Source: Wikimedia Commons
November is here, which means the season of ghosts and goblins has come to pass. As an enthusiast of all-things-haunted, I filled the month of October with scary movie nights, Halloween costume parties, visits to a haunted house and Phantom Fright Nights at my local amusement park, and even an outing that involved shooting paintballs at zombies. As any good graduate student in the social sciences might do, I pondered the sociological aspects of these activities throughout the month. What makes this campy season of fear so popular in U.S. culture? Does it serve any purposes beyond providing consumers with themed entertainment, as the producers of frightening fun reap massive profits each fall?
Source: Fibonacci Blue (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
Last week, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals threw out
a previous ruling that had determined that New York City’s controversial “Stop and Frisk” practice constituted a civil rights violation, thereby placing any reforms (or the outright abolition of “Stop and Frisk”) on hold. In addition
to being a highly ineffective police strategy, extremely questionable from a civil liberties perspective and undeniably a case of racial profiling, this policy might also impact marginalized students’ educational outcomes. Sociological research suggests that the interplay between constructions of masculinity and punitive criminal justice (and school) policies ends up harming marginalized boys’ educational prospects and channels them into crime – and ultimately the criminal justice system.
[ This article was originally published at Masculinities 101 ]
Janet Bloch. Self Portrait as Shakti, 2004. Acrylic & Mixed Media,
16 x 16 in. © Janet Bloch. Reprinted with permission.
Full Disclosure: I am a feminist. It never crossed my mind that there might be anything problematic about labeling myself this way since I have openly articulated my interests in gender issues and social, political, and economic equality since my early undergraduate days. Of course, I knew that researchers had shown women today often reject the term “feminist” (McRobbie 2004; Rowe-Finkbeiner 2004; Levy 2006). However, I somehow had convinced myself that these individuals were just not informed. I truly believed that if men and women could critically examined the social construction of gender, see the ways in which gendered notions impact their lives, and take the time to critique these forces there could be greater understanding, acceptance, and embracement of feminist politics.
Last fall I found myself working on a project on women’s art. I met with several female artists whose work examined, questioned, and challenged cultural gender expectations. What I found utterly shocked me; within the art world, there are a number of female artists that use art as a vehicle to challenge gender inequality but are cautious, hesitant, or dismissive of being labeled as “feminist artists.” I found that many female artists believe that term “feminism” is so deeply connected to a stigmatized social movement that strongly reject the label even while creating feminist art.
The recent contention over the United States budget has pitted the Democrats against Republicans and in doing so has hardened political ideologies for many but has also opened the minds of many to the hypocrisy of Congress. One central narrative in this battle is whether citizens should continue to receive entitlement programs such as Social Security or be allowed to get health care under the Affordable Care Act. The right considers anyone in poverty as lazy and handouts as a disincentive to work. Narratives were abound regarding individuals who are perceived as undeserving of healthcare and that people need to work for a living in order to receive healthcare. Fox News went so far as too post a horrifically misrepresented graph suggesting that more Americans receive benefits than work. Of course the graph is extremely flawed with contradictory measures for those that receive benefits and those that work, and the Y axis makes the difference appear greater than what it is. The notion that Americans can pick themselves up by the boot straps and make something for themselves is a sensationalized myth at this point in time. The reality is that it is difficult to win the economic race when you are not even allowed on the track. The 99% moniker of the Occupy movement is indicative of the gap between the rich and the poor, and the difference between the rich and the poor cannot be whittled down to work ethic. Rather, income inequality is a product of social structures that exploit the working class. (more…)
Despite such clubs being banned elsewhere, the student pole dancing club was recently soliciting new members at my university’s freshers’ fair. The toxic effects on gender relations of pole dancing’s explicit objectification of women have been extensively discussed elsewhere – see the Object campaign for example. Despite such critiques, pole dancing has been adopted into the body-sculpting repertories of fitness clubs and become an option for students to earn money by dabbling in the sex industry. (more…)
Did you know that October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month? As such, the month of October is full of bullying prevention and awareness events. The National Bullying Prevention Center advertises many of these events and hosts a great deal of information about bullying. But, a major piece of the bullying puzzle is missing, both from their website and much of the national (and international) discourse on bullying. That missing piece is gender.
Our colleague Cliff Leek convincingly wrote
about the importance of involving men in rape prevention work. Today I want to go back to a ‘debate’ on Fox News earlier this year, in which feminist writer Zerlina Maxwell raised this issue by arguing that rape can be prevented if men learn not to rape – an idea that was shot down (no pun intended) by Fox News host Sean Hannity as an unrealistic liberal pipe dream. Rather, Hannity and Gayle Trotter of the ‘Independent Women’s Forum’ – a conservative think tank – argued that the right to carry concealed weapons is what can protect women from being raped. Although clearly being an attempt to intervene in the gun control debate by these conservative thinkers, their arguments reveal some of the underlying assumptions about sexualized violence and masculinities in mainstream discourse – assumptions that are in strong conflict with findings from research.
Yesterday, I read a disturbing article in Adweek. “Powerful Ads Use Real Google Searches to Show the Scope of Sexism Worldwide Simple: Visual For Inequality” by David Griner explores a new campaign idea from UN Women, which used real suggested search terms from Google’s autocomplete feature. The ads, which were designed by art director and graphic designer Christopher Hunt, were designed to illustrate how gender inequality continues to be so problematic that even Google has come to expect it.
Being a sociologist, I was interested in the reliability of the Google experiment. So, I conducted my own Google search of the phrases used in the project. My findings were not exactly the same as the UN Women campaign but I was saddened to see so many misogynistic phrases pop up on my screen. I found “women shouldn’t…” work, be in combat, or be cops. In contrast, “women should…” know their place, not preach, not speak in church, and not be in combat. Google autocomplete told me that “women need to…” shut up, grow up, feel wanted, and feel safe. And finally, “women cannot…” be trusted, be pastors, have it all, or teach men.
Source [http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CTA_orange_line_midway.jpg] via Wikimedia Commons
Chicago has long served as a laboratory for sociologists, from the Chicago School to Wilson, Pattillo, Cronon and others. Chicago is also the center of Sampson’s study on the ecological aspect of social behavior with special focus on community level influence on individuals. By allowing space for the effect of social interaction and looking at the macro and the micro influences that shape individual behavior, Sampson explores how place chooses an individual and constrains individual choice. (more…)
Disney Princes and Princesses. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Disney has a gender problem.
A long line of feminist scholars and activists has used Disney princesses as examples of exactly what is wrong with the representation of women in mainstream media. The classical Disney princesses (Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel, Jasmine, etc.) have been lambasted for having story lines in which they are helpless damsels in distress whose lives revolve around male characters. Even the more modern princesses such as Tiana from Princess and the Frog and Rapunzel from Tangled have story lines that are largely tied to their romantic interests in male characters. Indeed, Jezebel has already posted an article addressing the many ways in which Disney’s upcoming film, Frozen, appears to undermine its female protagonist.
Unfortunately most of the criticism of Disney’s gender problem only addresses one pole of the gender spectrum – femininity. That is, Disney’s portrayal of masculinity is also problematic but has received little attention. (more…)