Sociology Focus

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 5001 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. 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? Continue reading

A Sociologist Hoots at the Movies: Magic Mike Edition

Magic Mike, the summer blockbuster that promised to objectify men, didn’t so much deliver. In this post, Bridget Welch talks about how a show about male strippers focused on how they get pleasure from women. 

Magic Mike Movie Poster

I must admit, watching men pretend that umbrellas are long additions to their phalluses is not something I find so sexy. But nicely sculpted gyrating man abs? Sign me up. And so when invited by a colleague to go drool at the screen, I happily left my husband to put the kid to bed and was out the door.

I actually had no idea what the movie was about. As in, did it actually have any kind of plot? Who has two thumbs and doesn’t care? This female sociologist here.

As someone who cares deeply about social justice and who wants to fight inequality anywhere and everywhere, perhaps I shouldn’t have gone to a film whose sole purpose seemed to be to objectify men. Objectification, as written about earlier by David Mayeda, is the treating of a person as less than human — as an object. While there are many ways of objectifying (see a list here), Magic Mike promised that some sexy men would be reduced solely to their bodies for the audience’s pleasure.

As a woman in American society where I repeatedly see image after image after image of female objectification, I was curious to see how the tables could be turned. So it was with some anticipation that I sank down in my front-row center seat with my Twizzlers for the dancing to begin.

SPOILER ALERT: men get partially naked in Magic Mike while women reveal more.

For about 5 seconds, I thought the movie would deliver. Opening Scene: Channing Tatum (aka “Magic Mike”), butt shot! The almost entirely female audience started catcalling, me included. Continue reading

Sociology At A Baseball Game Part 1: Race Matters

What’s sociological about baseball? In this post, Stephanie Medley-Rath explores how racial stratification and segregation can be observed in the stands at a baseball game.

At the end of June, I attended a baseball game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Sadly, the Cardinals lost the game, but that is not going to stop me from sharing with you some my sociological observations at the ballpark. This is part one of a three part series. In this first installment, I am going to talk to you about racial stratification and segregation at the ballpark. Keep in mind, that this discussion is focused only on the fans in the stands and not about who is on the field.

The racial stratification and segregation at baseball games held in St. Louis is striking. (I’m not saying that St. Louis is unique, it is just the case I am most familiar with and am using.) By stratification, sociologists mean inequality. Be segregation, sociologists mean that different social groups (in this case, racial, but could be talking about gender, age, and so on) are separated in daily life (e.g., housing, school, or work).

To understand why race appears as it does at Busch Stadium, I visited the U.S. Census to learn the racial demographics of the city of St. Louis. Continue reading

The DSM-IV & The Medicalization of Behavior

The American Psychological Association is revising the DSM-IV. In this post, Stephanie Medley-Rath explores why changes to the DSM-IV are of interest to sociologists.

Grieving Woman

The American Psychological Association is revising the DSM-IV (Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). The DSM-IV is the manual psychologists (and other medical professionals) use to diagnose mental disorders. This manual provides the parameters for distinguishing unproblematic sadness from problematic depression.

If a condition is listed as a mental illness in the DSM, then an insurance company is more likely to cover some of the treatment costs. The government may use the manual to determine if an individual should qualify for government services. For example, children may qualify for accommodations in schools due to a diagnosis based on the DSM.

Why might a sociologist be interested in this revision?

As a sociologist, this revision process illuminates the medicalization of human behavior. Continue reading

What’s Logic Got to Do, Got to Do With It?

What’s logic but a second-hand consideration? In this post, Bridget Welch explains that understanding logic should be central to forming opinions, theories, and research methods.

My adorable son, whom I’ve introduced before, is now in the stage where he is fascinated by cause and effect. He turns the light switch off, then flicks it on, smiling like he invented the world when there is light. He plays peek-a-boo over and over and over again just to see the faux-surprise look on my face. Slowly he is learning that causes have consequences.

This is the basis of theorizing. We are interested in creating a set of ideas that explain how, when, and/or why a particular outcome occurs. Generally, what this will consist of is a statement of relationships that take the form of something you may be familiar with … the transitive property.

Remember this from high school? If A = B, and B = C, then A = C? In theory, it is frequently: If A -> B, and B -> C, then A -> C. Take for example this mini theory about Fast & Furious presented by Colbert:

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Let’s bust out some of our critiquing skills to analyze the logic of these politicians and media pundits: Continue reading

Posted by Bridget Welch

Apple: Racial Profiling Against Iranian Customers

How would you feel if store employees asked you your ethnicity before you purchased certain products? What if your ethnicity was used as a marker by store employees to restrict your purchasing power? Wouldn’t that be violating your civil rights? Recently in Atlanta, Georgia, Apple stores have faced criticism for doing just that – refusing to sell computer products to customers of Iranian descent. In this post, David Mayeda explains how Apple is exemplifying clear cut racial profiling. Yes, it still happens in this day and age.

Just a few weeks ago, media sources in Atlanta, Georgia reported on a number of cases in which Iranian customers were outright told by Apple store employees that they would not be sold Apple iPads or iPhones, specifically because they were Iranian (watch this local TV news report). According to Iranian customers, Apple employees identified them as people who should be refused service after overhearing them speak Farsi and subsequently asked them to confirm their ethnic background. Upon confirmation that the customers were of Iranian descent, Apple Store management maintained its stance that the store would not sell iPads or iPhones to those customers.

The Apple Store justified its position by citing official company policies, which state that “exportation, sale, or supply from the U.S. to Iran of any Apple goods is strictly prohibited without authorization of the U.S. government” (see 1:28 of this video). The policy also applies to Cuba and North Korea, though in the case covered, below, customers of Iranian descent (even if they are American citizens) appear to be singled out in actual practice. Continue reading

Posted by David Mayeda

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. Continue reading

The Sociology of MMA: Fight Sport Theatre: Silva vs. Sonnen II

This weekend on July 7, mixed martial arts’ (MMA) most dominant champion, Anderson Silva, will defend his middleweight title against long time nemesis, Chael Sonnen. The fight is a rematch from their first fight, which took place on August 7, 2010, when Sonnen controlled Silva for four and a half rounds, before being submitted by Silva with less than two minutes left in the fifth and final round. Though MMA reflects one of the more physically visceral sports out there, the Silva-Sonnen rivalry is known as much for Sonnen’s brash trash talking, as it is for their first epic encounter in the cage. In this post, David Mayeda examines the hype going into the Silva-Sonnen rematch to illustrate the concept of “fight sport theatre.”

Ask just about any athletic coach what values sport brings to society, and s/he will typically rattle off a number of clichéd responses: “Sport builds character”; “Sport teaches people to bounce back from defeat”; “Sport produces discipline.” Okay, I won’t deny that sport if coached under certain conditions can, and sometimes does teach those values while also enriching our lives. On the other hand, there is no denying that sport is tied intimately to the capitalist market; sport is a form of entertainment with its own set of commodities (namely the athletes) that can be bought, sold, and used for profit-based motives. As John Sewart (1987) writes, “when sport becomes a commodity governed by market principles there is little or no regard for its intrinsic content or form” (p. 172). Like other professional sports, MMA is no doubt governed by market and gendered principles. Continue reading

Posted by David Mayeda under

Glenn Beck Was Right

Not so long ago, my students “ewwwwed” when watching  a documentary that showed two men kissing. Recently, a saw two men kissing on prime time television and have noticed a lack of “ewwws.” In this post, Bridget Welch explores if there is a connection between acceptance of homosexuals and television shows.

If you know me at all (or have read previous posts), likely when you saw the title you did something like the dramatic chipmunk. “They’ve got her at last,” you think. “She’s finally gone over to the other side.”

I must admit. Most times, well perhaps all times, watching Glenn Beck in my house is much like Monday Night Football. I scream corrections at the screen in the vague hope that someone will hear reason and change what is happening. Alas, much like my husband’s attempts to coach the Packers from the couch, it’s all for not.

Recently, while listening to Glenn Beck’s latest rant, I had to admit that he had a point.

He says, “A year ago I was watching the show Glee with my wife and we watched it like this. I mean, it’s horrifying some of the things that they’re teaching high-schoolers. But it’s brilliantly done. It’s brilliantly done. It’s produced brilliantly, its acting is brilliant, cinematography brilliant, all of it. And I said to her at the end of it, this is about a year, year and a half ago: We lose. There is no way to beat that.” Continue reading