Originally posted at Discoveries

Punk rock has a long history of anti-racism, and now a new wave of punk bands are turning it up to eleven to combat Islamophobia. For a recent research article, sociologist Amy D. McDowell  immersed herself into the “Taqwacore” scene — a genre of punk rock that derives its name from the Arabic word “Taqwa.” While inspired by the Muslim faith, this genre of punk is not strictly religious — Taqwacore captures the experience of the “brown kids,” Muslims and non-Muslims alike who experience racism and prejudice in the post-9/11 era. This music calls out racism and challenges stereotypes.

Through a combination of interviews and many hours of participant observation at Taqwacore events, McDowell brings together testimony from musicians and fans, describes the scene, and analyzes materials from Taqwacore forums and websites. Many participants, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, describe processes of discrimination where anti-Muslim sentiments and stereotypes have affected them. Her research shows how Taqwacore is a multicultural musical form for a collective, panethnic “brown” identity that spans multiple nationalities and backgrounds. Pushing back against the idea that Islam and punk music are incompatible, Taqwacore artists draw on the essence of punk to create music to that empowers marginalized youth.

Neeraj Rajasekar is a Ph.D. student in sociology at the University of Minnesota.

Over at Family Inequality, Phil Cohen has a list of demographic facts you should know cold. They include basic figures like the US population (326 million), and how many Americans have a BA or higher (30%). These got me thinking—if we want to have smarter conversations and fight fake news, it is also helpful to know which way things are moving. “What’s Trending?” is a post series at Sociological Images with quick looks at what’s up, what’s down, and what sociologists have to say about it.

The Crime Drop

You may have heard about a recent spike in the murder rate across major U.S. cities last year. It was a key talking point for the Trump campaign on policing policy, but it also may be leveling off. Social scientists can also help put this bounce into context, because violent and property crimes in the U.S. have been going down for the past twenty years.

You can read more on the social sources of this drop in a feature post at The Society Pages. Neighborhood safety is a serious issue, but the data on crime rates doesn’t always support the drama.

Evan Stewart is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Minnesota. You can follow him on Twitter.

In February, CBS Sunday Morning aired a short news segment on the bro hug phenomenon: a supposedly new way heterosexual (white) men (i.e., bros) greet each other. According to this news piece, the advent of the bro hug can be attributed to decreased homophobia and is a sign of social progress.

I’m not so sure.

To begin, bro-ness isn’t really about any given individuals, but invokes a set of cultural norms, statuses, and meanings. A stereotypical bro is a white middle-class, heterosexual male, especially one who frequents strongly masculinized places like fraternities, business schools, and sport events. (The first part of the video, in fact, focused on fraternities and professional sports.) The bro, then, is a particular kind of guy, one that frequents traditionally male spaces with a history of homophobia and misogyny and is invested in maleness and masculinity.

The bro hug reflects this investment in masculinity and, in particular, the masculine performance in heterosexuality. To successfully complete a bro hug, the two men clasp their right hands and firmly pull their bodies towards each other until they are or appear to be touching whilst their left hands swing around to forcefully pat each other on the back. Men’s hips and chests never make full contact. Instead, the clasped hands pull in, but also act as a buffer between the men’s upper bodies, while the legs remain firmly rooted in place, maintaining the hips at a safe distance. A bro hug, in effect, isn’t about physical closeness between men, but about limiting bodily contact.

Bro hugging, moreover, is specifically a way of performing solidarity with heterosexual men. In the CBS program, the bros explain that a man would not bro hug a woman since a bro hug is, by its forcefulness, designed to be masculinity affirming. Similarly, a bro hug is not intended for gay men, lesbians, or queer people. The bro hug performs and reinforce bro identity within an exclusively bro domain. For bros, by bros. As such, the bro hug does little to signal a decrease in homophobia. Instead, it affirms men’s identities as “real” men and their difference from both women and non-heterosexual men.

In this way, the bro-hug functions similarly to the co-masturbation and same-sex sexual practices of heterosexually identified white men, documented by the sociologist Jane Ward in her book, Not Gay. Ward argues that when straight white men have sex with other straight white men they are not necessarily blurring the boundaries between homo- and heterosexuality. Instead, they are shifting the line separating what is considered normal from what is considered queer.  Touching another man’s anus during a fraternity hazing ritual is normal (i.e., straight) while touching another man’s anus in a gay porn is queer.  In other words, the white straight men can have sex with each other because it is not “real” gay sex. 

Similarly, within the context of a bro hug, straight white men can now bro hug each other because they are heterosexual. Bro hugging will not diminish either man’s heterosexual capital. In fact, it might increase it. When two bros hug, they signal to others their unshakable strength of and comfort in their heterosexuality. Even though they are touching other men in public, albeit minimally, the act itself reinforces their heterosexuality and places it beyond reproach.

Hubert Izienicki, PhD, is a professor of sociology at Purdue University Northwest. 

In an era of body positivity, more people are noting the way American culture stigmatizes obesity and discriminates by weight. One challenge for studying this inequality is that a common measure for obesity—Body Mass Index (BMI), a ratio of height to weight—has been criticized for ignoring important variation in healthy bodies. Plus, the basis for weight discrimination is what other people see as “too fat,” and that’s a standard with a lot of variation.

Recent research in Sociological Science from Vida Maralani and Douglas McKee gives us a picture of how the relationship between obesity and inequality changes with social context. Using data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth (NLSY), Maralani and McKee measure BMI in two cohorts, one in 1981 and one in 2003. They then look at social outcomes seven years later, including wages, the probability of a person being married, and total family income.

The figure below shows their findings for BMI and 2010 wages for each group in the study. The dotted lines show the same relationships from 1988 for comparison.

For White and Black men, wages actually go up as their BMI increases from the “Underweight” to “Normal” ranges, then levels off and slowly decline as they cross into the “Obese” range. This pattern is fairly similar to 1988, but check out the “White Women” graph in the lower left quadrant. In 1988, the authors find a sharp “obesity penalty” in which women over a BMI of 30 reported a steady decline in wages. By 2010, this has largely leveled off, but wage inequality didn’t go away. Instead, that spike near the beginning of the graph suggests people perceived as skinny started earning more. The authors write:

The results suggest that perceptions of body size may have changed across cohorts differently by race and gender in ways that are consistent with a normalizing of corpulence for black men and women, a reinforcement of thin beauty ideals for white women, and a status quo of a midrange body size that is neither too thin nor too large for white men (pgs. 305-306).

This research brings back an important lesson about what sociologists mean when they say something is “socially constructed”—patterns in inequality can change and adapt over time as people change the way they interpret the world around them.

Evan Stewart is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Minnesota. You can follow him on Twitter.

Originally posted at Gender & Society

Last summer, Donald Trump shared how he hoped his daughter Ivanka might respond should she be sexually harassed at work. He said“I would like to think she would find another career or find another company if that was the case.” President Trump’s advice reflects what many American women feel forced to do when they’re harassed at work: quit their jobs. In our recent Gender & Society article, we examine how sexual harassment, and the job disruption that often accompanies it, affects women’s careers.

How many women quit and why?  Our study shows how sexual harassment affects women at the early stages of their careers. Eighty percent of the women in our survey sample who reported either unwanted touching or a combination of other forms of harassment changed jobs within two years. Among women who were not harassed, only about half changed jobs over the same period. In our statistical models, women who were harassed were 6.5 times more likely than those who were not to change jobs. This was true after accounting for other factors – such as the birth of a child – that sometimes lead to job change. In addition to job change, industry change and reduced work hours were common after harassing experiences.

Percent of Working Women Who Change Jobs (2003–2005)

In interviews with some of these survey participants, we learned more about how sexual harassment affects employees. While some women quit work to avoid their harassers, others quit because of dissatisfaction with how employers responded to their reports of harassment.

Rachel, who worked at a fast food restaurant, told us that she was “just totally disgusted and I quit” after her employer failed to take action until they found out she had consulted an attorney. Many women who were harassed told us that leaving their positions felt like the only way to escape a toxic workplace climate. As advertising agency employee Hannah explained, “It wouldn’t be worth me trying to spend all my energy to change that culture.”

The Implications of Sexual Harassment for Women’s Careers  Critics of Donald Trump’s remarks point out that many women who are harassed cannot afford to quit their jobs. Yet some feel they have no other option. Lisa, a project manager who was harassed at work, told us she decided, “That’s it, I’m outta here. I’ll eat rice and live in the dark if I have to.

Our survey data show that women who were harassed at work report significantly greater financial stress two years later. The effect of sexual harassment was comparable to the strain caused by other negative life events, such as a serious injury or illness, incarceration, or assault. About 35 percent of this effect could be attributed to the job change that occurred after harassment.

For some of the women we interviewed, sexual harassment had other lasting effects that knocked them off-course during the formative early years of their career. Pam, for example, was less trusting after her harassment, and began a new job, for less pay, where she “wasn’t out in the public eye.” Other women were pushed toward less lucrative careers in fields where they believed sexual harassment and other sexist or discriminatory practices would be less likely to occur.

For those who stayed, challenging toxic workplace cultures also had costs. Even for women who were not harassed directly, standing up against harmful work environments resulted in ostracism, and career stagnation. By ignoring women’s concerns and pushing them out, organizational cultures that give rise to harassment remain unchallenged.

Rather than expecting women who are harassed to leave work, employers should consider the costs of maintaining workplace cultures that allow harassment to continue. Retaining good employees will reduce the high cost of turnover and allow all workers to thrive—which benefits employers and workers alike.

Heather McLaughlin is an assistant professor in Sociology at Oklahoma State University. Her research examines how gender norms are constructed and policed within various institutional contexts, including work, sport, and law, with a particular emphasis on adolescence and young adulthood. Christopher Uggen is Regents Professor and Martindale chair in Sociology and Law at the University of Minnesota. He studies crime, law, and social inequality, firm in the belief that good science can light the way to a more just and peaceful world. Amy Blackstone is a professor in Sociology and the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center at the University of Maine. She studies childlessness and the childfree choice, workplace harassment, and civic engagement. 

Originally posted at Reports from the Economic Front.

What is work like for Americans?  The results of the Rand Corporation’s American Working Conditions Survey (AWCS) paint a troubling picture. As the authors write in their summary:

The AWCS findings indicate that the American workplace is very physically and emotionally taxing, both for workers themselves and their families.

The authors do note more positive findings.  These include:

that workers appear to have a certain degree of autonomy, most feel confident about their skill set, and many receive social support on the job.

Despite the importance of work to our emotional and physical well-being, social relations, and the development of our capacities to shape our world, little has been published about our experience of work. Here, then, is a more detailed look at some of the Survey’s findings:

The Hazardous Workplace

An overwhelming fraction of Americans engage in intense physical exertion on the job. In addition to physical demands, more than one-half of American workers (55 percent) are exposed to unpleasant or potentially dangerous working conditions.

The Pressures of Work

Approximately two-thirds of Americans have jobs that involve working at very high speed at least half the time; the same fraction works to tight deadlines at least half the time.

The Long Work Day

While presence at the work place during business hours is required for most Americans, many take work home. About one-half of American workers do some work in their free time to meet work demands. Approximately one in ten workers report working in their free time “nearly every day” over the last month, two in ten workers report working in their free time “once or twice a week,” and two in ten workers report working in their free time “once or twice a month.” 

The Work Environment

Nearly one in five American workers were subjected to some form of verbal abuse, unwanted sexual attention, threats, or humiliating behavior at work in the past month or to physical violence, bullying or harassment, or sexual harassment at work in the past 12 months. 

At the same time, it is also true that:

While the workplace is a source of hostile social experiences for an important fraction of American workers, it is a source of supportive social experiences for many others. More than one-half of American workers agreed with the statement “I have very good friends at work,” with women more likely to report having very good friends at work than men (61 and 53 percent, respectively).

In sum, the survey’s results make clear that work in the United States is physically and emotionally demanding and dangerous for many workers. And with the government weakening many of the labor and employment regulations designed to protect worker rights and safety, it is likely that workplace conditions will worsen.

Worker organizing and workplace struggles for change need to be encouraged and supported. A recent Pew Research Center survey showed growing support for unions, especially among younger workers.  It is not hard to understand why.

One of the big themes in social theory is rationalization—the idea that people use institutions, routines, and other formal systems to make social interaction more efficient, but also less flexible and spontaneous. Max Weber famously wrote about bureaucracy, especially how even the most charismatic or creative individuals would eventually come to rely on stable routines. More recent works highlight just how much depend on rationalization in government, at work, and in pop culture.

With new tools in data analysis, we can see rationalization at work. Integrative Biology professor Claus Wilke (@ClausWilke) recently looked at a database of movies from IMDB since 1920. His figure (called a joyplot) lets us compare distributions of movie run times and see how they have changed over the years.

While older films had much more variation in length, we can see a clear pattern emerge where most movies now come in just shy of 100 minutes, and a small portion of short films stick to under 30. The mass market movie routine has clearly come to dominate as more films stick to a common structure.

What’s most interesting to me is not just these two peaks, but that we can also see the disappearance and return of short films between 1980 and 2010 and the some smoothing of the main distribution after 2000. Weber thought that new charismatic ideas could arise to challenge the rationalized status quo, even if those ideas would eventually become routines themselves. With the rise of online distribution for independent films, we may be in the middle of a new wave in charismatic cinema.

Evan Stewart is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Minnesota. You can follow him on Twitter.

Dear readers,

This summer marks Sociological Images’ ten year anniversary. I founded the website with Gwen Sharp and have been at its helm ever since. With the support of the University of Minnesota (whose servers we used to crash); Doug Hartmann and Chris Uggen at The Society Pages (who have built an incredible site for SocImages to live on); Jon Smadja’s technical expertise (keeping it all humming); hundreds of insightful guest bloggers; and regular contributors like Jay Livingston, Philip Cohen, Martin Hart-Landsberg, and Tristan Bridges (who also did a grueling three month stint as Guest Editor), the site grew to a size that I never imagined possible. It reached at its peak over a half million visitors a month, boasts an archive of over 5,000 posts, and enjoys 162,000 social media followers. I am beyond grateful to my community of professional sociologists and to the sociology majors and sociology-curious out there in the world, without whom none of this could have happened.

When the site was new, and through 2012, I sat on panels at the American Sociological Association meetings that were titled something to the effect of “Will blogging ruin your career.” It did not. In 2015, Gwen Sharp and I were given the Distinguished Contributions to Teaching Award, the sixth of seven awards we would win for our shepherding of the site. Things changed, and fast. More and more sociologists came online, nearly a thousand of us joined Twitter, and sociology-themed blogs proliferated. Even fancy folk in the discipline started blogging, writing for high-profile news and opinion outlets, and building social media followers. This year a sociologist won a Pulitzer Prize for a book aimed at a — wait for it — general audience.

I am among those who have benefited from this public turn in sociology, the one that Michael Burawoy championed in 2004. It gave me the opportunity to speak to wider audiences, become visible to my peers, be recognized for thoughtful (and sometimes not-so-thoughtful) analyses, and a public reputation that led to a general audience book of my own. As the gatekeeper to Sociological Images and its social media, I also held in my hands the power to help other sociologists publicize their work, one that I tried to use liberally. This has been one of the most gratifying parts of being the site’s editor, and also one that I think has attracted much good will. Sociological Images has been, in short, an incredible boon to my career.

At this time, then, with my own career well-launched, it seems greedy to hold onto the reins. So, with this post I announce an editorial change and a new era for Sociological Images. I am so pleased and excited to introduce Evan Stewart as the new Editor and Principal Author. Evan is a late-stage PhD candidate at the University of Minnesota. After years as a board member and now Graduate Editor of The Society Pages, he brings many years of practice under the careful guidance of Chris Uggen and Doug Hartmann, sociologists who bring great wisdom to the practice of public sociology. I am thrilled that Evan is on board and confident that, under his leadership, the site will continue will be enjoyed by sociology-lovers and a resource for all sociologists who want to reach a broader public.

It is bittersweet to go. I will remain on as an occasional contributor (if Evan thinks my guest posts are of high enough quality to merit publication, of course) and share with him the keys to the social media accounts. I have new projects in the works that I am very excited about — many of which, in various ways, were made possible by SocImages — so you haven’t seen the last of me yet. And I will always be grateful to all of you for your part in the incredible journey the last decade has brought.

With that, please welcome Evan Stewart!

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Hello everyone!

I am honored to be taking up the torch at Sociological Images, and grateful to Lisa for the opportunity. Lisa has built a remarkable legacy with this blog, and I am looking forward to carrying it on into the future.

Sociological Images is the reason I got hooked on public sociology. I found the site late in my undergraduate career at Michigan State University. Lisa and Gwen were kind enough to publish, and later repost, a guest contribution I wrote for a visual sociology class—one that would eventually turn into a chapter for a book from UC Press.

When I started my graduate work in political and cultural sociology at the University of Minnesota, I jumped at the chance to do more public scholarship with The Society Pages. Thanks to Doug Hartmann and Chris Uggen, grad students on the TSP board learn to assess cutting-edge research from all over our field. Bringing this work to the public makes us better writers and scholars. With their support over four years at TSP, I founded and piloted two blogs: There’s Research on That!, which brings social science to the news of the day, and Social Studies Minnesotawhich covers UMN research in political science, psychology, mass communication, and beyond.

Doing great research and sharing great research with people go hand in hand. My research at the American Mosaic Project tackles big questions about how people think about who belongs in society—questions that matter to people! This is due in no small part to my wonderful academic advisor, Penny Edgell (who also blogs!), and graduate colleagues like Jacqui Frost and Jack Delehanty,

Now, I am excited to bring my experience to Sociological Images. The site has been a home for honing the sociological imagination for a decade, and I aim to keep it that way. You can expect to see a lot of familiar names as I continue to bring you top-notch blogging about the social world from SocImages’ old friends. I’ll also be producing original content and cross-posting material by the The Society Pages’ graduate editorial board. Look for some new folks from Minnesota in the by-lines, as well as future calls for guest submissions.

There will be more to come in the next few months, but for now say hi on Twitter and stay tuned for the first new posts coming this week!