142 posts categorized "Sex and Gender"

August 26, 2019

Beyond the Binary and “Doing Gender”

Jessica poling author photoBy Jessica Poling

Sociology Ph.D. student, Rutgers University

Gender has become more intensely interrogated by many people who criticize the social expectations that accompany femininity and masculinity. The beauty industry, for example, has repeatedly come under fire for the unrealistic (and often financially burdensome) ideals it sets for women. Others have noted that women are held to unequal expectations when interacting with male peers, such as maintaining a “polite” and accommodating demeanor.

The emergence of the term “toxic masculinity” acknowledges the restrictions that accompany masculinity and the negative effects it has on both women and the men beholden to it. There is thus a growing acknowledgment that gender shapes how we live our daily lives, sometimes in harmful ways. While we still seem far away from completely throwing away the shackles of femininity and masculinity, there is a growing consciousness that gender impacts us and the way we move about the world.

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May 20, 2019

Guys Like Me: Life History Analysis and the Intersection Between Biography and History

To listen to Karen's interview with Michael, click below to hear the first episode of the Everyday Sociology Podcast!

Michael Messner

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author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Life history analysis is a method that seems to perfectly fit sociologist C. Wright Mills’s concept of the sociological imagination. Mills encourages us to think of the sociological imagination and a way of thinking about the intersection between biography and history; it’s a wonder sociologists don’t embrace life history analysis more, as it helps us analyze how our informants’ experiences overlay with historical events.

Sociologist Michael Messner uses this method to better understand men’s experiences in war and how they come to make sense of these experiences over the course of their lives. His book, Guys Like Me: Five Wars, Five Veterans for Peace, examines the life stories of veterans to understand how they have grappled with their experiences in war and how this is connected with constructions of masculinity.

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April 15, 2019

The Men of Tomorrow: Gillette’s Call for a Healthier Masculinity

Todd SchoepflinBy Todd Schoepflin

The phrase “boys will be boys” irritates me. It suggests an inevitable outcome; that no matter what happens in life, it’s in the nature of boys to behave a certain way. It goes against what I’ve learned and believe as a sociologist, and runs contrary to my own experiences and observations as a parent. The idea that “boys will be boys” grossly downplays the significance of how children are raised, and says nothing about social contexts and cultural influences.

Contemplating how our social environment shapes masculinity is something that occurs on a regular basis in sociology courses. It’s not the kind of content you’d expect to see depicted in a commercial for razors. But the recent “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be” Gillette advertisement critically addresses the subject of masculinity and got a lot of attention for doing so.

Near the beginning of the ad, we hear a voice ask, “Is this the best a man can get?” followed by images about bullying, sexual harassment, and mansplaining. A man pinches the butt of a woman on a sitcom set, and we hear the voice say “It’s been going on far too long. We can’t laugh it off. Making the same old excuses.”

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March 25, 2019

Researcher Reflexivity: Why who we are Matters

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

If you are interested in researching something, there is often a personal reason. Maybe you have a parent who is incarcerated and are interested in understanding the relationships between family members of the incarcerated. Or perhaps your religious background gives you unique insight into a specific cultural practice that many people might not know about.

You might have your own point of view about these issues, even if they are not experiences you have had. Does having a perspective prohibit an individual from conducting research on a subject?

Of course, the answer is no. People conduct research on issues close to their experiences and interests all the time. Does this make their research “biased?”

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February 13, 2019

Nipplegate 2.0: Privilege and the Construction of the Body

author photoBy Angelique Harris

I can’t believe that I am discussing nipples, privilege, and the Super Bowl Halftime Show for the second year in a row, but here we are. While performing during the Halftime Show for Super Bowl LIII, Adam Levine, lead singer of Maroon 5 took off his top, exposing his bare-chest, and not one, but both of his nipples. Remembering Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” in 2004 during the Super Bowl XXXVIII’s halftime show, there was a quick and immediate backlash to the obvious double standard that allowed Levine to expose his nipples, while penalizing Jackson when it was Justin Timberlake, her guest performer, who ripped off part of her costume exposing her breast.

This begs the question, why was Levin able to expose his nipples while Jackson was not? Although a relatively simple question, the response is pretty complicated and is rooted in the ways in which we as a society construct the body and the privileges associated with these constructions. However, it’s important to note that this wasn’t just any Super Bowl halftime show, before Maroon 5 even took stage, their performance was steeped in controversy.

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January 14, 2019

Applying Verstehen: Understanding the Transgender Experience

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

It is very easy to fear what we don’t understand, and it is also easy to fear people who seem to be different from us. Our language enables this: the previous sentence contains the words “we” and “us,” suggesting that “they” and “them” are another group. As Peter Kaufman wrote two years ago, there is a danger in “othering” people that can mask our similarities.

People who identify as transgender get placed into the “other” category often, largely because many people don’t understand what it means to identify as any gender other than the one assigned at birth. When I came of age in the late twentieth century, I knew of no one who openly expressed gender identity issues—of course, that doesn’t mean no one I knew had these issues, just that they were hidden.

The concept of identifying as transgender was new to me, just as it was for many people. As sociologists, we strive to better understand people from their perspective. Sociologist Max Weber’s concept verstehen calls upon us to use research for the purpose of understanding people we study. This has led me to begin to read the growing body of sociological research on how people who identify as transgender come to this realization.

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December 24, 2018

Millennials, Sex, and the Economy: The Sociological Imagination in Action

12_01446By Angelique Harris

Although the exact definition of a millennial may vary, roughly speaking millennials are those born between 1981 and 1996, and are between 22 and 37 years of age in 2018. This is the first generation to come of age after the technology boom, having grown up with the internet and mobile phones. This is also the generation most impacted by the economic downturn. many of them graduated from college and entered the workforce during and immediately after the Great Recession, thus impacting not only their lifestyles and career opportunities, but even career choices and college majors.

While the economy impacts everyone, it has had a particular impact on millennials’ lives. We know so much about the lives and experiences of millennials in part because of their use of social media to document their lives, preferences, and habits and because, as the largest demographic, they are a target audience for market research.

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December 14, 2018

Making Sense of The Senseless: A Sociological Perspective on Mass Shootings

Professional PicBy Lauren Madden

Instructor, Long Beach City College

"You can't make sense of the senseless," said one of the police officers in response to the Borderline shooting on November 7, 2018, in Thousand Oaks, California. This statement really struck me. Shouldn't we at least try? This is what social scientists do; they try to make sense of the seemingly senseless. So how can we make sense of the phenomenon of mass shootings?

One theory, supported by clinical psychologists, is that it is anger, not mental illness, causes violence. "Violence is not a product of mental illness. Nor is violence generally the action of ordinary, stable individuals who suddenly "break” and commit crimes of passion. Violent crimes are committed by violent people, those who do not have the skills to manage their anger," writes Laura Hayes, Slate contributor and psychologist. However, Hayes notes that the mental health community has not found appropriate diagnoses for anger disorders, prevention measures, or a specific framework to help people to comprehend the violence that occurs within their communities.

Sociologists, on the other hand, try to look at the bigger picture, zooming out to study external factors such as the impact of social institutions, cultural norms and values, and patterns in the social environment to explain the "senseless."

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June 04, 2018

The Future of Gender?

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

In my Sociology of Gender class, we’ve been discussing what gender might look like in the future, should we achieve true gender inclusion and gender equality. As we learn more scientifically based information about gender and we do better with accepting gender-fluid and non-binary gender categories into our culture and society, what will it look like when we’ve achieved a more equal society, in terms of gender?

Some say we’ll have a gender-less society, as the extremes of binary sex, “masculine men” and “feminine women,” are made obsolete due to an increased understanding of the ways people define themselves and live their lives. Without society dictating you have to be either a “man “or a “woman,” and all that means for how you live your life, the standards of masculinity and femininity and the gender regime might disappear (eventually).

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April 23, 2018

Intersectionality for Beginners

Peter kaufman 2014By Peter Kaufman

Intersectionality is one of those terms that we use a lot in sociology but we don’t always do a good job of explaining. I know I’m guilty of this. Sometimes I’ll be talking with students in class or trying to explain something to someone and I may casually use the words intersectional or intersectionality without stopping to define what these terms mean.

Much like the word structure, intersectionality has become one of those common, go-to concepts that we tend to invoke so frequently in sociology we assume everyone knows what we mean by it. It’s both troubling and ironic that we make these assumptions because these concepts are usually crucial to the point we are trying to make; in fact, sometimes these concepts are the point. If the people we are talking with do not understand these terms then they will certainly not understand what we are trying to say.

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