Sociology Is Power

"Sociology is indeed a valuable part of a university education. It provides a foundation for better understanding and engaging with the globalizing world our young people will need to navigate and lead. It provides students with the intellectual tools needed to make sense of the shifting and conflictual social world we live in, and this in turn permits them to contribute to solutions for the most difficult social problems that we face." - Why A Sociology Major? by Daniel Little

what people say [is] the creative expression of human culture. It is comprised of the values, symbols, ideas and beliefs that people hold and can be seen as a sort of text formulated by them

– Haim Hazan, The Anthropological Discourse p. 23

The backstage language of human behaviour

stancarey:

Throughout Western society there tends to be one informal or backstage language of behaviour, and another language of behaviour for occasions when a performance is being presented. The backstage language consists of reciprocal first-naming, cooperative decision-making, profanity, open sexual remarks, elaborate griping, smoking, rough informal dress, ‘sloppy’ sitting and standing posture, use of dialect or sub-standard speech, mumbling and shouting, playful aggressivity and ‘kidding’, inconsiderateness for the other in minor but potentially symbolic acts, minor physical self-involvements such as humming, whistling, chewing, belching, and flatulence. The frontstage behaviour language can be taken as the absence (and in some sense the opposite) of this.

Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959)

One element of science that is often overlooked is that in addition to being a way of understanding the natural world, science is also an institution comprised of individuals who are making decisions about what questions to are important, what methods are valid, and how results will be analyzed. In popular culture, science is usually depicted as the process of revealing preexisting Truths about the natural world. Yet facts are produced by individuals who use tools and methods that structure what claims can be made…This is not to say that these scientific facts don’t represent truth about nature; rather, it means that the facts that are created are partial and contingent interpretations of what humans observe…[Thus] what scientists observe is often subject to what they already believe is true and is usually in sync with broader society’s culture and values.

– Jill Fisher
'Gendering Science: Contextualizing Historical and Contemporary Pursuits of Difference,' Gender and the Science of Difference, p.3-4

I think the first responsibility is to acknowledge that there is power in those images, that there is power in advertising, magazine covers, that there is power in that and that there is thought to that, that there are people who’ve dedicated their lives to understanding how people will have an emotional, intellectual response to an image, to a sound, to a voice. That is what they have studied, and that his what they’re getting paid six-figure salaries to do, if not seven figures. And that to then pretend that all that knowledge means nothing, that they are servants of the people and only reflecting back what people want is utterly ridiculous.

In contexts in which food is scarce, being fat signals access to limited resources. Yet in the contemporary rich nations, in which there is an abundance of cheap sources of calories, the wealthiest— who still consume far more per capita than average citizens— are now often the thinnest. Despite this, fat bodies continue to be read as the embodiment of greed and overconsumption. In fact, fat people’s relative lack of power (both because they are less likely to be wealthy and because fatness is independently stigmatizing) makes them an easy target.

Bourdieu has shown that social and cultural capital are embodied, in that they shape mannerisms, posture, and what is generally thought of as personal style. However, body size and shape can also function as a specific form of bodily capital. For instance, boxers discipline their bodies so that they can win boxing matches, thereby converting bodily capital into economic capital.

To take a different example, fashion models rent their bodily capital— in their case, corresponding to culturally specific ideas of beauty, including body shape— for economic gain. Like boxers, models cultivate their bodily capital via exercise, diet, and plastic surgery, but their bodily capital is also shaped by factors beyond their personal control, including genetics and aging.

More generally, in many societies, being tall , especially for men, confers status, whereas being short is discrediting. Similarly, being very thin— the proverbial 90-pound weakling— can be discrediting for men. In the contemporary United States and Europe, however, a thin, for women, and a muscularly toned, for men, body confers credibility. Hard bodies are seen as evidence of a disciplined character. Thin women are more likely to “marry up” and attain a high-paying job, compared to heavier women, thereby converting bodily capital into economic capital. Gender and ethnicity represent other embodied dimensions of social inequality.

ethiopienne:

Remembering A Civil Rights Swim-In: “It Was A Milestone”

On June 18, 1964, black and white protesters jumped into the whites-only pool at the Monson Motor Lodge in St. Augustine, Fla. In an attempt to force them out, the owner of the hotel poured acid into the pool.
Martin Luther King Jr. had planned the sit-in during the St. Augustine Movement, a part of the larger civil rights movement. The protest — and the owner’s acidic response — is largely forgotten today, but it played a role in the passing of the Civil Rights Act, now celebrating its 50th anniversary.
J.T. Johnson, now 76, and Al Lingo, 78, were two of the protesters in the pool that day. On a visit to StoryCorps in Atlanta, the pair recalled the hotel owner, James Brock, “losing it.”
"Everybody was kind of caught off guard," J.T. says.
"The girls, they were most frightened, and we moved to the center of the pool," Al says.
"I tried to calm the gang down. I knew that there was too much water for that acid to do anything," J.T. says. "When they drug us out in bathing suits and they carried us out to the jail, they wouldn’t feed me because they said I didn’t have on any clothes. I said, ‘Well, that’s the way you locked me up!’
"But all of the news media were there, because somehow I guess they’d gotten word that something was going to happen at that pool that day. And I think that’s when President [Lyndon B.] Johnson got the message."The following day, the Civil Rights Act was approved, after an 83-day filibuster in the U.S. Senate.
"That had not happened before in this country, that some man is pouring acid on people in the swimming pool," J.T. says. "I’m not so sure the Civil Rights Act would have been passed had [there] not been a St. Augustine. It was a milestone. We was young, and we thought we’d done something — and we had."
J.T. went back to St. Augustine 40 years later, he tells Al. By then, the Monson Motor Lodge had been replaced with a Hilton Hotel.
"I sat and talked with the manager. I said to him that, ‘You know, I can’t stay in this hotel. You don’t have any African-Americans working here,’ " J.T. recalls.
"He said, ‘Well, I promise you that next time you come down here it’ll be different.’ He immediately got busy," J.T. continues. "But he was one of the few people in St. Augustine, I think, that did some of the things that we had been talking about."
"So, to go back to St. Augustine, and it’s still somewhat the same — now, that does make me feel bad. The lifting is still kind of heavy, but I’ll continue to work as hard as I can, as long as I live," J.T. says. "I won’t ever stop, and I won’t ever give up."

ethiopienne:

Remembering A Civil Rights Swim-In: “It Was A Milestone”

On June 18, 1964, black and white protesters jumped into the whites-only pool at the Monson Motor Lodge in St. Augustine, Fla. In an attempt to force them out, the owner of the hotel poured acid into the pool.

Martin Luther King Jr. had planned the sit-in during the St. Augustine Movement, a part of the larger civil rights movement. The protest — and the owner’s acidic response — is largely forgotten today, but it played a role in the passing of the Civil Rights Act, now celebrating its 50th anniversary.

J.T. Johnson, now 76, and Al Lingo, 78, were two of the protesters in the pool that day. On a visit to StoryCorps in Atlanta, the pair recalled the hotel owner, James Brock, “losing it.”

"Everybody was kind of caught off guard," J.T. says.

"The girls, they were most frightened, and we moved to the center of the pool," Al says.

"I tried to calm the gang down. I knew that there was too much water for that acid to do anything," J.T. says. "When they drug us out in bathing suits and they carried us out to the jail, they wouldn’t feed me because they said I didn’t have on any clothes. I said, ‘Well, that’s the way you locked me up!’

"But all of the news media were there, because somehow I guess they’d gotten word that something was going to happen at that pool that day. And I think that’s when President [Lyndon B.] Johnson got the message."

The following day, the Civil Rights Act was approved, after an 83-day filibuster in the U.S. Senate.

"That had not happened before in this country, that some man is pouring acid on people in the swimming pool," J.T. says. "I’m not so sure the Civil Rights Act would have been passed had [there] not been a St. Augustine. It was a milestone. We was young, and we thought we’d done something — and we had."

J.T. went back to St. Augustine 40 years later, he tells Al. By then, the Monson Motor Lodge had been replaced with a Hilton Hotel.

"I sat and talked with the manager. I said to him that, ‘You know, I can’t stay in this hotel. You don’t have any African-Americans working here,’ " J.T. recalls.

"He said, ‘Well, I promise you that next time you come down here it’ll be different.’ He immediately got busy," J.T. continues. "But he was one of the few people in St. Augustine, I think, that did some of the things that we had been talking about."

"So, to go back to St. Augustine, and it’s still somewhat the same — now, that does make me feel bad. The lifting is still kind of heavy, but I’ll continue to work as hard as I can, as long as I live," J.T. says. "I won’t ever stop, and I won’t ever give up."

As neurophysiologist Ruth Bleier put it over two decades ago, we should ‘view biology as potential, as capacity and not as static entity. Biology itself is socially influenced and defined; it changes and develops in interaction with and response to our minds and environment, as our behaviors do. Biology can be said to define possibilities but not determine them; it is never irrelevant but it is also not determinant.’

Delusions of Gender:  How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference by Cordelia Fine

In modern, developed societies, males and females are legally – and no doubt also in the eyes of most parents – born with equal status and entitled to the same opportunities. Yet of course this egalitarian attitude is very new, and it’s poorly reflected in the distribution of political, social, economic and sometimes even personal power between the sexes. It’s a ‘half-changed world’, as Peggy Orenstein put it and here, in the naming of children and composing of birth announcements, are little strands of evidence of parents’ half-changed minds. Without meaning to, and without realizing it, we may be valuing boys and girls differently, and for different qualities, within hours of birth.

Delusions of Gender:  How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference by Cordelia Fine

Facebook, or any social platform, isn’t “natural” (even when sidestepping nerdier debates if anything at all is ‘natural”). That Facebook “big” data is made by users unaware of or unconcerned about social science researchers doesn’t change the fact it is made through and around a structure engineers have coded…. The tendency to see “big” social media data as objective and natural is the methodological avatar of the classic tech instrumentalism/constructivism mistake.

With actual ability (assessed by test scores) held equal, the higher a boy or girl rates his or her mathematical competence, the more likely it is that he or she will head down a path towards a career in science, maths or engineering. Correll concludes that ‘boys do not pursue mathematical activities at a higher rate than girls do because they are better at mathematics. They do so, at least partially, because they think they are better.’

Delusions of Gender:  How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference by Cordelia Fine

When we are not thinking of ourselves as ‘male’ or ‘female’, our judgements are the same, and women and men alike are sensitive to the influence of social distance that, rightly or wrongly, pushes moral judgements in one direction or another along the care-justice continuum. But moral reasoning is also sensitive to another social factor – the salience of gender. Thus, the authors argue that ‘it is the salience of gender and gender-related norms, rather than gender per se, that lead to differences between women and men.’ Of course, as they also point out, ‘the social reality is that gender, for most, is a ubiquitous category and is arguably the most salient.’

Delusions of Gender:  How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference by Cordelia Fine