Sociology Focus

The Sick Role Conflict

What are the norms of sickness? Are their certain expectations of people who are sick compared to those who are healthy? In this post, Stephanie Medley-Rath explains what the sick role can teach us about other aspects of role theory.

Mother Taking Temperature Of Sick Daughter

Talcott Parsons identified the concept of the sick role in 1951. The sick role was developed out of role theory. Though the sick role may be outliving its original usefulness, it still can help illuminate the concepts of roles, role conflict, and role strain. Let me explain these concepts and then we’ll get back to the sick role.

Roles refer to the expectations associated with a particular status. For example, as a college professor, I am expected to come to class on time and teach my subject matter, that is, sociology. I am not expected to walk in late or not show up at all, nor am I expected to be able to answer questions related to physics.

Role conflict occurs when the expectations of different roles conflict with one another. For example, a working mother with a sick child. The expectations of the worker is that they go to work. The expectations of the mother is to care for the sick child. The expectations of the worker role and the the expectations of the mother of a sick child role conflict with one another. What is a working mother with a sick child to do? (Of course, someone else could take care of the sick child. But the reality, is that it often falls on the mother.) Continue reading

College Sports & Female Objectification

Within numerous American universities, and likely the world, athletic departments and teams are a major force. In many cases, athletic teams bring universities millions of dollars. Stellar teams and individual athletes also bring universities high social status, serving as recruitment tools for future students – athletes and non-athletes alike. In addition to being an economic force and even behind four decades of institutionalized gender equity efforts, university athletic departments still emit heavy patriarchal values. In this post, David Mayeda examines the role objectification played in the recent recruiting of Andrew Wiggins – North America’s top high school male basketball player.

Florida State University’s (FSU) basketball team probably doesn’t stand much of a chance to contend for a national title this year, as indicated by their recent, lopsided loss to intra-state rival, Florida. Still, FSU appears to be in the running to sign North America’s top high school basketball prospect, Andrew Wiggins, largely because Wiggins’s father attended FSU. So if FSU doesn’t have an elite basketball team this year, how might groups within the university try to entice Wiggins?

As shown over at Yahoo!, female cheerleaders were holding signs for Wiggins that read, “FSU Has Hotter Girls” (presumably “hotter” than “girls” at Kentucky, the other university Wiggins is considering attending). Another group of FSU female students wore shirts that spelled out “We Want Wiggins!” Okay, so what? Isn’t this simply part of normal, fun university life? Well, yes, and that is precisely the problem. Here at SIF, we’ve discussed how sexual objectification infiltrates sports media in the past. In this case, we see a major American university perpetuating and trivializing the practice.

Recall, sexual objectification happens when people (most often women or girls) are rendered inanimate objects, void of emotion, feelings, intelligence, and valued only for their sexual accessibility to men. There are a number of strategies taken that can contribute to sexual objectification, including cases where “image[s] suggest that sexual availability is the defining characteristic of the person” (see here for an excellent overview). In the case with FSU and its attempts to lure Wiggins, the female students holding signs represent an alleged widely available range of attractive FSU female students, their supposed primary characteristic being a willingness for Wiggins’s sexual indulgence. Continue reading

Posted by David Mayeda

Sampling Pinterest

The criticisms of Pinterest can teach us about the importance of sampling. In this post, Stephanie Medley-Rath explores how random sampling and convenience sampling contribute to our understanding of what Pinterest is really about.

I have had a Pinterest account for about a year and a half. When I initially received my invitation, I began following a lot of people in the scrapbooking community that I did not actually know in real life. None of my friends in real life were on Pinterest. Over the last year, that has changed. I now follow the boards of not only complete strangers (wow, that sounds really creepy), but also the boards of people I know in real life (still sounds kind of creepy).

So who cares who I follow on Pinterest? Who you follow on any social network site shapes what you see in your feed on that site and your impressions of the site. For the first few months I was on Pinterest, it was a wonderful place to spend waste time because most of what appeared in my feed included crafty projects, color combinations, and scrapbook pages-all the things I really wanted to see and browse. Now my feed includes these items, plus fat-shaming imagery, homeschooling curricula, beautifully designed infographics, and sociologically-focused images (see Sociological Images or The Sociological Cinema). My feed changed as the type of people I followed expanded to more diverse groups using pinterest for different reasons. I went from following mostly people who were heavily involved in scrapbooking and other crafts, to people with a much wider range of interests. Continue reading

Contemporary Slavery: Thailand’s Matrix of Domination

As has been covered numerous times here in SIF, gender is a social construct ascribed to both males and females. Patricia Hill Collins (1990) argues further that gender operates along side multiple social constructs (race, class, nationality, sexuality) that are enmeshed in a “matrix of domination.” Within this matrix, uneven opportunity structures emerge for individuals who fall into these socially constructed groups. In this post, David Mayeda closes out his series on contemporary slavery by applying Collins’s matrix of domination to a type of work in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where adolescent males and young men are manipulated into commercial sexual exploitation.

Under what circumstances, if any, should a person be bought?

On the third night of our anti-slavery tour in Thailand, our group was being led through one of Bangkok’s red light districts. In this environment, sex was not the only thing being sold on the cheap. Tourists could cheaply purchase all kind of things – clothes, weapons, luggage, electronics. Though this was a work trip, the one leisure item I wanted to purchase was a pair of focus mitts for kickboxing. Some popped into my vision and I checked them out. Within a minute, the salesperson dropped his price from 2500 to 1000 baht (about $32 USD).

At that moment, the situation’s realness hit me, and I had a rather uninsightful but powerful reminder of why I was on this trip – to problematize the commodification of human life. We are all commodified to some degree. If you’ve held a job, you and your work skills were commodified as labor. But what if you were the object being commodified, if your body was being sold and your choice to be sold for someone else’s pleasure was minimized, even erased? This is the reality that characterizes sex workers’ lives across the world.

Getting a foot massage (or anything else) on the cheap is made possible by global inequality.

Similar to other countries, Thailand’s commercial sex industry preys on the young and vulnerable. Most of those exploited are young women who might exert elements of choice when working in this environment, though “choice” is minimized by poverty, familial and cultural expectations tied to gender and birth order, and limited employment options. Within this matrix of domination, other women are fully controlled as sex slaves, given literally no choice. This industry also victimizes young men and adolescent boys whose choices are manipulated.

Illustrating that males and females can both be feminized (or masculinized), “boy bars” exist catering to wealthier men from predominantly western countries. The males who work in these bars are typically heterosexual but play a more effeminate role to improve their chances of attracting foreign men who pay for their sexual services. In this context, the Asian males, like their female counterparts in the commercial sex industry, are a commodified form of erotica for the privileged western male consumers (see hooks, 1992). Continue reading

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. Continue reading