It was recently announced that the radical feminist magazine Spare Rib is to be re-launched in the UK, with an online presence as soon as next month and a print version available in the Autumn. Spare Rib first launched in 1972 out of the 1960s feminist movement and made a point of covering taboo and controversial issues such as domestic violence, lesbianism and birth control, amongst many others. This re-launch has been greeted by many (myself included) with a hearty cheer, and has raised many questions with it. If this launch is successful, does this suggest a mainstream acceptance for feminist thought? Perhaps it will make feminism more accessible to a generation of young women, something it sorely needs. Either way, the re-launch indicates two key phenomena: a rejection of women’s magazines, and the increased visibility, acceptance and impact of feminist writing. (more…)
The CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch, Mike Jeffries, is up-front about his marketing and sales strategy: appeal to “cool” and “popular” kids to make the brand distinctive and desirable. While anybody can wear other brands, only those who fit an ideal body type can have the privilege of sporting Abercrombie and Fitch tees and jeans. How does Jeffries achieve this goal? The Abercrombie and Fitch advertisements use models who are “all American” (white and skinny), the stores employ similarly small and fit workers, and the largest size available for women is a size 10. Jeffries does have all of his bases covered: no one will mistake Abercrombie and Fitch as a brand that markets to the masses. (more…)
A few weeks back, I contributed a post highlighting possible explanations for the rise of criminal justice based practices within schools. Although these strategies have become popular for managing school crime, growing evidence suggests they are often overly excessive and may produce a host of unintended consequences. Serving as a sort of a Part II, this essay outlines the effects of what has been termed the “criminalization of school discipline” (Hirschfield & Celinscka 2011). As discussed below, the evidence stands against the school criminalization when considering its effects on: social equality, school performance, school crime, and other disciplinary strategies. (more…)
Over the past two decades, schools across the U.S. have adopted a host of punitive practices and policies to prevent and respond to student misbehavior (Kupchik 2010). These practices include the use of security cameras, metal detectors, drug-sniffing dogs, and the full-time presence of police officers. Consequentially, the distinction between school discipline and criminal justice has become highly blurred. For a host of reasons, there has been an increase in surveillance over students and a tighter link between the education and criminal justice for a host of (Hirschfield & Celinscka 2011). The purpose of this post is to provide, from the extant literature, explanations for the rise of criminal justice based practices within schools. (more…)
In the most recent issue of Sociology Compass, Lisa Wade contributed an article, “The New Science of Sex Difference,” about the relationship between biology and social identities and inequalities. The debate about socialization usually boils down to two seemingly opposed positions: nature versus nurture. Historically, biologists, and other fans of the life sciences, contended that natural forces in the body, like hormones, genes, and brains, determine the development of an individual. On the other hand, sociologists refute the claim that human behavior and identity can be reduced to biological phenomena; instead, our social environment, and how we are nurtured within that environment, constrain and enable our actions, life outcomes, and sense of self.
Yet, Wade cautions against this false dichotomy. Many biologists and sociologists now recognize the importance of social structures and experiences on the actual fabric of the body. That is, the issue should not be nature versus nature, but instead both nature and nurture. Wade points to numerous scientific and sociological studies that begin to bridge the gap between two previously polarized sides: these scholars show how our hormones, our brains, and even our genes are structured, and at times restructured, by our social experiences and encounters. (more…)
In a recent post, I discussed a longstanding trend in American (and Western) media of using racial Others to embody evil. From adult action films to children’s animated features, we can find examples of villains whose malevolent nature is clear from the racial/ethnic stereotypes used to characterize them. But racial stereotypes are not the only stereotypes used to denote wickedness; we can also find many examples of non-normative sexualities and gender performances associated with evil. Importantly, this sexual Otherness is often developed alongside and in relation to racial/ethnic Otherness. (more…)
Big Data refers to the enormous amount of information now possessed by companies, that we offer up in our day-to-day lives. In Google searches, Facebook wall posts, or any purchase we are contributing to the vast amount of data, and allowing companies to make predictions about how we will behave. The use of patterning, statistical analysis and algorithms give these companies a perceived ability to ‘predict the future’; ranging from suggesting future purchases to tracking the flu virus through Internet searches. Cheerleaders of this phenomenon (for example Mayer-Schonberger and Cukier 2013) see it is an extremely useful tool that will revolutionise our lives, unequivocally for the better. An opposing view comes from Evgeny Morozov (amongst others) who criticises ‘technological solutionism’ (Morozov 2013) arguing that these benefits are over-stated, and blind us to imbedded structural issues that cannot be solved by ‘more’ data. Whilst there is not space in this blog post to explore these views in full, the debate raises a consideration for Sociology: are there methodological issues with using Big Data, and what are the implications for the social sciences? (more…)
Hanauer discusses the perceived wisdom or false premise that tax cuts for the rich creates jobs.
The History Channel’s miniseries, The Bible, has been lauded by some and scrutinized by others. Recently, some have raised questions about the show’s portrayal of the Satan, specifically the striking resemblance between the character and President Barack Obama (you can read a commentary at the HuffPost). The show’s producers have called the claims “utter nonsense” and insisted that actor Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni’s long record working on religious film sets made him an obvious choice for the role.
I’m no mind-reader and won’t speculate whether the producers intended any connection between Pres. Obama and the devil. I’ve raised this little controversy for another purpose, to demonstrate a long-standing film tradition of racializing villains. From spy flicks and action blockbusters to children’s animated movies and faith-based media, evil is often embodied by dark-skinned characters. Think about it—who are the bad guys in James Bond movies? What stands out about the animated character, Jafar, in Disney’s Aladdin? And what can we say about the Devil in the History Channel’s The Bible, especially compared to the heroic characters? They are all highly racialized depictions of racial/ethnic Others. They draw on nasty stereotypes designed to make us fearful. They are shown as morally corrupt and physically unattractive. Jafar, for example, conforms to ethnic stereotypes much more than Aladdin or Jasmine, both of whom could easily pass (in white westerners’ imaginations) as well-tanned Americans if not for their desert setting.
Edward Said famously wrote about this representational tactic in his book Orientalism (you can watch a documentary about Orientalism, featuring Said, called On Orientalism, on YouTube). Said explains that Orientalism is a patterned way of representing Arabs and Muslims as a unified cultural group (despite the fact that the terms aren’t synonymous, that Muslims live in many places outside the Arab world, and that “Arab” is used to describe individuals from many different backgrounds), less civilized than white Europeans or Americans, and capable of terrible things; in other words, Orientalism is a discourse that presents Arabs/Muslims as a dangerous threat. Not limited to specific media, Orientalism surrounds us and, from an early age, inculcates us with a particular way of understanding the Arab world. It gives us a specific language that governs how we conceive of Arab people and naturalizes our stereotypes. The Arab is a terrorist; the Arab is patriarchal—these terrible generalizations make sense and seem real in an Orientalist framework. (more…)
Within the last thirty years the presence of adolescent offenders tried in criminal court has become increasingly commonplace. Scholars critical of this growing phenomenon have documented that the number of youth transferred to adult (criminal) court has gradually risen since the mid-1970s. Whilst the ability to transfer young offenders from the juvenile to adult court has long been an option, recent literature notes that the emergence of legislation facilitating the transfer of youth offenders to criminal court is a microcosm of a “penal turn” in criminal justice practices (Kupchik 2010). That is, laws that expanded the ability to transfer youth to adult court fit within a larger social, cultural, and political movement which sought to “get tough” on crime. (more…)