Bridget Diamond-Welch

Bridget Diamond-Welch

Bridget Diamond-Welch is an assistant professor of Criminal Justice at the University of South Dakota. She has two major areas of research. Her first is social psychological research on emotions and identity. Her second area of research is on interpersonal violence issues such as domestic violence and sexual assault.

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Is it Still a Democracy if You’re Not Allowed to Vote?

With the presidential election coming in just a few months multiple states across the nation have rushed to pass new voter I.D. laws that will require voters to prove their eligibility to vote. Advocates of the laws say they will end rampant voter fraud, but critics point out that voter fraud only accounts for a few hundred false votes each election. In this piece Bridget Welch explores how these voter I.D. laws exemplify institutional discrimination as they will disproportionately hurt elderly voters, college students, the poor, and people of color.

I Voted Doll

I love to vote. I get the ballot from the newspaper and research every candidate — including the judges that few people have ever thought of. I weigh candidates opinions, create a little cheat sheet, and off I go to do my civic duty. And after I finish, I feel like I have done something meaningful. That I have, in some small way, shaped our country. Even though I know the numbers and how much my one vote probably doesn’t much matter, I hang on to that sticker for weeks (sometimes longer) with a weird kind of pride. For the past few years, however, many states (33) have been passing bills that will restrict many Americans from getting their sticker. What this amounts to is disenfranchisement — the loss of a right to vote — for certain groups of Americans and is a new form of institutional discrimination.

Institutional discrimination occurs when normal practices results in different outcomes for different groups of people. Think about that. Normal practices. What does that mean? Basically, when things are going the way that they are supposed to, the way they are designed, legislated, bureaucratized and a group of people are hurt by these practices — that’s institutional discrimination. Some current examples of how this works can be found in the Supreme Court health care decision, my previous discussion of the housing market, and in the prison system….

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A Sociologist Hoots at the Movies: Magic Mike Edition

Magic Mike, the summer blockbuster that promised to objectify men, didn’t so much deliver. In this post, Bridget Welch talks about how a show about male strippers focused on how they get pleasure from women. 

Magic Mike Movie Poster

I must admit, watching men pretend that umbrellas are long additions to their phalluses is not something I find so sexy. But nicely sculpted gyrating man abs? Sign me up. And so when invited by a colleague to go drool at the screen, I happily left my husband to put the kid to bed and was out the door.

I actually had no idea what the movie was about. As in, did it actually have any kind of plot? Who has two thumbs and doesn’t care? This female sociologist here.

As someone who cares deeply about social justice and who wants to fight inequality anywhere and everywhere, perhaps I shouldn’t have gone to a film whose sole purpose seemed to be to objectify men. Objectification, as written about earlier by David Mayeda, is the treating of a person as less than human — as an object. While there are many ways of objectifying (see a list here), Magic Mike promised that some sexy men would be reduced solely to their bodies for the audience’s pleasure.

As a woman in American society where I repeatedly see image after image after image of female objectification, I was curious to see how the tables could be turned. So it was with some anticipation that I sank down in my front-row center seat with my Twizzlers for the dancing to begin.

SPOILER ALERT: men get partially naked in Magic Mike while women reveal more.

For about 5 seconds, I thought the movie would deliver. Opening Scene: Channing Tatum (aka “Magic Mike”), butt shot! The almost entirely female audience started catcalling, me included….

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What’s Logic Got to Do, Got to Do With It?

What’s logic but a second-hand consideration? In this post, Bridget Welch explains that understanding logic should be central to forming opinions, theories, and research methods.

My adorable son, whom I’ve introduced before, is now in the stage where he is fascinated by cause and effect. He turns the light switch off, then flicks it on, smiling like he invented the world when there is light. He plays peek-a-boo over and over and over again just to see the faux-surprise look on my face. Slowly he is learning that causes have consequences.

This is the basis of theorizing. We are interested in creating a set of ideas that explain how, when, and/or why a particular outcome occurs. Generally, what this will consist of is a statement of relationships that take the form of something you may be familiar with … the transitive property.

Remember this from high school? If A = B, and B = C, then A = C? In theory, it is frequently: If A –> B, and B –> C, then A –> C. Take for example this mini theory about Fast & Furious presented by Colbert:

Let’s bust out some of our critiquing skills to analyze the logic of these politicians and media pundits:…

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Glenn Beck Was Right

Not so long ago, my students “ewwwwed” when watching  a documentary that showed two men kissing. Recently, a saw two men kissing on prime time television and have noticed a lack of “ewwws.” In this post, Bridget Welch explores if there is a connection between acceptance of homosexuals and television shows.

If you know me at all (or have read previous posts), likely when you saw the title you did something like the dramatic chipmunk. “They’ve got her at last,” you think. “She’s finally gone over to the other side.”

I must admit. Most times, well perhaps all times, watching Glenn Beck in my house is much like Monday Night Football. I scream corrections at the screen in the vague hope that someone will hear reason and change what is happening. Alas, much like my husband’s attempts to coach the Packers from the couch, it’s all for not.

Recently, while listening to Glenn Beck’s latest rant, I had to admit that he had a point.

He says, “A year ago I was watching the show Glee with my wife and we watched it like this. I mean, it’s horrifying some of the things that they’re teaching high-schoolers. But it’s brilliantly done. It’s brilliantly done. It’s produced brilliantly, its acting is brilliant, cinematography brilliant, all of it. And I said to her at the end of it, this is about a year, year and a half ago: We lose. There is no way to beat that.”…

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The Power of “Vagina”: The Structure and Meaning of Words

Structural symbolic interactionist argue that not only do words have meaning, they also have meaning based on the person who utters them and the historical and structural position of that person in relation to that word. In this post, Bridget Welch explains how this is the case for vaginas everywhere.

Axe wound, muff, bearded clam, fish taco, camel’s toe, beaver, roast beef curtains…[1]

As I write this, there are over 7 billion people in the world. About half of those have a cooch.

Sarah Nell has already written about the horrors of trying to discuss the clitoris. But I’m going to take it one further. Say the one word about a woman’s reproductive system SHALL NOT BE NAMED. You ready for it? Take a deep breath. Go get your security blanket and teddy bear. Here we go:

Vagina.

Say it with me:

Vagina, vagina, vagina, vagina, vagina, vagina, vagina.

Now was that so bad?

The answer is yes if you are Representative Lisa Brown, a democrat in the Michigan House. While debating legislation that would restrict access to abortions, Brown stated: “I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but no means no.”

If that wasn’t enough of a horror for the House to have to deal with, Rep. Barb Byrum muttered the word vasectomy when she was restricted from speaking on her amendment that proposed that proof of a medical emergency and/or risk of death was required before a man could get the above mentioned procedure.

Barred from speaking in the House as punishment for this horrific act of using scientifically correct terminology, you may wonder how the vagina should be referenced in polite discourse….

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I’ll Give You a Cookie if You Change the World

Cookies. Free Meals. And other random acts of humanity. In this post, Bridget Welch explains how having something nice happen to you — or doing something nice for others — could make the whole world a better place. 

When my husband came in to the house his eyes were glowing with happiness. A wide smile and obvious glee made it clear that something good had occurred. What that possibly could be, I had no clue. I mean, the man just went to McDonald’s to pick up some burgers and nuggets. “When I went through the drive through,” he said almost breathlessly, “the clerk told me that the car in front of me paid for my food and asked if I wanted to pay for the people behind.” He did, and the clerk told him that he was the eighth person in a row paying it forward backwards.

Have you perchance seen those Liberty Mutual Commercials? A bystander witnesses a stranger do “the right thing” (e.g. help someone rake a yard, returning money left behind, picking up a dropped toy) and then does the right thing in another situation. In turn, another person sees them do this act and they are so inclined to help someone else. And on goes the chain of kindness.

Social psychologists have called this the “happy glow effect.” A series of studies in the 70s looked at how making people feel good could cause them to want to make others feel good. My favorite of these was “Cookies and Kindness.” The researchers gave some people cookies and didn’t give others cookies.[1] They then saw that people who got cookies were more likely to give help when asked. Cookie = Happy Glow.

My husband didn’t get cookies, he got nuggets. But the happy glow was achieved.

Kinda cool, right? But what’s the big deal? If people have something nice happen to them, or witness something nice, then they’ll be nice. Whoopie (and not the pie, cause that could make you glow with happiness).

However if you couple the happy glow effect with six degrees of Kevin Bacon you may have something to write home about….

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The Writing on the Wall: Stigma vs. Authenticity

Who are you really? Are you brave enough to let the world know? In this post, Bridget Welch explores a core human motivation — to be seen as our authentic selves — and how that is problematic when who you are is stigmatized.

I enjoy using public restrooms. It’s not because I want to listen to others go. Or even because I get to fantasize about all the possible germs I’m getting from the seat. Or even because I like to eavesdrop on strangers’ conversations (cause women like to talk in the bathroom). Okay, I do like to eavesdrop on strangers’ conversations, you overhear the strangest things. The main reason I like to go in public restrooms? The reading material.

Between the jokes scrawled on the walls, above the references to pop culture, perhaps squeezed between a call “to love your body” and curse words, there will be a whole different kind of writing. Something like this:

I took both of these images in a women’s restroom at a large state university. For a much larger selection, see here.

A few of us have already written about one of the primary motivations for human behavior — to be thought well of. This is what is at the core of Goffman’s impression management. It’s why we struggle to maintain correct emotional displays, even when it costs us more than we may want to pay. We want other people to believe that we are competent. That we are good at what we do — at what we are.

But this is not the only motivation for behavior that social psychologists discuss. Among others, we are motivated to been seen as authentic human beings. That means, at times, we want to be recognized for who we truly are….

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A Nightmare of Titanic Proportions: Social Class & A Ticket to Ride

I fly coach. I can’t afford those expensive tickets. So I put up with little leg room and a measly bag of nuts so I can get from point A to point B. But what happens when the class of ticket you purchase equates to your life or death? In this post, Bridget Welch revisits how this was the reality for many passengers on the Titanic.

“It was called the ship of dreams. And it was. It really was.” So intones the actress who plays the elderly Rose in the now rereleased in 3-D Titanic (because, I don’t know about you, but I really want to feel like Leonardo DiCaprio is coming out of the screen at me).

April 15, 1912 — now just over 100 years ago — in a ship that set off with 2,233 souls on board hit an iceberg and sunk resulting in the death of 1,530 people.[1] This catastrophe has been retold countless times in films and books. Like many others of my generation, it was Leo and Kate flying at the front of the ship (with, perhaps unfortunately, Celine Dion warbling about how her heart will go on in the background) that was my entrance into this social epic. In fact, much of what I knew for a long time was because of that production. Let’s examine what the film teaches us.

The heart of the story (besides of course the “Heart of the Ocean” which you can now buy) is a love story between star-crossed lovers. While Romeo and his Juliet were caught up in a familial squabble, Kate and Jack are doomed because of their difference in social class. Kate, the newly poor aristocrat who needs to marry to refinance her way of life, gives us entry into the upper class area of the ship. No doubt luxurious and comfortable, the people are snobby jerks. Kate is trapped and boxed in by the requirements of her social milieu and is only able to escape by touring the 3rd class areas with Jack. She flees her proper life and to go drinking, dancing, posing nakedly, and sexing it up with Jack. Message: Wealthy = Boring and Trapped. Poor = Fun and Free….

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Where’s Waldo Explains Stereotypes — Really.

How is playing a silly search and find game able to explain our reliance on all types of negative stereotypes? In this post, Bridget Welch answers that question and suggests how you can stop the game.

SPIKE
Where’s Waldo?: Official Movie Trailer
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Are you up to the task of finding Waldo before it’s too late? Before we begin, a little review of how the game is played (if you need a first-hand refresher, go play it here).

Where's Waldo

Waldo is a shady charter with brown hair, black circle glasses, a red hat, red and white and horizontal striped shirt. Trying to appear normal, this white male in his mid-twenties to early thirties blends in with his blue jeans and his cocky little grin.

Armed with Waldo characteristics, you take in a wild scene full of random red and white striped towels, a similar shirt with vertical stripes, a Waldo-looking girl… and as you move through the image, left-to-right, in a tight search pattern, you search and dismiss. Moving quickly over areas without the red and white images, slowing down when there is something on the list, and moving again as you dismiss it as a decoy. Finally, when all hope seems lost, you see the red and white stripe shirt. You note the correct hair and glasses, the correct white color and jeans. BINGO! You’ve got him. You need search no more.

As I’m fond of saying: The world is like Where’s Waldo — EXCEPT ON CRACK!…

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How to Write a Sci-Fi Novel -by Someone who Hasn’t Done It

…and probably never will. In this post, Bridget Welch explores social institutions as a conceptual tool that can help to help create a fictional world.

I write. I do. In fact, if you think about it, I’m writing right now. Kinda blows your mind, doesn’t it? The truth of the matter is that I don’t actually know how to write a sci-fi or fantasy novel. I assume my mass consumption of said genre does not necessarily mean that I could put proverbial pen to paper and create a whole world of magic, dragons, dirigibles, and parallel universes. What I do know, however, is sociology. I also happen to know that the good science fiction and fantasy authors also know sociology– even if they don’t know they know it.

Think about it. Have you read the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov? One man manages to predict the whole course of human events for generations. This theory provides the basis to craft a whole new society able to survive the end times. His predictions work out even after his death! Well, isn’t that just the kind of thing structural-functionalists aspire to?

Sci-fi not your thing? What about Pat Rothfuss’s Name of the Wind? He created a whole new world where magic and mages ruled. With creatures we’ve never seen before and hopefully never will. And, unlike above, he describes the power of one person to impact the shape and function of society. Ah, a symbolic interactionist’s dream (not to mention the less popular but infinitely awesome Engineer series by K.J. Parker).

Is conflict theory more your rag? I’m sure most of you have read, watched, or at least peripherally became aware of Game of Thrones where the desires of a few families casts empires into bloody war….

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