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Advertisers Needed A Hero “So God Made a Farmer”

In this post, Stephanie Medley-Rath explains a few of the ways in which the American farmer is socially constructed using the recent Dodge Ram commercial that ran during the Super Bowl. She explores the ways in which the commercial lives up to the realities of farming. 

Dodge Ram paid tribute to the American farmer in their ad that played during the Super Bowl last week.

Dodge resurrected Paul Harvey’s 1978 ‘So God Made a Farmer’ Speech for the commercial. It certainly got my attention. I was otherwise distracted and paid attention to the TV when I heard what sounded like an old man’s voice talking about God and farmers.

Mythical Image of the Family Farm

Harvey begins with

“And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, ‘I need a caretaker.’ So God made a farmer.”

The farmers portrayed in the Dodge Ram commercial fit within a particular narrative about farming, that is, who farmers actually are. The commercial shows how farmers and farming are socially constructed. By social construction, sociologists mean how society defines a particular phenomenon. In this case, how does society define and understand farmers and farming?

Dodge Ram pairs Paul Harvey’s words with powerful visuals to illustrate how American farmers are caretakers, deeply religious, hardworking, family-oriented, rugged individuals, community leaders, and mostly white men….

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Girls Like Robots, But Hate Nerds

“Daddy brings home the bacon and mama fries it up in the pan,” this old and in so many ways outdated saying is actually a handy way to remember the sociologist Talcott Parsons complementary sex role theory. In this piece Nathan Palmer takes a look back at Parsons’s theories and shows us how a recent iPhone game called Girls Like Robots seems like it could have been designed by Parsons himself.

The world is a more stable place when women focus on taking care of children and maintaining the household. Wait! Wait! Don’t go! Before you write me an ALL CAPS email calling me a sexist, let me tell you that what I just said is actually the belief of one of the most prominent sociologists ever, Talcott Parsons. I personally disagree with Parsons, but it’s important that any student of sociology know about such a important historical figure in sociology. But before we talk about Parsons, let me tell you about Structural Functionalism.

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Holiday or Work? Thanksgiving and Social Class

Is Thanksgiving a four-day weekend for everyone? What does social class have to do with how Thanksgiving is experienced? In this post, Stephanie Medley-Rath explores how not only is Thanksgiving day classed, but how the three days following the holiday are experienced is also shaped by class.

Family All Together At Holiday Dinner

How holidays are experienced is class-based. Shamus Khan articulated this point with regards to Thanksgiving in a recent Time article. Khan’s focus is on the popular trend this Thanksgiving of stores opening on Thanksgiving day rather than waiting until Black Friday.

Most would agree that at least some people working in essential jobs (e.g., emergency room doctors or police) should work on Thanksgiving. There are more questions, however, when it comes to whether people working in non-essential jobs (e.g., retail) should work on Thanksgiving.

One consideration left out of this debate is that a class-based experience of Thanksgiving extends beyond whether or not you have to work in a non-essential service job on Thanksgiving day. It extends to the entire four-day weekend….

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Socialization & The Advantage of Being a 2nd Generation Student

First-generation college students (i.e. students whose parents did not graduate from college) have lower graduation rates than second-generation college students. In this post, Stephanie Medley-Rath explains the ways in which having college-educated parents influenced her own college experience and success.

First-generation college students (i.e. students whose parents did not graduate from college) are at higher risk of not completing college compared to students who have parents who completed college. Consider these statistics reported in USA Today:

Nationally, 89% of low-income first-gen[eration college students] leave college within six years without a degree. More than a quarter leave after their first year — four times the dropout rate of higher-income second-generation students.

What is going on here?

First-generation college students face obstacles that non-first-generation college students do not face, while non-first-generation college students typically fail to recognize the advantages they have as college students. I’m a third-generation college graduate. Besides a statistically likely income advantage compared to first-generation college students, I can think of specific examples of how the fact that my parents’ (and my grandma) graduated college helped me succeed in college. They used their experiences to socialize me towards college success.

My parents told stories about college….

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Can Women “Have It All”?

Can “women have it all”? That is, can women have a family and a high power job? In a recent Atlantic cover story Anne Marie Slaughter argues that it’s impossible. A few days after it’s publication we learned that Marissa Mayer would leave Google and become the CEO of Yahoo. Which is news worthy in it’s own right, only 20 women serve as CEO in all of the Fortune 500 companies, but the Internet was a buzz after the announcement because she’s…. wait for it… pregnant. In this piece Nathan Palmer will explore the barriers women and mothers face in the modern economy and also ask, “why do women have to be mothers to ‘have it all’?”

Marissa Mayer, CEO Yahoo
Marissa Mayer, CEO Yahoo

At 37 years-old Marissa Mayer is the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500[1. The Fortune 500 is a list of publicly traded companies that are ranked by annual gross revenue by Fortune magazine. In other words, these are arguably the 500 most important publicly traded companies] company. However, not only is she the youngest CEO she is one of only 20 women CEOs on all of the Fortune 500. Let’s pause for a second, that means while women represent 51% of the population they represent only 4% of the top leadership of the corporate world. What’s going on here? Why aren’t more women making it to the top of the corporate ladder?

While there are many factors that can help explain why women are better represented at the top including discrimination in promotion, discrimination in hiring and job placement, etc. I’d like to explore the gendered expectations within heterosexual families. Women, more than men, are expected to be the primary care givers for children and aging parents. Heck, some of you reading this might argue that women are “naturally better parents”[2. This, of course, is a gender stereotype that is not supported by science and one that hurts both women and men.]. The responsibility for parenting is disproportionately placed on women and because of it they are less able to promote their careers by taking high-power high-demand opportunies and more likely to take time off from their career for family reasons. One study that looked at people in highly competitive jobs found that nearly half of the women took time away from the ultra-demanding jobs, while only 12% of men did (Hewlett 2010; Hewlett & Luce 2005). When these women return to the highly-competitive career track they are often years behind the men who never left. What’s worse is, even when women don’t have children they still face the stereotypes that women aren’t reliable enough for high-power high-demand jobs.

Feminists, among others, have long argued that women should be able to reach their career dreams while also having the family they want. Society affords men this luxury, so why should women not be able to have both?…

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Home Ownership is For Everyone

Stainless steel appliances. Granite counter tops. “Man-caves.” What’s not to love? In this post, Stephanie Medley-Rath explains how fake or not, house hunting shows illustrate persistent class, race, and gender inequality in society.

Anyone who watches House Hunters for any length of time begins to notice clear patterns of desirable traits a home “should” have. Home buyers express strong desires for stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, “man-caves,” and a yard for the dog.

Like many other viewers, I held out hope that the show really was real and not like those other reality shows that are often scripted and heavily edited. Recent headlines suggest the show is at least partially faked. In hindsight, my inability to pick up on this fakery seems silly when considering the patterns of what home-buyers want emerge. Every home buyer can not be that narrowly-focused on stainless steel appliances and granite countertops.

While other observers have written about the conformity evident in house-hunting shows, inequality can also be observed in these shows. In particular, class, race, and gender inequality are quite evident in the content of house hunting shows….

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What Exactly Makes Merida “Brave”?

Why do people get married? Love, right? Maybe not. In this post, Stephanie Medley-Rath explains how there are many reasons for marriage as illustrated in the film, Brave.

Brave Poster

Pixar finally released a film starring a female lead!

In the Pixar movie Brave, which opened last week,the heroine is a young woman named Merida who is, of course, a princess. I’m actually not sure why Merida is even a princess except that the story is set it in medieval Scotland (and now she can be added to the Disney princess line-up and not be relegated to the sidelines like Mulan).

Much has already been written about Brave as yet another princess movie with untapped potential of actually crushing gender stereotypes. At least she doesn’t wear pink or long for prince charming or need rescued by prince charming, so there was some deviation from the princess trope.

In the end, (SPOILERS!) Merida rescues her mom and herself rather than needing the rescuing (if you ignore the part where she needs her three younger brothers to help her escape from her room in which her dad locked her).

I saw the film on Friday and instead of rehashing how Brave reinforces gender stereotypes, I am going to focus on the marriage in the film.

The gist of the film is that it is time for Merida to get married. She is to marry one of the princes of the other three clans in order keep the peace among the four clans. She is not interested in marriage and the men presented are, well, dolts. Love is not a prerequisite for this marriage. To find the best prince they hold an archery contest and even then, Merida shows them up as the best archer among them all.

What we see here is an alternative purpose of marriage, that is, marriage for political reasons rather than for love….

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Everything I Learned About Stereotypes I Learned on Facebook

Has your Facebook feed been overrun with witty & cute kittens? In this post, Stephanie Medley-Rath explores how Internet memes can teach us about stereotypes.

Internet memes are all over my Facebook newsfeed these days. Most of these memes are at least slightly funny. They include witty and cute kittens. They sure beat the “I’m so tired” and “Monday again” status updates.

One recent meme is a series of six photos representing various people’s perspectives on what people think I do for a living (e.g., a teacher, a scientist, a stay at home mom). Though quite humorous and relatable, this meme provides examples of how different types of people are stereotyped.  A stereotype is an oversimplified set of beliefs about a group.

The six perspectives portrayed are: what my friends think I do, what my mom think I do, what I think I do, what society thinks I do, what clients/boss/kids think I do, and what I actually do. An example:

See more examples at Know Your Meme….

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Congrats! You’re Sort-of-Pregnant

Have you ever heard a woman say, “she just knew” when she was pregnant, well she was wrong. According to a new Arizona Law, pregnancy occurs two weeks before conception. In this post, Stephanie Medley-Rath discusses how this redefinition affects women and what it means for the social construction of pregnancy.

Did you know you can be sort-of-pregnant?

Pregnancy Test with Question Marks

Arizona’s House and Senate have passed a bill that redefines pregnancy as occurring two weeks before conception.

No longer are women simply pregnant or not. This law frames women as in a constant sort-of-pregnant state. If women are always sort-of-pregnant, then should we all expect they “behave as pregnant women should” just to be safe?…

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Boys vs. Girls, Tornadoes vs. Vanilla Beans

Ever wish you could shelter your kids from everything you disagree with in the world? We all have something we would rather not deal with as parents. In this post, Sarah Nell shows how the “battle of the sexes” begins in childhood at a seemingly neutral place: summer camp. 

This past summer, my six-year old daughter attended a large summer day camp. They had a different theme each week: sports weeks where the kids wore their favorite team gear, Christmas in July week, and pirate week, to name a few. To accompany the various themes, each group was given a clever, theme-related name. As I scanned the summer schedule, I became troubled, dreading late July. The theme was “Boys vs. Girls.” I don’t know what bothered me more, the binary distinction deemed significant or the competition implied by the “vs.” The mother in me tried to squash the feminist-sociologist in me, despite my commitment to feminist parenting.

Girl and Boy Standing Back to Back

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