June 27, 2014

#YesAllWomen

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

When I was in high school, I met an old friend at our local park for a picnic. She had moved after elementary school so we were attending different schools and hadn’t seen each other for some time. We spread out our blanket, sat down, and proceeded to share food and stories.

Before long, a man came along, probably in his mid-late twenties, sat on our blanket and attempted to join in with our conversation. We both just looked at him for the first few minutes, shocked that he would be so bold. He continued talking to us, flirting, and asking us what we were “into.” We asked him to leave—we were not looking for a party or anyone else to talk to—but he refused to leave. Long story short, we had to leave the park to get rid of him. He tried to follow us but we made a lot of noise once we were nearer to other people and he wandered away. I never went back to that park.

I was reminded of this incident after the Isla Vista (Santa Barbara) murders occurred and the hashtag #YesAllWomen emerged and burned up the internet.

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June 24, 2014

Who is Reading This?

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

This is my fiftieth post for the Everyday Sociology Blog. When I first started writing for this site, one of my first blogs raised the question “Who’s Got Time for This?” In that post, I was wondering if I’d have time to be a regular contributor to the site. I guess after three years of writing for Everyday Sociology I answered my own question. However, another question I raised in that earlier post was: “who has time to read blogs?” That question still perplexes me.

I did some research to find out how many blogs exist on the Internet and it’s seemingly impossible to find an exact number.  Estimates vary from 152 million to 181 million to well over 225 million. Suffice it to say there are a lot of blogs out there with new ones popping up every second of the day. The recommended length of blogs varies too, from 500 words to 1000 words (the typical length of my posts) to well over 2000 words.

Let’s assume the typical blog post is 1,000 words, and that there are roughly 180 million blogs out there. If each of these sites contained just one 1,000 word blog each month, that amounts to two trillion one hundred sixty billion words a year! Given that the world’s population is 7 billion, that works out to over 300,000 words per person per year. 

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June 20, 2014

Work, Autonomy and Health

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

It’s tempting to argue that summer break is the best time to be a college professor. We can work on other projects, have time to read and indulge in hobbies, and it’s easy to schedule a vacation when you have several months off.

Of course there are many challenges to this career too. Just as with any profession, there are pressures associated with deadlines, one’s workload, and as in any situation, you might encounter difficult people. And for all too many adjunct professors, summer break doesn’t exist. If it does, it means months without pay, as they typically get paid by the class, and they are often poorly paid as well. They seldom have time to work on research, to write and publish, or even to read if they are teaching multiple classes to get by.

For those with full-time employment, one thing that sets being a professor apart is the degree of autonomy that often comes with the position. This means having flexibility to make at least some choices about your work.

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June 17, 2014

A Sterling Reputation and the Importance of Impression Management

RaskoffBy Sally Raskoff

Have you heard the many news reports accounting the many issues revolving around Donald Sterling? I’m speaking about the 2014 installment that began in April. (He’s had previous flurries of bad press…)

Mr. Sterling and his wife, Shelly, have co-owned the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team and have many residential investments. He started as an attorney, then invested in residential properties, and was very successful financially. He has published regular full-page ads in the Los Angeles Times (and others) showing his philanthropic efforts to many different organizations and causes.

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June 09, 2014

Sports and Representations of Gender and Sexuality

WynnBy Jonathan Wynn

Laverne Cox’s June 2014 cover story in Time magazine was a very big deal for the transgender community. There she is on the cover in the checkout aisle at the grocery store: in a blue dress, eyes locked to the camera, looking slightly downwards, walking forward. If you study gender, sexuality, and the media, it is a good moment for thinking about the importance of visibility.

It’s not the only recent example of representations of gender and sexuality making headline news, however. A few weeks ago, the twittersphere erupted when University of Missouri linebacker Michael Sam, upon learning that the St. Louis Rams drafted him, kissed his boyfriend in celebration. Broadcast on ESPN, it was seen as controversial by some people, and a watershed moment for others.

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June 06, 2014

Sociological Advice for Graduates

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

"Social theory is a basic survival skill.”

This quote comes from the first sentence of Charles Lemert’s book, Social Theory: The Multicultural, Global, and Classic Readings. My guess is that in the thousands of commencement speeches that are given at this time of year, few, if any, invoke sociological theory as a guiding light for recent grads. Nevertheless, Lemert is correct: sociological theory does provide sound advice for those about to embark on the next chapter of their lives. Here, then, are four sociologically-inspired guiding principles to pass along to your favorite graduates:

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June 03, 2014

Smoking and Education

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

People with higher levels of education are less likely to smoke cigarettes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2009 just 5.6 percent of those 25 and older with graduate degrees smoked—compared with nearly half (49 percent) of those with GEDs. More education correlates with less cigarette smoking across the educational spectrum: 25.1 percent for high school graduates, 23.3 percent of who attended college but earned no degree, and just 11.1 percent of those with bachelor’s degrees smoked.

Why such a consistent difference?

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May 30, 2014

Clap along Sociologists, Get Happy!

Peter_kaufmanBy Peter Kaufman

I feel like I’ve been hearing a lot about happiness lately. I’m not just talking about listening to the worldwide hit “Happy” by Pharrell Williams—which I hear playing somewhere at least once a week. What I’m alluding to are the books, articles, and commentaries on how we can be happier in our daily lives. It seems as if every year another book comes out and every week an article circulates around social media advising us on what we can do to achieve a higher state of contentment.

What I find particularly intriguing about much of the work that is being done on happiness is that most of it is not carried out by sociologists. Instead, happiness studies are dominated by journalists, psychologists, and economists. Consider, for example, some of the best-selling books of the past few years.  Stumbling on Happiness was written by Daniel Gilbert, a professor of psychology, whereas The Geography of Bliss and The Happiness Project were both written by journalists (Eric Weiner and Gretchen Rubin, respectively).  

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May 27, 2014

What Can Improv Teach Us About Gender?

Peter_rydzewskiBy Peter Rydzewski

Incoming sociology Ph.D student, University of Maryland

The idea that social interactions are thought of as “performances” is a common theme throughout sociology. It speaks to the ways in which human behavior is “acted out” under an umbrella of shared norms, roles, expectations and assumptions, meaning that individual expressions are, in reality, more subject to group agreements than personal vitality.

I’ve spent the past 15 or so weeks in an improvisational theatre class. My sociological and observational instincts set in immediately after the first class session because, indeed, it was the perfect example of a real, physical stage on which social acting could take place. Erving Goffman famously describes this as the “front stage.” In my observations, this is where other students constantly looked and judged, hoping to understand our movements as part of a scene with an overall message or continuing storyline. And because the situations were fictional and the settings were imagined, the performers had to use voice and bodily comportment to express something that everyone could implicitly comprehend.  This goal was often accomplished with performances of gender.

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May 23, 2014

Costumes: Special Occasions as Performance

Headshot 3.13 cropcompressBy Karen Sternheimer

Recently, I received a package on my desk. It was a black gown with a decorative, brightly colored velvet hood and an oddly-shaped hat. There was no note, no explanation, but I knew what it was for.

In any other context, the arrival of an unusual outfit would be strange, maybe even disconcerting; it is not something I would personally have chosen to wear, as it is bulky and way too warm to wear in the late spring. I am expected to wear this outfit for our university’s commencement ceremonies, just as others on our faculty and around the country are.

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