Elizabeth M. Lee’s article Elite Colleges and Socioeconomic Status (Lee, 2013) in September’s Sociology Compass is a sophisticated exploration of why elite colleges’ demographics remain “largely homogenous across generations”. The UK also exhibits this symptom of a malfunctioning meritocracy.
Former Prime Minister Sir John Major described Britain’s lack of social mobility as “truly shocking” and the current Foreign Secretary called it “disturbing” . It’s easy to see why; the upper echelons of our politics and culture are dominated by alumni from our two elite universities – the University of Oxford and University of Cambridge. The leading members of the government; the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Foreign Secretary himself and the Deputy Prime Minister are ex- Oxbridge. So too are many of the politicians responsible for holding the government to account; for example the leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband and the Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls. Our prominent writers, journalists and commentators such as the Independent’s Owen Jones, the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee, her editor Alan Rushbridger and our most popular political satirists including Jimmy Carr and David Mitchell (who work together on the UK’s version of Saturday Night Live, 10 O’clock Live) are also Oxbridge alumni. Even our new technological elites, digital entrepreneur Baroness Lane-Fox and the man who ultimately made this blog possible, inventor of the http protocol that facilitates the Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, are Oxbridge. The message is clear: if you want to be member of our elites get yourself to Oxford or Cambridge. (more…)
Source: Wikimedia Commons
High-profile cases of rape and sexual assault perpetrated by athletes in the US have become far too common. In a recent column for The Nation, Dave Zirin illustrated the ever more obvious connection between “jock culture” and the perpetration of sexual violence. Jock culture and rape culture, Zirin argues, are intrinsically linked. Young women are seen as “the spoils of being a jock” according to Zirin. In many ways Zirin could not be more right. Clearly young male athletes are learning terrible lessons regarding what their status means about their relationships to women but is “jock culture” the right way to frame this issue?
[ This article was originally published at Masculinities 101 ]
Source: Luiz Carlos Cappellano (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
A number of sociologists understand their work as being part of a radical or transformative project: They are committed to empowering the marginalized or are engaged in challenging hegemony, they work within the tradition of radical theoretical approaches such as Marxist, feminist, or critical race theory, and understand their work as a contribution to laying foundations for a more just, equal and democratic society. However, it is not often not clear what role the commitment to radical social thought – and ultimately radical social change – can play in the sociology classroom. A number of scholars have asked whether there is a unique radical, critical or transformative pedagogical approach to the teaching of sociology, how to theorize radical pedagogy, how to implement radical approaches in the undergraduate classroom and how radical educators might deal with institutional constraints.
[This article is the first in a series that explores theories behind critical/ radical/ transformative education in the sociology classroom, as well as its practice, problems, limits, and the constraints faced by sociology teachers committed to critical pedagogies. This first article introduces some theories behind critical pedagogy, and its overall framework.]
How close are we to the dystopian world outlined in 1984? Following on from my colleague bschaefer’s article ‘Volunteering for surveillance: Consumerism, fear of crime, and the loss of privacy’, this article discusses the latest challenges to our consumer privacy rights.
The concept of surveillance raises significant social questions, especially in relation to how far technologies constitute an unacceptable degree of intrusion into our private lives. This week Tesco announced their plans to introduce targeted advertising through facial recognition technologies to all 450 of its UK based petrol stations. The OptimEyes screen, developed by Lord Alan Sugar’s company Amscreen, scans the eyes of customers to determine specified categories of age and gender before running tailored advertisements. Although most of us in advanced western states are already subject to a vast array of data collection fuelled by the desire to obtain our interconnected life experiences information. This latest attempt to monitor and influence our consumer behaviour automatically sets a number of alarm bells ringing, namely to do with the social issues of surveillance, in particular power relations, spaces, and categorisations. (more…)
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…)
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 ]
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.