Sociology Focus

Screaming in the Streets: Causes and Costs of Emotional Deviance

From cursing at the cradle to pulling your hair out in the streets, Bridget Welch explores the consequences and causes of emotional deviance.

Paint yourself a picture in your mind. Late at night she sits clasping her child to her chest, slowly rocking him to sleep with one small lamp lighting the room from the corner. When you paint this picture, what facial expression do you give her? A soft smile and calm visage? I look of pure idolization and delight? Or perchance did you brush in tear tracks and a grimace. Was her mouth open to scream, “WHAT!?! WHAT DO YOU WANT?!? GO TO SLEEP ALREADY!” There is a reason that Samuel L. Jackson narrated the story Go the FU*K to Sleep (not safe for work, as you can probably tell by the title)a book that any parent with a sense of humor has looked at or, like me, now owns.

Or you have this:

Not exactly the picture of the happy bride we all have in our heads. But as we laugh at these scenes or are shocked by the idea that parents may really want to tell their precious little bundles just to “Lay the F down already, you cute little monster!”, a sociological question emerges. What happens when the emotions we feel are quite different then those that society expects of us? Continue reading

Oscars: Stuff White Guys Like

A recent report finds that the Oscars are awarded by a group that is nearly all male and predominantly white. But does that mean that the Oscars have an obvious race and gender bias? In this piece Nathan Palmer answers this question by exploring social locations and how they affect our worldview.

Did you watch the Oscars last night? I didn’t either. Ratings for the broadcast are down and each year they seem to drop lower and lower. Are the oscars out of touch with the general public? Last night The Artist took home best picture, a silent black and white film that very few Americans saw. While we can debate all day about what films the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences picks, as a sociologist I’m more concerned with who is selecting these films in the first place.

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A recent L.A. Times report estimates that the members of the Academy are 94% white and 77% male. Perhaps we should rename the show, Stuff White Dudes Like. But wait, am I being racist/sexist by assuming that white dudes automatically have a race or gender bias? Well before we can answer that question we’ll need to talk about social locations and how they affect our worldviews. Continue reading

Laughing at Death and Other Clichés

Have you ever laughed at a funeral? Or bawled hysterically at a wedding? Ever been so nervous you vomited at a performance… on stage? In this post, Bridget Welch explores social rules for emotions and how they differ based on your placement in the social structure.

“Here. Hide this.”

I stare dumbly at the gum wrapper he’s trying to give me. In my head, my sense of self-control commands me, “Don’t say it. Don’t say it. Don’t you dare say it.”

We are standing in a wood paneled room, the carpet is some deep wine color with a sickening paisley print, the people around us talking in a low murmur. Some place at the front of a room – a place I studiously avoided looking – was the reason we were all there – the reason that I was so fiercely trying to bite my tongue. Up front the young man’s father was presiding over our little tableau from the best seat in the house – his casket.

“Don’t say it. Don’t you do it,” I repeated to myself as the urge to blurt it out nearly overcame me. For those of you like me with a sickly sweet dark humor that at best is misunderstood and at worst gets me in trouble, you may already know. My initial reaction to the bereaved’s request? “Oh sure. I’ll just stick it down the casket. No one will find it there.”

To call that reaction inappropriate may be something of an understatement. To make a joke, to laugh at a funeral, while possibly understandable to some of you as a way to handle tension – is what we sociologists like to call emotionally deviant. Continue reading

Posted by Bridget Welch under

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”. Continue reading

Posted by David Mayeda under

A Sociologist Watches TV: Glee and the “Asian F”

We all know Asian Americans get A’s and are awesome at science. Or do we? In this post, Bridget Welch explores the model minority myth and the effect it has on Asian Americans and the rest of society.

Mike got an A- on a chemistry exam (which is an “Asian F”) and his dad told him that he had to leave the Glee club… and his girlfriend Tina. Tensions between the football team and the glee club explode, resulting in a whole bunch of dancing zombies. Mercedes and Sam share some “Summer Loving.” Santana sings “I Kissed a Girl” while flirting with Brittany, and that’s what you missed on Glee!

There is so much sociology in that one paragraph I hardly know where to start. So let’s start at the start. With the “Asian F”.

Every semester I ask students to turn in a joke for extra credit (any joke that they want). One that frequently shows is:

The “Asian Grading System”:

  • 99.5-100: A+
  • 99.3-99.4: A
  • 99.0-99.2: A-
  • 98.9: B+
  • 98.5-98.8: B
  • 98.0-98.4: B-
  • <98.0: F

None of this is likely to you surprise you; it may offend you, but it probably won’t surprise. We all know the stereotypes that say “Asians are super smart math whizzes who are great a computers, and possibly Kung Fu”. Continue reading

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? Continue reading

Posted by David Mayeda under

Hegemony: The Haves and “Soon To Haves”

Hegemony is a big word for a fairly simple idea. When socially powerful people use their influence to convince less powerful people it is in their best interest to do what is actually in the most powerful people’s best interest, that’s hegemony. If you had a younger brother or sister, then chances are you’ve been hegemonic before. In this piece Nathan Palmer discusses how hegemony is used to get his daughter to bed and to justify the growing economic inequality in the United States.

Child in Pajamas Arms Folded

My 3 year old daughter doesn’t want to go to bed, ever. I used to fight with her, but I found my feeble reserve of late day energy no match for her inexhaustible reserves of protest anger (she takes a mid-day nap- it’s not a fair fight). I have power and authority over her. I am 10 times her size. My mastery of basic intellectual skills pwns her 3 year old set. And yet I’m reduced to begging her and/or God for the mercy of sleep.

We’ve been focusing a lot on power and control here on SociologyInFocus, but it’s an election year, so this is to be expected. There are a lot of ways to control/dominate people, but not all of them are as painless or as sinister as hegemony.

Hegemony is the opposite of coercion. Whereas coercion uses force or intimidation to get folks to do what you want, hegemony is the act of convincing another that it is in their best interest to do what you want them to do. Tom Sawyer famously convinced his friends that painting a fence was “so much fun” that they begged him to let them do Sawyer’s work for him. Sawyer was a hegemonic mastermind.

Let’s go back to my daughter. I have authority, size, and power over her, but using coercion goes against my values and against the laws of my state. So I busted out my hegemony skills.

Continue reading

The Beer Commercials Guide to Manhood

Last night watching the Super Bowl commercials, I learned a lot about what it means to be a man?  Watching beer commercials, one would assume that manhood is defined by strict do’s and don’ts.  In this piece, Alexa Megna illustrates how the boundaries of masculinity are narrowly defined and reinforced in beer commercials. 

I learn everything I need to know about men from beer commercials, so last night’s Super Bowl ads were very informative.  I turned on the TV last night, sat down with an frosty beer, and learned all about you fellas.  Beer commercials are, quite simply, a “how to” manual for masculinity.  Not only are they often played during sporting events that, of course, all men watch (duh), but they are also glamorized in popular culture for being witty, funny, and catchy (Now I know we all remember that Budweiser frog commercial: Bud….Weise….Er).  Here are a just few things that beer commercials have taught me:

What I learned about masculinity from dudes in beer commercials:

  • Men who are married or in relationships are a complete drag.  The ball and chain is always complaining about how you are always doing everything wrong…blah, blah, blah.
  • Men who cry when their girlfriends go away for a weekend are wimps
  • Men do not scream “like a girl” on a scary rollercoaster ride.  If they do, their friend’s make mocking t-shirts with his screaming face and wear them to bars.
  • “Real men” aren’t friends with “chicks” unless they have some tasty beers.
  • Men who are grossed out by fish are wusses.
  • Men always up to something relatively stupid.  Often you find them quietly passing gas in an elevator just for fun.
  • Men have to watch sports with other men.  Men defiantly do not enjoy wine & cheese parties.

As you can see, these actual beer commercials perfectly illustrate to viewers (albeit a little ironically) how men should act, what they should buy, and whom they should find sexually attractive.  They show what a real man looks like and what happens when a man doesn’t live up to these expectations (which often involves mockery and laughter at the man’s expense).  These commercials portray manhood in the most stereotypical way, limiting our ideas of what a man should be. Continue reading

Posted by Alexa Megna

Giving the Finger: Authority, Legitimacy, and Race

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer was recently caught on film pointing angrily into Obama’s face. When we look at this incident and the numerous like it we can see a pattern. In this post, Bridget Welch connects the dots between these incidents to show how racism has been utilized to attack President Obama’s authority. 

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Last week a photo of Arizona Govenor Jan Brewer pointing her finger in President Barack Obama’s face made it into the news. Many people who saw the video asked as anchor Martin Bashir did, “Is this how we are supposed to treat the president?” Continue reading