Crisp Culture: a national obsession.

[Source: By Gerolsteiner91 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons]


In the UK, this week marks the end of British Summer Time. The clocks go back an hour, its dark by teatime, and the sky turns a uniquely depressingly shade of gunboat grey until March. Yes, The Long Dark Winter Of The Soul starts here. For millions of Britons, keeping Seasonal Affective Disorder at bay will mean spending many hours in that great British sanctuary: THE PUB. There will be beer, there will be football, there will be whingeing and moaning, and there will definitely be crisps. Lots and lots of crisps*.

Crisps might not be the most sociological of topics for me to discuss here on Sociology Lens, but they are certainly a valid cultural signifier. Until I started working alongside many foreign students in the UK, I never really questioned how ubiquitous these potato snacks really are, and how strange our national obsession can seem to newcomers. You know something is deeply embedded in one’s culture when you never think to question it.   (more…)

Are We All Expert Impostors?

Image credit: PhD Comics

In a previous post (which can be found here), I mentioned the ‘impostor phenomenon’ and how I and many people I know who work in academia have experienced it in some form or another during their career. The ‘imposter syndrome’ (identified by Clance & Imes, 1978, pp. 1-2), the feeling that leads the self-declared impostors to believe that they are not intelligent and that anyone who thinks otherwise has simply been fooled, is usually accompanied by a fear that one day some significant person (a colleague, boss, parent, or partner) will catch them out and realize that they are a fraud. It is incredibly common among academics and is even more common among those who are not in the ‘elite’ category normally associated with academia, i.e. white, wealthy men.  Thus, impostor phenomenon is particularly prevalent among women, ethnic minorities and/or any under represented populations (see e.g. Peteet, Brown, Lige & Lanaway, 2014).

As impostor phenomenon has entered mainstream discourses surrounding academic success (and failure), numerous books and articles (such as Clance, 1985, this Forbes article, or this advice for new students at MIT) attempt to offer ways to understand and deal with this newly acquired insecurity; the fear of failing because you feel like an impostor. Oftentimes, it is said that feeling like an impostor is something that we need to overcome, and that ‘faking it’ is an important part of doing so (for example, Amy Cuddy’s TED talk, 2012). This is almost certainly the case for people in academia who are undermining themselves unjustly, particularly women and first generation graduate students who tend to face significant internal barriers to success (see e.g. Gardner, 2013).  I would argue, though, that in some instances (particularly in my own experience) feeling like an impostor can be a legitimate emotion, because that is exactly what we are.


A Makeover for Cosmopolitan?

Source: Cosmopolitan Magazine, November 2014

Source: Cosmopolitan Magazine, November 2014


Every day I drive a half hour from my home to my office at the university and a half an hour from the university back home.  Like many of my peers, I pass time during my commutes listening to National Public Radio.  I know it is a bit of a cliché, the doctoral student in the sociology department listening to NPR every morning, but I really do feel as if my 60 minutes of NPR each day keep me on top of current issues in local and global politics, business, science and technology, and global health.  NPR is part of my routine and for the most part it is pretty predicable.

However, last week I was caught off guard by a segment in the special series “The Changing Lives of Women.”  I had heard a couple of other stories in the series.  There was a very interesting interview with the Navy’s first four-star admiral, Michelle Howard.  There was also a piece on female programmer who were pioneers of the computer revolution.  On October 14, 2014, the NPR series focused on Joanna Coles, the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine.


Only “Real” Women Need Apply: Defining Womanhood and Trans Inclusion at Women’s Colleges

By Nicolás Espinosa (De mi computador) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Nicolás Espinosa (De mi computador) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

If you read my last post about how women’s colleges are still relevant, you know that I am a large advocate for women’s colleges. There is a plethora of evidence that women’s college students experience (and gain) significant benefits compared to their coeducational peers.

That does not mean, however, that sex segregation in education is always the answer. In fact, for some single-sex colleges, the gender-focused environment is in fact too exclusionary. Women’s colleges, by definition, are for women. But what does that mean? Who qualifies as a woman? Are we talking about gender or sex?


Exhibit A: the Whites of the Eyes

Soc lens White

Under what conditions might it be ethical to refuse to meet or return someone’s gaze? Is it ever acceptable for a social scientist or journalist to write ‘with their eyes shut’? The notion that visual receptiveness can be a spur to urgent ethical response is captured in that familiar category of humanitarian action, ‘bearing witness’ (so much so, in fact, that we often forget about the work that must be done in order for witnesses to be created). At the same time, it is almost a sociological commonplace that to look is to do violence. From Michel Foucault’s ‘medical gaze’ – implying a mute body patiently set before the sovereign eye of a physician – we derive John Urry’s ‘tourist gaze’, and Raewyn Connell’s ‘imperial gaze’. The last is found wherever classical sociologists sought to generate what Connell calls a ‘synoptic view of human affairs from a great height,’ inserting vulgar classifications of social types into a hierarchy of peoples and nations that had an undeniable elective affinity with colonial projects.


Rugby Clubs and Riot Clubs: Privilege in UK Universities


When thinking about new blog post topics,  inspiration can come from any number of topics: something on social media, a new film or book being released, or, most often, something in the news that catches our eye and asks for a Sociological analysis. My topic today is a combination of two, that fit together almost too coincidentally to be funny: The London School of Economics’ student union’s decision to disband its Men’s Rugby club  for production of an offensive leaflet, and the release of the film The Riot Club. Although the misogyny in both is a problem, and has been argued very well elsewhere, I want to point out that they are both demonstrative of wider issues around privilege, and highlight the need to take an intersectional approach to both power and oppression. Intersectionality, as both a method and theory is important because studying race, class, gender or other category in isolation ‘ignores the multifaceted nature of individual experiences, capturing only part of a more complex whole’ (Landry, 2007). (more…)

The Graduate Student Tribe

Photo by: Anne-Lise Heinrichs Found on: Flickr Creative Commons

Photo by: Anne-Lise Heinrichs
Found on: Flickr Creative Commons


Mothers seem to be good at finding tribes.  They blog, form Facebook pages, meet for regular play dates, etc…If the plight of early woman were anything like this nostalgic blog post, I would surely miss a communal motherhood as I would miss an appendage.  I suspect however, that even with shared laughter the washing, cooking, and caretaking required of early mothers left them just as exhausted as we feel today.  According to Wikipedia (insert snickering), archeologists think that tribal structures were an adaptation to situations providing plentiful yet unpredictable resources.  Historically tribes were a face-to-face community bound by kinship, reciprocal exchange and strong ties to place (Paul, 2006).

Regardless of the time period in which one lives, commiserating with others who share your experiences is rewarding.  This includes those who share your research interests.  (more…)

Flight-path dependency: How an uneven transport market is killing off green options.

Picture courtesy of Deutsche Bahn []

I released a deep sigh last month, when I read that Deutsche Bahn is cancelling night trains on its Brussels-Copenhagen, Paris-Berlin, and Hamburg-Munich lines by the end of this year. I was further saddened to read that the Paris to Barcelona night train – which I took myself a few years ago on a fondly-remembered holiday across Europe – is already a thing of the past, as of last December. (more…)

The Conference Conundrum: Yes, You Should Sumbit

Source: American Sociological Association

Source: American Sociological Association


Recently, I was asked to prepare a presentation for first year graduate students on presenting at professional conferences.   I immediately recalled how terrified I was at my first round table presentation during the 2009 Eastern Sociological Society Annual Meeting and thought useful a simple summary of the various annual meetings and conferences might be for students in the early years of graduate school.

Presenting papers at professional conferences has been a useful tool during my graduate school career.  In addition to the obvious benefits of networking and receiving feedback on my work, conference presentations have helped me determine what kind of research was of interest to me, clarify my research questions and methodologies, think about why my research is a meaningful contribution to the field of sociology, and tease through various drafts of my doctoral proposal.  However, in the early days of graduate school I did not realize how important conference presentations were to the development of my work. I only knew that graduate students were supposed to present at conferences. I also (falsely) believed that national conferences like the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association were somehow better or more useful than smaller regional conference or mini conferences.


Who Needs the Boys?: On How Women’s Colleges Still Matter

By Clara S. [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Clara S. [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

As I received the invitation to join the Sociology Lens team as a News Editor, I spent a great deal of time reading archived articles, debating what could I possibly contribute to the discipline. As I came across Heidi Rademacher’s piece “Why We Definitely Need Feminism,” I realized that my experiences, research interests and questions I ask time and time again are relevant to a larger body of timely literature and understanding about women, gender, sexuality, feminism, education, human rights, and equality. In support of Heidi’s argument, we need feminism because it helps both men and women become fully human.

Just like we still need feminism today, we still need women’s colleges. In fact, the two are inseparable. Having attended one of the historic Seven Sisters and one of the remaining 52 women’s colleges (including coordinate colleges, 47 without) in the US, and now attending a large, southern co-ed land grant university with a large military presence and only 41.6% female enrollment, I am a strong advocate for single-sex education. I single handedly have experienced the positive pro-woman environment that these schools and classes can have, where every leadership position and every award is always given to a woman. But, I also know that personal anecdotes are not enough.