‘Real’ Men Don’t Rape, and Other ‘Sexy’ Language Dilemmas


Following on from a report from the White House on student sexual assault, the Obama administration has recently released an anti-rape PSA to launch the ‘1 Is 2 Many’ campaign to address the issue of sexual assault and rape. If you haven’t already watched it then do: it has a refreshing and positive rhetoric, placing the focus on the perpetrator and not the victim. “If I saw it happening I would help her, not blame her”, Daniel Craig states. It follows an argument that is entirely reasonable but often forgotten, that it is more effective to teach people not to rape than it is to teach people not to get raped.

I like this advert for a number of reasons. It is clear and concise, moving and inspiring without being patronising, and doesn’t rely on ‘misery porn’ or fear to get its point across. It has a sense of hope and optimism, a “we can do this!” attitude. It is encouraging rather than threatening and manages to discuss rape whilst being approachable. I say all this because I don’t want to fall into the sociological trap of jumping straight into criticism without saying positive things, or to belittle how progressive this perspective is. This advert is a significant improvement on anti-rape campaigns that blame the victim, and I hope for more. However, there are overarching themes that this video throws up that I have to acknowledge, because despite liking this advert, it still has discursive effects and impact beyond simply preventing rape.


The Rise of Police Body Cameras

LondonCctvIrony (1)

Police departments across the country are rapidly increasing their technological capacity to become a more efficient and effective force. These technologies vary from new weapons, wide-area surveillance, facial recognition software, closed caption television cameras, and crime mapping software. Each of these technologies is oriented towards identifying offenders and preventing or intervening in crime incidents. The technology has become a multi-billion dollar industry with vendors regularly contacting departments attempting to sell them the next great technology. One technology becoming increasingly popular with the police is body-cameras. The police are beginning to wear small cameras on their shirt, hat, or sunglasses in order to capture interactions with citizens. The body-cameras are one of the few technologies adopted by the police that focus on limiting police behavior. Body cameras are thought to reduce police deviance and increase police professionalism by monitoring police actions (Ariel & Farrar, 2014). The movement towards police wearing body cameras causes the police to be more aware of their behaviors and acts as a deterrent for the police committing crimes. Multiple research studies indicate video technology alters the behavior of offenders (Chartrand, & Bargh, 1999; IACP, 2004).   (more…)

Throwing like a Girl? The Case for Gender Similarity in Sports

Source: Nathan Rupert (SD) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Finally, it’s almost summer. And as the weather gets better, more and more social life in my neighborhood shifts outside to the street. As I was sitting at my desk the other day, I noticed two kids playing in the street, a boy of maybe 10 years and a girl, maybe 8. The boy was practicing his basketball skills, dribbling the ball between his legs, moving backwards, sidewards, spinning around, all while keeping perfect control over the ball. The girl on the other hand was listening to music and practicing dance moves from the latest music video (needles to say, both kids were far more skillful in their respective activity than I ever will be). Then something interesting happened: The kids started teaching each other their respective activities. And while the boy did quite a good job of learning the girl’s dance moves, the girl struggled when it came to dribbling the basketball: Whereas before as she was dancing, she was able to move extremely smoothly and elegantly, now her body became stiff. Her eyes fixated on the ball so as not to lose control, her upper body moved up and down parallel to her hand awkwardly and in a very choppy way; and she kept losing the ball repeatedly after every dozen or so dribbles. Is this little anecdote proof then that girls are just naturally less adept at ball games than boys [spoiler alert: it's not]?


A one-way ticket to Carbon Heaven, please?

Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ACarbon_footprint_representation.jpg

I recently had my carbon footprint calculated over the phone with a member of an environmental NGO called the Surefoot Effect. It was an interesting experience.

The conversation was going well. I was asked questions about how I heat my flat (answer: I’ve never turned the heating on), how I commute to work (I cycle), how much meat I eat (I’m vegetarian) and my carbon footprint came in at roughly half the UK average, until I was asked about the topic I was dreading… how much I fly. Last year I took a series of long-haul flights, because I’d finished a job in South Korea, and on my way back to the UK I visited Malaysia and India as a tourist. These flights bumped up my carbon footprint considerably. Without flights, my carbon footprint was around 6 tonnes of carbon.  With flights, my footprint was doubled to 12 tonnes, slightly more than the UK average. All my good, green work, it seemed, had been for nothing. I am just as much of a carbon terrorist as all my car-driving, meat-eating peers.


Can We Just Say “Menstruation” Please!

Source: Heidi Rademacher, 2014

Source: Heidi Rademacher, 2014


Several years ago, I worked on a project designed to examine how menstruation is socially constructed and how this construction has created social taboos that have impacted American women’s attitudes towards their bodies before, during, and after menstruation.  After speaking with women between the ages of eighteen and sixty, I found women today often feel “dirty,” “gross,” or “unclean” while menstruating.  Although some women also associated menstruation positively with childbirth and motherhood, the majority of women I spoke to felt it was a private, if not shameful, topic.

As my research interests grew and changed I put this project in the back of my mind. Then last week while working at my neighborhood coffee super-chain, I noticed a smaller wastebasket next to the toilet.  Someone had made a label on the wastebasket that said, “For girl things.”  I was instantly irritated by the label but I was not sure why. I recognized the label was attempting to be cute or funny.  The problem was the euphemism did not read as cute or funny.  In fact, it was the opposite.  The words could not even be said: Menstrual Products.


The Praxis of Sexual Violence Prevention: Lessons from the White House

The White House.  Source: Wikimedia Commons

The White House. Source: Wikimedia Commons

On Tuesday the White House launched its new campaign to address and prevent the epidemic of sexual violence against women on college campuses in the US.  The campaign, 1 is 2 Many, includes a blog, an informational website with a major report, Not Alone, and a PSA aimed at men and boys.  The launch of the campaign has been largely celebrated among the numerous sexual and domestic violence agencies across the country as a much needed step toward creating real change on college campuses.  For those of us in the social sciences, the campaign, and the report in particular, reveals just how much we don’t yet know about sexual violence on college campuses. (more…)

The Internet of Things: some implications for sociology

Source: http://recode.net/2014/01/10/what-your-internet-of-things-is-saying-about-you-comic/

Source: http://recode.net/2014/01/10/what-your-internet-of-things-is-saying-about-you-comic/

This week BBC News asked “can wearable tech make us more productive?”  The news package covered a research project which has the broader purpose of investigating impact of wearable connected tech on every aspect of our lives. The umbrella term that (albeit loosely) confederates connected technology is the ‘Internet of Things’. Its advocates believe the Internet of Things is one of the most compelling ideas of the twenty first century.  The original definition of the Internet of Things referred to inanimate objects that had an electronic product code so they could be inventoried. Now, thanks to IPv6 (which provides 3.4×1038 addresses on the Internet), as utility (or the market) demands it, all our everyday objects such as TVs, microwave ovens and cars can be allocated an address on the Internet and offer the potential to transmit and receive digital data. However, an IP address is not a prerequisite of the Internet of Things. The term can also refer to devices that have the potential to produce digital data for the Internet. This includes technologies of the ‘quantified self’, such as the GPS enabled sports watch I use for example. (more…)

Piketty, Europe and the ‘right-wing working class’


Piketty is sold out everywhere – but doesn’t quite make it where he should


Piketty is everywhere. Both the French professor himself – always impeccably dressed in smart suits and equipped with the cutest French accent imaginable – and his latest book ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’ are all over the media, intellectual book-clubs and university common-rooms. He is #1 on Amazon (or on several Amazons in the US, the UK and France) and the hard cover version is sold out both in French and English. Piketty spoke on Reuters TV, CNN Money, MSNBC, WNYC and gave talks at the IMF, the GAO, CUNY, Columbia and NYU – all within his two days promo-push in Washington and New York last week.

Not only did Piketty himself get overwhelmingly busy recently, but every columnist, opinion writer and wanna-be journalist felt the need to grab a sniff of the new wunderkind of academia. Hundreds of reviews, comment pieces and op-eds have been written about the man and his theses. The most prominent among them might be Krugman’s highly NYRB piece and Daniel Shuchman’s rather critical WSJ review.

Piketty’s thesis is too complex and fine-grained to be replicated in any review and enough people have already attempted to pay tribute to his breathtakingly extensive statistical analysis. In simple terms, however, it reads as follows: capitalism is not fair. It does not distribute income equally, but to contrary allows wealthy dynasties to become even wealthier. His solution is technically simple but politically impossible, almost utopian-idealist: a progressive global tax on private property. Piketty confirms what Occupy and much popular intuition have always known, but so far failed to translate into sustainable action.


Removing the homeless from the streets














The New York City Rescue Mission recently posted a video on their website of a social experiment examining whether or not a person would recognize his/her own family member dressed to appear homeless. To no surprise, the test subjects did not recognize their family member as they walked past them on the street. Watching the powerful video not only puts homelessness into perspective for those individuals who did not recognize their own family, but also raises questions for all of us as to whether we pay attention to the homeless. In the United States the homeless are often associated with negative connotations. Our constructed realities of the homeless consist of dirty, lazy individuals who are likely drunk, on drugs, and/or mentally ill who commits crime to survive. These negative meanings attached to have serious consequences for how we should respond to the homeless, typically guiding punitive policies that interweave narratives of homeless persons and public health issues (Amster, 2003). The associated negative connotations with the homeless provide the public with a basis to remove the homeless from public space in the name of safety. (more…)

The Marathon and Gender Equality

By Richard Smith from Bowen Island, Canada (Chicago Marathon – the start) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.


Last week marked the first installment of the Boston Marathon after the horrible terrorist acts of 2013. Although the world-renowned event will forever be linked to these atrocities, there are also acts of positive social change linked to its. Most famously, the 1967 Boston Marathon saw Kathrine Switzer become the first woman to enter the race as a numbered runner (there had actually been other women run the race unofficially before) by registering as “KV Switzer”. Her run and the attempt by a race official to remove her from the race show how sports can become an arena of progressive social change. Moreover, the history of marathon running over the past half century can also serve as a teaching tool to challenge myths about the supposed fundamental differences between men and women.