One of sociology’s main critiques revolves around neoliberalism, and its implications on everyday life in a capitalistic society. Yet, individuals do not comprehend what these implications are for those who identify as LGBTQ. As of recently, there are a plethora of articles illustrating some of the consequences that occur in this new neoliberal society. For example, John P. Elia and Gust A. Yep stated in their article, “Sexualities and Genders in an Age of Neoterrorism:” more...
There have been innumerable pieces dedicated towards labeling the millennial generation with negative qualities. The generation is usually targeted with the following complaints:
I think these arguments have been poorly constructed. They’re often more symptomatic of a fear of what is new. I will explore these four critiques and offer what about them actually makes millennials an interesting, unique and a positive generation. One that is capable of making changes to the world around them.
Narcissistic: In Defense of the Selfie
There is the supposition that millennials are narcissists, self-obsessed enough to post pictures of themselves, about the minutiae of their activities, and endlessly seeking to accrue “likes” from others. What’s not talked about is the possibility of radical self-affirmation that millennial are exploring through the internet as a medium. Yes, social media prompts us to document ourselves. Why is this so bad? In a sense, sharing ourselves, our interests, our activities, our feelings, and our image enables new possibilities for individuals to create community. Considering that adolescents (particularly women) are likely to suffer from lower self-esteem, one’s choice to explore their own self-image, to craft how we see our selves and project this to others, as well as affirm our friends’ and family’s own projected selves offers a new type of self-authorship. When a friend posts a picture of themselves, has a moment of positivity towards their own appearance, and when others lend support to this, I find it difficult to find that insidious, selfish, or terrible.
Entitled: In Defense of Our Work
Millennials are supposedly lazy. Older generations accuse them of being non-self-starters, unable to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and find jobs in a job market that is not flourishing or receptive to a new generation attempting to move in. But considering how many millennials move into the job market only to find themselves taking unpaid internships, jobs bellow their skill level, or flatly unemployable says more about our society than it does our generation. There are social forces at work, and the naivety of assuming self-reliance is outdated, narrow minded, and socially unaware.
Apathetic: In Defense of Our Efforts
Millennials are not apathetic. Our engagement with the Internet has opened us up to new ideas. That social movements like #BlackLivesMatter have taken off on the much derided social medium of twitter is symptomatic of something entirely different. Our generation has participated in new social movements, ones that are entirely contingent on the utilization of new technology. To discount it is to discount the work of many millennial activists who have been doing work to make the world better and kinder.
Immature: In Defense of Our Potential
There is a type of binary thinking that is applied to younger generations. If they watch silly Reality TV Shows and do silly dances, isn’t it a sign that behind it all they’re really immature? Unable to grow up? I think this is a profound generalization. Pop culture has always had disposable, and easily derided aspects of it gives older generations the impression that the world is burning. But to view our collective interest in Kim Kardashian as symptomatic of a deep cultural malaise is incredibly cynical. Is it somehow not possible, are we not able to have the perspective to view pop culture as non-specific to millennials? Pop culture has constantly been derided by older generations who find themselves lost in today’s world. The good news? This has happened for time immemorial for generation upon generation. We will not go down in history for the ephemeral aesthetics, the fashion trends or other minute details. Millennials have more potential than that, more heart than they’re given credit for and have the ability to make changes using the technology they’re so seamlessly integrated in.
In summation, it’s easy to write off an entire generation for aspects that are trivial. It’s much harder to explore the positive side: to see millennials as possessing unique capabilities and harnessing them for good, or to see a group of marginalized people taking charge of their narratives via the much dismissed “social network” sites that are more opportunity than calamity. Millennials have so much to bring to the table, and it’s time for us as a culture to take stock of that.
Yesterday I had to pinch myself when I saw Jeremy Corbyn on the front benches of the House of Commons, facing David Cameron as the leader of the British Labour party. Corbyn is the man who has spent all of his adult lifetime on the fringes of mainstream politics, an unapologetic socialist campaigner who has fought many of the battles of the left: against South African apartheid and Thatcherite deindustrialisation in the 1980s, against the introduction of university tuition fees in the late 1990s, against the invasion of Iraq in the 2000s, against government austerity since 2010, and, like me, a lifelong campaigner against nuclear weapons. Since becoming an MP in 1983, Corbyn’s been a member of the awkward squad on the far-left of the Labour party, someone who could usually be ignored by his old bosses Blair, Brown and Miliband.
Being a WOC (Woman of Color) or MOC (Man of Color) in a graduate program is a unique experience. The opportunities made available to you become a great resource for networking, strengthening a skillset, and producing valuable research that provides a unique contribution to your field. Some departments offer grants to their graduate students while some pay for tuition waivers, however some students are left to fend for their own sources of funding. During this period of learning to become a graduate student and all that the title entails, it can become difficult for one to navigate. While the majority of graduate students have to go through an adjustment period, there are certain adjustments that graduate students who hold a minority status have to deal with that many students who meet the requirements of being a member of a dominant status group do not have to experience. While many scholarships and awards are available and designed to seek out minority students, it is still the case that the majority of scholarships go to White students. Similarly on the receiving end, many MOC faculty, and especially WOC faculty consistently receive lower student evaluations and retention rates from their universities of employ (Pittman 2010). These statistics are the result of various interactions that have taken place over time that some would describe as the consequence of racial microaggressions.
Racial microaggressions are derogatory and negative insults or interactions that occur on a day-to-day basis against a specific person or racial group. These insults can be overt or covert but the result is an active form of racism that serves to perpetuate beliefs, ideas, and prescribed stereotypes about racial groups. Given that it has become less socially acceptable to display overt forms of racism, covert displays of microaggressions serve to single-out, disadvantage, or invalidate a person of a specific racial group; even if the intent of the microagression is unintentional, the result is the same. more...
I look at you across the train carriage. I can see the clothes you wear, I can guess the car you drive, possibly take a stab at the house you live in. In my arrogance, I think I’ve got you down. Then you get your phone out and start pushing buttons and swiping around. I can now only see your facial expressions for any clue whatsoever as to what you’re looking at, who you might be messaging, what you might be buying, which newspaper you’re checking. Financial Times or Vice? Candy Crush Saga or Tinder? I can only wonder.
The space between you and the screen is your space. We talk a lot about how we live in a surveillance society, but actually we can now live more secretive and discreet lives than ever. The presentation of the self is far more complicated in a world when we spend significant parts of our time online, not presenting ourselves to anyone much. The websites we visit, the products we buy, the stuff we read, is very much our own business.
We can, of course, leave big clues to all this by sharing and posting stuff on social media, but it appears people are doing this less and less. Last year saw a 9% decline in facebook users, according to GlobalWebIndex (GWI), a research firm that claims to run the largest ongoing study into digital consumption to date.
Many people seem bored of the idea of advertising their every move online. According to the GWI research, around 40% of Facebook users said they had “browsed their newsfeed for updates without posting or commenting on anything” in the last month. We are becoming passive lurkers more than active contributors online. Maybe this reticence is a reaction to the increasing suspicion that our every move online is being monitored by… well, you name it.
Post-Snowden, I wouldn’t be surprised if Google, Facebook, my bank, the companies who made the apps I use, the NSA, ISIS hackers, bored geeks and con-artists, ANYONE, if they were so inclined, could work out my entire life history since about 1998, when I opened my first email account with yahoo. Maybe the knowledge that big brother might be listening is making us say less. Or maybe the novelty of social media is just getting a bit old.
An article in Forbes, citing the GWI research, claims that “Facebook has become more of a passive hub for underlying social connections than a place to actively share our thoughts. And with so many checking Facebook on their smartphones, they’ll often only check in for short periods anyway, leaving little time to do more than browse and maybe “like” a photo or two.”
But to that man sat next to you on the train, or your friends, or even your spouse, most of what we do online is our own business. Maybe we are “being watched by google”, but as long as the people we know are in the dark about our online behaviour, then we are safe from social disapproval, from nosiness, from the pull and drag of social norms, from the shock or disgust of our peers. Who cares if I spend all day looking at immature cartoons, kitten vines, youtube video nasties, or questionable pornography, when there’s no-one there to question it? Within certain limits of blatant illegality (sharing child porn) or suspicious behaviour (following ISIS on twitter), we’ll probably get away with anything.
I thought of this as I read of the top twenty books downloaded on amazon, which people can read on their kindle or tablet, and the big difference between this list of ‘guilty pleasures’ and Waterstones’ top-selling paper books of the year. Popular e-books include Fifty Shades of Grey, a few Mills and Boon romance titles and four (four!) adult colouring books. Waterstones’ list includes more highbrow authors like Colm Tóíbin and Ian McEwan.
The implication is that we buy intelligent paperbacks to show off the front cover to the passenger sitting opposite us, but then download ebooks to indulge our more urges – reading about food, romance, and er… colouring in – safe from the sneering of our peers who can only see the generic grey underside of our Kindle.
Badisha, writing in the Guardian says we’re “like American winos, hiding our cheap, nasty, yet oh-so-satisfying liquor in brown paper bags – or the dead grey plastic of a Kindle…We pay for hardback editions of thoughtful, exquisitely written meditations on something or other, which took years to write. But they only take a few seconds to shelve and forget. What we really respond to is the old kiss-kiss-bang-bang, the thrill of the penny dreadful, the glitter of the music hall, the big-screen swoon.”
This thought is interesting to sociologists because the power of social norms is a fundamental tenet of the entire discipline. Remove or at least dilute that power by shrinking our consumption space to that between our eyes and the screen, and the social world starts to look very different.
On the one hand, this might be empowering: minimising the space for social disapproval; reducing the scope for the judgements of others; making conspicuous consumption less… conspicuous. On the other hand, aren’t social norms the ‘invisible hand’ that maintain a functional and cohesive society? What happens when we reduce the power of social norms, and allow ourselves free reign to indulge our every desire in that ‘private’ space between user and screen?
Today is the last day of the American Sociology Association’s annual meeting. In honor of this year’s theme Sexualities in the Social World, I wanted to bring attention to the troubling trend of murders of transgender women. First, I introduce what little data exists about the experiences of trans women. Then I consider three existing groups of social movement activists that could act as allies to the transgender community and the presence of barriers which might inhibit the building of coalitions aimed toward stopping these deaths.
There is a dearth of reliable statistics on the murder of trans women. Thankfully, organizations which serve the transgender population and their allies in the academy have embarked upon a mission to attempt to fill this gap. To date only one national study has been conducted; the National Transgender Discrimination Survey was spear-headed by the National LGBTQ Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality. This study found transgender women experience disturbingly high rates of violence and assault. In 2013, 72% of all victims of murder motivated by anti-LGBTQ sentiment were transgender women.
Currently the National Center for Transgender Equality is distributing the 2015 U.S. Trans Survey (USTS). (Editor’s note: if you are a transgender person who is interested in participating you can find the survey here!) However, the time investment which a massive undertaking of this type demands means for the near future we will continue to operate without a full understanding of who constitutes the transgender population and the conditions of their lives.
Due to a dearth of scientific studies on the topic, the responsibility of data collection has fallen on activists and sympathetic media outlets. The LGBTQ periodical The Advocate has recorded the dates and circumstances of the murders of trans women killed in 2015. The publication has strived to preserve these deceased women’s lives by including their photographs and short biographies. As of August 18th, 17 trans women have been murdered in 2015 alone.
Last month I had the privilege of going to Xiamen University in south-eastern China for a ten-day research trip, along with ten other social science PhD students from my department at Southampton University. The purpose of the trip was to give us an opportunity to do a research project with ten Chinese PhD counterparts, and to give us a feel for what some of those buzzwords of contemporary academia – ‘global’, ‘networking’, ‘collaboration’, ‘inter-disciplinarity’ – might actually mean in practice. It turns out that these vague and perhaps glamourous-sounding platitudes hide a reality full of practical and cultural challenges (and rewards) that I didn’t know existed. I finished my ten days in Xiamen feeling rewarded, enlightened, a bit wiser, and rather knackered.
One of the main ideologies of religion, which Ninian Smart has pointed out, is that of the ethical, and legal dimension. Smart states, “the law which a tradition or subtradition incorporates into its fabric can be called the ethical dimension of religion” (Smart 18; 1998). History has proved how social customs, usually stemming from religious ideologies, tend to become laws, and govern social norms. When thinking about American society, society claims there is a separation between the Church, and the State: but, this is not true. With most presidential elections, society can see how a presidential candidate’s religious affiliations, or views on certain topics, such as abortion and others, are pertinent to the voter’s candidate choice. Although, this ethical and legal dimension may be the primary example to view religion and sexuality, most people neglect to view the other dimensions in which religion governs sexuality. more...
Do you remember your sex education during your youth? Did you even have sex education?
My school district (a local, public school district composing of four small townships) contracted out our sex education through Catholic Charities, which would come into health classes and teach “sex ed.” (Note: I am very conscientious of using quotations around my experience of “sex ed” because it wasn’t real sexual education, but rather, (heteronormative) abstinence only education.) We started having exposure to sex ed as early as sixth grade, but the “real” sex ed really started in eighth to ninth grade. Boys and girls were separated in two different rooms to talk about their own bodies separately, and would come together where they (at least in my interpretation) tried to scare us into submission.
When same-sex marriage became legal, there was an outpouring of support for the gay community. Many self-identified straight men and women took the opportunity to vocalize their affirmation of gay identities and gay rights. Keeping in mind, as well, the recent public discourse around Caitlyn Jenner and the transgender community, I found it compelling to compile a list of tips for LGBTQ allies that seek to sustain and improve their support of the community during this time.
It should be noted that this list is not exhaustive, and I cannot speak for the entire LGBTQ community. These tips are merely a guideline for possible new ways for interested parties to continue their support in the post-gay-marriage world. Even the most earnest allies might find themselves lost with how to improve and continue to help. Though I only speak as a gay cisgender man and supporter of LGBTQ equality, I’ve taken some time to think about new ways and avenues for activism as well as present underrepresented views and problems facing the community at this time. LGBTQ activism can be made stronger by people of diverse backgrounds working in dialogue with each other. The importance of this list is to learn ways to foster dialogue, understanding and empathy for one another, as well as educate others on what some of the issues facing the community post-same-sex marriage are.
Understand What Gay Marriage Means and to Whom
It goes without saying that an ally supports same-sex marriage. But it’s important to understand the context of this win. I think one can support same-sex marriage as a legal right without embracing it as the end of LGBTQ activism, nor as the tenant of it. Similarly, marriage may be more or less important to every LGBTQ individual. But, I admit, it was moving to see rainbow Facebook profile pictures. It was moving to see support from straight allies in all forms. But as the subsequent op-eds have pointed out, it is not the end of LGBTQ rights. I don’t think this precludes the historicism of the moment, nor does it exclude various othered-LGBTQ people. What’s important is the context- understanding what this moment signifies to the various LGBTQ people. A good ally should strive to understand context.
Furthermore, as activist Laverne Cox has noted, it is equally important for cisgendered members of the LGB community to be inclusive and active in the concerns of the transgender community.
Learn About What Gender Means to Others
Gender is a complicated issue; a very complicated one, and one that is constantly evolving. Now that publicly transgender people are just beginning to come out into the mainstream, it’s important to understand the language of how to talk about this issue. Sure, even the most understanding ally can have a slip up or moment of ignorance. This shouldn’t be demonized- I think there is an opportunity now for better education on these issues. We’re in the midst of a political moment to reinterpret what gender means and how we do gender. The first place to start is to undertake the task of understanding how trans and queer individuals have been talking about conceptualizing their communities and themselves. As well as what unique issues are pertinent to their communities.
Be a conduit for change
There have been years of LGBTQ activists. But it should be noted the importance of straight-allies as well. While it would be inappropriate to speak for the community, it’s important to speak up as an ally. This could mean having various conversations with others, engaging in political action, or simply educating oneself about the issues. A straight ally can do a lot to show others how to be more accepting and empathetic to others. A frank discussion with a friend about your beliefs can change minds.
Awareness of Differences
Not all LGBTQ people are the same. Not all gay people are the same. Not all trans people are the same. There are unique political intersections and personal preferences between all LGBTQ people. It’s easy to make generalization, and we’re all guilty of it from time to time. Stereotypes are present in popular media about what being LGBT or Q means. But everyone has a unique experience and personality that requires inquiry. It’s important to allies to explore these differences. It’s important to be vigilant against reductionist tendencies.
Understand the Work Left to Be Done
We’re not quite in a post-gay world. You and everyone you know might be “cool with it” but the struggle for LGBTQ rights is not a thing of the past. There is a wealth of work to be done for these causes. There are numerous organizations that have been doing work on causes such as teen homelessness, harassment prevention, making spaces safer, providing services to at risk use and numerous other causes. Supporting any one of these causes can make a strong statement and a significant difference in the lives of others.
LGBTQ allies are important to the community. The LGBTQ community is at a critical time in the political realm where opening minds and making tangible real changes is very possible. The help of allies is invaluable towards continuing to acknowledge and alleviate the oppressions faced by the LGBTQ community. Everything from participating in large structural changes to simply changing one’s behavior and speech can be an important and vital force.
Again, this list isn’t the end of the story. Discourse around the needs of LGBTQ people is always evolving and changing to be more inclusive. Going beyond this list, communicating with LGBTQ people to find out the needs of their specific communities can unveil other more specific ways to be involved.
For some information on how to get involved visit the Human Rights Campaign’s website which features a variety of causes. For information on how to start a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) you can visit here.
Sociology Lens aims to offer a lively and informative venue for faculty, graduate students and the wider public to discuss current issues in sociology. The site is a companion to the online review journal, Sociology Compass.