Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, about the aftermath of the second wave of the feminist movement, to Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man, in which she examines how economic, political, and cultural shifts have created challenges for men. Her latest book, In the Darkroom, is by far the most personal. It explores her father’s transition from male to female.

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August 29, 2016

Bullying and “Doing” Gender

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

One of the most challenging concepts new students in sociology struggle with is the idea that gender is not just something we are born with, not just something we are socialized into as young children, but something that we actively “perform” throughout our lives. Might a more widespread understanding of how we “do” gender reduce bullying and violence?

Candace West and Don H. Zimmerman’s now classic Gender & Society article, “Doing Gender,” notes that “gender is not a set of traits, nor a variable, nor a role, but the product of social doings of some sort.” Gender is not just something we learn to perform in childhood, but something that we are continually performing, although we might not be aware of this process.

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August 15, 2016

“Who You Gonna Call?” Movies and Representation

TigonzalesBy Teresa Irene Gonzales

The summer blockbuster season, as with any year, includes everything from large-scale action films like Captain America: Civil War, to family-friendly flicks, such as Finding Dory, Secret Life of Pets, and The BFG.

Although I’m not a big moviegoer, I went to see the Ghostbusters remake of the 1984 classic during its opening weekend.   I enjoyed watching the original movie and the subsequent cartoon series as a child, but I didn’t really identify with any of the characters.   Given the controversy over the reboot of the film--particularly the critiques regarding the presence of redundant and reductive racial stereotypes--I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, I was also excited to see a movie with four female leads.  

Recent studies show that there is a persistent underrepresentation of speaking female characters (let alone protagonists) within the movie industry. The numbers are even lower for women of color and for members of the queer community. As I noted in a previous post, “Popular Culture, Race, and Representation,” these limited representations showcase the ways that our society devalues and undervalues nonwhite and female stories and experiences. A lack of representation also means a lack of role models and a missed opportunity to represent other voices and experiences.  

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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.

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May 25, 2016

Suicide Rates: Percentages and Rates, Age and Gender

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a report on suicide rates, finding that suicides in the United States had increased by 24 percent between 1999 and 2014. Like most people, I learned of this report after reading upsetting headlines about this increase. My local newspaper, the Los Angeles Times reported that "US Suicides Have Soared Since 1999."

As sociologists, we learn to look at the original data to get the real story beyond the headlines. What do the data tell us? Is it the same story as being told in news reports?

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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" »

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