By 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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By 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.
Continue reading "“Who You Gonna Call?” Movies and Representation" »
By 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" »
By 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?
Continue reading "Suicide Rates: Percentages and Rates, Age and Gender" »
By 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?
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By Peter Kaufman
When I was a kid, my parents had a book that I used to flip through called Love Is Walking Hand in Hand. The book was written by Peanuts illustrator Charles Schulz, and each page had a picture of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, and the gang explaining what love is: Love is hating to say good-bye; Love is walking in the rain together; Love is letting him win even though you know you could slaughter him; Love is the whole world (this was written in the 60s, after all!). Although it's been quite a few years since I've looked at this little book, I'm pretty sure there is no page that said: Love is sociological.
To say that love is sociological may sound strange and even somewhat sacrilegious. Most of us think of love as something that we feel naturally. It's a spiritual, even cosmic, connection that brings forth an array of reactions such as butterflies in our stomachs, sweaty palms, weak knees, or just warmth and happiness. What could possibly be sociological about these physiological responses and heartfelt emotions?
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By 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" »
By Peter Kaufman
I recently visited the most gender equal country in the world. Can you guess what it is? It is known as the land of fire and ice, its economy relies heavily on fish and tourism, and its name is a bit deceiving. The answer is Iceland.
Like most visitors to this country that sits between the North Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, I was not visiting Iceland to get a sociological lesson in gender equality. Instead, I was there to experience the awe-inspiring natural beauty that seems to be right in front of you no matter where you turn. With an abundance of volcanoes, lava fields, glaciers, fjords, waterfalls, beaches, and valleys, Iceland is a nature-lover’s dream.
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By Teresa Irene Gonzales
I was recently listening to an episode of The TakeAway on NPR; the host was interviewing Shirin Lao-Raz Salemnia on her commitment to fostering an interest in coding among young girls. This got me thinking about my own experiences as a young, female computer technician during my late teens and early twenties.
I began working in information technology when I was 19. I didn’t know many women who were also interested in mainframes, computer networking, hardware technologies, et cetera. In fact, I was both the youngest person and the only woman in my computer engineering courses, and at both of my tech-related jobs. I didn’t really know how to process the explicitly gendered and sexist, and implicitly racist comments and treatment that I received (I once had a VP pat me on the head and say he’d call one of the guys to help him out). At the time, social networking was in its infancy and I didn’t know how to connect with others who had similar interests and/or challenges as me.
Continue reading "Girl Code and Heteronormativity in STEM Fields" »
By Sally Raskoff
As you learn more and more about sociology and how to use your sociological imagination, keep an eye out for the many everyday items that cross your path. You can use those items to know more about our society.
For example, the following two-sided laminated flyer came my way a few days ago, thanks to a good friend. She had received it in her mailbox.
One side is bold, red, white, and blue, announcing “College Men” who can move your stuff. They are friendly, use tools and trucks, and “customers prefer us 1 bijillion times more than the other guys.”
Continue reading "Junk Mail and the Sociological Imagination" »