Friday, November 18, 2016

Social Class (inequality) in the USA by comparison

Sometimes we forget how fortunate we are relative to the rest of the world because the media is saturated with stories of the super wealthy. Here is a website that will rank you among the WORLD's population. That should provide some perspective as to how lucky we are.

However, relative to other Westernized modern countries, the US does not look so equal.  In fact, the inequality in the USA is closer to China, Mexico, Venezuela and Argentina and even Cuba!

This map shows the inequality present in countries around the world. The bluer countries are more equal and the more red are less equal:Notice how many countries are more equal than the United States.

And here is a post showing that the US has gotten more unequal over the past several decades.

 Here is another blog's post about the growing inequality in the U.S.

Here is a post from the Society Pages about the damaging effects of income inequality.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Flipping Out about Social Class

Today we played a coin flipping game that is a metaphor for social class in the United States.

This game both resembles and departs from real life.

The way it resembles real life:

1. It gives the impression that everyone has an equal chance and that the system is fair.  The coin flip metaphor seems like everyone has a 50-50 chance to succeed.  This is true for U.S. society too.  From Jen Hochschild's book, Facing Up to the American Dream,  Americans believe in the "American dream;" success is attainable for anyone.  
2. However, just like real life, the coin game takes a little luck.  If you are lucky enough to be born in wealth, it is an advantage just like being lucky to win early in the game.

3.  Once you have wealth, it gives you the advantage of having multiple chances to come back.  If you have 12 coins and you are up against someone with 3, you have multiple opportunities to come back.  This is true in real life too.  One example is the President-elect who has declared bankruptcy 4 times!

4.  Even though the game has the appearance of being an equal 50-50 chance, the rules favor a channeling of wealth to the top.  Everytime we play this, the outcome is similar: most money at the top and most people at the bottom with very little money.  This is true in real life as well as the metaphor.  Here is a graph showing wealth distribution in the U.S.:
Compare this graph to a graph of the coin distribution at the end of the game.
Some of the specific similarities include:
How difficult it is to define the middle class.
The huge disparity between those at the top and those at the bottom.
The large number of Americans who have no wealth/no coins.

Because Americans hate the idea of a class system, most Americans prefer to think of themselves as middle class.
However, rather than being a society of equality or a society of people in the middle, American has the highest rate of poverty among the 17 leading industrial nations.  Most wealth is at the top in the hands of very few people and most people are at the bottom with very little.  The rules of our society help create this outcome, but Americans do not notice or acknowledge the rules.  For example, 43% Americans cite “lack of effort” as a reason for poverty.
The United States is considered an "open system" in that technically anyone is allowed to move between the different social classes.  This is in contrast to closed systems such as Britain’s nobility or India’s caste system.  However,  the rules in an open system are unofficial and so harder to see.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Our society creates very limited ways of being masculine.

1.  Who is likely to commit random acts of school violence?

2.  Why do they do this?

3.  What can males and females do to change this violent masculinity?

In another post I blogged a little more seriously about the violent masculinity that is socially constructed in America. (see Mask You linity). This video is humorous because's my life, but
B.because it is still so different and uncool to think of stay-at-home dads as being a exciting and meaningful in our society.
If you like that video, there are lots more very funny videoes by that artist (Lajoie), but especially related to this post is another video called everyday guy, which is a humorous rap about being a regular guy - the average guy that the media neglects. Why is being a stay-at-home dad or a "regular guy" so funny? Because our notions of what is acceptable to be a "real man" is so messed up. So, what is your definition of a real man? Let me give some examples of what I think a real man should be:
A real man...
is able to wake up in the middle of the night to comfort a crying baby
has opinions but restrains emotions of anger
allows someone else to save face even if it makes him look bad
Is willing to take the lead but is not concerned with who gets the credit
is able to empathize
tries to be respective of others' feelings, but says sorry when he is at fault
is willing to try things that are difficult but can ask for help when he needs it
forgives someone who wrongs him
doesn't whine but is not afraid to say is hurt, vulnerable, or that he cares.

Here is an article from the NY Times called Teaching Men to Be Emotionally Honest.  It is another example of how to re-define masculinity.

Many males put on a tough guise to pretend that they are a tough guy because that is the only acceptable way to be masculine in our society.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

LGBT Panel

We were fortunate to have a panel of lgbt students who shared their experiences with those of us willing to listen. Thanks to all who listened with a beginner's mind.

I found it really telling how several of the students spoke about how they could not figure out why they felt different or felt that something was not right.  I think it was a poignant example that sexual orientation and gender identity is not a choice.  In a couple of cases the students grew up in homes where being gay was not even discussed.  The student didn't even know what the words "lesbian" or "homosexual" were.  Furthermore, some students were from homes that strongly did not accept homosexuality.  Knowing the power of socialization and nurture, I think it really sheds light on the fact that these students did not choose to be that way.

Another message was to be mindful about other people. Using language like "That's so gay," or "You're a fag" is hurtful to those who are gay. And, by using that language it really limits how those of us who are not gay are allowed to act and  I don't want to be put into a really narrow box.  There is a spectrum for gender and sex and sexuality, but our culture refuses to acknowledge the spectrum or allow anyone to live along the spectrum.  Instead we are pushed into a box at one end of the spectrum.

Also, realize that all people are different and this includes those who are glbt. They might be categorized as gay or lesbian or transgender but be careful that you don't turn that category into a stereotype. Each person is an individual with his/her own preferences about how to act, talk etc... Try to see each person as individuals and do not make assumptions about how they are.  And in doing so, don't make their status a master status.  In other words, if a friend comes out to you, thank them for trusting you but going forward don't make every conversation about being gay.  Realize that they have a multitude of other interests in their lives such as school, sports, movies, etc...

Lastly, I also think it was revealing how strong the agents of socialization were in their development and acceptance (or not) of their selves.  In some cases, their family had them convinced that they were not gay. But in the end, they did not have a choice about their sexuality, it just comes with who they are. If you are interested in resources or how you can help checkout and