A lot has changed since the U.S. government signed the IRCA Act of 1986, a policy that changed the face of immigration reform and affected many immigrants. In many ways, this policy coincides with my own personal history of immigration, subsequently influencing the research trajectory I have taken as a sociologist. Among other provisions, the IRCA Act of 1986 gave undocumented individuals who resided in the U.S. since 1982 the opportunity to become legalized. Due to the IRCA Act of 1986, my father was granted amnesty in the U.S. and my mother and I were able to join him soon after. Sociologists have long been interested in Latino Immigration to the United States and current research has largely focused on how migration impacts family dynamics (Dreby 2010). Last week, I attended the American Sociological Association (ASA) Conference in Denver, Colorado and listened to sociologists and other academics speak about the current nature of Latino Immigration to the United States. In this post, I hope to provide a short summary of the talks I attended on issues of Latino Sociology and the Sociology of Immigration.


Source: http://www.realage.com/womens-health/hidden-heart-attack-signs-in-women

Last week, media sources reported that Rosie O’Donnell had a heart attack. Though Rosie explained that she did “google” her symptoms, she did not believe she was having a heart attack and never called 911. Like many women, Rosie explained that she did not know enough about female heart issues, specifically identifying the problem and getting immediate medical attention. Rosie hopes she can use her fame and platform to raise awareness about heart attacks and issues in women.

While Rosie lived to tell her story, many women don’t. Researchers estimate that 1 in 4 women in the United States die of heart diseases every year. And, like Rosie mentions, many women don’t know their suffering from a heart attack until it is too late. Many of us know the ways in which heart attacks appear in men: pain in the left arm, pains in the chest. But studies suggest that women may not have the benefit of these tell-tale signs. Notably, women are less likely to present with chest pains when suffering a heart attack.  If heart diseases are common in women, why do so many women lack potentially lifesaving knowledge about the signs and symptoms of a heart attack?

At least part of the answer is historical. There was a time when women’s cardiovascular health was understudied and even ignored by some in the medical community. In the late 1980s, feminists in and around the field of medicine demonstrated that our knowledge about certain health issues emerged from research on the male body. For example, several studies on blood pressure, heart issues, and the “normal” functions of human aging were based almost exclusively on findings from the male population. Now, medical researchers recognize the importance of studying these same issues in the female population, but still, the research for women is years behind that of men.

Though the medical community now recognizes the importance of studying a broader spectrum of diseases in women, it seems that when we think of “women’s health,” we think about issues specific to the female anatomy. Though women may be afflicted with other major medical concerns, a huge amount of money and time is devoted to maintaining the healthy development and stability of the distinctively “female” parts of the body.  Organizations, like Susan G. Komen for the Cure, draw substantial resources to find a cure for breast cancer. Pharmaceutical companies develop vaccines, like Gardasil, targeted at preventing cervical cancer. Physicians and gynecologists recommend that women have their breasts and reproductive organs examined every year (though some have loosened up on this recommended frequency). Yet, heart disease, one of the largest “killers” of women, gets one day of awareness, Wear Red Day.

Don’t get me wrong. All of these developments are good for women. The emphasis on reproductive and breast issues has surely helped many women, who may have died from a disease of these organs or who wish to expand their reproductive options. But this obsession may have left other common problems unexamined and women without the resources or knowledge to combat them. The fact that many women do not know about the signs of a heart attack is evidence of this.

I don’t think that this should mean a decrease in research and outreach for women specific health issues. This needs to continue. Instead, we need an equal amount of research on other issues, as well as public health campaigns informing women of other risks to their health.


Suggested Readings:

Moore, Sarah E. H.2008. “Gender and the ‘New Paradigm’ of Health.” Sociology Compass 2(1): 268-280.

Bryder, L. 2008. “Debates about Cervical Screening: An Historical Overview.” Journal of Epidemiology Community Health 62: 284-287.

Morgen, Sandra. 2002. Into Our Own Hands: The Women’s Health Movement in the United States, 1960-1990. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.


Source: Sandstein

On the night of February 26, 2012, in Sanford, FL, neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon Martin. Before shooting the unarmed teenager, Zimmerman had called the Sanford Police Department from his car to report that Martin was acting suspiciously. While speaking to 911 dispatchers, Zimmerman left his vehicle and got into a physical altercation with Martin before shooting him in the chest from close range. In the days after the shooting, a media storm began to develop. Opponents of the shooting alleged that racial discrimination had played a role in the killing while supporters of Zimmerman insisted that he had acted in self-defense. Going along with this latter belief, the Sanford Police Department did not initially charge Zimmerman with any type of crime. Public outrage soon led to a special prosecutor being assigned to the case and, on April 11, 2012, Zimmerman was charged with murder in the second degree. While awaiting trial, Zimmerman has been released on a $1 million bond and is currently living in an undisclosed safe house in central Florida. more...

For many people, from the first-year students traipsing around campus in search of the correct lecture hall to the senior faculty preparing to teach courses for the nth time, the beginning of the academic year tends to be frantic and exciting time. This year, when back-to-school coincides with a heated Presidential race, education and politics are bound to mix. President Obama has made access to higher education – measured primarily by greater access to grants and student loans while trying to rein in the costs of for-profit education – an important talking point on recent campaign stops. Republican candidate Mitt Romney, for his part, seeks greater involvement of the private sector in K-12 and higher education, as well as the student loan business (for a brief recap, see this article from Reuters).

In an election where the economy is front and center, it is not surprising that the costs of higher education dominate the conversation. Yes, the costs of a college education create barriers for students, but expenses are far from the only issue.


One of the latest Romney ads attacks President Obama for removing work provisions from Welfare Reform.  In the ad, disappointed-in-himself Obama (pictured left) sneakily gutted welfare reform by dropping the work requirements, so that as the ad states, “They just send you your welfare check.”  The ad’s claims are false or, as the fact-checking website Politifact put it, pants-on-fire.  What Obama has actually done is allow states to develop their own welfare-to-work programs.  The changes provide states with some flexibility regarding how not whether they meet the work provisions in the original bill.  Republicans, and Romney in particular, previously supported giving states more flexibility but the narrative not the actual policy is really the point here. more...

Source: American Sociological Association

This past weekend was a busy one for those of us who travelled to Denver, CO for the annual American Sociological Association meeting. As usual, the conference was replete with interesting and insightful research projects. But this year’s theme, “Real Utopias: Emancipatory Projects, Institutional Designs, Possible Futures,” inspired conversations far more philosophical and theoretical than social scientists might have expected. I had the pleasure of attending one such panel—“A World Beyond Gender,” with Barbara Jane Risman, Judith Lorber, and Michael Kimmel as presider (Jessica Holden Sherwood contributed to the paper but wasn’t in attendance). Beginning from a simple but radical premise—that “only a world beyond gender will be a just world” (p4)—the authors attempted to envision how we might achieve an equal world, where gender no longer structures individual experiences, interactions, or social institutions.

A lofty and laudable goal, and one which even the authors admitted is a long way off. The authors noted a number of trends, however, that seem to indicate that change is possible. Changes in the socialization of girls that promote their athleticism, leadership, participation in science and math are heartening, though they have not been accompanied by similar changes in the socialization of boys; that is, while girls may be encouraged to enter traditionally “masculine” spheres, boys are not taught to value what is typically viewed as “feminine.” Rising challenges to the norm of heterosexual marriage, both from those who choose to remain single rather than enter into unequal relationships and from the LGBT community demanding legal access to the institution of marriage, suggest a dissatisfaction with the current gender regime. The authors also pointed to genderqueer and trans movements, which defy binary conceptions of sex/gender. There is room for change if only we’d seize it.

They even provided some strategies. We must resist pressures to socialize our children into gender and refuse to conform to the roles into which we have been socialized. We must create and enforce gender-neutral institutional policies and place equal value on both economic and care work. We need to stop expecting proper gender performances and encourage – rather than stigmatize – non-normative ways of being. We must reconceive the meaning of motherhood. Easy, right? Not at all, but the most worthwhile endeavors are often the most difficult.

Michael Kimmel’s response to the paper was equally provocative. Drawing on his own participation in the men’s anti-violence movement, he asked if we need to do away with gender entirely. Ideas about gender can be mobilized effectively for social change. One of the best ways he found to get men to take a stand against IPV and sexual violence was to draw on seemingly “masculine” values of honor and valor. The paper authors had suggested that men who don’t participate equally in caregiving ought to be shamed for their moral failure, but Kimmel argued that he has never found men (or people, really) to respond positively to shaming. Instead, perhaps, we should turn to positive, not negative, reinforcement, and mobilize some aspects of gender for good. (I should note that Kimmel was trying to incite debate and clearly shares the authors’ goal of a more just world.)

All of this got me thinking—how do we balance short-term activist strategies with long-term emancipatory projects? If one of our most effective tools for combatting men’s violence against women is to draw men in through appeals to virtuous manhood, is it possible to stop violence and work toward a degendered society? Another example. The current reality is that women still make less money, have fewer educational and occupational resources, and have less mobility than men. But policies that encourage companies to hire women do so on the basis of gender, thus reinforcing, to some extent, our current gender system. So can we raise women’s educational/occupational status and still advance toward our ultimate goal? Can we improve this lifetime without limiting our possible futures?


Further Reading

Kimmel, Michael. 2005. Why Men Should Support Gender Equity. Women’s Studies Review.

Risman, Barbara J., Judith Lorber and Jessica Holden Sherwood. 2012. Toward a World Beyond Gender: A Utopian Vision.


Source: Wikimedia

Last month,  a Guatemalan woman, N-S-, won her domestic violence based asylum case after seven years in the United States immigration court system.  Her case is similar to the story of many other women who flee their countries in order to receive protection from their abusive husbands. Until recently, courts rejected these types of claims, arguing that their issues were personal, not cultural issues (see Sinha 2001). Now, with the help of organizations like the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at UC Hastings, it seems like more women receive favorable outcomes when their cases are heard in court (though the total number remains unknown since the asylum statistics are not disaggregated by type of persecution).

Domestic violence based cases usually involve a woman from a “Third World” or “developing” country migrating away from her husband to a “First World” or “developed” country, where she can receive refuge. This assumes that countries like the U.S. can provide a safe haven against domestic abuse. Yet, despite legislation and better police enforcement, many U.S. women (studies suggest at least one in four) will be the victims of domestic abuse at some point in their life course. Like many countries, the U.S. still shows high rates of domestic or intimate partner violence.


Marvin Wilson
Source: Texas Department of Criminal Justice

On August 7th, 2012, the state of Texas executed 54-year-old Marvin Wilson. Wilson was sentenced to death after being convicted of murdering police informant Jerry Williams, 21, in 1992 in Beaumont, TX. The murder occurred several days after Wilson had been arrested for possession of cocaine. Free on bond and believing that Williams had told police about the drugs, Wilson and another man beat Williams outside of a convenience store before abducting and shooting him at close range. Williams’ body was found the following day on the side of a road. more...

Author’s Note: This post is the second of a two-part series (read part 1 here) that looks at various narratives about civil lawsuits. Originally intended to be a longer series, it became apparent to the author that bi-weekly posts are a less than ideal way to write a series and makes it difficult for readers to follow. Mea culpa.

Missouri Supreme Court. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Coincidentally, two weeks since my previous post, the Missouri Supreme Court struck down a 2005 tort reform law. The law in question applied only to medical malpractice cases and placed a cap of $350,000 on non-economic damages, more commonly referred to as “pain and suffering.” Though the case itself likely has few implications outside of Missouri, it is interesting because it demonstrates the still-contentious nature of tort reform.


Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s recent overseas tour didn’t go well according to most in the press.  The British press, in particular, blasted Romney for his comments regarding Britain’s preparedness for the Olympics.  Then, Romney went to Israel.  There he avoided offending his hosts but managed to offend Palestinians and some other nations while he was at it.

Romney said that, “Culture makes all the difference,” as he compared the GDP per capita of Israel to “areas managed by the Palestinian Authority.”  He then noted a “dramatically stark difference in economic vitality” “between other countries that are near or next to each other.  Chile and Ecuador, Mexico and the United States.”   As a sociologist, I certainly agree that culture matters but Romney’s use of culture as the key causal mechanism for global inequality implies a scale of cultural superiority similar to the one that animated racist justification for colonialism and slavery. more...