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.
For the first time in the history of FIFA’s 2015 Women’s World Cup, the competition is being played on artificial turf. Consequently coverage leading up to the first match between home team Canada and China tended to focus less on predicting outcomes of the game and more on the material of the pitch. Players and their supporters raised objections in an effort to express discontent and to attempt to change FIFA’s new and to-many-puzzling policy much like a social movement might engage in framing. This comparison is appropriate because a hierarchal, non-democratic institution handed down the policy, leaving no built-in space for discussion or recourse. Appealing for change in this instance is very much like petitioning a government.
Framing theory is a dominant thread of social movement research that may help us understand how the players and others who advocated in their stead approached challenging FIFA’s decree. Collective action frames name a problem (“diagnostic framing”) and endorse a particular solution (“prognostic framing”) but they also serve to mobilize the affected and their sympathizers (“motivation framing”)(Snow and Benford 1988). I will argue those who have questioned FIFA’s turf decision have employed all three of these strategies to varying degrees of success.
First we must identify who has petitioned for change. Abby Wambach, illustrious forward of the reigning champions and holder of the international record for goals scored of any gender, has lead the charge but she is flanked by teammates and members of rival squads alike. Sports journalists have been vocal and male allies from a variety of backgrounds have raised objections as well-Tom Hanks, Kobe Bryant, and Tim Howard among them. There is also a precedent for understanding sports as “space for politics” in which soccer fans have agitated for changes they would like to see implemented.
In general, the women’s framing has taken a shotgun style approach-throw everything at the wall and see what will stick-but three frames which combine empirical evidence and appeals to emotions have been consistently employed.. The first two-legalistic unfairness and undue predictability in game play-have been predominantly raised by affected players while the third-potential for injuries-is popular with both players and external parties.
Last fall, a group of women players representing at least a dozen countries attempted to sue FIFA in the Human Rights Tribune of Ontario for alleged violations Canada’s Human Rights Code which guarantees equal access to facilities . The legal suit represents claimants’ attempts to classify the decision to play on turf as a symptom of gender inequality targeting women. The second frame blends with the third at the edges. Turf requires a different style of play due to the inability to anticipate the way the ball will bounce compared to grass fields. This unpredictability has also lead to women being more reserved for fear of destroying the resource that enables them to play the game- their bodies.
Numerous sports journalists, medical professionals and players have highlighted the increased potential for injuries. Sydney LeRoux Dwyer, another forward for the United States’ team, posted a graphic picture to Twitter displaying her resulting injuries.
Collective action frames are not pre-packaged beliefs but meanings and narratives produced over time that tie together facts, assumptions, and intent. Social movement actors and organizations-or in this instance, women soccer players and their sympathizers-make framing choices-both deliberately and incidentally-that affect how they present their claims about reality, particularly what they identify as their locus for change and their beliefs about how to secure it. Any singular conception of a problem that is presented is interwoven with assumptions about the origin and nature of the conflict, which can preclude the applicability, marketability, and even identification of potential solutions. In this instance, for example, the perception that playing on turf disproportionately affects one gender guided the players’ decisions to pursue legal action. Moreover, the latter two frames are undergirded by assumptions that sporting competitions should be fair and minimize harm to their participants.
Borrowing from extant cultural scripts with which audiences are already acquainted can be one means of garnering credibility and salience (Spillman 1995). Conversely, previously conditioned scripts may also act as a barrier if social movement claims counter existing assumptions. Accordingly, the relative powerlessness of individual women soccer players, cultural norms that diminish the value of women athletes relative to men athletes, the United States’ lack of national investment in the sport, and the few other professional options available for women players could prevent the success of their framing efforts. To boycott FIFA’s decision by abstaining from playing in the World Cup, as was suggested in the wake of the failed lawsuit, would be to forfeit the rare time and energy devoted to women’s soccer on the international stage. Furthermore, while one’s role obviously affects one’s perspective on the turf, but it may also impact audience reception of claims. While many seem receptive to criticisms of FIFA’s decision, plenty of Twitter commentary suggests otherwise, casting outspoken women players as ‘whiny babies’ who should ‘man up.’
Despite the popularity of framing attempts, their multiple approaches to framing were unsuccessful in changing the turf for this year’s Women’s World Cup. The legal suit was rejected and FIFA held firm. Unlike in the past when sports teams have attempted to procure public funds to implement changes perceived as necessary, several private companies have offered to pay to install grass. FIFA claims their reticence to change was because Canada’s original bid for the Women’s 2015 World Cup specified field turf. FIFA’s recalcitrance may be an issue of the absence of a financial incentive. As of June 14, the 2015 Women’s World Cup had seen a 30% increase in ticket sales from the 2011 Women’s World Cup in Germany.
Recent revelations of rampant corruption in FIFA’s operations may provide a political opportunity to prevent turf from being relied upon in the future. On one hand, FIFA officials’ impropriety reflects poorly on the organization as a whole and casts doubt on their internal calculus. Their decision-making processes being called into question in one realm could generate a public relations kerfuffle that discourages the organization from making contested decisions in the future. On the other hand, the hubbub surrounding the men’s 2022 World Cup to be held in Qatar may deflect attention away from the issue women players have furiously tried to make central. If FIFA’s poor management does not spark change for future Women’s World Cups, the outcome of this year’s competition may serve as a lesson. If major outliers are removed, this World Cup’s games have averaged half a goal less from 2011. For a sport notoriously beleaguered by long periods of inaction, declines in exciting plays may be a relevant future consideration for its governing body.
Snow, David A., and Robert D. Benford.1988. “Ideology, Frame Resonance, and Participant Mobilization.” International Social Movement Research 1(1): 197-217.
Spillman, Lyn. 1995. “Culture, Social Structures, and Discursive Fields.” Current Perspectives in Social Theory. 15(1): 129-154.
I will never forget my first Pride. I was living in New York City for the summer working as an intern at the Human Rights Watch. The office, last minute, decided to join the parade with people from the office and their families marching with signs regarding LGBT human rights issues. I got to carry the HRW banner (pictured above, I’m on the right) that read clearly “Tyranny has a Witness.” How many people can actually say their first Pride was one that you got to be in the parade, let alone in New York City? The whole parade we walked the behind a float with drag queens that had “It’s Raining Men” on repeat. I’ll never forget watching the people on the sides, decked out in rainbow flags from head to toe, and a few protesters with signs. When we got to Christopher Street, the home of Stonewall Inn, the crowd thickened with hoards of people waiting to party the night away. Being in that parade was electrifying. Being part of an event that celebrated diversity and human rights and my (not then out) self is something I will never forget.
But what is forgotten throughout Pride month is the history of the LGBT rights movement and why we celebrate. (Hint: it’s not about marriage equality). What is lost amongst the corporate sponsorship is the message of visible difference in the street, marching to take back our space and to celebrate ourselves and to celebrate being different. What is erased is the diversity within the LGBT community, along with the white-washing, patriarchal, and homonormative reduction of a group of individuals to a singular community. While my post today is not meant to retell the entire history of the LGBT rights movement, it is important to know that it doesn’t begin with Stonewall. So then, why do we always attribute that last Sunday in June to the riots that served as a “shot heard around the world?” Is the original tradition of Pride dead?
The economist Karl Marx believed for society to change, there was a need for an uprising, and an overthrowing of the ruling class; the bourgeoisie. To Marx, no person would truly be free unless this rebellion would occur. Marx is known for his theories about the economy, workers, and social life. One concept, of his, that appeals to my attention is the division of society into two classes. However, what Marx failed to realize, was by this division, he, essentially, enabled a space to create gendered spaces; or, what I will label a sexual differentiation of space. more...
In an age where millennials are starting to take primacy in the visibility of political change and its climate, especially in regards to LGBTQ advancements, the older LGBTQ generations are realizing that soon enough the millennials will need to take command of their political positions. Many of the older LGBTQ generations have been trailblazers from the start of an era known as the long 1960’s: having been there at the Stonewall riots, to now holding office positions in politics and creating juridical changes. A common thought amongst many LGBTQ activists is once the United States passes Marriage Equality at the federal level, there is nothing left to fight for in regards to LGBTQ rights. I would beg to differ. Once juridical amendments and changes are made, the battle is to secure its practice and implementation. Furthermore, to secure such practices, the LGBTQ community at large needs to orchestrate as one. more...
What is love? Does everyone understand love as how Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines it? Starting from birth, everyone is taught to love: whether it is a family member, the family pet or a close friend. However, we are never socialized how to love an individual not related by kinship. Amorous love between two individuals is more like a trail and error process. Yet, American society would have one think falling in love is as easy as one, two, three: one only needs to watch a romantic movie. With the recent advancements of Marriage Equality, now extended to thirty-eight states, majority of LGBTQ individuals have adhered to a homonormative ideology. Homonormativity, as defined by Lisa Duggan, is, “…a politics that does not contest dominant heteronormative assumptions and institutions but upholds and sustains them while promising the possibility of a demobilized gay constituency and a privatized, depoliticized gay culture anchored in domesticity and consumption” (Duggan 2002). Is this what LGBTQ rights have resulted in, mimicry of heteronormative ideals that subjugate their everyday experiences? Is there only one specific way to love? more...
In my last post I discussed the problems with juridical changes and practice in real life, problematized ubiquity amongst communities that are at odds with solidarity and posed questions about challenging privilege. Today’s post continues that conversation by asking how does one create change around ideologies? Those who work in the health and human services, who are educators and the like, know that change does not come just from juridical amendments. Change is only created through education and practice: not when certain laws are, finally, deemed as “unconstitutional.” more...
During the trials of Eric Garner, Michael Brown and others, my Facebook newsfeed was filled with a barrage of status updates about the refusal to indict the officers: I had “friends” standing behind the police officers and the law, and “friends” who were in line with protestors and the families of the victims. For the majority of the press coverage, I stayed quiet and did not take a side: but the time has come for the silence to be broken. I stand in solidarity with the families of the victims and the protestors. Although I do not have a J.D., I do realize institutionalized racism when it is played out. more...
Over the past few months, I have been deep in the throes of my thesis- conducting, transcribing, coding, and analyzing interviews- on homonationalism and scripting of student identities in study abroad. While my findings are still very preliminary, there has been a series of answers that have really stuck with me regarding “queer culture” and “queer space.” If you read my post about what homonormativity is, then you know that it involves the depoliticization and privatization of sexuality, while all in the name of heteronormativity. In this new norm, then, where is queer space? Is there a queer politics? Should there be a queer life?
Many Sociology Lens readers will by now have heard of ‘TTIP,’ the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership currently being negotiated between the EU and the US. The TTIP negotiations are the direct outcome of a transatlantic High-Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth established in 2011, and the latest in a string of attempts to create an EU-US free trade zone that date back to the early 1990s. Thus far the two issues garnering the most media attention around TTIP have been the lack of transparency surrounding negotiations, and the proposed inclusion of ‘Investor State Dispute Settlement’ (ISDS) provisions in the Partnership. Regarding the transparency issue, when even supportive Members of the European Parliament such as Maria Eleni Koppa complained that they were ‘totally in the dark’ about the negotiations, there were calls for the negotiating mandate to be declassified – precipitating UK Trade Minister Lord Livingston’s curious claim that this was ‘unnecessary’ since the document had already been ‘leaked’ online. But it is in regard to ISDS that the TTIP battle lines are being drawn in earnest.
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