Category Archives: Culture

Investigating misogyny on Twitter: sociology’s role.



There are now free tools available, such as Node XL, which, at unprecedented speeds and scales allow us access, harvest, and analyse the traces of people’s (often transgressive) thoughts, opinions and behaviours on Twitter. Since it combines the grand scale and generalisability of methods such as national surveys with the granularity and detail of close textual analysis, ethnography, or participant observation (Driscoll & Walker, 2014, p1746), Twitter analysis seemingly represents the holy grail of research methods. Existing research into misogyny on Twitter for example shows feminism is as indispensable as ever. There is, however, an increasingly important role for sociology to address technologically mediated symbolic violence like this. (more…)

Why We Definitely Need Feminism

Source: Women Against Feminism

Source: Women Against Feminism

Recently, one of my acquaintances sent me a link to a blog called “Women Against Feminism.” The site is a response to the “Who Needs Feminism” campaigns that emerged a few years ago. Now, anyone who has spoken with me for more than five minutes (or read anything I have written) probably has a clear understanding of my political position on feminism, equality, and human rights. I have spoken and written on the issue of feminism, post-feminism, and anti-feminism so often that it surprises me how strongly I still react to this kind of propaganda. I continue to be shocked and upset by the ways in which feminism and feminist agendas are warped and distorted by both men and women. Thus, once again I felt compelled to respond and defend feminism, the continuous fight for gender equality, and basic human rights.

Here are some of the reasons women today reject feminism:

#1.  “I don’t need feminism because I am an adult who is capable of taking responsibility for myself and my actions.”

I agree with the latter. I am an adult and I am also capable of taking responsibility for my actions. However, I cannot always be responsible for the actions of others or the ways in which other people’s actions impact my physical, emotional, and psychological well-being.

In a recent discussion of sexual violence, this argument about “personal responsibility” arose. Survivors of gender based violence, even the most “perfect victims,” frequently struggle with the line between personal responsible and those things that are beyond their control. The bottom line in this discussion was that no survivor is EVER responsible for his or her assault.

Feminist agendas that follow this line of reasoning are not promoting personal irresponsibility. Rather, they are promoting a culture that does not excuse violence and inequality by framing it as either choice or personal responsibility.


Smart phones, Simulacra, Prince and The Matrix: Why I (also) don’t want to be a Digital Witness

The election of the Pope, in 2005 and in 2013

Avid Sociology Lens readers (as I am sure you all are) will have already read Roger Tyler’s piece this week; “Digital Witness: Memory vs. Experience”. In it, he discusses his experiences of attending Glastonbury Festival and the summer solstice at Stonehenge, and how in both cases he felt showed examples of how obsessed we have become with the need to document and record our experiences as they are happening. Even as the fireworks go off or the sun comes up, we all reach for our smart phones; as if, if we don’t record something and share it with our friends it cannot possibly have happened.

By a strange coincidence (either offering support for the issue, or implying lack of imagination, I’m not sure which…) I was in the middle of writing an almost identical piece this week. Given that I am lazy, and there is no such thing as too much Sociological analysis, I want to build on the points made in the article, and see if I can usher in a few more theories along the way.


Digital witnesses: memory Vs experience.


Stonehenge at dawn on summer solstice, 2014

I have recently had the double-privilege of going to Stonehenge to witness the sunrise on summer solstice, the longest day of the year, and then onto Glastonbury festival, to witness er… lots of live music and people dancing around in mud. I’ve been to Glastonbury many times before but Stonehenge was my first time. As you can see, I captured some of it on my camera-phone, and naturally I wasn’t the only one. The photo above prompted a friend of mine to comment that it “Looks like more people enjoying it through their phones than their eyes”. At first I felt a bit defensive, because I was guilty of the same thing, but I thought it was ok. What’s wrong with taking a few pictures of a special event in an auspicious setting?


Reflections on Voluntourism


Source:  Points of Light

Source: Points of Light


After spending five weeks conducting ethnographic research in Nepal, I was ready to return to the United States and many of the luxuries of a developed nation. I knew that it would take time to adjust my sleep schedule. I also figured that it would take some time to return to the fast-paced life of New York. What I did not expect was the overall difficulty I would have returning to a developed country. The air conditioning is so cold. The price of day-to-day life is so high. People’s daily problems are so trivial.

The majority of literature on volunteer abroad programs, voluntourism, and service vacations suggests that volunteers frequently have a relatively small impact on the people and countries where they volunteer. These scholars suggest that volunteers frequently frame their experience in terms of what they got out of the experience rather than what they were able to give to the organizations and people in the nations where they worked.

Obviously, my difficulty readjusting to being back in the U.S. is self-centered, based on my personal experiences and what I realized while I was living in a developing country. And when one of my friends asked me, “Do you think you made a difference,” I had to spend time reflected on the question before I could answer. (more…)

Football, nostalgia and when heroes become zeroes.



Spain’s defeat this week in the World Cup sees the World and European champions knocked out and booked onto an early flight home, in the biggest upset of the tournament so far. A team of erstwhile heroes and well-known names like Casillas, Alonso and Torres left the pitch last night looking dejected and hollow after their defeat to Chile. Spanish daily ‘Marca’ ran a headline titled, simply ‘The End’, as Spanish fans around the world come to terms with the fact that their glory days which have lasted since 2008, are over.

I am reminded of France’s early exit from the World Cup in 2002 when they were also world champions, having won the title in Paris only four years previously. Similarly, Italy crashed out early in 2010 after lifting the cup in Germany in 2006. How can heroes become zeroes in such a small amount of time? How can the golden days end so abruptly and cruelly? Perhaps the reason is that having created our idols we are then too unwilling to let go of them and allow a new generation to (try and) fill their shoes. Like a relationship which has run its course, we can’t seem to move on. (more…)

Becoming Respectable in Northwest England and Kathmandu Nepal

Source: SAGE

Source: SAGE


In working with survivors of human trafficking over the last few weeks, I have had the opportunity to have a number of very personal conversations with women who are in the process of becoming empowered and rebuilding their self-esteem.  One topic that continues to emerge in almost every discussion is being respectable.  As I have been reflecting on what it means to be respectable in the context of surviving gender violence, I recalled a remarkable text I read a number of years ago and the similarities in understanding respectability among people of different races, ethnicities, classes, and histories. (more…)

The Local Face of a Global Epidemic

Source: COPS

Source: COPS


In my last posting, I wrote about my concerns as I prepared to travel abroad to volunteer for a NGO in Kathmandu, Nepal. Today, I have settled in and completed three days of my volunteer assignment. In the past few days, I have learned about trafficking in one of the most powerful ways possible, through day-to-day interaction with survivors of the human trafficking trade. (more…)

Whose Voice is it Anyway? Gender and Power in Ventriloquism

Nina Conti (

Nina Conti (

Last week I went with a friend of mine to see a performance by comedian and ventriloquist Nina Conti. I really cannot recommend her enough, and as with all her performances I was in stitches. Whilst I could easily fill this post waxing lyrical at her talents, there is (as always) as sociological element to her work. Firstly, elements of her performance demonstrate how displays of emotion have become cultural currency, particularly for women. Secondly, it engenders interesting questions regarding power dynamics in interaction; there is a contradiction between her ‘powerful’ role as leader of the interaction, and the power-less position of being female.


Nation’s Latest Drug Scare, Heroin is Back


The death of Philip Seymour Hoffman triggered a national awareness that heroin had cycled back as a prominent drug in the United States. His death brought forth questions that challenged many people’s notions of a drug user—poor and unsuccessful. Many people asked how a person who had so much could get addicted to heroin. The reality is that Hoffman was one of many people throughout the United States using heroin. According to the National Survey on Drug Abuse and Health, 335,000 people used heroin in 2012 up from 239,000 people in 2010. (more…)