Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Research shows that girls in the United States are socially constructed to think about theirselves in a harmful way.

As students enter, please take out your "We Should All Be Feminists" reading.  Then answer these questions:

1.  What does it mean to be a feminist?

2.  What does "like a girl" mean?

3.  List all the steps you take, on a daily basis, to prevent yourselves from being sexually assaulted.     

4.  Tell me about someone you know who is affected body image issues.  Without using any names describe their situation.

1.  Being a Feminist

Here is a link to the author Chimananda Ngozi Adichie's website.
 And here is her Ted Talk.

Here is a discussion guide from Lean In.

1. What does it mean to be a feminist?

2. Is being a feminist a bad thing?

3. Can you be masculine and be a feminist?

4. How are boys affected by the treatment of women?

Here is a 2016 report from WaPo about attitudes toward feminism in America

2.  "Like a girl"

When did "like a girl" become a bad thing?

The promotion of masculine traits above feminine ones leads to denigrating of all things feminine.  This binary doesn't allow for individuals to be who they really.  Instead, it pushes males and females to opposite poles with opposing traits.  And the binary's message is, if you are a male, you can't be anything considered feminine.  This means males deny their own humanity because they cannot be caring, empathetic, emotional, vulnerable or dependent - all of which are human traits.

3. Females and Assault
The objectification of women and the denigration of all things female puts women at risk physically.  Men may not realize this because they do not have to think about it.  But for women, this is something that is conscious.

4.  Femininity and body image

Do you know Amy?


This video shows Amy not feeling like hanging out. There are numerous studies showing that this is true for significant numbers of young women. Look at the research below and think about whether this has been true in your life. Do you know girls who struggle with self-esteem, body image and eating/dieting disorders? If you don't, can you at least see how the media is constructing a reality for girls?

Thin Ads + Low Body Image = Stress?
Ads Showing Skinny Models Might Hurt Self-Worth In Vulnerable Young Women
Viewing ads of super-skinny models may make young women feel worse about themselves, especially if they have body image problems, according to a new study. Researcher Gayle Bessenoff, Ph.D., reports the findings in Psychology of Women Quarterly. Bessenoff is an assistant professor in the University of Connecticut's psychology department.

What Studies Show: Links Between Media and Self Esteem in Girls Many studies conclude that there is clearly a link between young women’s self esteem and the media. *The Journal of Research on Adolesence, in a study of body image and self esteem (Daniel Clay, Vivian L. Vignoles, Helga Dittmar - 2005), imparts that the the declining self esteem that girls often experience entering into adolescence is in part due to social comparison with media models. In a 2006 study of girls' body satisfaction and self esteem from the American Psychological Association (Hayley Dohnt,, Marika Tiggemann), research also illustrates that media creates a negative influence on girls' body images and self-esteem – particularly in regard to acceptable levels of thinness.

A particularly alarming media trend is the sexualization of women at younger and younger ages. Medical News Today discusses how suggestive images of young women negatively affect girls self-esteem, playing a role in onset of depression, eating disorders, and low-self-esteem.

Sexualization Of Girls Is Linked To Common Mental Health Problems In Girls And Women Science Daily (Feb. 20, 2007) — A report of the American Psychological Association (APA) released today found evidence that the proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising, and media is harmful to girls' self-image and healthy development.

Dying to Fit In- Literally! Learning to Love Our Bodies and Ourselves By Christine Hartline, MA In the United States approximately 10% of girls and women (numbering up to 10 million) are suffering from diagnosed eating disorders. Of these at least 50,000 will die as a direct result! Recent data reported by the American Psychiatric Association suggests that of all psychiatric disorders, the greatest excess of patient mortality due to natural and unnatural causes is associated with eating disorders and substance abuse.

Teen Body Image Media images have a strong effect on people's body image, particularly for women, because the ideals the media presents for women are farther from the average woman's body. The Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) reports that in 1972, the ideal woman shown in the media (models, movie stars, etc.) weighed less than the average woman, yes, but only by 8%. By the late 90s, the difference had become 23%....In one study from Harvard University reported by (SIRC), it was found that by age 17, 7 out of 10 teens have been on a diet and as many as 80% of teens may have a negative body image....The onset of eating disorders for 86% of people is before they finish their teens.

Look at this powerful video about how people are made to think about themselves and how different that can be from reality:

Females and Work

Many jobs still highly genderized: nurses, early education (97%), dental hygenists, secretaries (94%), paralegals, housekeepers are highly female while pilots, carpenters, mechanics (98%), and firefighters (94%) are highly male.

Women earn 78% of what men earn and women earn less compared to men of similar education at every level.  This is true from women in poverty to women with professional degrees.

The Gender Pay Gap from the Washington Post explains the dynamics that lead to unequal pay for women.

Take away:

How are females socialized by U.S. society?

How does Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explain feminism?

How does masculinity relate to the socialization of femininity?

For more info, see pages 251 - 259 in Ferris and Stein.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Killing Us Softly 4; The agents of socialization, especially the media, shape women to think about femininity a certain way.

Killing Us Softly 4 is a video that highlights the dangerous influence that media has had on our culture - especially how women are socialized to think about themselves, but also men too. (Click here to watch it on mediacast).   I think it's shocking, but true. And it is especially dangerous because in everyday life, you don't pay enough attention to these adds to notice their influence. But, I think the video puts it all together and it really highlights how destructive these images are. And research shows that we see about 300 adds per day, everyday!  Here is the discussion guide for the documentary.  Pages 5-7 provide a summary of key ideas in the movie.  The main topics are:
Advertising Environment 
Cult of Thinness
Sexual Pathology
The Results of Advertising:  Consumerism and Violence

As you watch the documentary, look for some ways that you are influenced to think about femininity in your life.  Maybe the socialization comes from friends, family or ads/commercials.  Do you see how we are shaped to think about women?  Do you see how harmful it can be?  Do you know any examples of this personally?  Here is a link to Jean Kilbourne's website which includes resources for you to fight these messages.  There are a lot of interesting resources there so please check it out.  Here is a preview clip:

This video called "Onslaught" from the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty highlights the unbelievable number of negative ads that young girls are shaped by:


How does the media socialize U.S. society to think about femininity?

Explain the themes from the movie.

For more info see Ferris and Stein pgs. 249-251

Monday, March 19, 2018

Media as an Agent of Socialization into Gender

As students enter the room, please fill out the qualitative survey about what your favorite toy was as a child.  If you didn't bring a toy, search for a picture of it on your ipad.  Use that picture to answer the questions on the qualitative survey.

HW: We Should All Be Feminists by Chamananda Ngozi Adichie

What does it mean to be a feminist?  What are your thoughts about what feminism is?

---------Pause  Here--------

Each person in your group should find an ad in these categories:

Men's jeans
Men's fragrance/cologne
A movie targeting men

 Each person in your group should find an ad in these categories:

Women's jeans
Women's fragrance/cologne
A movie targeting women

After searching for the ads, discuss these questions below:

1. What are the similarities and differences between what is required for men and what is required for women?
2. How do you explain these differences and similarities?

3. Besides gender, how do other factors such as race, class, age, sexuality, and sexual orientation seem to affect the rules of beauty in these magazines? Be specific and detailed.

Here are two wordles hat I created using my students' research and two samples of ads we found:

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Sociological Madness in March

Besides Loyola University's motto "Created By Culture" there are many ways that the NCAA basketball tournament can be connected to sociology.

Loyola really did try to create a culture that affected the basketball success.  They implemented norms and language that reinforced and reshaped the values of the program.
“It’s amazing the way he has gotten us all to believe in his vision for us,’’ Custer said. “The big thing this year is the buy-in to his style of play. We’re selfless.’’  This was the cultural impact Moser hoped for when he came up with the idea for the wall shortly after arriving at Loyola in 2011.
Interesting discussion of cultural production; how the hype around men's basketball creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.  " making the men’s tournament resources more engaging and informative, it reinforces the sense that the women’s tournament is a side event, not worth the same level of attention as the men’s. As she points out, ESPN probably devoted less time and energy to the women’s tournament website because they assume fewer people will sign up and use it. But by creating less engaging resources, they provide less incentive for fans to bother signing up, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy."
Secondary source with a number of links to primary data about the positive effects of winning an upset.  "...schools that beat performance expectations during March Madness receive a bump not only in public awareness, but also in the number of applications they receive."
With so much black identity and manhood tied up in the game, it goes against the cultural grain for players to seek out a low-status position....Our whole athletic socialization is different,” said Moore, the University of Texas professor. “It’s more central to our sense of self-worth. That comes from our family, teachers, pastors at the church: ‘You’re a basketball player.’ And so for me at 18 or 21 to say I’m going into coaching, what I’m saying is my basketball career is over. And it ain’t supposed to be over....Walking on has this stereotype that it’s something embarrassing or looked down upon."
Interesting study of how a cinderella story affects a college.  Breakdown with data and graphs.
Rick Eckstein, sociology professor at Villanova University, contends that a lot of March Madness might just be hype: “There is a lot of cultural pressure to ‘act out’ during certain key sporting spectacles. Usually this means buying certain products (often food) and treating the sporting event as another commodity to be consumed in excess....He says that this cultural pressure is derived from sources as diverse as the media, the workplace, religious institutions and schools. “Keep in mind, though, that for all of this attention paid to March Madness, a lot of people simply don’t care about it at all,” Eckstein says. “However, the barrage of cultural images exaggerates the overall social appeal of this sports spectacle.”

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Agents of socialization and gender

All of the agents of socialization help to construct gender:

(1) This article from newsweek explains the research by neuroscientist Lise Eliot that shows parents begin treating the infant differently even before birth! Ex. pink and blue. nursery, gender reveal parties, etc...
Parents talk differently to babies from the moment they are born based on sex.

Six month-olds treated differently:
boys=independent and active 
girls=dependent and passive
by thirteen months, each gender acts differently.


Girls and boys learn what it means to be a man or woman from friends.

See the book from Patricia and Peter Adler on preadolescent peer pressure.

(2) This research by Patricia and Peter Adler published in Sociology of Education shows that values for popularity develop as early as fourth grade;
boys: athletics, coolness and toughness, grades=lower popularity.
girls: family background, physical appearance (esp. clothing and makeup) and ability to attract popular boys, grades=higher popularity.          

In a 2007 ethnography called "Dude You're a Fag", sociologist CJ Pascoe studied high school peer groups and how they sanction gender norms.  Excerpt is here.


(3) This research in the Sociology of Education shows how high school begins to
shape students' interest in majoring in STEM fields in college.

From the National Academy of Sciences, (4) this study shows that teacher anxiety about math affects their students.

From the Society Pages, this post shows the latent lessons (hidden curriculum) that schools teach.  In this case, it starts as young as 8 years old.

Here is a post from the Society Pages that shows Barbie helps to  reinforce lessons learned from teachers, and around the world girls show higher scores in STEM if the level of inequality in the society is less.

This (5)research from Gender and Society shows research that high school teachers attitudes about girls and math affects how they grade and teach them.

(6) This article from the NY Times shows that gender gap in math scores disappears in countries with a more gender-equal culture.

  -differences in toys; boys=action figures, weapons;  girls=jewelry, dolls
           See this essay

See this post from the Society Pages, or this page from the feministgal blog, and this redundant post from the Society Pages 

And see this post about other products that are pointlessly gendered thus reifying the idea of traditonal gender traits.  

And, this post about Barbie shows how the doll creates unrealistic expectations for the female body.

And here is Ellen making fun of Bic pens for women.


How does each agent contribute to the socialization of gender?

What evidence does sociology provide that agents of socialization influence individuals' self concepts about gender?

For more info, see Ferris and Stein pgs. 247-251

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

LGBT Panel

Today we were fortunate to have a group of students share their experiences in dealing with LGBT issues. Interviews are one way that sociologists conduct qualitative research and I think this is always a valuable way of learning from the LGBT community.  I think there are a few themes that come out of the panel.

First, students explain the way they not only could not choose their sexuality or gender identity but in some cases they worked actively to try to deny it and fight against it.  I find it hard to imagine how difficult it must be to mentally try to be something you are not.  This is an example of the difference between nature and nurture.  It is very hard for them to deny their nature even if they are nurtured against it.

Second, I think that the students show a similar pattern of how difficult their relationships are in their agents of socialization.  Students show how difficult it is with their families, schools, religions and even peers/friends.  Being gay, bisexual or transgender creates a role conflict with all of these groups that operate under traditional gendered traits.

Finally, the panel shows the individuality of each person.  Sex, gender, sexuality and gender identity all exist on a spectrum (as opposed to the narrowly defined boxes that our culture uses).  The individuals on the panel exhibit their own unique identity in these categories and they have their own unique coming out process. We should be mindful of that individuality.  Don't stereotype them, instead respect each person's self identity.  This includes the pronouns that they use, as well as other things like their interests, hobbies, haircut and clothes.
In conclusion, I think it was incredibly courageous for these students to share their experiences.  I hope you found it moving and enlightening.

Here are more LGBT stories online.

Catholics supporting inclusion.

Here is a link to the Reconciling Churches network within the Methodist Christianity.

Here is a link to the Reconciling Lutheran Christian churches.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Gender; A Taken-for-granted example of socialization

As you enter, please take out your packet, open to page 23 and answer this question in as many ways as you can (brainstorm):

Besides beng different physically, how would your life be different if you were born a different sex?

     Gender is one of the social constructs we learn from an early age and we often take it for granted. Nearly everyone is born biologically with a sex (that is male or female) and a sexuality (that is a sexual attraction such as heterosexual or homosexual). Most researchers who study people such as doctors, biologists, psychologists, sociologists will say that all of the research shows that people are born with their sex and sexuality. These are part of our biological makeup, our nature.

      However, gender is learned. Gender is how you react to your sex and sexuality. Think about how you answered that question at the top of this post.  Most of the ways your life would have been different are examples of treating people different based on their sex (and sexuality).  This constructs a certain way of being.  So, for example, if I am a heterosexual male, how should I act? What colors should I like?  What clothes should I wear?  How should I talk?   What sports should I play?  Is it okay for me to cry?  To be rough?  To like violence?   To be sensitive? And so on...These are all our gender and they are all learned reactions. 

Nature has no edges.  It is not binary.

Sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity is all fluid on a continuum:
                                                                                    1       2      3       4       5      6      7      8      9          
Sex (biological; physical body, chemical makeup) Male                      intersex                        Female
Sexual Orientation (attraction)                              Hetero                   Bisexual               Lesbian or Gay
Gender Identity                                                  Masculine          Neutral/Queer/Fluid         Feminine 
Gender Expression
Scientific American explains the continuum here.  And they provide a useful graphic here.

The Gender Spectrum website also provides resources and an explanation.

However, our culture boxes people in to two very narrow ways of being.  It doesn't allow for any expression of sex, sexuality, or gender along the continuum.

Look at the handout called "Socialization of Gender Roles."

Part 1:  Take a moment to think about where you have heard the various phrases on your handout.

Part 2: Think about what traits those phrases emphasize for men or women respectively.

These are some of the traditional traits that our culture has pushed for each gender.  Note that these are traditional in the sense that society has generally promoted them, even if they do not apply to you.

Traditional Masculine Traits                                                  Traditional Feminine traits
Independent                                                                               Dependent
Intelligent                                                                                  Unintelligent/spacey
Capable                                                                                     Needy
Assertive                                                                                   Passive
Rational                                                                                    Emotional
Competititve                                                                             Cooperative
Insensitive                                                                                 Perceptive
Ambitious                                                                                 Weak
Brave                                                                                         Timid
Attractive from achievement                                                     Attractive from appearance

Here is a qualitative study of sex and the words used to describe professors on

Gender notions have changed over time which also highlights the social construct of gender. Checkout this post, called "The Manly Origins of Cheerleading" that shows how gender is a construct and because of that, our perception of gender changes over time.

This is an excellent podcast about the social construction of gender:

This 2018 episode of Hidden Brain explains how the differences between men and women are created by society.  

Here is a terrific program about gender from National Geographic called The Gender Revolution.  It has an in depth explanation of transgender as well as some of the latest science about sex and gender.

What is the difference between:
Sex –

Gender –

 Sexuality –

What does it mean for sex, gender, sexuality to be binary?

Instead of as binary, how do most sociologists see gender?

For more info. see Ferris and Stein pgs 243-247

Friday, March 9, 2018

Self and Agents of Socialization

Takeaway from Yesterday: What evidence do we see in the Danielle video about socialization?

As you enter, please fill in 20 responses to the question "Who am I?" (see the Twenty Statements Test handout).

This is a survey that has been used in various studies for over 50 years.  In our class, it is an example of how we develop what sociologists call a "self," or a conscious understanding of who we are as individuals.  One important sociologist who wrote about the "self" is Erving Goffman.  Goffman wrote The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life which theorized that people present themselves to the world based on their ideas about their self.  They create an image of how they want to be perceived.  It is like being in a play - when you go on stage you are dressed up to play your role.  Goffman's theory in the form of an extended metaphor is known as dramaturgy.    

Finally, where did these responses come from?  How did we develop our sense of self?  Are there any  responses on the TST that were not learned from someone or some group?   Sociologists call the most important influences on our "self",  agents of socialization.

Family is obviously the most important agent of socialization.  They shape our self concept before we are even conscious of it.

Manifest lessons and latent lessons.
Families intentionally teach skills, values and beliefs (manifest lessons), but they also can teach unintentional (latent) lessons. When I was growing up, besides teaching, I considered being a cop or working for the FBI. Both of these were jobs my parents did. It is funny that with so much opportunity in America, how often students pursue careers related to what their parents do. Is this true for you? How are you shaped by parents or friends?

Social Class and Family
Family shapes people differently based on the social class of the family.  Melvin Kohn studied families and social class in the 1960s.  His research found that parents from working class households emphasize following rules and discipline while upper middle class parents teach their kids to take risks, negotiate, and think creatively.  Sociologist Annette Lareau explains these differences in her research.  Her book, Unequal Childhoods is explained in the Atlantic here.

Family and your Mindset

Carol Dweck explains how parents and eventually schools both work create a fixed mindset that actually prevents learning.

This Atlantic article the latest update to Dweck's research which shows that praise cannot be empty.  It must be directed in specific nuanced ways to promote growth.

This NPR review of the book includes an excerpt and an interview.

This NY Magazine article explains how to apply Dweck's research to parenting and talking to kids.

A reason to read...
Have you ever been in trouble for poor grades? You may want to read this research by Keith Robinson and Angel Harris.  Angel Harris is a widely respected sociologist from Duke University who focuses on the effects of family, race and social class on student education.  Harris's book Kids Don't Want to Fail explains the influences that limit poor minority students.  From Harvard University Press,
"Despite achieving less in school, black students value schooling more than their white counterparts do. Black kids perform badly in high school not because they don’t want to succeed but because they enter without the necessary skills. Harris finds that the achievement gap starts to open up in preadolescence—when cumulating socioeconomic and health disadvantages inhibit skills development and when students start to feel the impact of lowered teacher expectations.Kids Don’t Want to Fail is must reading for teachers, academics, policy makers, and anyone interested in understanding the intersection of race and education."
Family and the Production of Culture and the Self
Life Lessons from Chinese Culture from NPR shows how families influence kids to accept aspects of their culture.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

nature AND nurture

As Students enter, please answer 1 on your mindfulness takeaway sheet and please answer 2 and 3 on page 15:

1.  Yesterday's Takeaway: Do you understand the metaphor of the growing man?  What are we born into the world with? What can we become as humans? How does this happen?

Please look at the reading called "What is Human Nature."

2. What claim is the author making in this reading?

3. What evidence does he provide?

Please remember to pay dual credit tuition by next week.

HW:  Please read and take notes on Henslin's "Agents of Socialization" for the day after tomorrow.

Based on the growing man metaphor, we see that people are born with a potential or an aptitude toward their full conscious but they need others to nurture it out of us.  We are made through our biology to be social beings.  The influence of others on us (socialization) actually happens before we are even born!  One example of this is in identical twins who have the same exact DNA and biology.  Because they are exactly the same, nurses will often paint the nails of twins differently so that they can tell them apart.  But, often the parents of these twins can tell them apart from a very early age because they have already started developing different personalities even before being born.   Another example of socialization happening in utero is in this study that shows what mothers eat can affect the unborn baby's sense of taste.  In a more extreme example, researchers have found the the experiences that a grandmother has can affect the genes that she passes down to her grandchild!  In other words, the nurturing or socialization process might start decades before you are even born!  Here is a trailer for a show on NOVA that explores the connections between genes and social experiences. The researchers theorize that social experiences can affect the genes of a person and, more amazingly, these genes can be passed down to a generation or two. So the grandchildren may experience the effects of their grandparents' lives on their genes. How crazy is that? They call it the "ghost in your genes".

Don't let these mind blowing examples complicate things for you. Here is the simple idea: nature provides you a starting point or aptitude such as DNA and genes. And then nurture (or your socialization) works with your nature to enhance it, repress it or change the nature to something else. The point being that we need both nature and nurture to make us who we are.  If we do not have that nurture we cannot reach our higher power of consciousness and awareness.

Besides starting surprisingly early, nurture also plays a surprisingly powerful role in our development. One example is studying the differences in identical twins; they have the same DNA, genes and biology; the same nature but they are different. It is amazing to me that so much of what we take for granted as being human (part of our nature) is actually learned from our environment (nurture). The video below is about a girl named Genie that was locked in a bedroom alone for 12 years of her life is one small piece of evidence of the power of social experiences on individuals. Here is what Susan Curtiss wrote about her in her book Genie; A Psycholinguistic Study of a Modern-Day Wild Child.

Genie was pitiful. Hardly ever having worn clothing, she did not react to temperature, either heat or cold. Never having eaten solid food, Genie did not know how to chew and had great difficulty in swallowing.  Having been strapped down and left sitting on a potty chair she could not stand erect, could not straighten her arms or legs, could not run hop, jump or climb.  In fact she could only walk with difficulty shuffling her feet and swaying from side to side. Hardly ever having seen more than a space of ten feet in front of her she had become nearsighted to exactly that distance....Surprisingly, however, Genie was alert and curious. She maintained good eye contact and...She was intensely eager for human contact. 

You can also check out this website for examples of feral children. This website, though sad, provides further evidence for the importance of human nurturing in socializing individuals to their full human potential. How have you been shaped by the experiences of your life?
I am convinced of the overwhelming power of love in the world. As a sociologist, my interest is in the effects that people's environments have on each other. Below I will outline the research that has lead me to believe in the power that loving each other has on our being. To learn to love each other and allow ourselves to love should be our ultimate cause. This may sound corny or anecdotal, however, there is research that supports this. From Henslin's Sociology; A Down To Earth Approach, we read about Skeels and Dye's study of institutionalized children (1939) and Skeels follow-up study in 1966. The research found that children given love, affection, stimulation and intimacy are able to be more independent, socially-attached, more successful adults later in life.  Look at the difference between the children that stayed behind at the orphange receiving proper care, but little stimulation, love and affection versus the children who went to a home where adults with special needs could show them love, attention, nurture and stimulation:

Institutionalized Children (Skeels & Dye)
Orphanage 12                                                Home for Special Needs 13
More functional at first                              More severely dysfunctional
Proper care, but no stimulation                Stimulation, play, challenge and affection
    -30 IQ pts                                                       +28 IQ pts
     - avg. less than 3rd grade ed                     - avg. of 12th grade 5 complete 1+ years of college       
      - 4 live in institutions                                -  all 13 were self-supporting or homemakers
     - low level jobs                                            - 1 grad school
     - 2 marry                                                      - 11 marry

In class we watched a video of a girl Danielle who was found at age 6.  She had very little socialization from her mother who was later arrested.  Here is Danielle's website.  Here is an update from the Tampa Bay Times.  And here is an update on how she is doing 9 years later.

Lastly, checkout this post from the Society Pages it has a number of different examples showing the socialization influence on kids.  Here is the baby rapper video.  Here are two babies learning to converse.  And baby preacher.

What role does nurture play?

What evidence does each of the following provide?
Feral Children

Isolated Children

 Institutionalized Children (Skeels and Dye)