Sociology Focus

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

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

What Exactly Makes Merida “Brave”?

Why do people get married? Love, right? Maybe not. In this post, Stephanie Medley-Rath explains how there are many reasons for marriage as illustrated in the film, Brave.

Pixar finally released a film starring a female lead!

In the Pixar movie Brave, which opened last week,the heroine is a young woman named Merida who is, of course, a princess. I’m actually not sure why Merida is even a princess except that the story is set it in medieval Scotland (and now she can be added to the Disney princess line-up and not be relegated to the sidelines like Mulan).

Much has already been written about Brave as yet another princess movie with untapped potential of actually crushing gender stereotypes. At least she doesn’t wear pink or long for prince charming or need rescued by prince charming, so there was some deviation from the princess trope.

In the end, (SPOILERS!) Merida rescues her mom and herself rather than needing the rescuing (if you ignore the part where she needs her three younger brothers to help her escape from her room in which her dad locked her).

I saw the film on Friday and instead of rehashing how Brave reinforces gender stereotypes, I am going to focus on the marriage in the film.

The gist of the film is that it is time for Merida to get married. She is to marry one of the princes of the other three clans in order keep the peace among the four clans. She is not interested in marriage and the men presented are, well, dolts. Love is not a prerequisite for this marriage. To find the best prince they hold an archery contest and even then, Merida shows them up as the best archer among them all.

What we see here is an alternative purpose of marriage, that is, marriage for political reasons rather than for love. Continue reading

The Power of “Vagina”: The Structure and Meaning of Words

Structural symbolic interactionist argue that not only do words have meaning, they also have meaning based on the person who utters them and the historical and structural position of that person in relation to that word. In this post, Bridget Welch explains how this is the case for vaginas everywhere.

Axe wound, muff, bearded clam, fish taco, camel’s toe, beaver, roast beef curtains…[1]

As I write this, there are over 7 billion people in the world. About half of those have a cooch.

Sarah Nell has already written about the horrors of trying to discuss the clitoris. But I’m going to take it one further. Say the one word about a woman’s reproductive system SHALL NOT BE NAMED. You ready for it? Take a deep breath. Go get your security blanket and teddy bear. Here we go:


Say it with me:

Vagina, vagina, vagina, vagina, vagina, vagina, vagina.

Now was that so bad?

The answer is yes if you are Representative Lisa Brown, a democrat in the Michigan House. While debating legislation that would restrict access to abortions, Brown stated: “I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but no means no.”

If that wasn’t enough of a horror for the House to have to deal with, Rep. Barb Byrum muttered the word vasectomy when she was restricted from speaking on her amendment that proposed that proof of a medical emergency and/or risk of death was required before a man could get the above mentioned procedure.

Barred from speaking in the House as punishment for this horrific act of using scientifically correct terminology, you may wonder how the vagina should be referenced in polite discourse. Continue reading

Posted by Bridget Welch

The Writing on the Wall: Stigma vs. Authenticity

Who are you really? Are you brave enough to let the world know? In this post, Bridget Welch explores a core human motivation — to be seen as our authentic selves — and how that is problematic when who you are is stigmatized.

I enjoy using public restrooms. It’s not because I want to listen to others go. Or even because I get to fantasize about all the possible germs I’m getting from the seat. Or even because I like to eavesdrop on strangers’ conversations (cause women like to talk in the bathroom). Okay, I do like to eavesdrop on strangers’ conversations, you overhear the strangest things. The main reason I like to go in public restrooms? The reading material.

Between the jokes scrawled on the walls, above the references to pop culture, perhaps squeezed between a call “to love your body” and curse words, there will be a whole different kind of writing. Something like this:

I took both of these images in a women’s restroom at a large state university. For a much larger selection, see here.

A few of us have already written about one of the primary motivations for human behavior — to be thought well of. This is what is at the core of Goffman’s impression management. It’s why we struggle to maintain correct emotional displays, even when it costs us more than we may want to pay. We want other people to believe that we are competent. That we are good at what we do — at what we are.

But this is not the only motivation for behavior that social psychologists discuss. Among others, we are motivated to been seen as authentic human beings. That means, at times, we want to be recognized for who we truly are. Continue reading

Everything I Learned About Stereotypes I Learned on Facebook

Has your Facebook feed been overrun with witty & cute kittens? In this post, Stephanie Medley-Rath explores how Internet memes can teach us about stereotypes.

Internet memes are all over my Facebook newsfeed these days. Most of these memes are at least slightly funny. They include witty and cute kittens. They sure beat the “I’m so tired” and “Monday again” status updates.

One recent meme is a series of six photos representing various people’s perspectives on what people think I do for a living (e.g., a teacher, a scientist, a stay at home mom). Though quite humorous and relatable, this meme provides examples of how different types of people are stereotyped.  A stereotype is an oversimplified set of beliefs about a group.

The six perspectives portrayed are: what my friends think I do, what my mom think I do, what I think I do, what society thinks I do, what clients/boss/kids think I do, and what I actually do. An example:

See more examples at Know Your Meme. Continue reading

North Carolina: Home of the Bigots?

We have all relied on stereotypes to explain some people’s behavior or beliefs. But stereotypes of any kind are damaging and dangerous. In this post, Sarah Nell explains how sometimes stereotypes beget more stereotypes – in this case, stereotypes of gays led to the passage of a ban on same-sex marriage, a decision that was met with stereotypes of Southerners. 

Southern doesn’t mean stupid redneck. If you aren’t from the South, and you’ve never lived in the South, you might disagree. And given our stereotype-loving culture, I wouldn’t blame you. I am not a native to the South, but I have lived here for a significant portion of my adult life and I call North Carolina home. I consider myself an honorary Southerner. Continue reading

Posted by Sarah Nell

Congrats! You’re Sort-of-Pregnant

Have you ever heard a woman say, “she just knew” when she was pregnant, well she was wrong. According to a new Arizona Law, pregnancy occurs two weeks before conception. In this post, Stephanie Medley-Rath discusses how this redefinition affects women and what it means for the social construction of pregnancy.

Did you know you can be sort-of-pregnant?

Pregnancy Test with Question Marks

Arizona’s House and Senate have passed a bill that redefines pregnancy as occurring two weeks before conception.

No longer are women simply pregnant or not. This law frames women as in a constant sort-of-pregnant state. If women are always sort-of-pregnant, then should we all expect they “behave as pregnant women should” just to be safe? Continue reading