Cross-posted at Global Policy TV.

Title IX, an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, stated that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance…”  Passed on this day in 1972, this policy meant that schools and colleges receiving federal funding could not legally give preference to men.  Instead, they had to allocate their resources to men and women in proportion to their interest and enrollment.

The intention of the policy was to change the norms that gave preference to men in all sorts of fields, from medical schools to sports teams.  Because most schools and colleges have extensive athletics departments, sports was included among the resources that the schools were required to dole out fairly.

Accordingly, even grudging and partial compliance with the requirements of Title IX dramatically increased the opportunity for women to play sports.  In the next 35 years, women’s participation in high school and college sports would increase by 904% and 456% respectively (source).  Today, 42% of high school athletes and 45% of college athletes are women (source).

Title IX is often mistakenly accused of forcing schools to cut funding for men’s athletics.  In fact, funding for men’s athletics, as well as the number of men who play sports in school, has increased since Title IX.  The chart above also shows that men’s participation has increased by 15% in high school and 31% in college.  It’s not true, then, that Title IX has led to fewer male athletes (especially because some colleges count men as women).  Still, there is great resistance to the Amendment, with a particular emphasis on sports.  Many schools are only marginally compliant, and then only because (tireless) Title IX Officers keep pressure on institutions to follow the law.

It will be fascinating to see how changing college demographics affect the politics around Title IX.  After all, forty years later, people still argue that it’s not right that women’s sports get (almost) as much funding men’s.  Now there are more women on college campuses than men, so proportional funding may mean spending more money on women’s sports than men’s.  Fire and brimstone upon us.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

This is the second of two posts about cruel practices in horse industries. The first was about horse racing.

Yesterday we covered the abuse of horses in horse racing; in this post we discuss a recent video released by the Humane Society. The video highlights an instance of a larger issue, which is how arbitrary human tastes can create incentives for cruelty.

The concern revolves around the Tennessee Walking Horse (TWH), a breed developed in the U.S. in the late 1800s and bred to have smooth gaits, including their distinctive “running walk,”  that are unusual in most breeds. Over time, a more exaggerated version became popular among show judges and spectators at TWH shows; called the “big lick,” it requires horses to shift their weight to their back legs and pick their front legs high off the ground. Fans enjoyed the flashy, unusual movements and horses that performed the gait began taking home more prizes. This created a powerful incentive to get horses to exhibit the unnaturally exaggerated gait.

How do you get this gait? It’s possible to get some horses to do so through careful training. But to speed up the process, or for horses that aren’t learning, trainers developed a range of techniques. These first two are still allowed, under varying circumstances, during training and in the show ring:

  • Using padding and weighted shoes to change how the horse stands and moves its feet (akin to how high heels shift a person’s weight and stance).
  • Placing chains around the tops of their hooves to encourage them to pick their feet up more highly than they would otherwise (presumably they’re irritating).
However, some trainers use prohibited versions of these two items, using pads and chains that were not within the allowable height and weight.
The next three techniques are illegal, but many insiders argue that they are still common.  I warn you now: much of this post from this point on will be very upsetting for many readers.
  • Place screws or nails in different parts of their front hooves or soles to cause discomfort.  While horses’ hooves are hard, the soles are quite sensitive.  The screws or nails make it painful for the horse to put its front legs down, so it shifts its weight back, helping to attain the gait.
  • Intentionally cut the horse’s front hooves so short that the sensitive sole hits the ground directly, which is extremely painful (think of what happens if your fingernail gets cut or broken off too short).
  • Coating a horse’s hooves and lower legs with caustic substances, then wrapping them in plastic wrap, for as long as several days, until they’re very sore — a process called, aptly, “soring.” This causes the horse to shift weight to its back legs in an effort to reduce the pain from the front feet. This is often used in conjunction with chains, which irritate and rub up against the raw skin.

Many inspectors argue that these practices, once widely accepted in the industry, are still common today. Recently the Humane Society released undercover footage of training practices at Whitter Stables, a facility in Collierville, TN that has been the center of a federal investigation. It is a very distressing video that includes many of the practices listed above, as well as horses being whipped when they have difficulty standing:

In 1970, Congress passed the Horse Protection Act, which outlawed the exhibition of sored horses. So trainers have developed techniques to hide them; they paint horses’ hooves and legs to cover evidence of soring or use boots to cover tacks embedded in their hooves.

They also beat them so that they learn not to show any sign of pain when inspected before a show.  They do this by simulating an inspection and then punishing the horse if it shows any signs of distress (e.g., punching or hitting them in the face or administering an electric shock).  Eventually horses learn that if they flinch, they get hurt twice; hiding signs of pain prevents the infliction of more suffering.

Trainers may also use a fast-acting but short-term numbing agent to reduce the pain just long enough to pass inspections. Other trainers and owners simply leave a show if word gets out that USDA inspectors were present.

The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association argues that these practices are not widespread. However, in 2006 the last class in the World Grand Champion competition at the Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration (the TWH show equivalent of the Kentucky Derby, in terms of importance) was canceled because of the 10 entered horses, 5 did not pass the inspection and another was removed by the owner without being inspected. In 2009, the USDA issued over 400 violations at the Celebration.

A USDA report states the organization only had the resources to send their own veterinarians to 6% of official TWH shows in 2007; the other 94% were inspected by individuals hired, trained, and licensed by organizations sponsoring shows, a system the USDA found to be plagued by conflicts of interest. The report also noted that hostility toward USDA inspectors is so high that they routinely bring police or armed security with them to shows.

Jackie McConnell, the trainer in the video, has been indicted on federal charges. But without sustained attention and commitment to punishing violators, the problem will continue due to the pressure to produce horses that satisfy the tastes that have become entrenched in the industry. As one industry insider explained to Horse Illustrated magazine in 2004,

As long as the big lick wins at shows, the trainer must produce it to stay in business….The day a trainer stops producing big lick horses is the day all the horses in his or her barn are removed and taken to another trainer.  The pressure is enormous.


Gwen Sharp and Lisa Wade are professors of sociology. You can follow Gwen on Twitter and Lisa on Twitter and Facebook.

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.

Over at Bloomer Girls Blog, a site devoted to sports and gender, Lydia posted about ESPN’s online resources for the NCAA March Madness basketball tournaments. The layout of the site, and the format of the brackets, makes the women’s basketball tournament relatively invisible.

As we often see in sports, the men’s version is taken as the default. The apparently neutral “NCAA BB Home” link goes to the men’s tournament, specifically. To get information on the women’s tournament, you have to choose the “Women’s BB link” lower on the page:

Lydia also found differences in the features available on the brackets you can fill out. The men’s bracket provides a range of features that encourage ongoing participation. While a game is occurring, the bracket is updated with the current score and how much time is left in the game, cluing potential viewers in to particularly close (and exciting) games. After a game, the final score is posted; you can also see the scheduled time of upcoming games:

None of these features that add to the value of the bracket were integrated into the women’s brackets — no updates of the scores of games that are in progress (so no chance of drawing in viewers to a particularly exciting or intense game), no schedule to tell you when the next game is, not even the final scores of past games:

Lydia argues that by making the men’s tournament resources more engaging and informative, it reinforces the sense that the women’s tournament is a side event, not worth the same level of attention as the men’s. As she points out, ESPN probably devoted less time and energy to the women’s tournament website because they assume fewer people will sign up and use it. But by creating less engaging resources, they provide less incentive for fans to bother signing up, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Cross-posted at Sociology in Focus.

Back in 1987, Raewyn Connell coined the term hegemonic masculinity in a seminal text, Gender & Power. Hegemonic masculinity refers to the dominant form of masculinity that exists within a particular culture. Relative to this ever changing, idealized form of masculinity are different subordinated masculinities – those within a culture that do not live up to the so-called masculine gold standard. Put simply, there are “real men” and then there are all other men.

In watching the 2012 Super Bowl commercials, we can see versions of hegemonic masculinity demonstrated. Perhaps the most vivid version was seen in H&M’s Super Bowl ad, utilizing soccer (futbol) star, David Beckham:


Tattooed, rugged, athletic, showcasing a lean musculature and menacing glare, Beckham embodies a hegemonic masculinity that would surely resonate with sporting audiences. And while not presented in this commercial, it is important to also note that Beckham carries other cultural traits that ad to his hegemonic masculine status – he is globally recognized, financially wealthy, and married to a woman who also holds currency in popular culture. This last point is critical. By being married, Beckham confirms his heterosexuality, and her extraordinary beauty and international popularity raise his standing as a “real man”.

In contrast to Beckham, other males were presented in this year’s Super Bowl commercials, who represent a marginal masculinity, meaning they would love to hold hegemonic masculine status and are pursuing such an identity, but for any number of reasons are unable to achieve it. You could say these are the “wannabe real men”. A good example of marginal masculinity is presented in the following commercial for FIAT:


In contrast to the commercial with Beckham, the male in this commercial lacks qualities that would otherwise provide him with a sense of hegemonic masculinity. Although he appears to be employed (wearing business attire), he is relatively short in comparison to the woman in the ad, cast as nerdy and lacking confidence. Given the fantasy he has with the female actor, we can see he desires hegemonic masculine status. But because he lacks a kind of physical prowess, he is marginalized.

Of even greater importance here, the concept of hegemonic masculinity is not only about men and their relation to one another. Hegemonic masculinity also represents a cultural system that dominates women. Thus, the FIAT commercial is also useful because it illustrates women’s overall subordination. Connell also defined the term “emphasized femininity”, which refers to women’s “compliance with this subordination… oriented to accommodating the interests and desires of men” (p. 183).

When women emphasize their femininity – or are coerced to emphasize their femininity – they are often times objectified. Objectification refers to the depersonalization of someone, such that her/his humanity is stripped and the person(s) is turned into an inanimate object. Sociologists have argued that when humans are objectified, they tend to be “seen as less sensitive to pain,” and, “we care less about their suffering” (Loughnan et al., 2010, p. 716). In other words, when we turn people into object, we remove their humanity, and it is easier to commit violence against them. Feminists commonly argue the objectification of women in the media facilitates women’s ongoing victimization in society at large.

In the FIAT commercial, the woman “emphasizes her femininity” by catering to the male’s sexual desires. She is also objectified – likened to an inanimate car that would lack human feelings and emotion. Go Daddy also aired a commercial clearly objectifying women, where female celebrities paint another female, who is used as an inanimate, sexualized prop to promote the Go Daddy company.


While the Super Bowl is known primarily as a sporting event where millions of Americans tune in each year to watch men engage in athletic competition, the event also includes advertising content that is highly gendered. With so much attention attention directed to this advertising, it is important to dissect it through a gendered framework.


David Mayeda is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Legal Studies at Hawaii Pacific University.  His recent book publications include Celluloid Dreams: How Film Shapes America and Fighting for Acceptance: Mixed Martial Artists and Violence in American Society.  He also blogs at The Grumpy Sociologist.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

At The Color Line, sociologist C.N. Le highlighted an instance in which racist language was used in reference to pro-basketball player Jeremy Lin.  A headline at ESPN read, “Chink in the Armor.”  “Chink” is a term used to denigrate the Chinese and Asians more generally.

Le observes astutely that the word likely wasn’t meant as a slur, but instead a pun.  And, in fact, ESPN “quickly and decisively” took action, changing the headline, firing the person who wrote the headline, and suspending a sportscaster who repeated the phrase.

Instead of outright racism, Le suggests that the appearance of the word is symptomatic of a (false) belief that we’re in a colorblind post-power society.  In this society, every group is on equal footing, so making fun is just equal opportunity offensiveness; it may be off-color, but it’s all in good fun (think of South Park as an example).  The approach assumes that slurs like “chink” are no more harmful than slurs like “cracker.”

Le was disappointed to see that this kind of ongoing insensitivity to real power differences remains, but pleased to see ESPN react so swiftly and strongly to it.


Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Originally posted at Religion Bulletin.

Now that Denver has fallen out of the playoffs, I want to write an homage to a figure I, like so many others, find fascinating: Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow.  Carter Turner over at Religion Dispatches has suggested that the “real reason” for “Tebow fever” was the theological investment that atheists and theists alike had in watching Tebow succeed or fail.  I think that’s absolutely right: Tebow’s body became a sort of theological battleground for broader religious and cultural forces.  But I also think there’s an even more elementary reason, one that becomes apparent when we think about Tebow not just as a proxy for doctrine, but as a particular religious body.

Feminism, poststructuralism, and decolonial studies in the humanities have made scholars more and more aware of the importance of bodies.  Whereas the logocentric western tradition focused on words — the creations of the intellect — 21st century global scholarship sees words as a secondary function of embodiment.  In religious studies, scholars such as Talal Asad, Kimerer LaMothe, and Saba Mahmood have called on us to explore how bodies, through practices, are constituted as religious subjects.  Bodies become religious through performance, through embodied exercises that, through repetition, inscribe us with the modalities of a religious “ethics.”  But embodiment is more than just practices.  I here want to suggest a different direction for understanding the relationship between religion and bodies.

Here’s something I often ask my students to do: Look at this body.  How does religion converge on this body?

Let me tell you what I see, using my own bodily practice, martial arts, as a lens.  This is a body I would not want to fight.  It’s not just about dense muscle lines, the sheer evidence of physical strength, reach, and an intricately arranged posing that suggests bodily self-awareness and sharp muscular intelligence.  This body is compelling.  It draws the eye.  You want to watch it.

This is more dangerous than physical strength — the kind of strength you build on the bench press or the curl.  It’s a “presence.”  The kind of strength that stops bodies in their tracks without landing a punch.  And the kind of strength that draws allies, that rewrites the broader bodily landscape on which conflict happens.  This body has what we might call, following Max Weber, “charisma.”

This way of looking at bodies helps us think again about a fact that has become dramatically apparent in the past two years: Tebow is fascinating.  People love to talk about him, love to love him, love to hate him.  Tebow fever didn’t just happen.  It was and is something is felt–viscerally–by millions of bodies around the world.

On the one hand, Tebow is a leader–an emblematic body — for millions of Christians who see in him a dignification of their faith.  Faith here is not an abstract personal belief.  It is an identity formation, an Us.  Tebow is the champion of a certain Christian Us, an embodiment of values and a leader who rallies the believers.  As a champion, he doesn’t win through debate, he wins through charisma.  He is a hero, resplendent on the battlefield.

At the same time, Tebow is fascinating to other groups — to other bodies — that are frustrated with or skeptical of the Christian Us — and particularly the Christian Us that has managed to insinuate itself into the corridors of power in America through one (but only one) of its instantiations, the Christian Right, a major driver in contemporary Republican politics.  These bodies, as Turner pointed out, are interested in Tebow’s failure, the fall of the enemy’s flag.

My argument, however, is this: this profile of the divergent responses to the nexus of religious and cultural forces that converge on the image of Tebow’s body would be irrelevant and unread if Tim Tebow were a schlub–a homely, uninteresting, modest body, the kind of body that bus drivers drive past at the bus stop.  It is also an open question to me how we would be responding to Tebow if he were not a white body.  Those who want to challenge Tebow, to fight Tebow, to talk about Tebow are drawn in by the seductions of this image–the power of Tebow’s body — no less than those who are so ardently admiring of Tebow that criticism of him becomes a political rallying cry.  Tebow’s body is a magnetic body, a charismatic body.  It bends other bodies towards it–in both positive and critical ways.

This, then, is one of the main ways that religion happens — how identities, beliefs, and affects form and fuse: not through the advance of doctrine, but through the magnetism of religious bodies.

Thanks to William Eric Pedersen for talking this post out with me and pointing me in the direction of the unanswered question on race.


Donovan O. Schaefer is an adjunct instructor in the Department of Religious Studies at Le Moyne College. His interests involve the relationship between religion, bodies, and emotion. In his dissertation, Animal Religion: Evolution, Affect, and Radical Embodiment, he argues for understanding religion in terms of a set of affective bodily practices that are shared by human and non-human animals.

If you would like to write a post for Sociological Images, please see our Guidelines for Guest Bloggers.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

In “Portraying Tiger Woods: Characterizations of a ‘Black’ Athlete in a ‘White’ Sport,” Andrew Billings discusses how race plays a role in sports commentators’ evaluations of golfers, and particularly in how they describe and comment upon Tiger Woods. A content analysis of 37.5 hours of coverage of golf tournaments between April and August of 2001 by CBS, NBC, and ABC, during which 2,989 evaluative comments occurred, revealed patterns in how sportscasters described Tiger Woods compared to other golfers. When he was losing, Woods was more likely than other golfers in the same position to be described as lacking composure or concentration, of “self-destructing,” and of lacking control over his emotions. Overall, Billings found that the types of language other students have found to be applied to Black athletes were applied to Woods only when he was losing. When he was doing well, commentators did not significantly stereotype Woods.

The study is interesting in light of a video sent in by Jason Eastman. This Wall Street Journal segment discusses the results of a study that investigated how media depictions of college quarterbacks’ performances. A recent study published in the Academic of Management Journal found that media coverage rarely gave African American quarterbacks credit for leadership. When their teams do well, it is because of their natural athletic talent; when they do poorly, it is lack of leadership — blame not equally placed on White quarterbacks when their teams do poorly. So Blacks are blamed more for losses but get less credit for successes — an outcome of stereotyping that has disturbing implications for hiring and promotion in the workplace (sorry for the ad):

Full cites:

Andrew Billings. 2003. “Portraying Tiger Woods: Characterizations of a ‘Black’ Athlete in a ‘White’ Sport.” The Howard Journal of Communications 14: 29-37.

Andrew Carton and Ashleigh Shelby Rosette. 2011. “Explaining Bias against Black Leaders: Integrating Theory on Information Processing and Goal-Based Stereotyping.” Academy of Management Journal 54: 1141-1158.

Sociologists and others use the term “agenda setting” to describe the way that the media focuses our attention on some things and not others.  In this way, media actors may not control how we think about things, but they may very well control what we think about.

This instance of agenda setting involves SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act.  Media Matters put together this figure illustrating the relative number of television segments given to SOPA and other issues — the British Royal Family, the football player Tim Tebow, Casey Anthony and her missing daughter, Alec Baldwin’s behavior on a plane, and the Kardashian divorce — between October 26th, 2011 and January 12th of this year.

Data like this is often used to explain why Americans tend to be quite uninformed about important issues.  For more examples, see this post comparing the covers of TIME and Newsweek in the U.S. and elsewhere.  See also: Setting the Agenda on Trump and Setting the Agenda on Janet Jackson’s “Wardrobe Failure.”

Thanks to Dolores R. for the tip!  Via Socialist Texan.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.