Stephanie Medley-Rath

Stephanie Medley-Rath is an assistant professor of sociology at Indiana University Kokomo. Her research interests include the sociology of autobiography, cognitive sociology, and the scholarship of teaching and learning.

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We Schedule Weddings around Deer Season

Deer hunters are an often misunderstood and even vilified subculture. This reaction provides an illustration of culture shock. When we come across a new culture we can either judge it with our own beliefs and values (Sociologists call this ethnocentrism) or we can understand a new culture using the beliefs and values of the culture we are observing (we call this cultural relativism. In this post, Stephanie Medley-Rath explores the subculture of deer hunting from a cultural relativist perspective.

The author, age 15, with an 8-point buck.

In my neck of the woods, deer season (aka shotgun season) is fast approaching. Around here, people schedule weddings around deer season. In other parts of the country, people schedule weddings around college football. Deer hunters make up a subculture that is typically vilified and often misunderstood by outsiders. This reaction provides an illustration of culture shock.

Culture shock refers to the reaction we tend to experience when encountering a culture different from our own. All of us have a tendency to judge foreign cultures based on our own understanding of the world. Sociologists call this ethnocentrism because we are judging other cultures with our own values as though they were superior or morally right. However, we could look at new cultures and judge them based on their own values and moral structures. This would allow us to see other cultures as they see themselves; a process sociologists call cultural relativism. After all, who are we to judge?

In my home town, deer hunting is considered important enough that students can get excused absences to go hunt. When I was in high school, I actually skipped school to deer hunt. Ok, I only officially skipped school once and it was because I didn’t realize that if I had obtained approval by a certain date, deer hunting would be an excused absence. The next year, I had a preapproved excused absence.

But why skip school to hunt in the first place? What do people get out of deer hunting? I mean, I don’t have to hunt in order to eat, so why bother hunting? Let’s explore this subculture in more detail and find out how deer hunting is intertwined with social bonding, competition, and food….

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Our Town Lacks Racial Diversity “Because there are No Jobs”

Have you ever heard of a sundown town? Have you ever wondered about the racial diversity in your hometown? In this post, Stephanie Medley-Rath explains how her hometown lacked racial diversity by design, not chance.

When I was growing up, I had been told that there used to be sign on the edge of town that essentially told African Americans they were unwelcome after sundown. It made sense to me because there were no Black people living in my town of 6,000. There was very little racial diversity. But I still didn’t have any confirmation that my home town really had such a sign or was what is called a sundown town.

Then I found the book, Sundown Towns. I was browsing the book store at the American Sociological Association’s Annual Meetings in Montreal and saw the cover. I picked it up and reviewed the table of contents. And then I opened the index. There was not one but several pages where my hometown was mentioned. Here was confirmation that the the sign more than likely existed. I bought the book and came back during the scheduled time the author, James Loewen was to be at the booth. He signed my book and I told him where I was from. We talked for a few minutes and then I moved on and read the book in my spare time over the next year….

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Ack! Invasion of the Pregnant Teenagers

Pregnant teenagers are currently a focus of popular media, yet teen pregnancy is at historic lows. Stephanie Medley-Rath explores why teen pregnancy is such a popular plot line in our entertainment, when the reality is so different?

Pregnant Teen Looking at Pregnancy Test

Pregnant teens have long fascinated me ever since I was a teenager. I had a difficult time understanding why anyone would choose to or accidentally become pregnant as a teenager. Of course, growing up the projectory of my life was always “once you graduate high school, then you go to college.” A baby as a teenager would have severely interfered with my plans of dorm-living and keg parties (and that pesky thing known as getting my degree). Though teen pregnancy was far from epidemic in my high school, it wasn’t exactly shocking. Today, the teen pregnancy rate is at a historic low.

Go read that last sentence. Teenage pregnancy rates are declining, not increasing.

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They Call Them “Soaps” Because They’re Dirty

Soap operas give us something to bond over, help us feel better about our own lives, and reaffirm the boundaries of deviance. Stephanie Medley-Rath explores the sociological value of soap operas and wonders what will fill the void left after their cancellation.

Old Fashion TV

I grew up watching All My Children. My mom watched All My Children from the beginning and even when she re-entered the workforce as a school teacher, she would set the VCR to record some of the episodes. We watched every day during summer vacation. My dad even watched with us sometimes.

I haven’t watched the show with any regularity since moving out of my parent’s house. Eventually, I stopped watching completely and so did my mom. When I heard that the show was to be cancelled, I decided to watch one last summer as the show is to end this month. I set my DVR, but gave up watching about half-way through the first recording.

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Eat Like A Patriot!

Government food guidelines communicate American values in addition to educating us about healthful eating. Comparing the imagery the government uses to communicate its food guidelines shows us how our values have changed overtime and also stayed the same.

How do you decide what to eat?

  • Taste
  • Cost
  • Convenience
  • Familiarity
  • Health
  • Patriotic duty

What? Patriotic duty? Check out the U.S. government’s food guidelines from 1941-1945:

"For Health...eat some food from each group...every day!", 1941 - 1945

First, look at the center. “U.S. Needs Us Strong. Eat the Basic 7 Every Day.” So, follow the U.S. guidelines out of patriotic duty. Here we can see how patriotism is something highly valued to the point that our government uses it to get us to eat the “Basic 7”. The image suggests that we have the all-American (read White) family with mom, dad, son, and daughter at the center as well. These guidelines are also promising freedom of sorts. Look at the bottom of the poster: “in addition to the basic 7…eat any other foods you want.” Evidently we heard the last part of the message instead of the first part if the obesity rate is any indication (that’s a topic for another day)….

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What’s the Problem with a Little Mompetition?

I took my daughter to the park for playgroup. She decides to swing. I cringe knowing what she is going to say when swinging: “Weeeee…Fly like an Angry Bird!” Oh no, she said it. I’ve now been outed as a bad mom who lets her toddler play Angry Birds. What happened instead was that the mom next me said, oh, my son loves that game, too! A sense of relief overcame both of us….

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