Sociology Focus

Socially Constructing Drug Users, Dealers, and Convicts

What would you say if I told you that we socially construct what we think of as a criminal? By that I mean as a society we pick and choose what actions to call crimes and which people to prosecute for those actions. Sounds like some highfalutin sociology mumbo jumbo, right? Well, in this post Nathan Palmer uses the “War on Drugs” to show us how “the criminal” is socially constructed.

Illegal Drugs

Stop reading this for one second and imagine a drug deal between two people you’ve never met before. What did the buyer look like? What did the seller look like? Where did the transaction take place? Got it? Good.

So, in the situation you imagined did the drug buyer know the drug dealer personally or where they strangers? Was the dealer a different race than the buyer? What about class, was one of them rich and the other less so?

If you don’t have first hand experience with drug deals, where did you get the ideas and imagery that popped into your imagination? For many of us, we glean what little we know about drug dealing from the news media and from Hollywood.

Turn on the TV and drug deals look like this: A car full of bratty spoiled white kids roll through an inner city neighborhood where African American men stand on nearly every corner drugs in hand. The car stops, a dealer leans to the passenger window, and then drugs and money exchange hands. But is this cliche reality?

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DRC Death Toll Exceeds 5 Million & Almost No News Coverage?

In the past few weeks, conflict between Israel and Palestinians in Gaza has received extensive attention in western media, and understandably so. The death toll among Israelis stands at 6 and Palestinians a staggering 160, not to mention the number of injuries and damage of infrastructure. In a bit of a surprise, left-leaning western media has also given a smidgen of attention to ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – a colossal conflict that has been happening since 1998. In this post, David Mayeda reviews Virgil Hawkins’s concept of “stealth conflicts,” which refers to those conflicts happening across the globe that are massive in scope but receive virtually no attention from mainstream media, academia, government, or the general public.

If someone were to ask you what has been the biggest global conflict of the past decade, what would you say? The war in Iraq, in Afghanistan, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, the civil war in Syria? None of those responses would be surprising given the amount of attention those conflicts receive from mainstream media. In fact, those are and have been serious conflicts. But what about any conflicts in parts of Africa? Could you even name one?

The reality is, the biggest conflict that our world has seen since World War II revolves around a country in central Africa called the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The conflict is an offshoot of sorts from the 1994 Rwandan genocide, though the violence raging across and around the DRC has festered into its own world war involving a total of nine African countries. Just how big is the conflict in and around the DRC? Since 1998, over FIVE MILLION people have died, many directly at the hands of soldiers and the use of small arms (i.e., guns, machetes). However, far more have died from being rendered internally displaced persons, meaning they have been forced to flee their homes and thus are heavily susceptible to death via disease and malnutrition. Continue reading

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FLIES HAVING SEX: Normalizing Heterosex

You’re only reading this because you saw the fly sex. You know why? We’re obsessed with sex. It’s everywhere. But, at the same time, we never TALK about it. In this post, Bridget Welch explores how this combination of obsession with lack of discussion (re)defines what is acceptable sexual behavior.

You’ve heard it. Sex sells.

Television. Movies. Video games. T-shirts. Music. Books. Even winning toddler beauty contests. Sex is omnipresent. It even fills out our political soap operas. Most recently is the case of retired four-star General David Petraeus who resigned from his position as director of the CIA because of an extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell, his biographer.

In the past two years, Petraues is not the only one to provide us titillating scandals in the political arena. Remember Anthony Weiner’s weiner? Hiking the Appalachian Trial? The shirtless representative? The affair of the purity pledger? Eric Massa tickling his staffers (he is also the man who redefined snorkeling for a whole generation)? And many many more – including an excellent case of $52,000 being spent at a strip club by the Republican National Committee.

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Heh heh… She said PROBE.

We gasp in horror as we hear the steamy details. Wait a second… A man sending a shirtless picture is steamy? I hope your sex-life (even if it’s solo) is steamier then that. And yet, he resigned in shame from the U.S. House. Why? Continue reading

Choosing The Sociological Imagination

The journey of studying sociology always begins with the concept of the “sociological imagination”, a term coined by C. Wright Mills. This concept is challenging when it is first presented, but by using the film, The Matrix, Kim Cochran Kiesewetter explores the concept of developing a sociological imagination and the decision all students must make in a sociology class at some point during the semester: do you take the red pill or the blue one?

The camera pans across the dark, dank-looking room where two men sit, facing each other, after pacing pointedly around the space. The man in the dark sunglasses, Morpheus, is talking in a deep, calm voice to Neo, “…Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I am talking about?” Neo does, indeed, know of this feeling that Morpheus speaks of.

Morpheus then presents a question as he holds out two pills to Neo – one red, one blue. “This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”

The Sociological Imagination: What Is It?

The Matrix came out long before I even knew what sociology was, but I remember watching it again in college at some point and being struck by the whole movie in relation to the sociological imagination. The sociological imagination is a fancy term for the ability to connect and individual to their larger social institutions that invisibly influence their behaviors and opportunities. So many of us experience our own personal life story as something we are totally in control of and solely responsible for, but this is not the whole story. Throughout your entire life your individual actions and choices were heavily influenced by the people and institutions around you.

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When the President Cries Are They Freedom Tears?

Last week President Obama cried before and after he won re-election on Tuesday. That’s not remarkable, but the fact that the news media generally didn’t make a big deal out of it is. In this article Nathan Palmer explorers how traditional/stereotypical masculinity can be nearly unachievable and asks us to think about what impact the President’s tears may have on this narrowly defined version of masculinity.

Sociologist Michael Kimmel thinks that masculinity is homophobic to it’s core. At least that’s what he argues in the article The Rules of Masculinity. To be clear, he is not arguing that all men are homophobic, but that masculinity is defined by it’s opposition to femininity. To be the stereotype of a manly masculine man you have to destroy every spec of femininity within you. There’s no room for any “sissy stuff” among “real men”. Kimmel’s argument is not that men are all homophobic, but that masculinity is defined by it’s fear and hatred of male expressions of femininity.

“But wait,” you may be asking, “isn’t femininity defined by it’s opposition to masculinity?” Yes, it is, but not to the same degree. For instance, a little girl who “likes boy stuff” or displays masculine traits is often called a tomboy. Often when a little girl is called a tomboy it is not intended to be taken as offensive nor is it received as offensive[1]. However, can you think of a scenario where a parent wouldn’t take offense to calling their little boy a sissy? To be masculine is to be free of femininity, but you can still be feminine and display masculine characteristics.

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The iPhone, Planned Obsolescence, and the Environment

What kind of cell phone do you have? Is it the latest and greatest smart phone? How about your TV? Did you upgrade from a plasma to LCD, then to LED? How about your laptop, tablet, ipod, and nook? Are they the lightest, thinnest, and most advanced out there? Our technology is changing faster than even most of us can keep up with, and definitely faster than Mother Nature would like. In this post, Mediha Din explores the significant impact technology has on the environment.

A Collection of iPhones

My Brother’s Collection of iPhones

My brother had a sparkle in his eye while he was opening up the package to his new iPhone 5. Almost all the men in my family work in the technology industry, so I’ve listened to them discuss that dang phone for months now. My brother was among the first to receive it. Does he need it? Doubtful. He already has the iPhone 4s. I remember not too long ago rolling my eyes as he made countless requests to Siri, only to hear “I’m sorry, I’m afraid I can’t answer that” over and over.

I watch as he takes the new iPhone5 out of the box and marvels at all of the changes. The changes that will help everyone else know that he has upgraded. It is a little longer, a little lighter, and the case is clearly different on the back side. I can already see him in my mind walking around with it as everyone takes notice. “Is that the new iPhone? Can I see it?” someone is sure to ask him.

To my brother, and Apple’s advertisers, this phone is a revolutionary upgrade. Never mind that the phone will require my brother to buy all new power cables, docks, speakers, adapters and car chargers because it has a different style of plug in at the bottom of the device than last year’s model. Never mind that his phone won’t fit in his old phone case and he’ll have to replace that. It’s funny how one new purchase leads to a cascade of consumerism.

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What You Said Was Racist, But You’re Not Evil

“You’re racist!” That’s the common reaction when someone says or does something that is offensive that is racially motivated. While there is nothing wrong with calling someone out when they do something offensive, there is something interesting that happens when you call someone a racist. They are likely to hear you saying, “you’re an evil person.” Are you confused? Well, in this post Nathan Palmer will explain all of this by talking about the dichotomization of racism.

I got a call on the day after Barack Obama was elected president in 2008 from a close family friend. She was a vocal supporter of Obama who had raised money, volunteered for the campaign, and even went door-to-door to encourage people to vote for Obama. When I answered my phone she just started talking; there was no, “Hi Nate it’s [so and so], how’s it going this morning.” Nope, she just started in with the first half of a racist Obama joke. “What?!?” I blurted in hopes of silencing her. But it didn’t work, she finished the joke. “Well that’s racist why would you say that?” I said flatly. Before I finished my sentence she was yelling. “Oh, I’m a racist? Really? Really? I paid in blood, sweat, and tears to get the first black man elected president, but I’m a racist? Really? Go to hell!” The phone went silent. Her words reverberated in my ears.

Barack Obama Campaigning

It wasn’t until I learned about an idea I call “The Dichotomization of Racism[1]” that I came to understand why this family friend blew up on me after I told her she said something racist. In the United States we conceptualize racism as an either or proposition. That is, you either are a racist or you are not[2]. When we split racism up this way then it’s easy to see how there are “good” people who aren’t racist and “evil” people who are. So when I told my family friend that what she said was racist, she probably freaked out because she heard me saying, “you’re an evil person”.

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