Despite our gushy Hallmark cards, floral arrangements, macaroni necklaces, and brunch celebrating mothers, U.S. social policies regarding mothers continue to be dismal. In this post, Stephanie Medley-Rath explores some of the ways in which mothers in particular are penalized for “choosing” motherhood & the role social structure plays in the “choice” of parenthood.
In the United States, motherhood (and parenthood) is viewed as a choice. Parenthood as a choice is a good thing in that it has decreased the stigma placed on the childless and childfree. The downside of choice-based parenthood is that it leaves society off the hook for supporting people who choose parenthood. While we have expanded support for families through the addition of workplace protections for breastfeeding mothers, our social policies remain lacking.
Let’s look at some of the social policies directed at families. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) turns 20-years-old this year. This means that for many of today’s traditional-aged college student, their parents were the first to have job protected leave to care for a newborn.
Many? Why not all? FMLA only covers employees who have been employed with their company for at least a year and work in companies with 50 or more employees. This means if your parent(s) worked in a company with 49 employees or worked there less than a year, then they would not have qualified. Continue reading
Sociologists have long argued that gender is more of a social performance than a biological fact. Many students find this idea challenging because they have up until a sociology class felt their gender identity was just, “natural”. In this post, Sarah Michele Ford uses two models to illustrate the performance qualities of gender.
Take a look at this model. Now take a look at this model.1
So what do we notice? They’re both 6’2″ tall. They both have cheekbones that could, as the saying goes, cut glass. And they are both models.
You probably assumed that the first model is female and the second model is male.
You assumed wrong.
The first model is Andrej Pejic, who models both mens- and womenswear. The second model is Casey Legler, who exclusively models menswear. Andrej is male and Casey is female.
In society we often associate a particular gender with a particular biological sex. In the United States we often connect masculinity to males and femininity to females, but this connection is socially constructed (not to mention that both femininity and masculinity are socially constructed as well). In the case of these two models, each performs a gender that is not inline with what society commonly expects from males and females.
So what’s going on here? Continue reading
Last Monday Jason Collins became the first active male athlete in American team sports to come out as a gay man. On the same day, MTV announced that it was launching a show called Guy Court where men who violated the “guy code” would be punished. In this piece Nathan Palmer explains how these two events are connected by homophobia and discusses the sociological concept of gender policing.
Last Monday Jason Collins published an essay in Sports Illustrated that announced to the world that he was a gay man. This was noteworthy because Collins was the first active male athlete in the big four of American male team sports (i.e. football, baseball, basketball, hockey) to come out. Collins is by no means the first athlete to come out. Many other athletes have come out. In fact, a couple of days before Collins’s announcement Brittney Griner signed an endorsement with Nike to become the first out-and-proud athlete to do so with the company. All that said, it was a big deal. It took a lot of courage on his part.
So the question we should be asking as sociologists is, why? Why was it such a tough decision? Why did it take so long for any active male athlete in major American team sports to come out? The answer is obvious: homophobia, prejudice, and discrimination.
The other question we should be asking is, what does Collins coming out mean for the prevalence of homophobia in the United States? Many commentators on the cable news channels have argued that Collins’s announcement along with the pro-marriage equality victories during the last election cycle signal that open bigotry toward the LGBT community is on a rapid decline. So are they right? Are we about to enter a whole new era of acceptance, respect, and equality? To answer that question, we first need to explore the deep connection between masculinity and homophobia.
Masculinity, especially in the United States is often defined by it’s opposition to femininity. This is the main argument that Sociologist Michael Kimmel makes in his essay, Masculinity as Homophobia. That is, to be a “real man” is to avoid being feminine in any way. If it’s feminine to cry, show fear, or care about the way you look, then any man who does that is seen as “unmanly” and likely to have their “man card” pulled. All of this results in narrowing the definition of masculinity. Put another way, we create this ever shrinking box that all men are expected to conform to or they’ll be punished. Continue reading