Tag Archives: gender

Summer Lovin’ and the Sexual Double Standard

Grease
“Hooking up” on college campuses has been the focus of a number of debates, both in the media and in sociology, over the past several years. Some argue that casual sexual encounters are detrimental to women’s self-esteem but that hookup culture “hurts boys too.” Others assert that hooking up, which has supposedly replaced dating on college campuses, is leaving both men and women “unhappy, sexually unfulfilled, and confused about intimacy.” Many sociologists, including Paula England and Lisa Wade, have been in the midst of these cultural debates about hooking up and its effects on young adults.

As hookup culture on college campuses seems relevant (or at least an interesting topic of discussion) to students in my classes, I spend a class during the weeks on gender and sexuality addressing the sociological debates about hooking up and casual sex. There is no shortage of readings that could be assigned on this topic, including many popular media articles. One of the readings that I always assign, “Is hooking up bad for young women?” from Contexts a few years ago by Elizabeth Armstrong, Laura Hamilton, and Paula England, does a great job of outlining the debates about hookup culture that continue to be relevant. (This article was also the focus of another Teaching TSP post several years ago). I also have them read Hanna Rosin’s article from The Atlantic and Lisa Wade’s response from Soc Images.

One of the points of discussion, the sexual double standard, is repeatedly brought up with frustration by female students in my classes. Why are women who have casual sex considered sluts while men are practically given a medal for hooking up? As I initially struggled to navigate these discussions, I turned to an unlikely place for guidance, the classic musical Grease. Who hasn’t belted out “Summer Lovin’” on the dance floor with friends?

As Sandra Dee (Olivia Newton John ) and Danny Zuko (John Travolta) trade off singing about their summer romance, they seem to be describing two different relationships. Sandra Dee tells her friends, “He was sweet, just turned eighteen,” as Danny dishes, “She was good, you know what I mean?” This song, it turns out, is a perfect illustration of different gender norms when it comes to sexuality.

For the class activity, I have students divide a sheet of paper into two columns with one side for Sandra Dee and the other for Danny Zuko. As they watch the Summer Lovin’ footage from Grease, I ask them to take notes in each column of quotes or themes from the song that reflect gender norms and the sexual double standard.  Afterwards, we make a list on the board of the stark differences in gender norms around sexuality.

I use this activity as a jumping off point from which to discuss the roots of the sexual double standard and some of the issues with hookup culture. Some questions that we consider in class discussion include:

1)     How could hooking up be considered bad for men or women or both? What could you argue are the benefits to hooking up?

2)     How do gender norms operate within hookup culture (Lisa Wade’s article does a particularly good job of outlining this issue)?

3)     Does hookup culture have the potential to disrupt the sexual double standard or to change gender norms?

Infantilization and Fantasy Football

Below is a guest post by Zachary Miner, a Sociology PhD student at SUNY Albany.  Zachary’s dissertation addresses stigma and firearms ownership cultures in the United States, but he enjoys researching a variety of other topics including gender/sexualities, work, and addiction.  In the post, he suggests an activity which uses examples from students’ everyday lives to explore gender stereotyping.
When presenting a topic in class, I find that it enhances students’ interest and participation levels if they see the relevance of that topic to their own lives. For that reason, I try to incorporate examples with which students are likely to be familiar, and which will cause them to engage more with the lesson. This is certainly good practice at all times, but it is especially important when discussing something that students may have deeply-held, or “common-sense,” beliefs about, such as gender. Students may find it unconvincing, for example, if you simply state as fact that adult women are often infantilized and marginalized when they try to enter realms traditionally dominated by men. However, if you can provide an example that they’re familiar with, and show them how to critically examine that example, it will help lay the groundwork for a deeper understanding of the concept.

The suggested activity to distribute to students is as follows:

Find one or more instances in your daily life where adult women are marginalized or infantilized (treated as if they are a child). Examples could include news stories, photographs, videos, websites, written accounts, etc. Once you’ve found your example, write a brief description/summary of the aspects you’ve identified as marginalizing or infantilizing, and then a 1-2 page reflection on why you think this behavior is taking place. Be sure to write in detail about the item you’ve chosen, and include references to relevant material from class (textbook, articles, etc.). Bring your item, and your reflection paper, to class and be prepared to discuss.


Screen shot 2013-08-20 at 11.59.11 AM

After giving out the assignment, I recommend working through an example in-class to get students thinking critically. Here’s one suggestion:

Ask the students if anyone in the class plays fantasy football (this works especially well in the Fall semester!). Inquire if one of the people who has raised their hand would be willing to explain to the class how the game works. Then, bring up the Fox
Sports fantasy football website dedicated to tracking a fantasy football league called “The Fox Sports Girls.”

After reviewing the site, begin a class discussion, focusing on some of the following points:

  • Ask students to identify examples of infantilization/marginalization within the page.
    • Examples:
      • Calling it “Girls Fantasy Draft” sets up an infantilizing tone from the start (“girls,” not “women”)
      • The double-entendre inviting viewers to enter a contest to compete with the Fox Sports Girls (“Want to play in their league?”) evokes the possibility of dating the women seen in the photographs (i.e. – “she’s out of my league”)
      •  The cutesy names for many of the teams (“Sunshine Sweeties,” “If The Shoe Fitz,” “Motor City Kitties,” and “The Cheesehead Cuties”)
  • Who is the target audience for this portion of the site, men or women? How do we know?
  • Highlight how the photographs of the women, with smiling faces, are prominently displayed at the top of the page. Explain how reducing women to just their bodies is common in our culture to devalue the contributions of women – see a sports-related example of this here. Compare this page to the rest of the site.
  • Ask students to explain why the male writers and commentators of Fox Sports are not portrayed as smiling faces alone. Ask students to conjecture why these women’s photographs are all that viewers can see, with no credentials or accomplishments listed, much less any advice about fantasy football.
  • Why is this “girls page” separate from the rest of the site?
  • Ask why there needs to be a gender binary in fantasy football at all. Why, in an activity with no physical component whatsoever, does Fox Sports re-create a gender binary based on physicality (i.e. – women and men play sports separately because women tend to be smaller/lighter)?
  • Also, remind students to be wary of taking “natural” differences too far. You might consider showing this clip from “Mythbusters”  – which suggests that at least some of the differences between the sports performance of men and women is actually cultural, and not biological.
  • Ask students to explain why the network believed it would be more appealing to feature a fantasy football team of only women than a Fox Sports team with both male and female staffers. Have students consider why the selling point of this team is that it is populated by women? Remind students that when something is seen as a novelty, or an aberration, it’s easier to dismiss it, or treat it less seriously, than if it is presented as the norm.


Fantasy Football Draft White Background
If you want to give students additional material to consider, or if you want to show that Fox Sports isn’t the only offender, you might also give students this article: “Ladies, fantasy football is much easier than you think,” by Alex Flanagan. In this article – which is intended to show that women can be good at fantasy football too – Flanagan unfortunately ends up reinforcing many stereotypes of femininity (beginning with the title of the article which implies that women don’t understand fantasy football). She describes the ups and downs of being involved in an all-women’s fantasy football league where the competitors initially rank their choices based on the physical attractiveness of the available players, they report viewing the team as an “outlet where you can be bitchy and competitive without hurting anyone’s feelings,” and where the prize at the end of the season is a purse

  • Have students discuss whether this article is a net positive or a net negative for women who play fantasy football.
    • Is it a dignifying account of women breaking stereotypes, or are the descriptions in the article continuing the marginalization of female fantasy football players?
  •  Ask students to consider the difference between “bitchiness” (in this all-female league) and “trash talk” (in an all-male league).
    • Why is this an expected part of the male fantasy football experience, but takes on a negative connotation when in a female league?
    • Explore how social norms of female politeness persist throughout society and limit the acceptable range of female emotions and behaviors.

You might also show this video “What is Yahoo! Fantasy Football?”, in which sports reporter Melanie Collins gives a mostly-neutral overview of what fantasy football is about, until the closing of the video where she acknowledges that skill does not always equal success, noting that, “Heck, even my Aunt Linda won last year!”

  • Ask students to consider whether the statement would still make sense if she had substituted “Uncle Jon” for “Aunt Linda.” Then explore with students why it reads as humorous to be beaten in a fantasy sports game by your aunt, but not by your uncle.
  • Ask students why a female reporter was chosen for this spot. Who are the target audiences? Would those audiences be more comfortable with a woman explaining fantasy football to them than a man?

 

The exercise described above can easily lead into a larger discussion of gender in sports. This is a fertile area for debate including the topics of how  women’s sports as a whole are seen as less exciting (and less marketable) than men’s sports, female competitors typically get paid less than men, and even female employees are largely relegated to secondary status (“sideline reporter” rather than “commentator,” for example). It could also offer an opportunity to explore the variety of ways in which women’s participation in traditionally male domains is de-legitimized.

The goal of this type of exercise is to get students thinking critically about something they’re familiar with, and considering what gendered messages exist within various aspects of their lives. Ideally, these kinds of exercises will help them realize that gender isn’t something they hear about for three hours a week in the classroom, or only read about in books, but rather is something they can see happening all around them.

 

 

 

Welcome, Girl w/Pen!

Teaching TSP is very happy that Girl w/Pen has joined TSP’s Community!  Of course, we’re happy for many reasons, but one that we must highlight is the fantastic amount of teaching resources that can be found on the blog.  Here’s an example, posted by Girl w/ Pen’s Deborah Siegel last month, which could easily be adapted to the classroom.

Start by giving your students this short, in-class quiz.

1. Children rarely have a firm sense of what “gender” they are until they are how old?
a) 1 year
b) 2 years
c) 3 years

2. This past holiday season, which country produced a toy catalog featuring a boy cradling a doll and a girl riding a race car?
a) the US
b) Sweden
c) France

3. True or false: In a study of 120 pregnant women conducted shortly after women learned the sex of their baby, those who knew they were carrying females described their fetuses’ movements as gentle, quiet, and rolling while those carrying males described kicks, jabs, and a saga of earthquakes.

 

Then, to get the answers and learn much more, watch this TED Talk in class.

The Mating Game

Paul & Lawrence-11

Below is an activity I’ve seen used a few different ways.  The activity helps to illustrate the issue of mate selection for forming a family; it also gets students thinking about gender, sexuality, and the life course. 

First, have students think about their expectations of what their immediate family will be like someday. What are their plans for the future?  Or, if they are already married or in a domestic partnership, what is their family like?

Then, have students draw a future mate randomly from the list below, which has been adapted from several versions of this exercise.  The trick is that the draw is indeed random, so there will be same-sex, interracial, or other couples.

  1. A middle-class, white man who travels three weeks each month for his job and has three kids from a previous marriage of whom he has custody. Currently, he has a live-in nanny but would rather have a full-time parent in the home for his kids.
  2. A wealthy, African-American woman who owns a publishing business in Chicago.
  3. A working class, Latino man from Costa Rica who wishes to live near his family in his home country.
  4. An upwardly-mobile white woman who wishes never to have kids or at least not to care for them herself. (If you want kids, you will have to be the sole parent.)
  5. A female, Presbyterian minister whose first job assignment is in central Kansas.
  6. An African-American male professor who has tenure at Harvard.
  7. A English man who wishes to live in the US but cannot get residency for 3-4 years as a result of the immigration waiting list for English citizens into this country.
  8. A white, male Florida “cracker” whose family has owned a fishing business in Everglades City for two generations. He plans to adopt the business in five years and needs to continue working for the business until that time.
  9. Martha Stewart’s sister, a middle-class, white woman who plans to be a homemaker.
  10. An Indian woman (US resident) whose parents are planning to arrange a marriage for her with someone other than you.

Students must suppose they will fall in love with this person within five years and plan to form a family with them.  Then, they should think about the following questions:

How will their future plans be affected by this selection? What will their other family members think?  Where will they live? What about kids?  What is the likelihood that they would actually consider marrying this person?

Check out the myriad posts on Soc Images about marriage and family, and consider coupling one or two with this exercise!

Teaching with Toys

Image via Daniel Oines, flickr.com

As the holidays draw near, it seems fitting that several of this week’s citings were about toy stores.  One of the citings, found here, was about a Swedish company that is working to eliminate gendered toys. The other, found here, focused on class and toys.

Below is an expanded version of a related activity (that we posted about briefly in the past).  This activity focuses on gender and toys, but you could also include class and toys (or ask the class to read the second citing listed above as part of the discussion after the activity).

Go to a local toy store or department store, and bring something to take notes. While you are there, take detailed notes about the following:

*Can you tell if there is a boys’ section and a girls’ section? How do you know?
*If there are boys’ and girls’ sections, how do they differ? (Think about the number of toys, colors of toys, types of toys, etc.)
*If there are boys’ and girls’ sections, how are they similar?
*Do the toys seem to encourage different types of values?
*Do the toys seem to encourage different roles for boys and girls?
*What other differences or similarities do you see?

Students could bring their notes to class for group discussion and/or write a paper based on their findings. If they write a paper, be sure to ask them to give detailed descriptions as well as link their findings to material covered in class (and turn their notes in with the paper).

Sexualization of Children

Doing some last minute planning for my Sociology of Gender course this summer, and happened upon a Toddlers and Tiaras episode (which I know is old news for most people!) but I had never actually watched it. Very interesting. And would be great for discussion in the classroom on the sexualization of children.

I started poking around Soc Images for some more resources and found so many helpful posts I had to share: on 7 years doing “All The Single Ladies”, girls modeling and sexualized toys, push-up swimsuits for young girls, and more sexualized modeling, , and a two year old in a Madonna cone bra.
 

Here’s a clip from Toddlers and Tiaras:

 

And a whole episode:

Here’s a clip many of you have probably seen of 7 year olds doing Beyonce’s “All the Single Ladies”

And another group of 7 year olds doing “My Boyfriend’s Back”

And, finally, here’s the cone bra:

Sports and Politics

The Society Pages’ first White Paper, published earlier this month, focuses on the intersections of politics and sport. White Papers are in-depth explorations of relevant topics in the social sciences and  will be an ongoing part of The Society Pages. We recommend using this White Paper, “Politics and Sports: Strange, Secret Bedfellows” by Kyle Green and Doug Hartmann, in your classroom as a great overview of the politics of sports…and the sport of politics. Score

This easy-to-read and informative paper explores many topics relevant to your students. Here are a few:

  • Do sports play a role in maintaining racial stereotypes, in particular the athletic prowess and intellectual deficiency of black men?
  • Similarly, how do gendered stereotypes of ability and interest in sports get reproduced? And how can such stereotypes be understood damaging for women?
  • Should sports be understood as a site where boys learn how to “perform” a hegemonic brand of dominant and physical manhood?
  • Are sports the “opiate of the masses”—something mindless to occupy the working class’s time and energy, which might otherwise be invested in creating drastic political change?
  • How can we understand the infusion of sports language and metaphors in politics? Why do politicians use such language and what are the possible repercussions of this type of language?
  • How should we understand the display of anthems, flags, and military personnel (or fighter jets) at sporting events of all kinds (e.g. standing for the national anthem)?
  • Should tax dollars be used to fund professional sports stadiums? How has this taken-for-granted link between state government and for-profit sports teams been formed?

 

Gendering Animals

I just had to repost this video, shared on Sociological Images –a National Geographic documentary which genders animals’ sexuality. It’s worth the watch! (read the whole post here!) This would be an effective video to show in a section on normative gender roles, illustrating the broad reach of our deeply held notions of appropriate masculinity and femininity and the dangerousness of deviation.

Soc of Gender Teaching Guide (Soc Images)

Teaching Sociology of Gender this semester?

Came across this fantastic compilation of Soc Images content for designing a Sociology of Gender class, developed by Mary Nell Trautner, PhD at University at Buffalo, SUNY.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

via Sociological Images.

Gender Norms in Teen Magazines

Magazines geared towards teens are some of the best examples of illustrating gender norms for students new to Sociology. We recommend this activity for an Intro to Sociology class or to begin a course on the Sociology of Gender:Seventeen

Have students read “Selling Feminism, Consuming Femininity” by Amanda M. Gengler in the Spring 2011 issue of Contexts. Then, have them look through magazines aimed at young women or men (print or online) with a new eye for spotting the underlying messages about femininity and masculinity contained in the images or articles.

Send them home with a worksheet with these questions repeated 4-6 times so they can answer them about each image/article they find:

1. What message does this image/article portray about femininity or masculinity?

2. Do you believe this message has the potential to be harmful to young men or women? If so, in what ways? If not, why not?

3. Imagine you are talking to your younger brother/sister/cousin/daughter/son about this image or article, what would you say?

SeventeenHave them bring their examples into class and form small groups for a “Gender Workshop” (this could definitely work in a large class!) They’ll take turns describing their finds to the other members of the group. After they’ve all had their turn, they’ll have a guided discussion about their experience, addressing these questions in a small group discussion:

1. What was this experience like for you? Was there anything surprising about looking at these magazines in this way?

2. Do you believe that absorbing gender norms like the ones discussed today could have negative consequences for young men and women?  If so, how?
Give examples:

3. Whose responsibility is it to manage such messages about gender norms? The publishers of the magazines? The authors of the articles? The advertisers? The parents of the teens? The teens themselves?