Tag Archives: media

Obama’s Initiative for Young Men of Color & the Rhetoric of Individual Responsibility

[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.


The Myth of the ‘Skills Gap’ and the Attack on (Higher) Education

By movie studio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

In January, President Obama became the latest in a long list of politicians and high profile public figures in taking a shot at academic disciplines perceived to be ‘useless’ from a labor market perspective. Talking about manufacturing and job training, Obama (who has since apologized for his remarks) said: “I promise you, folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree.” This attack on disciplines, fields and degrees that do not tie in directly to what is perceived to be the workplace of today and tomorrow are nothing new. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory made similar, albeit much more explicit and vicious, remarks about higher education just last year, lashing out against the (inter)discipline of women’s and gender studies: “If you want to take gender studies that’s fine. Go to a private school, and take it. But I don’t want to subsidize that if that’s not going to get someone a job.” These and similar remarks point to two related notions that dominate in the debate about (higher) education: 1. The idea of a “skills gap” – that is the idea that workers and college graduates do not possess the right skills to fill vacant jobs in growing economic sectors. And 2. The idea that some academic disciplines are simply useless pursuits, as they do not help graduates secure employment. But do these ideas have empirical ground?


Man Up: NFL Hazing and Jonathan Martin’s “Man Card”

Richie Incognito.  (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Richie Incognito. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

On October 28th, Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin left the National Football League citing emotional distress as a result of abuse at the hands of his teammate Richie Incognito.  Incognito admits to having sent Martin racist, homophobic, and threatening text messages and voicemails but argues that rather than hazing or bullying, this was merely an instance of miscommunication between the two men.  While a great deal of media attention has questioned the behavior of Richie Incognito, a disproportionate amount of attention has also been given to Martin’s choice to report the abuse.  Why has Martin’s choice to report the abuse received so much attention?  What has been the main theme of those critiquing Martin’s choice?  And, what does this discussion mean for our national discourse on bullying and hazing?  The answers to these questions, I argue, are all linked to masculinity. (more…)

Masculinity and Disney’s Gender Problem


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…)

Masculinity Breaking Bad: Walter White and the Fallouts from Complicit Masculinity

[amctv.com http://media.amctv.com/img/originals/breakingbad/downloads/Season_5B/BBS5B-1024x768-A.jpg]

  [Warning: Spoilers for the series finale of Breaking Bad ahead]

AMC’s award-winning and groundbreaking drama Breaking Bad is, although complemented by a number of highly intriguing and well-played characters, primarily the story of its lead protagonist Walter White, a disillusioned high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with terminal cancer, who turns to cooking crystal meth in order to provide for his family’s financial security after he will have passed away. Thus, Breaking Bad is a reflection on the destructive potential of masculinity in our society.

Classification and the NSA: The Power of Silence

Retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Silence_Means_Security_-_NARA_-_515419.tif

Retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Silence_Means_Security_-_NARA_-_515419.tif

The chief of the National Security Agency, General Keith Alexander, made his first public comments since Edward Snowden exposed the NSA’s PRISM spying program.   The media aftermath of Snowden’s revelation generated multiple narratives surrounding the program. Media coverage focused on privacy concerns, the criminality of Snowden, and the necessity of the program to protect America’s safety.  Lost in the production of these various discourses, there were also narratives that did not emerge, that remained silent.  The absences of particular narratives are rarely innocent oversights, but a result of presenting controlled narratives. The lack of coverage of certain views can be explained through a framework recognizing the constitutive role of silence in our everyday lives. In particular, a focus on silence can teach us to ask what is not said, for instance, why was the PRISM program classified in the first place? (more…)

Is THAT Cheating?

Source: Above the Law

Source: Above the Law

Last week, a survey of 1,300 incoming freshman at Harvard University found that 42 percent of respondents had cheated on a homework assignment or problem set before starting at Harvard. This study lead to countless editorial pieces with provocative titles such as “Welcome to Harvard, Cheaters of 2017” and “More Incoming Harvard Students Have Cheated On Their Homework Than Had Sex.” However, what the study and related articles did not discuss was how “cheating” was defined both for those conducting the survey and those responding; how technology has complicated the definition of “cheating;” and if academic institutions as well as the larger social structure needs to rethink academic ethics in today’s changing and advancing digital society.


Connecting the Dots: The Politics of Race in Big Time Football’s 2013 Offseason

By A. Smith [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Football season is upon us, and there are plenty of reasons why this moment in big time football is very intriguing from a sociological perspective. More specifically, most of the major offseason storylines of both professional and collegiate football tell us much about the racial politics in big time football and the negotiations of race and sports in the media.

Update: Johnny Manziel makes the cover of Time Magazine.


“We Can Prevent Rape by Telling Men Not to Commit It”: Men and Rape Prevention

One Man Can, a UN sponsored program of Sonke Gender Justice Network, works to engage men in South African in HIV and gendered violence prevention. (Source: Lindsay Mgbor/Department for International Development)

One Man Can, a UN sponsored program of Sonke Gender Justice Network, works to engage men in South Africa in HIV and gendered violence prevention. (Source: Lindsay Mgbor/Department for International Development)


Last Spring, during a Colorado State Senate hearing on gun control, a rape survivor testified that she believed she could have prevented her victimization if she had been allowed by the state of Colorado to carry a concealed firearm.  A female state senator then rebuked her claims by citing statistics regarding defensive firearm use.  In response to the exchange in the Colorado State Senate, Fox News brought together Zerlina Maxwell, a writer and political analyst, and Gayle Trotter, senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum, on The Sean Hannity Show to “debate” the issue.  In the course of the discussion, Zerlina Maxwell made the bold claim that “we can prevent rape by telling men not to commit it”.  For the remainder of the segment Sean Hannity and Gayle Trotter belittled Maxwell’s argument and scoffed at the very idea that reeducating men is an effective method for preventing sexual violence.  Indeed, her comments clearly struck a nerve.  In the aftermath of her appearance on the show, Maxwell received a slew of racially and sexually charged threats of violence.

But the reality is that there is a lot of truth to Zerlina’s claim whether we as a society are ready to hear it or not.  Organizations ranging from the local (i.e. Oregon Men Against Violence and the Mobilizing Men Task Force) to the global (i.e. Promundo and MenEngage) have invested considerable time and money into violence prevention work with men and boys.  Not only do these organizations, and many others, work to change the beliefs and behaviors of men and boys, but they do so with a strong theoretical and empirical foundation thanks to decades of work in social and behavioral science.  A continuously growing body of research indicates that the perpetration of sexual violence is far more common among men whose beliefs about masculinity and femininity are rigid (see Gallagher and Parrot 2011 and Reed et al. 2011).  When men believe that it is their role, as men, to be dominant in interpersonal relationships or that they are entitled to access to women’s bodies they are more likely to perpetrate coercive and/or violent sexual activity. (more…)

Not being on “Team Bublé”: Musicians, Gender and Unspeakable Inequalities

women in jazz



“My buddy here has more bitches that the Oprah Book Club”

 “Now I’m not gay, but if I was I would be rubbing this guy’s bald head all night long”

Last week, I (along with 2000 other screaming women) went to see Michael Bublé play at the 02 arena in London. The above statements were both made by Michael Bublé as part of his ‘band introduction’. The all-male brass section all had nicknames, funny quips and spinning portraits.The whole section of the concert was made to imitate an American Football team, ‘Team Bublé”. Whilst not all of the introductions were particularly tasteful, this in itself was not that remarkable. However, later on in the concert the string section came on, and were all female. They played as many songs, their contribution was as integral to the music. Despite this, in that time they were not acknowledged at all, they had no names and were treated largely as if they weren’t there. This inconsistency reflects many wider sociological trends in music performance. (more…)