8 posts categorized "Jenny Enos"

November 21, 2022

Branding Racism

Jenny Enos author photoBy Jenny Enos

In Sociology, we often talk about how race is a social construct. Rather than being a fixed system of classification rooted in biological difference, racial difference is (and has always been) created through social interactions, policy, and cultural meaning-making. Who is included in specific racial categories is fluid and context-dependent, constantly shifting over time. Medical and biological scientists are increasingly beginning to agree with this sociological understanding of race.  For something allegedly rooted so firmly in genetics, there is surprisingly little evidence to suggest that race is a good measure for genetic heterogeneity.

When we contend that race is a social construct, we can start noticing the ways in which race and racial difference are constantly being negotiated, (re)defined, and solidified by social processes and institutions. How corporations brand and advertise their products is a particularly interesting way in which meaning-making happens around racial difference. As they market their products to consumers through advertising, corporations attach social meanings to their products. For example, a shoe brand doesn’t sell shoes just because people need shoes; rather, the brand sells shoes because they convince consumers that there is a desirable lifestyle associated with the shoes (e.g., a life of being active, free, “cool”, or rebellious). In this sense, brands both reflect our cultural marketplace and influence what we think is desirable and how we create meaning.

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October 17, 2022

Gender Nonconformity and Culture Wars

Jenny Enos author photoBy Jenny Enos

For the past few years, an unprecedented “culture war” has been brewing in the U.S. While contemporary issues of race, class, sexuality, gender, and abortion (just to name a few) have deep historical roots, our current hyper-polarized climate has amplified each of these debates to the point where each side feels that their very existence is threatened by the other. We have recently seen this sense of threat escalate to violence numerous times: from the insurrection on January 6th 2021, to parents fighting at local school board meetings, to deadly massacres driven by white supremacist ideology.

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June 13, 2022

How Do We Make Society Less Polarized?

Jenny Enos author photoBy Jenny Enos

In our increasingly socially and politically polarized society, it ironically seems that the only thing most Americans can agree on is that our society is, indeed, polarized. Journalists, scholars, and the general public alike have noted the vast and growing rift dividing the country into two camps.

Whether it be relating to politics, public health measures, or what children should be taught in schools, the vast majority of Americans believe they don’t share the same values as those on “the other side.” A recent article in The Atlantic even writes of a “red America” and a “blue America” as two different countries; separate nations that are “unable to speak the same language or recognize the same truth.”

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May 09, 2022

“Dream Big!”: Inequality in Dreams of the Future

Jenny Enos author photoBy Jenny Enos 

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Most children and teenagers are asked this question countless of times by well-meaning parents, teachers, and friends. They are often told that anything is possible, and that they can be absolutely anything they want to be.

Some may dream of becoming the next Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, or just some nebulous kind of “celebrity”; others may dream of becoming a doctor, veterinarian, or zookeeper. “Dream big!” is the mantra espoused by many parents who, often aware of the low likelihood of the outcome, nonetheless feel pressure to encourage their children’s dreams. Parenting guides even tell parents to fight the urge to fact-check or reality-check what their children dream of.

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February 28, 2022

Far from “Post-Racial”: Color-Blind Racism, Group Threat, and Anti-Asian Prejudice

Jenny Enos author photoBy Jenny Enos

Since the election of President Obama in 2008, many Americans have claimed that we live in a “post-racial society” in which race no longer matters. After all, if we elected a Black man to be president – the ultimate position of power in the country – how can people still claim that racism exists?

Some telling societal metrics also speak to an increasingly leveled playing field between the races; for example, the difference in college enrollment rates for White and Black 18-to 24-year-olds has decreased from 8 percentage points in 2000 to 5 percentage points in 2018. At the very least, might these numbers suggest that we are headed in the right direction?

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November 29, 2021

Hookup Culture

Jenny Enos author photoBy Jenny Enos

Going to college is something that many U.S. teenagers strive for. Often advertised as the “best four years of your life” by college-educated family and friends, a college degree can bring a multitude of social and economic benefits to students. In spite of rising costs of tuition and the potential burden of student loans, research consistently shows that completing a college degree leads to higher income, better health, and improved overall wellbeing. Considering such desirable benefits, many still see the financial costs of college as worthwhile.

However, there may also be social, physical, and psychological costs associated with going to college. Recently, the public has begun paying more attention to various social issues plaguing college campuses, such as binge drinking, hazing, racism, and class bias. Drinking in college, which many students see as an integral part of the “college experience,” is estimated to be related to over 1,500 yearly deaths caused by unintentional injury among college students aged 18 to 24.

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November 22, 2021

Commodities, Neoliberalism, and the Economy of Imprisonment

Jenny Enos author photoBy Jenny Enos  

Under capitalism, we are surrounded by products that promise to improve or fulfill our lives in some way. Whether it’s beauty products, nutritional supplements, clothing, or even technology, the advertisements we are exposed to tell us that we need to keep consuming products in order to be the best versions of ourselves. Consumerism, or society’s incessant preoccupation with purchasing consumer goods, has seeped into just about every corner of our lives. Even holidays – our cultural traditions that are about celebration and togetherness – have become multi-billion-dollar industries, with consumption (like buying gifts or decorations) now being a condition for participation. After all, it is impossible to celebrate Halloween without at least buying a pumpkin!

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August 30, 2021

“The Right Look”: Emotional and Aesthetic Labor in Ballet

Jenny Enos author photoBy Jenny Enos

It is no secret that jobs are not what they used to be. While Karl Marx’s disturbing depiction of alienated and lifeless factory workers in the mid nineteenth century may still ring true to some, our working conditions have arguably only gotten worse. The so-called “gig economy,” in which steady jobs are replaced with task-based independent contract work, has taken a strong hold in our society. Corporations like Uber, Lyft, and Instacart are making immense profits by hiring only independent contract workers (rather than employees), who are ineligible for benefits and exempt from minimum wage requirements – no matter how many hours these independent contractors actually work. Their argument, of course, is that limiting independent contract work would decrease flexibility and jeopardize the quirks of modernity we all hold near and dear – like ride sharing or food delivery .  

As our economy has expanded and morphed, so has scholars’ understanding of what “labor” actually means. In 1983, Arlie Hochschild famously published The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling in which she details the advent of “emotional labor” in the growing service economy. According to Hochschild, emotional labor is the work we do (usually daily, on the job) to “induce or suppress feeling in order to sustain the outward countenance that produces the proper state of mind in others” (20).

Continue reading "“The Right Look”: Emotional and Aesthetic Labor in Ballet" »

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