News coverage of protests and the activists which engage in them forms into patterns; media tends to highlight the extreme, irrational, angry, and violent segments of collective action (Corrigall-Brown and Wilkes 2012; Winter and Klaehn 2005). We can turn to the recent example of the Black Lives Matter movement shown shouting down presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
Why does the nature of news media depictions of activists’ emotional expressions matter? Evoking the wrong emotion in the public can alienate potential supporters. In the United States emotion and rationality are still often treated as dichotomous and mutually exclusive perspectives (Goodwin, Jasper, and Polletta 2001). Being classified as overly emotional or having the improper emotional response can undermine activist attempts to be considered legitimate in the eyes of the public.
Doubtless I am not alone among the contributors to Sociology Lens in having been exposed, during my first year as an undergraduate, to an array of foundational thinkers in sociology (and anthropology) who present human history as a movement away from ‘traditional’, ‘face–to–face’ or ‘kinship–based’ societies, towards those in which interaction and identity is less relational, and more individualized. Such theorizing is not only limited to the classical sociologists who wrote in the 1900s, like Ferdinand Tönnies and Émile Durkheim; it resurfaces again in the sociology of the 1990s. In the writings of Anthony Giddens, “the self” is seen less as a product of interactions and relations with others, and more as a matter of individual “self–fashioning.” Or, as Giddens (now Baron Giddens) wrote in 1991, “in the context of a post–traditional order, the self becomes a reflexive project” (p. 32).
And yet, this literature on individualization and self–fashioning as the signature mode of existence in ‘modernity’, associated not only with Giddens but also with Ulrich Beck and Zygmunt Bauman, becomes increasingly difficult to square with the ongoing proliferation of apparently ‘social’ measures and projects: from ‘social enterprise’ or ‘social business’ and ‘social return on investment’, to the even more ubiquitous social media platforms and social marketing initiatives. In the UK, the National Centre for Social Marketing describes social marketing as an approach that uses behavioural economics (see Roger Tyers’ post for Sociology Lenshere) to change behaviour for the benefit of “society as a whole.” Similarly, the UK’s national body for social enterprise describes such enterprises as businesses that “trade to tackle social problems…when they profit, society profits.” And the New Economics Foundation’s vision of social return on investment tools are described as alternatives to conventional cost–benefit analysis, which “does not consider anything beyond simple costs and price.” Social return on investment tools thus incorporate “social factors” when accounting for the value generated by an investment. more...
One of sociology’s main critiques revolves around neoliberalism, and its implications on everyday life in a capitalistic society. Yet, individuals do not comprehend what these implications are for those who identify as LGBTQ. As of recently, there are a plethora of articles illustrating some of the consequences that occur in this new neoliberal society. For example, John P. Elia and Gust A. Yep stated in their article, “Sexualities and Genders in an Age of Neoterrorism:” more...
There have been innumerable pieces dedicated towards labeling the millennial generation with negative qualities. The generation is usually targeted with the following complaints:
I think these arguments have been poorly constructed. They’re often more symptomatic of a fear of what is new. I will explore these four critiques and offer what about them actually makes millennials an interesting, unique and a positive generation. One that is capable of making changes to the world around them.
Narcissistic: In Defense of the Selfie
There is the supposition that millennials are narcissists, self-obsessed enough to post pictures of themselves, about the minutiae of their activities, and endlessly seeking to accrue “likes” from others. What’s not talked about is the possibility of radical self-affirmation that millennial are exploring through the internet as a medium. Yes, social media prompts us to document ourselves. Why is this so bad? In a sense, sharing ourselves, our interests, our activities, our feelings, and our image enables new possibilities for individuals to create community. Considering that adolescents (particularly women) are likely to suffer from lower self-esteem, one’s choice to explore their own self-image, to craft how we see our selves and project this to others, as well as affirm our friends’ and family’s own projected selves offers a new type of self-authorship. When a friend posts a picture of themselves, has a moment of positivity towards their own appearance, and when others lend support to this, I find it difficult to find that insidious, selfish, or terrible.
Entitled: In Defense of Our Work
Millennials are supposedly lazy. Older generations accuse them of being non-self-starters, unable to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and find jobs in a job market that is not flourishing or receptive to a new generation attempting to move in. But considering how many millennials move into the job market only to find themselves taking unpaid internships, jobs bellow their skill level, or flatly unemployable says more about our society than it does our generation. There are social forces at work, and the naivety of assuming self-reliance is outdated, narrow minded, and socially unaware.
Apathetic: In Defense of Our Efforts
Millennials are not apathetic. Our engagement with the Internet has opened us up to new ideas. That social movements like #BlackLivesMatter have taken off on the much derided social medium of twitter is symptomatic of something entirely different. Our generation has participated in new social movements, ones that are entirely contingent on the utilization of new technology. To discount it is to discount the work of many millennial activists who have been doing work to make the world better and kinder.
Immature: In Defense of Our Potential
There is a type of binary thinking that is applied to younger generations. If they watch silly Reality TV Shows and do silly dances, isn’t it a sign that behind it all they’re really immature? Unable to grow up? I think this is a profound generalization. Pop culture has always had disposable, and easily derided aspects of it gives older generations the impression that the world is burning. But to view our collective interest in Kim Kardashian as symptomatic of a deep cultural malaise is incredibly cynical. Is it somehow not possible, are we not able to have the perspective to view pop culture as non-specific to millennials? Pop culture has constantly been derided by older generations who find themselves lost in today’s world. The good news? This has happened for time immemorial for generation upon generation. We will not go down in history for the ephemeral aesthetics, the fashion trends or other minute details. Millennials have more potential than that, more heart than they’re given credit for and have the ability to make changes using the technology they’re so seamlessly integrated in.
In summation, it’s easy to write off an entire generation for aspects that are trivial. It’s much harder to explore the positive side: to see millennials as possessing unique capabilities and harnessing them for good, or to see a group of marginalized people taking charge of their narratives via the much dismissed “social network” sites that are more opportunity than calamity. Millennials have so much to bring to the table, and it’s time for us as a culture to take stock of that.
Yesterday I had to pinch myself when I saw Jeremy Corbyn on the front benches of the House of Commons, facing David Cameron as the leader of the British Labour party. Corbyn is the man who has spent all of his adult lifetime on the fringes of mainstream politics, an unapologetic socialist campaigner who has fought many of the battles of the left: against South African apartheid and Thatcherite deindustrialisation in the 1980s, against the introduction of university tuition fees in the late 1990s, against the invasion of Iraq in the 2000s, against government austerity since 2010, and, like me, a lifelong campaigner against nuclear weapons. Since becoming an MP in 1983, Corbyn’s been a member of the awkward squad on the far-left of the Labour party, someone who could usually be ignored by his old bosses Blair, Brown and Miliband.
Being a WOC (Woman of Color) or MOC (Man of Color) in a graduate program is a unique experience. The opportunities made available to you become a great resource for networking, strengthening a skillset, and producing valuable research that provides a unique contribution to your field. Some departments offer grants to their graduate students while some pay for tuition waivers, however some students are left to fend for their own sources of funding. During this period of learning to become a graduate student and all that the title entails, it can become difficult for one to navigate. While the majority of graduate students have to go through an adjustment period, there are certain adjustments that graduate students who hold a minority status have to deal with that many students who meet the requirements of being a member of a dominant status group do not have to experience. While many scholarships and awards are available and designed to seek out minority students, it is still the case that the majority of scholarships go to White students. Similarly on the receiving end, many MOC faculty, and especially WOC faculty consistently receive lower student evaluations and retention rates from their universities of employ (Pittman 2010). These statistics are the result of various interactions that have taken place over time that some would describe as the consequence of racial microaggressions.
Racial microaggressions are derogatory and negative insults or interactions that occur on a day-to-day basis against a specific person or racial group. These insults can be overt or covert but the result is an active form of racism that serves to perpetuate beliefs, ideas, and prescribed stereotypes about racial groups. Given that it has become less socially acceptable to display overt forms of racism, covert displays of microaggressions serve to single-out, disadvantage, or invalidate a person of a specific racial group; even if the intent of the microagression is unintentional, the result is the same. more...
I look at you across the train carriage. I can see the clothes you wear, I can guess the car you drive, possibly take a stab at the house you live in. In my arrogance, I think I’ve got you down. Then you get your phone out and start pushing buttons and swiping around. I can now only see your facial expressions for any clue whatsoever as to what you’re looking at, who you might be messaging, what you might be buying, which newspaper you’re checking. Financial Times or Vice? Candy Crush Saga or Tinder? I can only wonder.
The space between you and the screen is your space. We talk a lot about how we live in a surveillance society, but actually we can now live more secretive and discreet lives than ever. The presentation of the self is far more complicated in a world when we spend significant parts of our time online, not presenting ourselves to anyone much. The websites we visit, the products we buy, the stuff we read, is very much our own business.
We can, of course, leave big clues to all this by sharing and posting stuff on social media, but it appears people are doing this less and less. Last year saw a 9% decline in facebook users, according to GlobalWebIndex (GWI), a research firm that claims to run the largest ongoing study into digital consumption to date.
Many people seem bored of the idea of advertising their every move online. According to the GWI research, around 40% of Facebook users said they had “browsed their newsfeed for updates without posting or commenting on anything” in the last month. We are becoming passive lurkers more than active contributors online. Maybe this reticence is a reaction to the increasing suspicion that our every move online is being monitored by… well, you name it.
Post-Snowden, I wouldn’t be surprised if Google, Facebook, my bank, the companies who made the apps I use, the NSA, ISIS hackers, bored geeks and con-artists, ANYONE, if they were so inclined, could work out my entire life history since about 1998, when I opened my first email account with yahoo. Maybe the knowledge that big brother might be listening is making us say less. Or maybe the novelty of social media is just getting a bit old.
An article in Forbes, citing the GWI research, claims that “Facebook has become more of a passive hub for underlying social connections than a place to actively share our thoughts. And with so many checking Facebook on their smartphones, they’ll often only check in for short periods anyway, leaving little time to do more than browse and maybe “like” a photo or two.”
But to that man sat next to you on the train, or your friends, or even your spouse, most of what we do online is our own business. Maybe we are “being watched by google”, but as long as the people we know are in the dark about our online behaviour, then we are safe from social disapproval, from nosiness, from the pull and drag of social norms, from the shock or disgust of our peers. Who cares if I spend all day looking at immature cartoons, kitten vines, youtube video nasties, or questionable pornography, when there’s no-one there to question it? Within certain limits of blatant illegality (sharing child porn) or suspicious behaviour (following ISIS on twitter), we’ll probably get away with anything.
I thought of this as I read of the top twenty books downloaded on amazon, which people can read on their kindle or tablet, and the big difference between this list of ‘guilty pleasures’ and Waterstones’ top-selling paper books of the year. Popular e-books include Fifty Shades of Grey, a few Mills and Boon romance titles and four (four!) adult colouring books. Waterstones’ list includes more highbrow authors like Colm Tóíbin and Ian McEwan.
The implication is that we buy intelligent paperbacks to show off the front cover to the passenger sitting opposite us, but then download ebooks to indulge our more urges – reading about food, romance, and er… colouring in – safe from the sneering of our peers who can only see the generic grey underside of our Kindle.
Badisha, writing in the Guardian says we’re “like American winos, hiding our cheap, nasty, yet oh-so-satisfying liquor in brown paper bags – or the dead grey plastic of a Kindle…We pay for hardback editions of thoughtful, exquisitely written meditations on something or other, which took years to write. But they only take a few seconds to shelve and forget. What we really respond to is the old kiss-kiss-bang-bang, the thrill of the penny dreadful, the glitter of the music hall, the big-screen swoon.”
This thought is interesting to sociologists because the power of social norms is a fundamental tenet of the entire discipline. Remove or at least dilute that power by shrinking our consumption space to that between our eyes and the screen, and the social world starts to look very different.
On the one hand, this might be empowering: minimising the space for social disapproval; reducing the scope for the judgements of others; making conspicuous consumption less… conspicuous. On the other hand, aren’t social norms the ‘invisible hand’ that maintain a functional and cohesive society? What happens when we reduce the power of social norms, and allow ourselves free reign to indulge our every desire in that ‘private’ space between user and screen?
Today is the last day of the American Sociology Association’s annual meeting. In honor of this year’s theme Sexualities in the Social World, I wanted to bring attention to the troubling trend of murders of transgender women. First, I introduce what little data exists about the experiences of trans women. Then I consider three existing groups of social movement activists that could act as allies to the transgender community and the presence of barriers which might inhibit the building of coalitions aimed toward stopping these deaths.
There is a dearth of reliable statistics on the murder of trans women. Thankfully, organizations which serve the transgender population and their allies in the academy have embarked upon a mission to attempt to fill this gap. To date only one national study has been conducted; the National Transgender Discrimination Survey was spear-headed by the National LGBTQ Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality. This study found transgender women experience disturbingly high rates of violence and assault. In 2013, 72% of all victims of murder motivated by anti-LGBTQ sentiment were transgender women.
Currently the National Center for Transgender Equality is distributing the 2015 U.S. Trans Survey (USTS). (Editor’s note: if you are a transgender person who is interested in participating you can find the survey here!) However, the time investment which a massive undertaking of this type demands means for the near future we will continue to operate without a full understanding of who constitutes the transgender population and the conditions of their lives.
Due to a dearth of scientific studies on the topic, the responsibility of data collection has fallen on activists and sympathetic media outlets. The LGBTQ periodical The Advocate has recorded the dates and circumstances of the murders of trans women killed in 2015. The publication has strived to preserve these deceased women’s lives by including their photographs and short biographies. As of August 18th, 17 trans women have been murdered in 2015 alone.
Last month I had the privilege of going to Xiamen University in south-eastern China for a ten-day research trip, along with ten other social science PhD students from my department at Southampton University. The purpose of the trip was to give us an opportunity to do a research project with ten Chinese PhD counterparts, and to give us a feel for what some of those buzzwords of contemporary academia – ‘global’, ‘networking’, ‘collaboration’, ‘inter-disciplinarity’ – might actually mean in practice. It turns out that these vague and perhaps glamourous-sounding platitudes hide a reality full of practical and cultural challenges (and rewards) that I didn’t know existed. I finished my ten days in Xiamen feeling rewarded, enlightened, a bit wiser, and rather knackered.
One of the main ideologies of religion, which Ninian Smart has pointed out, is that of the ethical, and legal dimension. Smart states, “the law which a tradition or subtradition incorporates into its fabric can be called the ethical dimension of religion” (Smart 18; 1998). History has proved how social customs, usually stemming from religious ideologies, tend to become laws, and govern social norms. When thinking about American society, society claims there is a separation between the Church, and the State: but, this is not true. With most presidential elections, society can see how a presidential candidate’s religious affiliations, or views on certain topics, such as abortion and others, are pertinent to the voter’s candidate choice. Although, this ethical and legal dimension may be the primary example to view religion and sexuality, most people neglect to view the other dimensions in which religion governs sexuality. more...
About Sociology Lens
Sociology Lens aims to offer a lively and informative venue for faculty, graduate students and the wider public to discuss current issues in sociology. The site is a companion to the online review journal, Sociology Compass.