April 2013 Archives

Videos from class and beyond

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Homework assignment for the Dispossessed

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As announced in class today, be sure to bring these worksheets to class on Monday, completed.

Dispossessed homework assignment.docx

Gender Roles in Toy Ads

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I thought this was an interesting toy ad from Sweden. Every Nerf ad that I have ever seen as always had boys in the ad. This was the first time I had ever seen a girl in a Nerf ad. This surprised me because it broke a norm of gender roles because Nerf guns are usually seen as a toy for boys and advertised as such

Don't Be Quick to Judge

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I am sure that at first glance at this photo, most people would classify artist Calvin Broadus, formally known as Snoop Dogg, as a convicted felon.

Why is that you may ask? Because, he is an African-American male who raps about the "taboo" aspects in life such as: sex, drugs, and criminal activities. Although Snoop Dogg is not an innocent individual--being convicted only of misdemeanors, including various drug possession charges and handgun possession--he is not a convicted felon.

On the other hand, we find it shocking, and hard to believe that a woman such as Martha Stewart could be found guilty on four counts of obstructing justice and lying to investigators about a well-timed stock sale. Many find it hard to believe that Martha Stewart, a white, middle-aged woman, could commit such a dishonest act. "A devastating verdict that probably means prison for the woman who epitomizes meticulous homemaking and gracious living," (2004) as Fox News put it.

Overall, this image shows that not all stereotypes are in fact true. Don't be quick to judge someone by their appearance. Anyone, even Martha Stewart, is capable of being a convicted felon.

Fox News 2004. "Martha Stewart Convicted on All Four Counts." Retrieved April 23, 2013 (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,113417)

Gender Reveal Parties

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Gender-Reveal-Party-12.jpgWith modern day technology it is getting easier and easier to find out the sex of your unborn baby. However, with this modern technology come sociological setbacks. As sociologists we know there is a clear difference between sex and gender. Sex is determined by biological or anatomical characteristics. Gender is a social construct though. Gender is social characteristics based on one's perceived sex.
The latest trend in social gatherings furthers the idea that gender and sex are the same thing when we know that is not true. What I am talking about are "Gender Reveal Parties." At a gender reveal party a couple that is expecting a baby gathers their friends and family to celebrate the sex reveal of a child. However, with this reveal they also assume they are revealing the gender. Many couples choose to have a "gender specific" color baked into a cake and when they cut the cake they see if their baby is going to be a boy or a girl. They do this by delivering a ultrasound of their baby that includes the sex to a bakery and then not looking at it until they cut into the cake. Below are some pictures of gendered decorations and gender reveal cakes.
Although this seems to be the latest trend in pregnancy celebrations, I think it is important for us all to remember that sex does not determine gender.
gender reveal.bmp

What is beautiful?

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The definition of what is beautiful varies by culture, era, and nationality. Recently in America, beauty has been defined by extreme thinness. The thinner you become, the more beautiful you look, or at least that's how advertisers portray it. In the 1950's a full figured woman was considered the epitome of beauty, while today that is seen as less beautiful because it is larger than today's standards. Today this causes many widespread social issues such as eating disorders, depression, and low self esteem.

Victoria's Secret has been contributing to the "thin is beautiful" idea. All of their models are tall, stick-thin, and gorgeous. This is portraying the message that this is the only, or the best idea of beauty. Although many adults know that this is not true, young girls do not. This causes many of the issues that were mentioned before. Young girls everywhere deserve to feel that they are beautiful, just the way they are. Ads like this are not doing anything to help that cause.

On the other hand, companies like Dove are putting out ads like the one below. This depicts girls of all shapes, sizes, and heights. Although none of these women look perfect, they all look happy, which makes them beautiful. Each woman is defining beauty in her own way, and that is clearly visible. Children need to know that most people look like these women, and not Victoria's Secret models. These models are helping young girls everywhere to have better ideas that everything is beautiful.
In contrast to each other, these images send totally different ideas to young women everywhere. There are too many ads out there just like the Victoria's Secret image, which depict only the thinnest and lankiest girls. They portray that as the ONLY idea of beauty. Ads like the Dove one, are portraying a much healthier and reasonable image of beauty. No one person can define beauty, nor can we let one society. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Danielle Krimmer

The Hunger Games Through A Sociological Lense

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The Hunger Games is a movie and a book that follows Katniss Everdeen as she enters, participates in, and wins the Hunger Games Tournament (a tournament where 24 contestants are forced into a vast arena to battle to the death) in the fictional nation of Panem. Panem is made of twelve districts that are centered around The Capitol. This district system demonstrates Panem's own system of class, where The Capitol is the upper class, with the most money and technology, who uses the resources from its districts. District's 1,2, 3 or 4 are the upper middle class, while the rest of the districts are probably less wealthy, with District 12 being considered the poorest district. Because they have the most resources, Districts 1,2,3, and 4 are usually the ones to win the Games, while District 12 only has one victor. This is consistent with our society, where the rich use the resources created by the poor. It is also consistent with an idea in "Women Without Class," that the poor have less resources, and because of this they can't get ahead in life, which sets them on a cycle that is difficult to break.
In The Hunger Games, President Snow is the main power figure. His power is not legitimate because he uses force and fear through The Hunger Games, and if it were legitimate he would not have to do that. No one respects him, and most people despise him for his evil.
Contestants of the Hunger Games all wear the same costumes and the costumes for the girls' aren't any different from the boys'. This is inconsistent from many other action movies where there is a female protagonist, because the women are usually dressed in something tight or skimpy or both, that usually shows off sexualized parts of their body. The Hunger Games doesn't do this. Katniss is dressed in a leather jacket, a v-neck t-shirt and a pair of pants which are realistic for the type of situation she'd be in.
Although the Hunger Games is set in a completely different society than ours, many aspects of Panem are very similar to the United States. They still have similar class structures, and power figures.

Boy Scouts vs. Girl Scouts

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These pictures show the societal differences between boys and girls today. They are from the Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of America, as the first thing you see when you enter the homepage. It shows that boys go on adventures and spend their time outdoors where girls bake/sell cookies.Screen Shot 2013-04-22 at 8.52.38 PM.pngScreen Shot 2013-04-22 at 8.55.20 PM.png

VIDEOS to watch... they are funny!

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Imagine if every person in Africa saw the "Africa for Norway"-video, and this was the only information they ever got about Norway. What would they think about Norway?

Enjoy perusing this website... let it blow your mind!



Talk review - extra credit

During the course of 2008, Jessica Fields and her team embarked upon a sociological study of incarcerated women of color and their sexual understanding, education, and history. Her study was purely participatory, took place at the San Francisco County Jail, and placed a particular emphasis on the women's experiences with HIV. Though Fields initially intended for the study to be participatory, two factors influenced the women to partake in the research: the deputies in the jail positively viewed participation and the women were compensated with $20 (which was a goodly amount in jail dollars). However, Fields and her team could only take about 74 women per workshop, so soon after establishing themselves at the jail, Fields had to turn away women. Over the course of the workshops, the average age of the women was 36 years old, 83% were mothers, and all but one were women of color.
Each of Fields' workshops followed a particular pattern (Fields referred to them as 'sessions'), and each workshop was related to the one that preceded it. The first session discussed HIV in context and addressed potential fears that the women had regarding HIV. The second session involved peer interviews and forced the women to think about their fears. The third session analyzed the interviews, and the fourth session consisted of reflection and planning. Throughout the four sessions, Fields and her team continually emphasized two main points: respect and trust.
Though both of these ideas seemed intuitive, they proved to be very difficult to enforce at times. In the jail, trust was difficult to instill in the women due to the implementation of strict and distrustful rules/rituals. For example, Fields was required to count the number of Sharpies before and after she handed them out to the women to ensure none of the women 'stole' one. Though Sharpies are neither expensive nor dangerous, the trust placed in the women was so low that they weren't trusted to return something as trivial as Sharpies. Fortunately, respect proved to be less vexing to achieve than trust. At the beginning of each workshop, Fields asked that the stories and secrets shared in the room to remain in the room, and any woman violated that rule, consequences could be taken against her; the trust was never (to the knowledge of Fields and her team) breached.
Among the many women Fields and her team interviewed, three women and their interaction with Fields stood out: Bianca, Maxine, and Alison. Fields' relationship with Bianca began normally, but soon became rather flirtatious on Bianca's side. One particular conversation with Bianca stood out to Fields, in which Bianca had just come to the workshop after meeting with her "baby-daddy". Fields' footnotes depict Bianca's advances as a "nonsexual crush" and only feature Bianca. Fields' footnotes do not include the amount of discomfort and surprising pleasure she felt from this interaction. The relationship between Bianca and Fields - though Fields evaded Bianca's advances - merely surfaces the erotic relationships some of these women have experienced. Fields' interaction with Maxine is similar to Bianca's; Maxine demonstrated a 'burpee' for Fields once, which invoked a 'troubling presence'. Maxine's demonstration, though it affirmed Fields' sexuality, was very intimate and caused significant discomfort. Alison's interaction with Fields varied greatly from Bianca's and Maxine's, but was similar in the amount of discomfort it caused. Alison (a black woman) wanted to prove she had most of her teeth, and asked Fields to look. Fields peered into Alison's mouth and was struck by how similar the situation was to that of a slave owner looking at his slave's teeth. Despite the racial and historical significance of this act, Fields felt an intimate connection with Alison, not unlike with Bianca and Maxine.
Even though Fields entered her research with an end goal in mind, she left with much more insight into relationships and intimacy than she originally intended. The interactions she shared with the women at the jail surprised her, both in the interaction itself and Fields' response to the interaction. Her research with the incarcerated women spurred her following studies of racial inequality and sex education (a continuation of her work at the jail).
Fields' talk related to concepts discussed in class such as gender inequality and race. Many of the women that Fields interviewed came from less privileged homes, which attributed to the erratic and seeming strange behaviors of the women, particularly in an erotic light. Furthermore, the women that Fields interacted with were almost all women of color; the combination of the unequal treatment as women and color may have attributed to the fact that these women were now incarcerated. In particular, Fields' interaction with Alison reflected the historical dominance of whites over blacks, thus insinuating the prevalence of race in her study. Though Fields does not explicitly investigate the influences of race and gender in her studies, they are still key aspects in her research as they often are or are related to motivations and influencers behind the actions and decisions of these women.

Somali American Research Series

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Many of you may be interested in these research talks on the Somali American experience. These are also a great opportunity for earning extra credit!


SRI information

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You can find all the information about the UMN Soc Dept's conference SRI at this link:


This includes a preliminary schedule and award nomination forms.

The extra credit points are:

8 points for presenting your creative project (sign up directly with TAs or Meg)

4 points for submitting your paper or other award nomination

The Youth Development study

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Phoebe MacDhubhain
Extra Credit Opportunity (9 points)

As a part of the Undergraduate Research Program, I have been working closely with Jeylan Mortimer on her study the YDS. YDS stands for Youth Development Study. It is an ongoing study here at the University of Minnesota, that was started to study the effects that working has on high school students. Effects like deviant and pro-social behavior, as well as groups and school involvement. A group of St. Paul students were surveyed from age 14 and on, starting in 1988. In 2009, the second generation survey was sent out to the children of the cohorts from survey one. Some of the surveys are quite short, while others are incredibly long. The YDS is used in several studies on young adulthood. The study has helped with understanding the social science of maturing children.

Recently, the YDS lost funding from one of the grant givers. There was concern that the YDS was only applicable to white students (the sample size is definitely largely white), which is why they decided to pull some funding. My job with the YDS is to also look at the CLS, the Chicago Longitudinal Study, which has a largely black and hispanic cohort. By examining the survey questions asked in the CLS, we can search if there is comparable data with the CLS. There are a few factors to help determine if the data is comparable. First, the age of the cohorts needs to be the same, in the YDS/CLS, age 32, 15/16, and 23/24 are all comparable surveys. Second, we must make sure the questions are the same, or asked in the same matter. From there we can report to the grant holders about comparable data.

This project has been largely based on Research Methods. It is very meticulous work. Many of the Sociology department's staff works on the YDS, including two of our guest speakers: Teresa Schwartz and Chen-yu Wu. The codebook for the YDS is on the University of Minnesota's Sociology Department's website.

Daddy'$ Money!!!

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Sociological Movie Review: The Breakfast Club

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(review by Demi Mancini)

The Breakfast Club is hands down one of the best movies ever made (no room for argument!). Watching this movie not only was enjoyable but also interesting to watch through a sociological lens. There are so many ways to look at the different roles of each character and how they all tie together. Within this movie we see a variety of stereotypical high school roles that we expect to see, since the movie is based on events of high school students.

"Dear Mr. Vernon, We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever we did wrong. But we think that you're crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us. In the simplest terms, and the most convenient definitions, but what we found is that each one of us is a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, The Breakfast Club (The Breakfast Club, 1985)".

The famous line from the note that was left by the teens in detention at the end of the movie shows the societal connection between each of their roles and those ties to society. The teens use the stereotypical names to tell Mr. Vernon who they think they are; they use the names that society has given them because of their reputations, hobbies and looks. They each realize throughout the movie that in each one of them, they find connections to one another which makes them all realize that no matter the stereotypical separation between them, they all have some things in common.

We can relate these social roles to social identity. These students acted as though they needed to uphold these social roles that in the beginning of the movie they identified themselves with, but by the end of the movie each one had broken the stereotypical mold of each social identity by doing things that were abnormal for that mold (the princess talking to the basket case or the athlete connecting with the criminal).

Along with this topic comes the creation of social networks. When the guest speakers Chen Yu-Wu and Marie DeRousse-Wu spoke about social networks and the reasons why they are the way they are (starting with a small network that grows by who knows who, racial connections and what each person gets from one another), the social connections between the characters in the movie became more evident and easier to understand.

The idea of power also played a role within this movie. As I watched the movie I noticed how power affected each person in different ways. The power or structure within this movie was the school (or Mr. Vernon) mandating the detention and facility of the punishment but the power of coming together and uniting made for a win of agency (the unification of The Breakfast Club which reminded me of some of the actions within Contentious Lives).

I think The Breakfast Club is a perfect movie to watch when analyzing sociological expectations, ties and statuses. The sociological lens is perfect to watch this movie through!

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