David Mayeda

David is a lecturer at The University of Auckland who teaches in the Disciplinary Area of Sociology. His research is on ethnic minority success in education and youth violence pervention.


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The Sociology of MMA: Breaking Arms & Making Patriarchal Bargains

How does a female athlete survive in the patriarchal and exploitive world of MMA? “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey, the new bantamweight Strikeforce champion, speaks candidly about how she navigates a hyper-sexualized and hyper-violent profession. In this post David Mayeda explores the patriarchal bargains Rousey openly makes and their consequences.

If you’ve ever thought women can’t fight, think again. On Saturday March 3, “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey faced off against Strikeforce’s then bantamweight champion, Miesha Tate. Both women are fantastic athletic talents. Before competing in MMA, Rousey wreaked havoc in judo, representing the United States in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, winning a bronze medal in ‘08. As foreshadowed, Rousey dethroned Tate, winning via brutal armbar submission in the fight card’s main event (see video highlights, below).

Tate’s arm was severely hyper-extended and injured as she refused to “tap out” (submit), rendering this an institutionally sanctioned example of sporting violence (see picture herewarning graphic photo).

Scholars have noted that as women navigate their options in patriarchal systems [1. Patriarchy refers to a system where males (fathers specifically) establish and perpetuate their power through formal ownership and control over women, children, and property – older male privilege is strategically built into societal institutions.], they frequently make strategic “bargains,” assessing gendered rules and scripts specific to the cultural contexts in which they live. Frequently, “patriarchal bargains” occur when women behave in ways that grant them power as individuals, but reproduce the dominant gender order, thereby perpetuating cultural systems that subordinate women collectively….

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Hegemonic Masculinity in Super Bowl Commercials

Many of us watch the Super Bowl to check out what we expect to be the most innovative and entertaining commercials of the year. Given the grand stage on which these commercials air, it is important that we analyze them in their proper context. Remember, this is a sporting event, one in which only men are allowed to participate (as athletes/coaches), where violent collisions are celebrated, and where most of the audience is male. Considering these gendered parameters, we should not be surprised that many of the 2012 Super Bowl commercials ooze hegemonic masculinity. In this post David Mayeda explores how a masculinity can be used to opress men and women alike.

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”….

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Linsanity!: Jeremy Lin Dispelling the Model Minority Myth

“Asian athlete” – uh, would you say this is an oxymoron? In America’s popular culture lexicon, Asians and Asian Americans are not typically heralded for their athletic prowess, particularly not at the professional level in America’s four major sports (football, baseball, basketball, and hockey). With China’s Yao Ming bowing out of the National Basketball Association (NBA) due to nagging foot injuries, a new player has taken center stage, making Asian Americans stand tall and proud. In this post, David Mayeda breaks down the model minority myth, examining rising New York Knicks’ star, Jeremy Lin and the phenomenon of “Linsanity.”

Jeremy Lin林书豪

When I started graduate school way back in 1996, I wanted to study the increasing number of Asian Americans in sport. Being half Japanese and a former collegiate athlete, I had a personal connection to the topic. However, my pathway in academia took a different turn. Still, when I see an Asian American athlete making headlines, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a little excited.

Imagine my excitement when I saw the New York Knicks’ point guard, Jeremy Lin, tearing it up recently in the NBA? Okay, it’s only been a few games. Still, this cross over and dunk isn’t anything to sneeze at.

If you don’t know who Jeremy Lin is, he is a Harvard graduate, originally from Northern California who was not drafted by any NBA team in 2010. Lin is Taiwanese, but having been born in the United States, he is Asian American. The Golden State Warriors and later Houston Rockets signed him as a free agent, but Lin saw minimal playing time.

This season the New York Knicks have given Lin chance. Due to team injuries, Lin has seen increased playing time and taken advantage of it, becoming “the first player in more than 30 years to record at least 28 points and 8 assists in his first N.B.A. start.” But truth be told, a handful of strong games from a young player in the NBA is not terribly unusual.

So why all the fuss?…

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The Sociology of MMA: Do “Real” Men Have Emotions?

Does a “real” man cry? Does he get scared? All of us, regardless of our gender, experience the entire range of human emotions, but where do they go if we don’t show them? In this post David Mayeda explores what emotions the men of MMA can express publicly and how they manage emotions they cannot.

Back in September of 2011, Sociology In Focus’s Alex Megna examined the rigid ways that masculinity is constructed in our society through music. Sports are another venue where men learn to become so-called real men, and women, so-called real women. So do “real” men, even professional male athletes, express emotion? Aren’t “real” men supposed to be emotionless, standing tall, calm, and bravely in the face of danger and uncertainty? Let’s return to the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) to see how men engaged in fight sport cope with their emotions.

A fairly common perception of masculinity is that men, well “real” men, keep their emotions in check, in contrast to women, who are not policed so heavily by society in expressing their emotional states. But the reality is, men do have emotions, even those who try to repress them in the face of public scrutiny. Perhaps one of the few emotions men are allowed to express publicly, in particular when in confrontation with one another, is anger. Hence, confrontational interactions like that seen below between MMA fighters Nate Diaz and Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone prior to their December 2011 fight, are not terribly uncommon (see this video)….

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By Hitting Up Those Post Holiday Sales, Are You Supporting Contemporary Slavery?

Do you support slavery? Don’t be so quick to answer no. Conservative estimates show that in a given year, 27 million people are enslaved across our global society. Yes, our current society! While you may find different forms of contemporary slavery reprehensible, our ties to the ongoing slave trade are often times closer than you think. In this post, David Mayeda questions our consumer culture and its ties to worker exploitation.


I admit, I love my iPad. I utilize it so much and so often that one of my colleagues calls it my best friend. I also own a laptop, a cell phone and a number of other gadgets that I find extremely useful in our contemporary techy society. I’ve also been tempted to hit up those post-holiday sales that emerge every December 26, but thus far I have resisted. My modicum of resistance stems from a moral consciousness. Remember, in a capitalist society, the objective is to profit. Rendering a profit means cutting costs, and this happens most effectively by cutting labour costs. Too often, labour costs are cut entirely by enslaving people.

Kevin Bales – the foremost scholar on contemporary slavery – defines slavery as the total control of one person by another for the purpose of economic exploitation. Why is it that those of us in high-income countries can go into stores and pay $5-$10 for clothing items? It is likely because the stores you’re buying those items from, purchased the items for substantially less than the relatively small amount you’re paying. Does $5 even cover the cost of the materials used to make a T-shirt?…

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The Sociology of MMA: Hegemonic Masculinity Unleashed

Imagine if it was common place for prominent members of a billion dollar company to use glaringly sexist language in public. That would be crazy, right? Except over the last few months this is exactly what we’ve seen from the Mixed Martial Arts league called the UFC. In this post David Mayeda uses the sociological concept of hegemonic masculinity to help us understand what is going on with the men of the UFC.

In a sport so male driven, it is hardly surprising that some Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) athletes publicly express opinions reflecting a violent male dominance. Recently, MMA fighter Miguel Torres tweeted: “If a rape van was called a surprise van more women wouldn’t mind going for rides in them. Everyone likes surprises” (December 7, 2011). Torres was subsequently fired by UFC President, Dana White.

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The Sociology of MMA: How Do You Define Violence?

What is violence? Jacking someone in the face on the street will get you jail time, but the same act in a boxing ring could make you rich and famous. Violence in sports begs us to ask the question, what is violence and when should we as a society take steps to prevent it? In this piece David Mayeda explores how a recent Mixed Martial Arts competition demonstrates how violence and sport are socially constructed.

MMA Fighter PunchingFor those of you who frequent SociologyinFocus on a regular basis, you will shortly learn that one of my hobbies as a sociologist is understanding the edgy, burgeoning sport of mixed martial arts, more commonly known as “MMA.” For those of you unfamiliar with the sport (and no, not everyone considers it a sport, though its acceptance is growing), it is a combat sport in which participants compete (i.e., fight) one another through a mixture of combat sport disciplines, the most common four being Olympic wrestling, traditional boxing, Muay Thai kickboxing, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Other fighting disciplines can be integrated as well, such as judo and karate….

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Social Movements and State Violence

From the Arab Spring to the international “Occupy Movement,” we have recently witnessed how state govenments clash with disgruntled citizens who are fed up with their lack of life chances for upward social mobility. In this post, David Mayeda examines how Max Weber’s theoretical positions on authority, power, and violence apply to the recent disturbances in and around London, England, and Davis, California.

Have you ever felt unfairly treated by a parent, boss, coach, or another authority figure? After being mistreated, did you feel like that authority figure shouldn’t be granted so much power over you? No doubt this is a situation most, if not all of us, have probably experienced a number of times in our lives. We can expand this social dynamic beyond the interpersonal level to understand broader social movements.

Max Weber, a founding figure in sociology, argued that authority is the use of power that is perceived as legitimate by the rest of society. Weber said that authority could be divided into three types: traditional, charismatic, and legal-rational. Previously my colleague discussed charismatic authority, but in this post I will focus on legal-rational authority, where authority is formally institutionalized.

This may occur in workplaces (a superior has authority over a subordinate), on sports teams (a coach has authority over athletes), in state governments (a politician can vote on laws impacting citizens), and in state roles (a police officer has authority over the average citizen). Legal-rational authority is accepted by the greater society (or at least the majority of it) because it has been formally built into the society’s political system.

On Friday police on the campus of University of California Davis were video taped using pepper spray at point blank range on protestors who were sitting on the ground. (see video, below):

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The 2011 Rugby World Cup and New Zealand’s 99%

About three months ago I moved from Honolulu, Hawai’i to Auckland, New Zealand. Moving to a new country made me keenly aware of my American-centered sports interests. While in the United States gridiron football is king, across the Pacific and Australasia, the sport of choice is rugby. For the past six weeks, New Zealand has been hosting the 2011 Rugby World Cup (RWC), with the home team’s “All Blacks” just defeating France 8-7 in the finals. During this time, the RWC had to share its stage with global movements for social equity.

In downtown Auckland (New Zealand’s biggest city), the landscape transformed from a typical big city central business district (CBD) inundated with glitzy stores, to one that shared commercialized space with increasingly ubiquitous RWC advertising and merchandise….

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Feminizing Sport’s Elite Female Stars

One of the most effective ways to view gender discrimination in society is by examining the world of sport. Even if you are not a sports fan, it’s interesting to see the different ways sport – much like the rest of society – values and compensates women based on traditional gender norms tied to physical appearance.

“Show me the money!” Jerry Maguire taught us that in the sports world money is everything. Recently Forbes magazine published a list of the best paid female athletes. Looking at this list we can see what sports are the most lucrative for women and what type of female athlete our society values the most.

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