Category Archives: Culture

Festivus for the rest of us

Satanic Temple holiday display, Florida Capitol Rotunda

Satanic Temple holiday display, Florida Capitol Rotunda

For the second year, Florida hosts a variety of religious displays in the rotunda of the state capitol.  This year, for the first time, the Satanic Temple erected their seasonal exhibition of an angel falling from Heaven into a fiery pit.  The Sataic Temple presentation complements a Christian nativity scene as well as other anti-religion and atheist displays with seasonal depictions including a “Festivus” pole constructed from Pabst Blue Ribbon beer cans and a Flying Spaghetti Monster with the sign that says, “A closed mouth catches no noodly appendages”. (more…)

Cancer is Not a Pink Ribbon (part 1)

pink-ribbon-breast-cancer-prevention

http://ideborah.com/

As a belated nod to ‘Breast Cancer Awareness Month’ (October, in the USA), and the plethora of pink, breast-cancer-sponsored items now on sale,  I want to talk about the rise of the pink ribbon campaign and the concept of ‘pinkwashing’.

Breast cancer and the pink ribbon campaign is probably one of the biggest success stories, in terms of its ability to raise awareness and ultimately, save lives. Breast cancer activism started in the 1980′s, in part as a reaction to the patriarchal medicalisation of women’s bodies. Up until then, breast cancer was being silenced: the field was dominated by male surgeons with little information available for individual sufferers, and incidence rates were fast increasing. A huge, grass roots movement began, focusing on empowering and giving voice to suffers and their families. By the 1990′s the focus had been shifted away from the medical profession and onto the empowerment of patients, and this increased attention and exposure increased its status and cultural currency. This was furthered by the launch of the now now iconic pink ribbon in 1992.

This increased focus was incredible in its uptake. It allowed the breast cancer movement to become a prominent focus for the general public, ‘awareness’ was raised, huge amounts of funds were raised, and it was being run by women: by cancer survivors, sufferers and family members. Treatment improved, mortality rates declined.  It was a success. But, as Gayle Sulik notes: “By this time, there were already controversies over the benefits of mammograms, concerns over conflicts of interest, rising competition in pharmacology, and infighting among thought leaders and scientists. Yet cause promotion and the desire to do something for breast cancer held the public’s attention”. (more…)

How RAD is Cultural Appropriation?: Color Run Capitalizing Indian Culture

Photo of my Color Me RAD team before and after the race. (I'm second from the left in the top photo). Photo source: mine.

Photo of my Color Me RAD team before and after the race. (I’m second from the left in the top photo). Photo source: mine.

Recently, I ran a 5k called “Color Me Rad” with a group of friends from my department as a chance to just enjoy the southwest Virginia fall and not work for once. I was excited to participate in this race especially because unlike other races that I’ve run, this seemed like I would enjoy myself in a cultural event that I’ve always wanted to experience. As I got to the race, however, I couldn’t help but think sociologically about the cultural appropriation (ironic, as the race was a week prior to Halloween) of the Hindu Festival of Colors, called Holi. Was I culturally experiencing Holi, or was it merely commodified?

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“Nice Bag!” Discussing Race, Class, and Sexuality in Examining Street Harassment

Source: DennisCeeTv

Source: DennisCeeTv

Over the last two weeks two videos have repeated shown up on my social media pages: “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman” and “3 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Homosexual.”  Both videos aim to illuminate the often unnoticed topic of street harassment.   And both videos clearly illustrate what day to day life is like for some women and gay men.  However, it is important to frame both videos within the context of location, race, class, and presentation.

“10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman” was created as a collaboration between Hollaback and Rob Bliss Creative, a video marketing company.  In the video, actress Shoshana B. Roberts dressed in jeans, black t-shirt, and tennis shoes walked through various Manhattan neighborhoods recording the actions and comments of men she encountered with a hidden camera and microphone.

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The Unachievable Body Ideal Revisited: Fitspiration and “Everyone is Beautiful” Campaigns and the Regulation of Women’s Bodies

"1-1256217176zbgk" by Petr Kratochvil - http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=4469&picture=smal-mage-och-mata-tape. Licensed under Creative Commons Zero, Public Domain Dedication via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1-1256217176zbgk.jpg#mediaviewer/File:1-1256217176zbgk.jpg

“1-1256217176zbgk” by Petr Kratochvil – http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=4469&picture=smal-mage-och-mata-tape. Licensed under Creative Commons Zero, Public Domain Dedication via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1-1256217176zbgk.jpg#mediaviewer/File:1-1256217176zbgk.jpg

When I really want to procrastinate doing my work, I like to visit some of my favorite websites and catch up on the latest trends and news. Recently, on one my favorite sites, I have noticed an increase in “Fitspiration Porn” right next to messages of pro-fat, pro- everybody type of images saying “Everyone is beautiful in their own way.” These also speak to the increase in celebrities with curvier bodies (e.g. Beyoncé, Iggy Azalea, Jennifer Lawrence, Nikki Minaj, and even Lena Dunham) and body-loving anthems such as Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass.” At first, all of this seems to be great- finally to see healthy, body loving, not-your-garden-variety, and real images and messages of real women celebrating the diversity of bodies.

Only- are they really that positive?  (more…)

Happy 20th Anniversary!

Google images screen grab

Google images screen grab

Pop Quiz! What do Brandeis, UCLA, and Fayetteville Universities have in common?  Answer: They all have The Color of Welfare: How Racism Undermined the War on Poverty by Jill Quadagno on their 2014 syllabi.  This book is taught in departments of history, public affairs, social work, sociology, and political science.  Professors use it to examine sociological methods, poverty, race, politics, and welfare state.  For many students this was a life changing book.  This book ignited our interests in studies of inequality and even though it is already 20 years old the issues Quadagno raises are still fresh and relevant today.

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No Ma’am, This Is Not New York City

Source: Southern-Style.com

Source: Southern-Style.com

 

As teachers of sociology, we are constantly reminding our students of the ways in which culture and social structures shape our everyday behaviors.  We stress this point as it emerges throughout traditional theoretical frames and empirical studies.  The idea that society shapes our behaviors is a basic Introduction of Sociology concept.  However, it still catches me off guard when I realize how it works in my own daily life.

I recently took a trip to Georgia.  The flight from New York City to Savannah was less than two hours but in that short time I felt as if I had traveled into a new dimension.  Within ten minutes of landing, I witnessed a man in his early twenties offer to carry an elderly woman’s suitcase for her across the airport.  As shocked as I was by the young man’s offer, I was even more surprised when the woman agreed to hand over her luggage to a complete stranger.

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“F” is for Feminism: FCKH8′s Feminism Video isn’t so Fabulous

It’s all over my newsfeed: Little girls swearing up a storm in the name of feminism. On Tuesday, October 21st, tee-shirt company FCKH8 released the newest online video sensation, “F-Bombs for Feminism: Potty Mouthed Princesses Use Bad Word for Good Cause.” The video features five six to thirteen year old girls, dressed as princesses, dropping the f-bomb left and right, interspersed with factual information about women’s inequality including the pay gap and sexual assault.

Not surprisingly, the video has had many, many mixed results. Some feminists are excited, spreading the word about a new popular video in the name of feminism, challenging the idea “pretty” girls as princesses, and of course, little girls being tough and swearing. On the other hand, there are many people upset with the idea of children using the “f” word, though they state in the video, “What the fuck? I’m not some pretty fuckin’ helpless princess in distress. I’m pretty fuckin’ powerful and ready for success. So what is more offensive? A little girl saying ‘fuck,’ or the fucking unequal and sexist way society treats girls and women?” But at the end of the day, even as a feminist, this video just doesn’t sit right with me. “F” in this case, is the grade I would give for the video (and no, I don’t mean F for fabulous).
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Tech companies should employ more social scientists: here’s why.

 

google-glass-raj-300x160

Source: http://wearablesarena.com/tag/google-glass/

I don’t want to stereotype computer scientists. I still cringe when I remember clumsily insulting a room of (mainly) computer scientists at a conference by showing the wallet inspector scene from The Simpsons. There are, however, some computer scientist communities who give all computer scientists a bad name. Witness, for example, the infamous kick-starter project to give a food substitute called Soylent to poor people (which for non-sci-fi fans took its name from the dystopian film called Soylent Green within which people are recycled into the eponymous food substitute and fed to the masses). Less crass, but arguably just as clueless is Google’s inability to recognise its Google Glasses are not cool and that some people would be upset if Google Glass wearers were, like mobile CCTV units, recording our movements and quirks. Equally, researches at Facebook seemingly lacked the necessary empathy to predict the notorious manipulation of user’s emotions experiment would cause widespread disquiet. (more…)

Crisp Culture: a national obsession.

[Source: By Gerolsteiner91 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/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…)