On March 18, Vladimir Putin signs a treaty with his Crimean counterpart Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov to welcome Crimea into the Russian Federation after the referendum on March 16.
On March 20, Obama signs an executive order to impose sanctions on senior officials of the Russian government as well as an additional agreement allowing sanctions on ‘key sectors of the Russian economy’.
Retrieved from Getty images.
In a recent Sociology Lens post, Markus Gerke detailed the problem associated with President Obama’s rhetoric of individual responsibility for increasing opportunities for Latino and Black men. One component to President Obama’s initiative is to increase educational opportunities for these populations and Gerke correctly notes that the focus on individual responsibility ignores the structural barriers that limit these populations. Research suggests that a major factor in the educational achievement gap is the presence of the school-to-prison pipeline and the punishment of minority students at greater rates than white students. A recent report by the U.S. Department of Education notes that 5 percent of white students in the United States are suspended compared to 16 percent of black students. Furthermore, researchers have documented racial disparities in school punishment for over 40 years with African-Americans accounting for 34 percent of suspensions nationwide, despite making up only 17 percent of the population (Browne, 2003).
[By Pete Souza (White House Flickr Account) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]
A few weeks ago, President Obama announced a new initiative
designed to increase opportunities for young Black and Latino men. Acknowledging that Black and Latino men lag behind other groups in educational achievement and employment, while outnumbering white men in jails and prisons, at first glance, the President’s “My Brother’s Keeper
” campaign seems like a much needed and timely project. However, when examining Obama’s rhetoric more closely, the initiative falls short of addressing the root causes and structural reasons for racial disparities in the US and instead perpetuates a neoliberal language of individual responsibility.
A couple of weeks ago I was listening to Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee discuss the recent political sex scandal in the UK where Lord Rennard – a Liberal Democrat peer and senior party grandee (picture above) – was accused of sexual harassment and inappropriate ‘groping’ of junior party members. Although cleared of criminal charges, the saga rolls on as the women still maintain their accusations of sexual impropriety against Rennard, which he denies and refuses to apologise for, and the party are trying to resolve the matter internally.
I don’t want to discuss this story directly, which has had plenty of column inches dedicated to it already, but something Toynbee said really made me stop and listen. She implied that Lord Rennard, being a ‘portly, elderly gentlemen’ only stood a chance with ‘younger, more attractive women’ because of his powerful position in the party and the professional favours he might be able to give them. Tonybee admitted that her column had received a lot of negative comments because she had dared to bring up Rennard’s appearance, but she remains defiant that physical attractiveness is part of the story here, because, as she said, only half-jokingly, “I wouldn’t put my hand on George Clooney’s knee – you kind of know your level”. When challenged that if Rennard had been more attractive, then what he had (allegedly) done would still have been unacceptable, she replied that there would be slightly more “equality” there, and that equality comes in all sorts of ways, including “physical attractiveness”. (more…)
**Warning: This posting contains content some readers may find disturbing.
Recently, a student told me about a 2012 Reddit thread where a Reddit user invited rapists to tell their stories and the motives behind their sexual assault(s). Although the posts and all comments connected to the post were eventually deleted, the thread sparked heated debates not only on Reddit but on Jezebel and in the Huffington Post. And despite the site’s attempt to remove the content of the thread, it took me less than fifteen minutes find a large section of the postings and comments in the Museum of Reddit.
My initial reaction to this content was disgust and outrage. I was concerned about the way a forum like this could re-victimize survivors and even validate sexual assault. I was not the only one who found the thread dangerous. A psychiatrist responded to the thread arguing that a forum like Reddit’s can be a trigger for rapists and would be rapists.
Just about four weeks ago the public was shocked: Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his New York apartment. But what most people talked about after the first trauma was not only that the world had lost a great actor. It was the needle in Hoffman’s arm.
Hoffman had suffered from drug and alcohol problems earlier in his life. The public knew about that. Most people, however, believed him clean for the last 23 years. Hoffman himself was in fact not reluctant to talk about his addiction in more straightforward and honest ways. As he told the Guardian in 2011:
“I know, deep down, I still look at the idea of drinking with the same ferocity that I did back then. It’s still pretty tangible. I had no interest in drinking in moderation. And I still don’t. Just because all that time’s passed doesn’t mean maybe it was just a phase.” (more…)
The pornography search engine PornHub, for reasons I can assume only they know, appear to have become sociologists. Using the collected data they have from their search engine that provides access to many free pornography sites, they have started a blog called ‘PornHub Insights’. This offers exactly what the name suggests – research and analysis directly from the ‘Pornhub team’, offering insights based on their data as to the numbers of viewers they have, how long they watch, and from where. Their most recent posts discuss, for example, their traffic changes during key social events (during the American football Superbowl they experienced a traffic drop equivalent to over 300 million viewers). In terms of mapping what people do, this data has huge potential. (more…)
Sisterhood Against Sexual Assault hosts conference at Liberty Field House. Conference helps raise awareness and combat sexual assault. Retrieved from wiki commons.
The United States Senate failed to pass a bill that would have altered the military’s response to sexual assault. The bill, sponsored by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) would have stripped senior military commanders of their authority to prosecute or prevent charges for alleged rapes and other serious offenses in favor of giving the authority to military trial lawyers operating under a newly established office independent of the chain of command. The vote fell 5 votes short of the 60 necessary to move ahead with the legislation, with opponents of the bill arguing that commanding officers should be given more responsibility in preventing and punishing sexual offenses and that removing power from commanders threatens the organization of the military. The bill failed to pass despite multiple news reports revealing the extent of sexual assaults in the military and the lack of response by military commanders. (more…)
By mariselise derivative work: Steffaville [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
The NBA has its first openly gay player in Jason Collins, and the NFL will follow soon, as former college player Michael Sam is expected to join a team this summer. This might indicate that we are seeing a radical shift in society’s stereotypes about gay men. At the same time, it remains to be seen, as Dave Zirin asks at The Nation
whether gay male athletes like Sam can help shift our definitions of masculinity more broadly or whether they might paradoxically reinforce gender norms and notions of hyper-masculinity at the same time.
By Yamaguchi Yoshiaki from Japan [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
This year marks one century of commercial flying. On New Year’s Day in 1914, a large crowd gathered in St.Petersburg, Florida, as an airboat named ‘Benoist’ (after its creator, Thomas Benoist), took to the sky for a 23-minute flight over the Tampa Bay, carrying a single passenger (Abram Pheil, who won his $400 ticket in an auction). This maiden flight soon became a regular route, thus marking aviation’s birth as a viable industry. In the following decades, transnational routes, jet engines and global airlines became fixtures of modern life.
What a difference a century makes. Today, 52 aircraft take off every minute, and an incredible half a million people are in the air above us at any one time. Flying now facilitates family visits, holidays, business and academic conferences, and freight trade; it’s made the world smaller, and the global economy bigger. (more…)