Tags: bourdieu, culture, gender, inequality, theory, habitus, patriarchy, sexism, sexual assault, sexual harassment, subtitles/CC, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: Women have been stepping forward with allegations of sexual harassment and assault against powerful men, but it would be a mistake to fall victim to the belief that women's outrage is entirely new. However, what is new is the deluge of allegations, the sustained public attention to the matter, and that the women making the accusations are largely presumed to be telling the truth. With each epiphany, Americans are forced to confront the uncomfortable proposition that sexual harassment and assault are a constitutive part of office politics. Moreover, sexism is alive and well in the halls of American government, and it circulates within the private orbits of our most worshiped celebrities. So while it is certainly true that not all men harass women, women know that everywhere they go, there is the possibility of being harassed by men. It's as certain as the shark-infested waters beneath the plank of a pirate ship. • Back in 2015, when such allegations were more readily ignored and dismissed, the comedic duo Key & Peele seemed to grasp the scale of the problem and developed a comedy sketch featuring a pub full of gravely-voiced pirates. These drunken men of the sea are shown gathered in a dimly-lit tavern as the archetypal masculine men occupying a quintessentially masculine space. However, the brilliance of this skit is that Key & Peele play against type for laughs, and instead of bellowing songs that objectify and degrade women, they offer matter-of-fact statements of men's shared humanity with women: "I once met a lass so fine, 'twas drunk on barley wine, I'd been to sea for months a'three, I knew I could make her mine. And the lass was past consent, and we threw her in bed, and rested her head, and left cuz that's what gentlemen do." • Enter the social theorist Pierre Bourdieu and his concept habitus, which refers to a system of dispositions that vary by time, place, and social position. Drawing on this concept, one might say that the clip is funny because the pirates defy expectations in that they fail to embody and employ a sexist habitus. As viewers, we implicitly understand that casually disrespecting women is, in a sense, the lingua franca among these types of men in these types of spaces. This video can be used to illustrate Bourdieu's famous concept, but students can also be challenged to think beyond Key & Peele's fictional characters. What of the sexist habitus in the halls of government and in corporate boardrooms? What are the dispositions that define these spaces?
Lester Andrist, Ph.D.
Tags: art/music, culture, inequality, race/ethnicity, black culture, meritocracy, pop culture, privilege, soul, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: This video examines the history and legacy of soul music, and the advantage "blue-eyed soul" singers may have over Black soul singers in today’s music scene. The video begins noting the traditional dimensions of soul, including ad-libbing, belting, and unpredictability, which "historically symbolized resistance against racist oppression" and the idea of soul music as a form of racial protest and activism. But the history of black music shows that it has been underrated, uncredited, stolen, and absorbed into other genres. At the same time, white artists like Adele and Sam Smith dominate the genre. An argument of meritocracy falsely suggests this is a result of fewer Black artists, that they are not trying hard enough, or they are not writing and making enough soul music (a similar argument was made about the lack of black performances on the 2016 Academy Award nominees). Several examples (e.g. Leon Bridges) are offered to show that this argument of a meritocracy in soul music is a myth, and that black artists tend to get rejected from music competitions and awards at early stages, despite their ability. It explores the role of privilege in the process. It notes that Adele and Sam Smith do indeed deserve success, but emphasizes that all people, regardless of their race, should have an equal shot at it. This video is the third episode from a series by Amraj Lally, called "POPTOPICS". This series is a critical and theoretical analysis on trending pop culture topics, aiming to stimulate intellectual discussion. For a multimedia analysis of the institutionalization of white privilege and how to fight against it, check out our blog post.
Submitted By: Amraj Lally
Tags: bodies, culture, gender, inequality, prejudice/discrimination, race/ethnicity, social construction, beauty culture, floating norms, laissez-faire racism, model industry, white privilege, subtitles/CC, 06 to 10 mins
Summary: Is being a model really all it’s cracked up to be? In this TED Talk, Cameron Russell answers this and other questions by vocalizing some of her experiences in the modeling industry. This video is useful for illustrating the work that takes place behind-the-scenes of the modeling industry in order to produce what sociologist Ashley Mears calls “the look.” In her book Pricing Beauty: The Making of a Fashion Model, Mears articulates that “the look” is something sought after by clients and bookers alike in the fashion industry. It is defined as the varying traits—both physical and personality—that make a model desirable. Yet, after spending more than two years conducting ethnographic fieldwork, Mears finds that industry professionals have a hard time describing what exactly constitutes a good look; rather, they claim they just “know it” when they see it. In this way, Mears illustrates how the look is characterized by a set of “floating norms” against which models are measured. These socially constructed ideals “are elusive benchmarks of fleeting, aesthetic visions of femininity and masculinity” (Mears 2011:92). The challenge with adhering to these norms is that they are consistently out of reach; models must constantly work to achieve them but, since they are ambiguous and always changing, they are ultimately unattainable. The result is that even models are insecure with, and always questioning, the value of their look. • In addition to illustrating the cultural production of the look, this clip also illustrates the various ways white privilege and laissez-faire racism operate in the modeling industry. Once again echoing Mears’s findings, Russell points to the scouting process as a site where ideas about race result in inequalities within the industry. In addition to youth and vitality, Russell asserts that she was also selected for her whiteness. It is both norms around conventional prettiness and the legacy of white privilege that has helped to secure Russell’s success. Mears’s research similarly documents the ways in which white models are significantly hired over African Americans, Latino/as, and people of Asian descent. When models of color are present in the industry, they are often used in exotic campaigns or they exhibit an “ethnicity lite” aesthetic, that is, a look that “blends mainstream white beauty ideals with just a touch of otherness” (Mears 2011:196). • Russell also points to the extensive work that goes into creating a look. Behind each advertisement or photograph is significant makeup and styling, as well as preproduction, postproduction, and Photoshop. How might this create challenges for individuals in society? Many young people seek to emulate “the look” that fashion models project. However, as Mears and Russell demonstrate, the look is unattainable; it is a socially constructed concept that is difficult to describe, and even more difficult to achieve. Nonetheless, people hold themselves up to this impossible standard, resulting in low self-esteem, incredible commercial gains for beauty companies, and a perpetual feeling of insufficiency.
Submitted By: Ruth Sheldon and Valerie Chepp
Tags: bodies, culture, race/ethnicity, social construction, african-american, black, essentialism, privilege, racial identity, transracial, white, 06 to mins
Summary: Rachel Dolezal sparked a national conversation on racial identity in June 2015 when her black identity was discredited by her white parents. This video is an NBC news interview, in which Dolezal claims "I identify as black" and goes on to defend herself against various criticisms about her racial identity and experiences (including a lawsuit against Howard University, claiming they discriminated against her as a white woman). On the one hand, Rachel Dolezal can be seen as a successful activist that "breathed new life" into her local NAACP chapter as its president (she has since resigned). And some people (both inside and outside the black community) have defended her support for African-American culture, and view criticisms of Dolezal as fracturing the movement for racial justice. However, most commentaries on Dolezal have been highly critical. Jessie Daniels summarized the criticisms in her excellent post, "Rachel Dolezal and the Trouble with White Womanhood." Specifically, Dolezal's attempt to pass as a black woman has taken away resources (i.e. a full scholarship to Howard University) reserved for African-Americans, she has allegedly stolen the stories of African-American (and Native American) oppression and experience and presented them as her own, her white skin has helped her benefit from colorism and white privilege (i.e. a visibly black person would not be permitted to pass as white), and that such claims reflect bell hooks' notion of "eating the other." Her case has also sparked a controversy about her claim of a transracial identity, which has long been applied to adoptees whose race did not match that of their parents. First, this claim of a transracial identity has been criticized by transracial adoptees, who argue that “We find the misuse of ‘transracial,’ describing the phenomenon of a white woman assuming perceived markers of ‘blackness’ in order to pass as ‘black,’ to be erroneous, ahistorical, and dangerous.” Second, numerous conservative pundits jumped on the notion of "transracial" as being the same as transgender, in order to critique and discount both identities. But as Daniels and other scholars and activists have pointed out, the two identities are uniquely different. Carla Kaplan shed light on another dimension of black identity that, upon first glance, seems to be shared with Dolezal. Kaplan noted that, in the 1920s, the term "Voluntary Negro" was used to describe light-skinned blacks who looked white and chose to identify as black. The key point here is that the term was not intended for whites and was meant to honor African-Americans whose ancestry was shaped by racism (unlike that experienced by Dolezal), and that while they could "pass" as white, they chose to embrace their black identity out of racial solidarity. Kaplan went on to acknowledge that a "fervent social constructionist" view might logically enable such a fluid racial identity, but that she would still be culturally wrong in doing so.
Submitted By: Paul Dean
Tags: culture, gender, inequality, social mvmts/social change/resistance, cultural relativism, gender oppression, honor-based societies, transnational feminism, 11 to 20 mins
Summary: This is an extended preview from the film Honor Diaries (2013), which explores the subjugation of women in honor-based societies. As explained in the clip by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, author of Infidel, “The concept of honor, it’s very difficult to explain it to Western societies. A lot of it has to do with how women behave and the sexuality of women.” Oanta Ahmed, author of In the Land of Invisible Women, elaborates saying, “Honor is something that is carried and contained in women, and is there to be guarded by men." The movie focuses on the work of nine women’s rights activists—Zainab Khan, Raheel Raza, Juliana Taimoorazy, Nazanin Afshin-Jam, Raquel Saraswati, Fahima Hashim, Nazie Eftekhari, Jasvinder Sanghera, and Manda Zand Ervin—and explores gender-based abuses including female genital mutilation, child marriages, and acid attacks. This video is useful for illustrating the concept of transnational feminist activism or, “activist efforts by feminists to change gender relations outside their own states and collaborate between and among feminists in different countries” (Wade and Ferree 2015:358). In this case, women activists from different countries (including Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan, Canada, Iraq, and the UK) have come together to work against the subjugation of women in honor-based societies. The clip is also useful for inciting discussion around tensions pertaining to culturally relativist arguments about gender oppression. Western feminists have a long history of imposing their own culturally-specific perspective of feminism upon those in other societies. Aware of this imperialistic feature of Western feminisms’ history, many, including students, may resist criticizing oppressive practices taking place in non-Western societies. The activists in the clip confront this issue head-on (around the 7:50 minute mark), highlighting the resistance toward criticizing these practices for fear of being labeled an Islamaphobe. Saraswati says, "We shy away from criticizing anything that’s different because we don’t want to be seen as the type of people that would restrict someone’s expression." Westerners can learn to distinguish respectful cultural relativism from abusive oppressive practices by looking for guidance from the countless numbers of human rights activists working on these issues in their home countries. As evidenced by the women activists in this video, the notion of honor as being intricately tied to women's behaviors and bodies is justification for abuse.
Submitted By: Valerie Chepp
Tags: culture, discourse/language, knowledge, theory, cultural transmission, ferdinand de saussure, primatology, signifier, signs, symbols, subtitles/CC, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: There is a widely held myth that humans are distinct from all other animals because we have culture. As sociologists understand the term, culture is the system of beliefs, skills, and knowledge shared by a group of people or society, and stated in those terms, it is not something unique to homo sapiens. In fact, as Gillian Anderson (i.e., Dana Scully from The X-Files) explains in this short video, chimpanzees have a kind of culture too. What makes humans unique is that we are capable of passing on our culture, knowledge, and skills across generations to strangers we’ve never met, a phenomenon known as cultural transmission. Unlike chimpanzees, who have been observed teaching other chimpanzees how to use tools from their environment, humans are not limited to face-to-face interactions. Through our use of symbols, or signifiers in the terminology introduced by the Swiss semiotician Ferdinand de Saussure, we have proven to be very capable of transmitting our culture in various forms, such as writing, paintings, photographs, videos, and even in the artifacts we've designed, like tombstones and telephones.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
Tags: culture, education, immigration/citizenship, multiculturalism, nationalism, race/ethnicity, american, cultural assimilation, melting pot, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: This episode of "The American Melting Pot" is from Schoolhouse Rock!, the popular animated and musical education series for children. While it sought to promote awareness of immigration and diversity, it also illustrates the concept of cultural assimilation and the ideology of the US as a melting pot. The song's chorus communicates "Lovely Lady Liberty / With her book of recipes / And the finest one she's got / Is the great American melting pot." The animation reveals her book of recipes (e.g. Irish Stew) from various immigrant groups, but also a recipe for "The Great American Melting Pot," with these ingredients: "Armenians, Africans, English, Dutch, Italians, Chinese, Poles ..." The concept of the melting pot is that these cultures have peacefully intermixed throughout American history, thus building and then becoming a part of a dominant culture of American values and customs—which continues to welcome immigrants that "melt" or assimilate into a unified mainstream American culture (Native American culture and its destruction are never mentioned). It's clear intention is to promote equality: "You simply melt right in / It doesn't matter what your skin / It doesn't matter where you're from / Or your religion, you jump right in / To the great American melting pot." But in an educational context, its ideological effect can be to obscure that race and religion both mattered at the time the series was aired in the 1970s, and that they continue to matter today. Proponents of multiculturalism have critiqued this concept and suggested new metaphors (e.g. salad bowl, cultural mosaic, or kaleidoscope) where different ethnic groups maintain their own cultural identities within a shared space. The video does, however, suggest a more nuanced notion of the melting pot when it states "How great to be an American / And something else as well" while it reveals a flag-waving grandmother's button that reads "Kiss me, I'm Polish." Thank you to Nicole Spitzer for recommending this clip!
Submitted By: Paul Dean
Tags: class, children/youth, culture, inequality, theory, bourdieu, cultural capital, institutions, the wire, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: In this clip from season 4 of The Wire, the troubled youth discuss what makes a good "corner boy" and illustrates how cultural capital works. As demonstrated in the clip (and throughout season 4), they lack the cultural capital of professional settings. For example, they speak out of turn, disrespect authority, and speak inappropriately for the context.
But when Bunny Colvin asks the students what makes a good "corner boy," the students come alive and quickly describe the necessary traits: "keep the count straight," "don't trust nobody"; and "keep your eyes open." Their knowledge about, and interest in, working the corner illustrates the cultural capital that the teenagers possess. It is useful in navigating the streets and being a successful member of the drug-dealing gang hierarchy. The issue is that broader society does not value this form of cultural capital, which is possessed more by poor, inner-city children. Instead, society values the kinds of cultural capital that are more common middle-class suburban schools and families. In other words, the problem is not that the boys do not have any skills, but they do not have a certain type of skills. For a complementary example from The Wire, watch the restaurant scene, in which these same children lack the cultural capital necessary for eating at a fancy restaurant. The kind of knowledge and skills necessary for that setting (e.g. knowing appropriate behavioral norms, understanding menu items, being comfortable in that setting) could be helpful in a professional job interview or networking. The different values placed on cultural capital more common among middle-class families illustrate how they are more likely to reproduce their class position, thus reinforcing the class structure across generations. Like the unequal distribution of wealth, or high-quality schools, inequalities in cultural capital help to shape different economic opportunities and mobility.
Submitted By: Paul Dean
Tags: culture, demography/population, globalization, immigration/citizenship, methodology/statistics, multiculturalism, race/ethnicity, australia, japan, migration, multiculturalism, subtitles/CC, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: In this video, Professor Yoshikazu Shiobara of the Keio University Department of Political Science (Faculty of Law) discusses his research on multiculturalism in Japan and Australia. As noted by Dr. Shiobara, "I study various changes in societies associated with globalization, changes in industrial structures, multi-ethnic and multicultural developments in nation-states, migration of people, and growth in immigration. In particular, I specialize in the concept and policies of multiculturalism, and I investigate how they affect people in the host society which accepts ethnic minorities, in the form of immigrants, social minorities, and indigenous peoples. I research these issues in terms of both theory and evidence." His work compares multiculturalism in Australia, which was one of the first to implement a policy of multiculturalism, and Japan, which has yet to systematize policies at the national level. This approach identifies social policies of migrants in these two countries, and their impacts on dominant cultures, migrating cultures, and indigenous populations. This is a useful example of comparative research methods, cross-cultural studies, migration, and global sociology. A full transcript of the short clip is available in the video's description on YouTube.
Submitted By: Bhoomi K. Thakore
Tags: culture, gender, marketing/brands, media, nationalism, organizations/occupations/work, race/ethnicity, religion, american dream, commercial, farming, hegemony, ideology, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: This commercial, which aired during the 2013 Superbowl, is a montage of pictures of farmers, their families, and their lifestyle. Throughout the whole ad there is a Paul Harvey speech, known as his “So God Made a Farmer” speech, that was delivered at a 1978 farmer’s convention. The ad connects the speech with the montage of the people in a way that shows how farming is part of American culture, very hard work, and is of great moral and religious value. The ad promotes the new Dodge Ram truck, although the truck only appears a limited number of times. It illustrates the hegemonic ideology of the American Dream in a gendered and racialized manner. In short, the American Dream is the belief that obtaining success and upward social mobility for your family comes through hard work. In the ad, the farmer is working hard because it is their duty to be a hard working American. As a political conservative, Harvey was a big believer in the American Dream and promoted rugged individualism throughout his radio shows, and reflect the meanings that Dodge is attributing to its brand of trucks. This ideology is hegemonic because people take this cultural attitude, and its uniquely American expression, for granted, thereby reinforcing societal power relations. It ilso illustrates gender ideology, which can be referred to as the attitude regarding the roles, rights, and responsibilities of men and women in society. In the traditional sense, the men work blue-collar jobs while the women take care of the household and children. The ad both reflects and reinforces this traditional gender ideology, with 6 females shown in the ad compared to 21 men. None of the women were shown doing the “dirty work” while many of the men showed were actually involved in acting on their farm duties. The second to last picture in the montage is of a young child staring off into the farm with a cowboy hat while Harvey narrates, “When his son says that he wants to spend his life doing what dad does, so God made a farmer,” which reinforces the notion of farming as a masculine activity. Finally, the vast majority of farmers in the clip are white. There is a single image of an African American male farmer, and a Hispanic woman and her son, but for the most part, the video links the notions of good, hard working moral people with white male farmers, and of course, people who drive Dodge trucks.
Submitted By: Omar Mendez
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