Posts Tagged ‘Sociological Images’

If you have sociologists as Facebook friends you have probably seen this commercial for GoldieBlox, set to a revised version of “Girls” by the Beastie Boys:

Since it debuted on November 17 it has received over 8 million YouTube views and gotten enough attention to be both lauded and lambasted. As summarized by Katy Waldman at Slate:

As GoldieBlox stands to attract even more publicity (it is one of four finalists in a contest for small businesses to air an ad during the Super Bowl), we should ask whether its products live up to the company’s message. Does GoldieBlox actually “disrupt the pink aisle,” inspiring girls to trade in their tiaras for goggles—or is it a cynical attempt to straddle the market by hooking parents on a message of empowerment while enticing kids with the same old glittery crap?

GoldieBlox highlights some of the same difficulties that Lisa Wade discussed in relation to Miley Cyrus. If young girls want pink things, and the products on display in toy aisles suggest that they do, it makes sense that a company would try to profit by giving them what they want. If parents, on the other hand, don’t want to reinforce negative stereotypes, it also makes sense that a company would try to profit by giving them what they want. Wade writes:

That’s how power works. It makes it so that essentially all choices can be absorbed into and mobilized on behalf of the system.  Fighting the system on behalf of the disadvantaged – in this case, women – requires individual sacrifices that are extraordinarily costly.  In Cyrus’ case, perhaps being replaced by another artist who is willing to capitulate to patriarchy with more gusto.  Accepting the rules of the system translates into individual gain, but doesn’t exactly make the world a better place.  In Cyrus’ case, her success is also an affirmation that a woman’s worth is strongly correlated with her willingness to commodify her sexuality.

Despite their interesting commercial, GoldieBlox are a product (is a product? Goldie Blox appears to be the name of a girl in the line of products). No matter how much we want it to be a subversive company that sticks it to The Man for young girls everywhere, its existence and success depends on the same system as every other toy. So we end up with pink building toys with narratives designed to appeal to girls who have already accepted stereotypical notions of femininity whose parents want them to realize that being female does not limit their potential. All in the name of profit.

Update: See also Elline Lipkin’s take at Girl With Pen.

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Over at Sociological Images Lisa Wade breaks down Lily Allen’s new video for “Hard Out Here,” in which she mocks the tropes associated with some recent music videos, particularly Miley Cyrus’s. You can see the video here:

As I watched the video, my first thought was, “Oh, she is making fun of the expectations that women face in the music industry.” My second thought, though, was, “Isn’t she using these black women as props in the same way that Miley Cyrus used them?” Mia McKenzie at Black Girl Dangerous was better able to turn these thoughts into words, writing:

Satire works best when you are flipping the script on the oppressor, on the system. When you are calling attention to the ways that the system is jacked by amplifying the absurdity of that system. Not caricaturing and otherwise disrespecting the people who are oppressed by that system.

In general, I think that music that challenges listeners to question the stereotypes associated with pop culture is a good thing, so I don’t fault Lily Allen for writing this song or wanting to make a video playing with these ideas (though Lisa points out that the only reason a song like this can get recorded is because somebody thought that it would be successful at making money). I wish, though, that she had found a more clever way to play with these ideas than simply appropriating them for her own purposes.

The lesson learned here, I think, is that we have set the bar so low for thoughtful dialog about race, gender, inequality, and sexuality in popular music that just pointing out how stupid we are about these things is seen as a thoughtful critique. Everybody can do better.

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Happy Halloween, everybody. Here is a roundup of some of this year’s Halloween-themed posts:

I hope that the Great Pumpkin brings you lots of toys and candy. If not, there’s always next year!

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If you want to talk to your students about class consciousness without getting too political (and without having to rely on pictures of Santa Claus), one approach is to talk about something that is not overly politicized: vacations. This article by Claude Fischer from the Boston Review looks at vacation length in the US and Europe through the lens of class consciousness. Additionally, these graphs from Sociological Images can be used to provide students with more data.

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Watching Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings win their third consecutive gold medal in beach volleyball the other night, I noticed something interesting about their uniforms (no, it was not related to their asses – I’ll get to their asses in a second). The backs of their uniforms only displayed their maiden names (as you can see on May-Treanor above). Women taking their husbands’ names personally while keeping their maiden names professionally is nothing new (the two of them even demonstrate two sides of the “to hyphenate or not to hyphenate” decision), but the announcers never used just their maiden names (they did, however,  sometimes use just their first names). It would be interesting to know how these decisions were made, though they might have had more to do with the small space available on their uniforms than statements about gender. Hell, maybe they’re just superstitious.

Gender is certainly involved, however, in the fact that I had to work fairly hard to find a picture of one of their backs that did not also show their asses. This phenomenon is not limited to May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings. Lisa Wade over at Sociological Images took a look at the photographs of a few different Olympic sports and found that those focusing on beach volleyball players were conspicuously different:

I googled beach vollyball and three other sports: track, diving, and gymnastics.  All involve relatively skimpy uniforms, but beach volleyball certainly stood out.  The top results included five photographs of just butts in bikini bottoms and four “cheesecake” pictures in which women are posed to look like pin-ups and volleyball is not part of the picture.

That may not seem like a lot but, in contrast, none of the top photos for the other three sports included butt shots or pin-up poses (with the exception of one butt shot for track, but it was of a fully-clothed man and used as a photographic device, not a source of titillation).

Wade doesn’t suggest any reasons for this phenomenon but I suspect that it comes down to some combination of age and the motions involved in the sport. Like beach volleyball players, female gymnasts wear clothing that is similar to a swimsuit but they are typically younger (see this graphic for a breakdown of men’s and women’s age ranges by sport) than beach volleyball players, making their usage as sex symbols taboo. Female divers actually wear swimsuits but their age range also includes those in their mid-teens. Finally, female track athletes are both older than gymnasts and divers and sometimes wear uniforms that are similar to the bikini-style uniforms worn by female beach volleyball players. Running, however, does not lend itself to titillating photos in the same way as a sport involving bending at the waist and diving face-first into the sand does. Off the track, however, female runners are still commonly depicted as sex objects, as the recent debate over the coverage of Lolo Jones in the New York Times demonstrates. Jones also demonstrates the challenge that athletes face to earn as much notoriety and endorsement money as possible when and their sports only gain the general public’s attention every four years.

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As an instructor, I’ve always fought to find a balance between making class interesting and making class entertainment. While student interest is a good thing, turning classes into entertainment may encourage them to pay attention in the same uncritical way that they engage with other forms of entertainment. Now there is research to support this contention! As discussed at Sociological Images, research by Poh, Swenson, and Picard finds that students’ “brain patterns during class matched watching TV closer than any other activity on the list.” No wonder they hate it when I make them get out of their seats to form groups for class discussion!

*This post has a soundtrack:

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Sociological Images’ link to the graphic below from Endless Origami reminded me of a thought I had the other day when I overheard students discussing group projects: students don’t like group projects because group projects force them to deal with other students.  They often seem content to do things in a half-assed way when dealing with their professors, but they do not care for others doing things in a half-assed way when dealing with them.  If only they would learn something from the experience…

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Continuing the theme of restrooms that I started in reaction to this year’s ASAs, I can’t resist highlighting this recent guest post over at Sociological Images if for no other reason than the sheer number of images it includes.  Some of these, such as the image below, would cause me more than a little confusion.

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