Source: Jacob Sauer
This weekend I drove from Chicago to New York. By hour six I couldn’t stand my playlists and begin scanning through local radio stations. I was startled by the number of times I’d find a really great hard rock or heavy metal song and realize 15 to 60 seconds into the song that I was listening to a Christian radio station. Once again, I began thinking of heavy metal as tool for examining intersecting social issues – religion, popular culture, gender, class, race, and ethnicity.
On the surface, heavy metal music and conservative Christianity are situated on opposite ends of a cultural morals-and-values spectrum. Heavy metal has been known to celebrate and glamorize explicit sex, defiance, aggression, violence and alcohol or drug use (Gore 1987; Walser 1993:139). In comparison, modern conservative Christians often see themselves in absolute contrast to the sex-drugs-party world. By embracing a code of strict, absolute and unchanging moral standards conservative Christians often view themselves as free from an egotistic, libidinous and morally pernicious mainstream society (Smith 1998:131). However, despite the obvious confliction of values that often exist between heavy metal culture and Christianity, there are places where hard-core music and a conservative faith overlap. (more…)
Black Friday shoppers at WalMart
The holiday season is officially upon us as thousands of individuals woke up early on this Black Friday to score the best deals of the season. This time of year brings joy to the hearts of many, but also exposes one of the greatest contradictions in American society. Along with the excitement of holiday shopping and purchasing a 50 inch TV for half-price, this time of year is also supposed to be about giving. From Thanksgiving through Christmas more people volunteer and donate food and/or money than any other time of year. In 2012, to combat the popularity of consumption during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, more and more people are participating in Giving Tuesday (the day after Cyber Monday), a day to give to those in need. While we can certainly see the merits and benefits of giving a toy to a child who has none or a coat to someone who is cold, we should also ask ourselves why charity is needed in the first place and why charity is so intimately linked with consumption. (more…)
Source: Wikimedia Commons
High-profile cases of rape and sexual assault perpetrated by athletes in the US have become far too common. In a recent column for The Nation, Dave Zirin illustrated the ever more obvious connection between “jock culture” and the perpetration of sexual violence. Jock culture and rape culture, Zirin argues, are intrinsically linked. Young women are seen as “the spoils of being a jock” according to Zirin. In many ways Zirin could not be more right. Clearly young male athletes are learning terrible lessons regarding what their status means about their relationships to women but is “jock culture” the right way to frame this issue?
[ This article was originally published at Masculinities 101 ]
Iron Maiden. Somewhere Back in Time Tour, 2008.
Source: Anne Varak
As a kid I loved heavy metal. The overly bright, distorted anthem-like electric guitar solo. The accompanying rhythmic pulse was reminiscent of a battle snare drum, a hallucination of a military march. The drum roll and the introduction of the power chord, a series of musical intervals of a perfect fourth repeated over and over again. When the vocalist entered the picture, singing at the lower end of his range and producing clear tones that were such a deep contrast to the tainted electric guitar chords that the emotional intensity of the song would be turned up a notch. And just when I’d adjust to the cacophony of sounds, the singer would burst into a virtuosity of vocal jumps, which at times produced pitches so high in the vocalist’s falsetto that it is unclear if he is singing or screaming.
Despite my parents’ critiques, the emergence of heavy metal did more than produce a vehicle for headbanging; it changed popular music. The lyrics of heavy metal addressed social problems such as discrimination and inequality. Youth crime was also connected to heavy metal. For example, in the 1994 three teen boys were convicted of murdering three young boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. During the trials, prosecutors highlighted the boys’ interest in the occult and heavy metal music.
The wide world of sports has had a bad week for public relations. First, the Miami Dolphins hazing fiasco occurred, which was analyzed by my colleague Cliff Leak in “Man up: NFL Hazing and Jonathan Martin’s ‘Man Card’.” Next, the Atlanta Braves announced they would be vacating Turner Field, their stadium of 17 years, to move into a new stadium in 2017. The Braves are leaving downtown Atlanta to move North to the suburbs in Cobb County. The Atlanta Braves move is particularly surprising because they are leaving a relatively new stadium and they are taking baseball to the suburbs, making it difficult for the lower class to enjoy a game. But the real issue with the Braves’ move is associated with their reason to move. The Atlanta Braves organization is moving because the city of Atlanta will not provide taxpayer money to upgrade the current stadium. The Atlanta Braves are the latest team, owned by millionaires or billionaires, to threaten to move or actually move if the taxpayer does not provide them with a new home. (more…)
Richie Incognito. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
On October 28th, Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin left the National Football League citing emotional distress as a result of abuse at the hands of his teammate Richie Incognito. Incognito admits to having sent Martin racist, homophobic, and threatening text messages and voicemails but argues that rather than hazing or bullying, this was merely an instance of miscommunication between the two men. While a great deal of media attention has questioned the behavior of Richie Incognito, a disproportionate amount of attention has also been given to Martin’s choice to report the abuse. Why has Martin’s choice to report the abuse received so much attention? What has been the main theme of those critiquing Martin’s choice? And, what does this discussion mean for our national discourse on bullying and hazing? The answers to these questions, I argue, are all linked to masculinity. (more…)
Source: Wikimedia Commons
November is here, which means the season of ghosts and goblins has come to pass. As an enthusiast of all-things-haunted, I filled the month of October with scary movie nights, Halloween costume parties, visits to a haunted house and Phantom Fright Nights at my local amusement park, and even an outing that involved shooting paintballs at zombies. As any good graduate student in the social sciences might do, I pondered the sociological aspects of these activities throughout the month. What makes this campy season of fear so popular in U.S. culture? Does it serve any purposes beyond providing consumers with themed entertainment, as the producers of frightening fun reap massive profits each fall?
Janet Bloch. Self Portrait as Shakti, 2004. Acrylic & Mixed Media,
16 x 16 in. © Janet Bloch. Reprinted with permission.
Full Disclosure: I am a feminist. It never crossed my mind that there might be anything problematic about labeling myself this way since I have openly articulated my interests in gender issues and social, political, and economic equality since my early undergraduate days. Of course, I knew that researchers had shown women today often reject the term “feminist” (McRobbie 2004; Rowe-Finkbeiner 2004; Levy 2006). However, I somehow had convinced myself that these individuals were just not informed. I truly believed that if men and women could critically examined the social construction of gender, see the ways in which gendered notions impact their lives, and take the time to critique these forces there could be greater understanding, acceptance, and embracement of feminist politics.
Last fall I found myself working on a project on women’s art. I met with several female artists whose work examined, questioned, and challenged cultural gender expectations. What I found utterly shocked me; within the art world, there are a number of female artists that use art as a vehicle to challenge gender inequality but are cautious, hesitant, or dismissive of being labeled as “feminist artists.” I found that many female artists believe that term “feminism” is so deeply connected to a stigmatized social movement that strongly reject the label even while creating feminist art.
Yesterday, I read a disturbing article in Adweek. “Powerful Ads Use Real Google Searches to Show the Scope of Sexism Worldwide Simple: Visual For Inequality” by David Griner explores a new campaign idea from UN Women, which used real suggested search terms from Google’s autocomplete feature. The ads, which were designed by art director and graphic designer Christopher Hunt, were designed to illustrate how gender inequality continues to be so problematic that even Google has come to expect it.
Being a sociologist, I was interested in the reliability of the Google experiment. So, I conducted my own Google search of the phrases used in the project. My findings were not exactly the same as the UN Women campaign but I was saddened to see so many misogynistic phrases pop up on my screen. I found “women shouldn’t…” work, be in combat, or be cops. In contrast, “women should…” know their place, not preach, not speak in church, and not be in combat. Google autocomplete told me that “women need to…” shut up, grow up, feel wanted, and feel safe. And finally, “women cannot…” be trusted, be pastors, have it all, or teach men.
Disney Princes and Princesses. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Disney has a gender problem.
A long line of feminist scholars and activists has used Disney princesses as examples of exactly what is wrong with the representation of women in mainstream media. The classical Disney princesses (Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel, Jasmine, etc.) have been lambasted for having story lines in which they are helpless damsels in distress whose lives revolve around male characters. Even the more modern princesses such as Tiana from Princess and the Frog and Rapunzel from Tangled have story lines that are largely tied to their romantic interests in male characters. Indeed, Jezebel has already posted an article addressing the many ways in which Disney’s upcoming film, Frozen, appears to undermine its female protagonist.
Unfortunately most of the criticism of Disney’s gender problem only addresses one pole of the gender spectrum – femininity. That is, Disney’s portrayal of masculinity is also problematic but has received little attention. (more…)