Monthly Archives: June 2012

Why Sociologists Should Be Critical of the New Family Structure Study

Amanda (at age 18) with her 2 moms

An article in Social Science Research is causing quite a stir among sociologists, and is sure to fuel the flames of the debate surrounding gay marriage. Mark Regenerus, sociologist at UT Austin, has just published results from the New Family Structure Study (also see his Slate article). He suggests that children raised in heterosexual intact families fare better than children raised by gays and lesbians. This goes against previous research which indicated the opposite: that children of gay and lesbian parents had the same or better outcomes as those raised by heterosexual parents (one study, for example, showed fewer behavioral problems among children raised by lesbians). The responses critiquing Regenerus’ work emerged quickly (for example, see a critique here). In fact, many notable sociologists who study families, parenting, and sexualities spoke out against its method and findings.


Clipping Colorism at the Knees

“Mr. Leighton, Mr. Leighton! So-and-So said a bad word.”

This is how my day has stared for the past two weeks.  Like many sociology graduate students, my department does not offer summer funding so I’m forced to find it on my own.  This summer, I am a Summer PALS (Play and Learn Sessions) Director in Maui.

Malama i Na Keiki

The work is hard, the hours are long, and the children are challenging, but through this experience I am able to hear the stories of those being socialized and better understand the process of race socialization in Maui.


Just a Flash in the Pan?: Institutional Fads and the Medicalization of Addiction

Source: Sean Michael Ragan

In popular culture, fads are common occurrences that follow a relatively basic trajectory.  That is, cultural fads typically materialize, become increasingly popular, and then fade away almost as quickly as they appeared (Best 2006).  From American Idol to zoot suits, fads associated with pop culture rapidly rise and promptly plummet before being replaced by a new trend that is ultimately destined to follow a similar path.  This cycle of emerging, surging, and purging is not, however, limited only to relatively trivial things like TV shows and clothing choices.  Rather, fads can also exist within powerful institutions.  And instead of simply helping to define the intricacies of an era like cultural fads do, institutional fads can linger on for much longer and can bring about much more serious consequences. (more…)

The Law & Social Movements: Six Months after SOPA & PIPA

Six months ago today the U.S. Congress was in the midst of a debate over legislation that would fundamentally alter the relationship between the state, intellectual property holders, and the Internet. In opposition to the legislation, known as SOPA (House version) and PIPA (Senate version), thousands of web sites – including major sites such as Wikipedia and – voluntarily blacked themselves out in protest. A closer examination of this incident and events that have transpired since provides insight into how legal change can have an impact on social change, generally, and social movement activity, specifically.

Currently, the law governing most matters of copyright on the Internet is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998. Although the DMCA is an enormous law, of particular importance in this matter is the “safe harbor” provision. Under the DMCA, internet service providers and website operators are not held liable for content on their site that infringes on copyrights, so long as they act in good faith to remove it when notified by the copyright holder. This means that YouTube, for example, is not required check each and every video uploaded to the site to make sure they do not violate a copyright. Instead, the owner of the video notifies YouTube, and YouTube takes the video down; in exchange for doing so, YouTube is not held responsible for hosting copyrighted material.


The Soda Ban and Sociology

found at

In the past few weeks, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made national headlines with his proposal to ban large sized sodas at restaurants, theaters, stadiums, delicatessens and food carts.  The proposal aims to encourage people to drink less of the obesity-causing sugary drinks. 

The immediate reaction in the media was not kind.  Those on the political right attacked the ban as an assault on personal freedom.  Even those associated with the left, like comedian Jon Stewart lambasted the proposal.  A full page NY Times advertisement featuring Mayor Bloomberg in a dress was entitled, “The Nanny: You only thought you lived in the land of the free.”  These criticisms are not, in my view, simply part of an ideological battle about the proper role of government but also part of a disagreement over the validity of the sociological imagination. (more…)

The Power of Comedy

Mark Twain once said “that the human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter.” Even if this is an exaggeration, it might explain our love for humor, specifically the art of comedy. Humor allows people to approach sensitive issues. No one is better at this than the Stand-up Comic.  The Comic’s job is to create, sustain, and guide the audience throughout their performance. In doing so, the comic touches on material that is taboo to the host society.

Jokes are obviously meant to be laughed at and understood by the way in which the comedian communicates their craft onstage: in front of their audience under terms and conditions that are both relatable and comical. The more a comedian works on their craft, knowing their audience, honing in on the jocular, the more they earn trust and respect from the people that pay to laugh. This trust and respect is crucial to the comic to not only obtain laughter, but also to send a message to the audience, that even in times of difference, we are more similar than we think


Windmills on Lanai: Qui Bono?

Hawaii is strapped for energy.  Most of the State’s energy comes from foreign oil, and Hawaii spends 8% of its GDP on oil and the island that uses the most energy (Oahu) has the fewest sustainable sources.  (In Kihei, Maui, Gas is $4.86 for regular.)  Other islands have had limited success with solar and small scale windfarms, but a new proposal calls for a large wind farm on the island of Lanai.

The company that owns Lanai has proposed a 12,800 acre windmill farm in a remote corner of the island.  This proposed farm would produce 300 to 400 megawatts of energy and create 20 to 30 permanent jobs.  In addition, local businesses may benefit from the construction of these windmills.


Local Level Immigration Control: A Necessity or a Justification for Discrimination?

Source: Arasmus Photo

On May 10th, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit against Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona’s Maricopa County.  The suit alleges that the man who claims to be “America’s toughest sheriff” has propagated a culture of discrimination against Hispanics and Latinos during his time in office.  More specifically, it is argued in the lawsuit that Arpaio’s office has consistently permitted the violation of the civil rights of Hispanics and Latinos in its quest to crackdown on illegal immigration.  It is alleged, for instance, that the sheriff’s office has failed to discourage discriminatory policing and that is has launched patrols based solely on reports of dark-skinned individuals congregating in a given area and/or speaking Spanish.  The lawsuit further claims that Arpaio and his office do not track allegations of deputy misconduct.  Although federal officials had been working with Arpaio to reach a settlement before filing the suit, talks broke down in April.  At a news conference the day before the lawsuit was filed, Arpaio claimed that he has done nothing wrong and that he is being unfairly targeted by the Obama administration.  The DOJ contends, however, that the sheriff’s office is practicing a type of law enforcement that is neither constitutional nor effective. (more…)