Category Archives: Culture

“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…)

Are We All Expert Impostors?

www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1723

Image credit: PhD Comics www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1723

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.

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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.

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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.

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