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Sociological Images

Inspiring sociological imaginations everywhere.
Sep 30 '14

SocImages news:

On the heels of the release of Philip Cohen’s new textbook — The Family — comes one from yours truly and the extraordinary sociologist, Myra Marx Ferree: Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions.

Thanks to Leland Bobbe, the photographer; Crystal Demure, the model; and the talent at W.W. Norton for the truly stunning cover!

Gender, by Wade and Ferree

Here are some ways to order, sample, and follow the book:

You like!  Here are our most appreciated posts in September:

Thanks everybody!

Editor’s pick:

New Pinterest board!

  • Sexy what!? A collection of advertisements for products that shouldn’t be sexy, ever, but are. So help us God.

Social Media ‘n’ Stuff:

This is your monthly reminder that SocImages is on TwitterFacebookTumblrGoogle+, and Pinterest.  I’m on Facebook and most of the team is on Twitter: @lisawade@gwensharpnv@familyunequal, and @jaylivingston.

In other news…

Founder Gwen Sharp is the second SocImages sociologist featured at Cute Overload! Three kittens less than a week old were found nestled under a tire in the parking lot at Nevada State College. She’s been raising them ever since and documenting their progress at the NSC kittens tumblr.

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Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Sep 29 '14
In just one year the percent of Americans who see the criminal justice system as racist rose 9 points.
By Lisa Wade, PhD
According to polling by the Public Religion Research Institute, the percent of Americans who say that the criminal justice system treats black people unfairly rose by 9 percentage points in just one year.  In fact, every category of person polled was more likely to think so in 2014 than in 2013, including Republicans, people over 65, and whites.
The biggest jump was among young people 18-29, 63% of whom believed the criminal justice system was unfair in 2014, compared to 42% in 2016.  The smallest jump was among Democrats — just 3 percentage points — but they mostly thought the system was jacked to begin with.
America has a history of making changes once police violence is caught on tape and shared widely. One of the first instances was after police attacked peaceful Civil Rights marchers in Selma, Alabama. The television had just become a ubiquitous appliance and the disturbing images of brutality were hard to ignore when they flashed across living rooms.
The death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO, and the aftermath is the likely candidate for this change. If you do a quick Google Image search for the word “ferguson,” the dominant visual story of that conflict seems solidly on the side of the protesters, not the police.
Click to see these images larger and judge for yourself:

H/t @seanmcelwee.
Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

In just one year the percent of Americans who see the criminal justice system as racist rose 9 points.

By Lisa Wade, PhD

According to polling by the Public Religion Research Institute, the percent of Americans who say that the criminal justice system treats black people unfairly rose by 9 percentage points in just one year.  In fact, every category of person polled was more likely to think so in 2014 than in 2013, including Republicans, people over 65, and whites.

The biggest jump was among young people 18-29, 63% of whom believed the criminal justice system was unfair in 2014, compared to 42% in 2016.  The smallest jump was among Democrats — just 3 percentage points — but they mostly thought the system was jacked to begin with.

America has a history of making changes once police violence is caught on tape and shared widely. One of the first instances was after police attacked peaceful Civil Rights marchers in Selma, Alabama. The television had just become a ubiquitous appliance and the disturbing images of brutality were hard to ignore when they flashed across living rooms.

The death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO, and the aftermath is the likely candidate for this change. If you do a quick Google Image search for the word “ferguson,” the dominant visual story of that conflict seems solidly on the side of the protesters, not the police.

Click to see these images larger and judge for yourself:

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H/t @seanmcelwee.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Sep 28 '14
Correlation or causation?
By xkcd.

Correlation or causation?

By xkcd.

Sep 27 '14
Staggering graph reveals the cooptation of economic recoveries by the rich.
By Lisa Wade, PhD
The graph above represents the share of the income growth that went to the richest 10% of Americans in ten different economic recoveries.  The chart comes from economist Pavlina Tcherneva.
It’s quite clear from the far right blue and red columns that the top 10% have captured 100% of the income gains in the most recent economic “recovery,” while the bottom 90% have seen a decline in incomes even post-recession.
It’s also quite clear that the economic benefits of recoveries haven’t always gone to the rich, but that they have done so increasingly so over time. None of this is inevitable; change our economic policies, change the numbers.
Via Andrew Sullivan.
Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Staggering graph reveals the cooptation of economic recoveries by the rich.

By Lisa Wade, PhD

The graph above represents the share of the income growth that went to the richest 10% of Americans in ten different economic recoveries.  The chart comes from economist Pavlina Tcherneva.

It’s quite clear from the far right blue and red columns that the top 10% have captured 100% of the income gains in the most recent economic “recovery,” while the bottom 90% have seen a decline in incomes even post-recession.

It’s also quite clear that the economic benefits of recoveries haven’t always gone to the rich, but that they have done so increasingly so over time. None of this is inevitable; change our economic policies, change the numbers.

Via Andrew Sullivan.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Sep 26 '14
Doing nothing: An experiment in norm breaking.
By Lisa Wade, PhD
What is a norm?  How important is it that we follow them?  And what happens when we break one?
Nathan Palmer, a lecturer at Georgia Southern University and founder of the blog Sociology Source, recruited his entire class of 262 students to go into the world and do nothing (an idea he borrowed from Karen Bettez Halnon).  It was sort of like a flash mob in which absolutely nothing happens.
Palmer’s aim was to reveal a norm (in this case, that we all must always be doing something), expose his students to the feelings one has when breaking a norm (even a consequence-less one like this), and show them the range of reactions that observers have to norm breaking.  And he recorded the whole thing for us:
Click here to watch! 
Or read Palmer’s entire write-up of the experiment at Sociology Source.
Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Doing nothing: An experiment in norm breaking.

By Lisa Wade, PhD

What is a norm?  How important is it that we follow them?  And what happens when we break one?

Nathan Palmer, a lecturer at Georgia Southern University and founder of the blog Sociology Source, recruited his entire class of 262 students to go into the world and do nothing (an idea he borrowed from Karen Bettez Halnon).  It was sort of like a flash mob in which absolutely nothing happens.

Palmer’s aim was to reveal a norm (in this case, that we all must always be doing something), expose his students to the feelings one has when breaking a norm (even a consequence-less one like this), and show them the range of reactions that observers have to norm breaking.  And he recorded the whole thing for us:

Click here to watch! 

Or read Palmer’s entire write-up of the experiment at Sociology Source.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Sep 26 '14
Happy birthday, Gloria Anzaldúa!
We are happy to honor Gloria Anzaldúa.  Anzaldúa was a lesbian Chicana feminist of European and American Indian descent, born in Texas to parents of Mexican lineage.  This collection of identities informed her social theory and she is credited with articulating the importance of intersectionality, or the way in which multiple identities in a single individual inflect each other in powerful ways.  Two of her most famous works include This Bridge Called My Back, with Cherríe Moraga (1981) and Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987).
Image borrowed from qualiafolk.com.

Happy birthday, Gloria Anzaldúa!

We are happy to honor Gloria Anzaldúa.  Anzaldúa was a lesbian Chicana feminist of European and American Indian descent, born in Texas to parents of Mexican lineage.  This collection of identities informed her social theory and she is credited with articulating the importance of intersectionality, or the way in which multiple identities in a single individual inflect each other in powerful ways.  Two of her most famous works include This Bridge Called My Back, with Cherríe Moraga (1981) and Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987).

Image borrowed from qualiafolk.com.

Sep 25 '14
Why don’t religious people know more about religion?
By Jay Livingston, PhD
Economist Robin Hanson has an “it isn’t about” list. It begins:
Food isn’t about Nutrition
Clothes aren’t about Comfort
Also on the list is:
Church isn’t about God
Maybe church isn’t about religious ideas either.
I was reminded of this recently when I followed a link to a Pew quiz on religious knowledge. It’s a lite version of the 32-item quiz Pew used with a national sample in 2010.  One of the findings from that survey (the full report is here) was that people who went to church regularly and who said that religion was important in their lives didn’t do much better on the quiz than did those who had a weak attachment to church and religion.

The strongly committed averaged 17 correct answers out of the 32 questions; the uncommitted, 16.  This same pattern was repeated in the more recent 15-question quiz.

The committed may derive many things from their church attendance and faith, but knowledge of religion isn’t one of them.
To be fair, the quiz covers many religions, and people do know more about their own religion than they do about others.  “What was Joseph Smith’s religion?” Only about half the population gets that one right, but 93% of the Mormons nailed it. Mormons also knew more about the Ten Commandments. Catholics did better than others on the transubstantiation question.  But when it came to knowing who inspired the Protestant Reformation, Protestants got outscored by Jews and atheists (see opening graph). Overall, nonbelievers, Jews, and Mormons did much better than did Protestants and Catholics.
One reason for their higher scores might be education – college graduates outscore high school or less by nearly 8 points out of 32.

It may be that nonbelievers, Jews, and Mormons are more likely to have finished college. Unfortunately, the Pew report does not give data that controls for education.
But another reason that these groups scored higher may be their position as religious minorities. Jews and Mormons have to explain to the flock how their ideas are different from those of the majority. Atheists and agnostics too, in their questioning and even rejecting,  have probably devoted more thought to religion, or more accurately, religions. On the questions about Shiva and Nirvana, they leave even the Jews and Mormons far behind.
For Protestants and Catholics, by contrast, learning detailed information about their religion is not as crucial. Just as White people in the US rarely ask what it means to be White, Christians need not worry about their differences from the mainstream. They are the mainstream. So going to church or praying can be much more about feelings – solidarity, transcendence, peace, etc.  That variety of religious experience need not include learning the history or even the tenets of the religion itself. As Durkheim said, the central element in religion is ritual – especially the feelings a ritual generates in the group. Knowing the actual beliefs might be a nice addition, but it’s not crucial.
Jay Livingston is the chair of the Sociology Department at Montclair State University. You can follow him at Montclair SocioBlog or on Twitter.

Why don’t religious people know more about religion?

By Jay Livingston, PhD

Economist Robin Hanson has an “it isn’t about” list. It begins:

  • Food isn’t about Nutrition
  • Clothes aren’t about Comfort

Also on the list is:

  • Church isn’t about God

Maybe church isn’t about religious ideas either.

I was reminded of this recently when I followed a link to a Pew quiz on religious knowledge. It’s a lite version of the 32-item quiz Pew used with a national sample in 2010.  One of the findings from that survey (the full report is here) was that people who went to church regularly and who said that religion was important in their lives didn’t do much better on the quiz than did those who had a weak attachment to church and religion.

2

The strongly committed averaged 17 correct answers out of the 32 questions; the uncommitted, 16.  This same pattern was repeated in the more recent 15-question quiz.

3

The committed may derive many things from their church attendance and faith, but knowledge of religion isn’t one of them.

To be fair, the quiz covers many religions, and people do know more about their own religion than they do about others.  “What was Joseph Smith’s religion?” Only about half the population gets that one right, but 93% of the Mormons nailed it. Mormons also knew more about the Ten Commandments. Catholics did better than others on the transubstantiation question.  But when it came to knowing who inspired the Protestant Reformation, Protestants got outscored by Jews and atheists (see opening graph). Overall, nonbelievers, Jews, and Mormons did much better than did Protestants and Catholics.

One reason for their higher scores might be education – college graduates outscore high school or less by nearly 8 points out of 32.

11

It may be that nonbelievers, Jews, and Mormons are more likely to have finished college. Unfortunately, the Pew report does not give data that controls for education.

But another reason that these groups scored higher may be their position as religious minorities. Jews and Mormons have to explain to the flock how their ideas are different from those of the majority. Atheists and agnostics too, in their questioning and even rejecting,  have probably devoted more thought to religion, or more accurately, religions. On the questions about Shiva and Nirvana, they leave even the Jews and Mormons far behind.

For Protestants and Catholics, by contrast, learning detailed information about their religion is not as crucial. Just as White people in the US rarely ask what it means to be White, Christians need not worry about their differences from the mainstream. They are the mainstream. So going to church or praying can be much more about feelings – solidarity, transcendence, peace, etc.  That variety of religious experience need not include learning the history or even the tenets of the religion itself. As Durkheim said, the central element in religion is ritual – especially the feelings a ritual generates in the group. Knowing the actual beliefs might be a nice addition, but it’s not crucial.

Jay Livingston is the chair of the Sociology Department at Montclair State University. You can follow him at Montclair SocioBlog or on Twitter.

Sep 25 '14
Happy birthday, bell hooks!

Gloria Jean Watkins (1952 – ) adopted her pen name, bell hooks, from her maternal great-grandmother Bell Blair Hooks. Her writing examines a broad range of topics, but one theme is the attention she draws to the interconnectivity of capitalism, race, and gender. Throughout her prolific career, she has repeatedly exposed the way these dimensions produce and perpetuate systems of oppression and domination.
- Sociological Cinema

Art by Andjelka Djukic. H/t Sociological Cinema.

Happy birthday, bell hooks!

Gloria Jean Watkins (1952 – ) adopted her pen name, bell hooks, from her maternal great-grandmother Bell Blair Hooks. Her writing examines a broad range of topics, but one theme is the attention she draws to the interconnectivity of capitalism, race, and gender. Throughout her prolific career, she has repeatedly exposed the way these dimensions produce and perpetuate systems of oppression and domination.

Sociological Cinema

Art by Andjelka Djukic. H/t Sociological Cinema.

Sep 24 '14

Racial disparity in imprisonment inspires whites to be “tough on crime.”

By Lisa Wade, PhD

“Advocates might want to try different language (or a different approach) in their campaign to reform the criminal justice system,” writes Jamelle Bouie for Slate. She drew her conclusion after summarizing a new pair of studies, by psychologists Rebecca Hetey and Jennifer Eberhardt, looking at the relationship between being “tough on crime” and the association of criminality with blackness.

In the first study, 62 White men and women were interrupted as they got off a commuter train and invited to chat about the three strikes law in California. Before being presented with an anti-three strikes petition, they were shown a video that flashed 80 mugshots. In one condition, 25% of the photos were of black people and, in another, 45% of the photos were.

Among the subjects in the first “less black” condition, more than half signed the petition to make the law less strict, but only 28% in the “more black” condition signed it (see left graphic above). A second study in New York City about the stop-and-frisk policy (right graphic) had a similar finding.

The results suggest that white Americans are more comfortable with punitive and harsh policing and sentencing when they imagine that the people being policed and put in prison are black. The second study suggested that this was mediated by fear; the idea of black criminals inspires higher anxiety than that of white criminals, pressing white people to want stronger law enforcement.

So, as Bouie concluded, when prison reformers and anti-racists point out the incredible and disproportionate harm these policies do to black Americans, it may have the opposite of its intended effect. Hetey and Eberhardt conclude:

Many legal advocates and social activists assume that bombarding the public with images and statistics documenting the plight of minorities will motivate people to fight inequality. Our results call this assumption into question. We demonstrated that exposure to extreme racial disparities may make the public less, not more, responsive to attempts to lessen the severity of policies that help maintain those disparities.

“Institutional disparities,” they add, “can be self-perpetuating.” Our history of unfairly targeting and punishing black men more than others now convinces white Americans that we must continue to do so.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Sep 23 '14
Separating marriage from child rearing: The Mosuo of China.
By Jonathan Harrison, PhD
In the Yunnan and Sichuan provinces of China lives a small ethnic group called the Mosuo. Among the Mosuo, romantic and family life are separated into different spheres by design. Children are usually raised in the home of their maternal grandmother with the help of their mother. She may maintain a long-term, monogamous romantic relationship with the father but, unlike in the West, this is considered separate from her role as a mother.
The role of the biological father is discretionary.  There is no word in their language, in fact, for husband or father.  A father is allowed, but not required to provide financial support and he is usually permitted to visit the mother and their child(ren) only at night. They call it “Axia” or “Walking Marriage.” The children’s primary male role models are usually their uncles, who remain under the authority of the children’s grandmother as they live under her roof.
From the Mosuo point of view, separating marriage from the raising of children ensures that the vagaries of romance do not disrupt the happiness and health of the child and its mother. Nor can the father wield power over the mother by threatening to withdraw from the marriage. Meanwhile, because the family of origin is never eclipsed by a procreative family, the Mosuo system reduces the likelihood that elders will be abandoned by their families when they need support in old age.
“Think about it,” writes an expert at Mosuo Project.

Divorce is a non-issue…there are no questions over child custody (the child belongs to the mother’s family), splitting of property (property is never shared), etc. If a parent dies, there is still a large extended family to provide care.

This way of organizing families is an excellent refutation of the hegemonic view that children need the biological father to live under their roof (and by implication, to be their patriarch). You can learn more about the Mosuo in the documentaries The Women’s Kingdom and The Mosuo Sisters.
Image: A 78-year-old grandmother with her family (from Gender Across Borders).
Dr. Jonathan Harrison earned a PhD in Sociology from the University of Leicester, UK. His research interests include the Holocaust, comparative religion, racism, and the history of African Americans in Florida. He teaches at Florida Gulf Coast University and Hodges University. 

Separating marriage from child rearing: The Mosuo of China.

By Jonathan Harrison, PhD

In the Yunnan and Sichuan provinces of China lives a small ethnic group called the Mosuo. Among the Mosuo, romantic and family life are separated into different spheres by design. Children are usually raised in the home of their maternal grandmother with the help of their mother. She may maintain a long-term, monogamous romantic relationship with the father but, unlike in the West, this is considered separate from her role as a mother.

The role of the biological father is discretionary.  There is no word in their language, in fact, for husband or father.  A father is allowed, but not required to provide financial support and he is usually permitted to visit the mother and their child(ren) only at night. They call it “Axia” or “Walking Marriage.” The children’s primary male role models are usually their uncles, who remain under the authority of the children’s grandmother as they live under her roof.

From the Mosuo point of view, separating marriage from the raising of children ensures that the vagaries of romance do not disrupt the happiness and health of the child and its mother. Nor can the father wield power over the mother by threatening to withdraw from the marriage. Meanwhile, because the family of origin is never eclipsed by a procreative family, the Mosuo system reduces the likelihood that elders will be abandoned by their families when they need support in old age.

“Think about it,” writes an expert at Mosuo Project.

Divorce is a non-issue…there are no questions over child custody (the child belongs to the mother’s family), splitting of property (property is never shared), etc. If a parent dies, there is still a large extended family to provide care.

This way of organizing families is an excellent refutation of the hegemonic view that children need the biological father to live under their roof (and by implication, to be their patriarch). You can learn more about the Mosuo in the documentaries The Women’s Kingdom and The Mosuo Sisters.

Image: A 78-year-old grandmother with her family (from Gender Across Borders).

Dr. Jonathan Harrison earned a PhD in Sociology from the University of Leicester, UK. His research interests include the Holocaust, comparative religion, racism, and the history of African Americans in Florida. He teaches at Florida Gulf Coast University and Hodges University.