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.
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).
‘Jacob’s Ladder’ © 2013 Sumi Perera RE
Writing for Sociology Lens earlier this year, Johannes Lenhard introduced ‘the homeless as the last materialists’ – past masters in the dying arts of cash, marginal to the ‘dematerialised’ and ‘virtual’ monetary circuits that are fast becoming conventional. For it is not only in the migraine-inducing markets for foreign-exchange derivatives (worth US$70 trillion at last count) that money appears dematerialised and virtual; you cannot any longer use cash to pay your bus fare in London. But for homeless people in Britain, Lenhard notes, coins really do matter. The feel, the storage of different denominations at varying distances from the body – and of course, the fact that in a society gone contactless, spare change is all that remains to insulate the homeless from full economic – and thus social – exclusion. But is the language of dematerialisation the best way to grasp new monetary mutants such as, say, Bitcoin, singled out by Lenhard as the quintessential virtual currency?
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…)
Photo by: DonkeyHotey
Found on: Flickr Creative Commons
Iowa is engaged in an historical race, possibly sending their first female to the U.S. Senate. Republican candidate, Joni Ernst, while also an Army National Guard soldier, describes herself as a mother first. Albeit a mother who also carries a gun, castrates hogs and rides a motorcycle…just like most mothers I know. A recent NPR piece questions whether motherhood is a qualifying attribute for national office. The female focus group interviewed for the broadcast didn’t buy it. They all seemed to want the “right person for the job” regardless of his or her status as a parent.
[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…)
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.
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.
By Nicolás Espinosa (De mi computador) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
If you read my last post
about how women’s colleges are still relevant, you know that I am a large advocate for women’s colleges. There is a plethora of evidence that women’s college students experience (and gain) significant benefits compared to their coeducational peers.
That does not mean, however, that sex segregation in education is always the answer. In fact, for some single-sex colleges, the gender-focused environment is in fact too exclusionary. Women’s colleges, by definition, are for women. But what does that mean? Who qualifies as a woman? Are we talking about gender or sex?
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.