Tags: gender, health/medicine, organizations/occupations/work, social mvmts/social change/resistance, nursing, occupational sex segregation, pink collar, sexism, 00 to 05 mins
Access: New York Times
Summary: When we first meet someone, the process of getting to know them usually entails finding out their occupation. We seek this information because occupations are an integral part of our identities. Furthermore, our worker self cannot easily be separated from our gender identity, as many jobs (and therefore the people that do them) are considered masculine or feminine—with the latter often denoted by the term “pink collar.” For example in the movie "Meet the Parents," when the protagonist Gaylord Focker is introduced to his future in-laws, they repeatedly undermine his masculine identity because he works in nursing, a “pink collar” and female-dominated occupation (see a short clip from the movie here). However, according to this New York Times investigation, changes in the economy are altering our culture. In our shift to a postindustrial economy, traditionally masculine blue-collar jobs are disappearing; thus many men are choosing to enter fields that were previously dominated by women. This clip is useful for instructors who seek to explore the articulation between gender and work, and how economic changes to the labor market are provoking cultural understandings pertaining to gender.
Submitted By: Jason T. Eastman
Tags: commodification, consumption/consumerism, bodies, emotion/desire, food/agriculture, gender, health/medicine, marketing/brands, media, eating disorders, subtitles/CC, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: This commercial for LAY'S® potato chips can be used to illustrate the common practice among advertisers to represent women's consumption of junk food as a (commodified) act of romantic love, intimacy, or sexual pleasure. In this particular spot, shot entirely in slow motion with Al Green crooning his classic "I'm So In Love With You" in the background, anticipation builds as the woman prepares to encounter her salty prince, err...snack. As she opens the bag, a flirtatious smile spreads wide across her face. She performs all the ritualistic feminine acts of falling in love (bites at her lip, bats her lashes, averts her eyes), adhering to a familiar cultural narrative of a school girl falling in love: she's playful, coy, and unmistakably giddy. Across the bottom of the screen the following words appear: "one taste and you're in love." Feminists have well-documented the ways in which women are persistently depicted as being tormented by an obsessive relationship with food (e.g., Bordo 1998). Recently, scholars have pointed to the ways in which chocolate has been marketed to women, equating chocolate to delightful yet sinful indulgence, sex, and a pseudo form of female empowerment. In the article "Women and Food Chains: The Gendered Politics of Food," Allen and Sachs (2007) place this marketing strategy in a socio-health context, stating that "dieting, anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and obesity—all on the rise—mark the confused messages that women should have perfect (thin) bodies at the same time that they are encouraged to over consume and indulge in junk food. Advertising and media play an enormous role in perpetuating women's obsession with thinness" (2). As these commercials about junk food suggest, advertising and the media also play a role in perpetuating the message that, for women, the junk food eating experience is similar to that of sex, love, and intimacy, all of which perpetuate a complex and often unhealthy relationship with food. In another version of this commercial, Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" plays in the background.
Submitted By: Valerie Chepp
_Tags: bodies, consumption/consumerism, gender, health/medicine, knowledge, political economy, biopolitics, feminism, medicalization, menarche, menstruation, menses, patriarchy, stigma, taboo, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: In this scene from the movie Superbad, Seth finds himself dancing close to a woman at a party and winds up with her menstrual blood on his pant leg. A group of boys at the party spot the blood and deduce the source, and thus begins one of the film's signature gags: an awkward adolescent deals with what is supposed to be an awkward adolescent moment. In addition to Seth's panicked yet futile attempts to stave off humiliation are his efforts to work through the disgust of this unambiguous contamination. "Someone period-ed on my fucking leg!" he cries while gagging. Feminists have long been critical of this all-too-common fear of menstrual contamination and point to its roots in patriarchy. It is an instance of re-imagining the natural human experience of menstruation as a pathology, which can only be experienced with a measure of shame and dread. But more than men simply pathologizing a distinctly feminine experience, the pervasive fear of menstruation also fuels a multibillion dollar industry, which produces and markets hundreds of products designed to manage and even suppress menstruation (e.g., Lybrel and Seasonique). In an interview (here) about her recent book, New Blood: Third Wave Feminism and the Politics of Menstruation, sociologist Chris Bobel nicely articulates the connection between menstrual anxiety and corporate profit: "The prohibition against talking about menstruation—shh…that’s dirty; that’s gross; pretend it’s not going on; just clean it up—breeds a climate where corporations, like femcare companies and pharmaceutical companies, like the makers of Lybrel and Seasonique, can develop and market products of questionable safety. They can conveniently exploit women’s body shame and self-hatred. And we see this, by the way, when it comes to birthing, breastfeeding, birth control and health care in general. The medical industrial complex depends on our ignorance and discomfort with our bodies." The clip would work nicely with Bobel's book and as a means of opening a discussion about biopolitics, and specifically, the intensity with which women's bodies are scrutinized and managed by both the state and economy.
I would like to thank Aimee Koon for suggesting this clip.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
_Tags: bodies, disability, health/medicine, inequality, prejudice/discrimination, stereotypes, subtitles/CC, 06 to 10 mins
Access: YouTube (part 1; part 2)
Summary: What if ablebodied people were a minority? What would navigating that world be like? This film put out by the Disability Rights Commission (UK) turns the tables on a world that favors the ablebodied, and invites viewers to imagine what it would feel like if they found themselves subjected to the difficulties, discomforts, humiliations, and discrimination that disabled people face on a regular basis. This is a useful way to open a class discussion of the production of disability as a social category—how do we organize society in a way that privileges certain kinds of bodies and marginalizes others? How do we frame the people who are marginalized? How do we understand our own relationship to them when we come into contact with them? How do we understand institutional and cultural efforts to mitigate that process of marginalization—and how successful are we, really?
Submitted By: Sarah Wanenchak
Tags: biology, health/medicine, inequality, knowledge, prejudice/discrimination, race/ethnicity, science/technology, social construction, theory, fallacy of reification, racial formation, racial project, scientific racism, slave hypothesis, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: When discussing racial inequality in my introductory sociology course I make it a point to cover Omi and Winant's notion of a racial formation as resulting from historically situated racial projects wherein "racial categories are created, inhabited, transformed, and destroyed" (p. 55-56). These projects take multiple forms but in at least one version, there is an attempt to collapse race—a socially constructed concept—into biology. Such projects are similar insofar as they suggest that the socially constructed distinctiveness between people of different racial categories roughly approximates a meaningful biological distinctiveness. Scientists have been centrally involved in this effort to "find" a biological basis for race. Thus in the middle of the 19th century Dr. Samuel Morton attempted to establish that on average cranial capacities of different races were measurably different. While the cranium is no longer scrutinized in this way, the search for a biological, and therefore "natural," basis for race continues. In 1988 Dr. Clarence Grim put forth what is now known as the "slave hypothesis," which is the idea that the enslaved people who survived the Middle Passage were more likely to be carriers of a gene that allowed them to retain salt. Grim argued that this ability to retain salt, while necessary for surviving the harsh conditions on slave ships, is now proving to be the leading cause for higher rates of hypertension among African Americans. This theory has been soundly refuted but apparently still remains in many hypertension textbooks, and in 2007, the medical celebrity, Dr. Oz, promoted the idea to an audience of about 8 million people on the Oprah Winfrey Show. The clip above is from January of this year and is yet another instance of him promoting the theory. Coupled with the recent introduction of BiDil as an FDA approved treatment of heart failure for African Americans, sociologists have taken note of this slipperiest of slides down the slope of "deploying racial categories as if they were immutable in nature and society" (see Troy Duster's article in Science). The clip offers an excellent opportunity for students to discuss the persistence of this racial project, the involvement of science in this project, and how these ideological articulations might serve to provide a justification for continued inequality.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
Tags: bodies, commodification, consumption/consumerism, gender, health/medicine, marketing/brands, human diversity, medical sociology, medicalization, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: This commercial featuring actress/model Brooke Shields is for Latisse, a prescription drug approved by the FDA for “inadequate or not enough lashes.” The ad claims that Latisse can be used to treat symptoms of hypotrichosis, a condition characterized by a "less than normal" amount of hair; advertisements for Latisse have appeared in beauty magazines such as Allure. This clip is excellent for teaching students the concept of medicalization, the process by which normal life conditions (such as menopause, childbirth, aging, or death) or issues not traditionally seen as medical come to be framed as medical problems (e.g. alcoholism, eating disorders, compulsive gambling) (Conrad 1992). The Latisse commercial is particularly powerful when shown alongside a typical mascara commercial (e.g., here); while the latter claims to be a cosmetic product and the former claims to treat a “medical problem,” both are clearly targeted toward women and share many similarities -- e.g., promises of “better” (i.e., longer, darker, and/or fuller) lashes, before/after shots, celebrity actress/model spokeswomen, and scenes of attractive women having "fun," suggesting that longer, darker, and fuller lashes can result in happier social lives for women. Moreover, both commercials imply that women, and not men, should be concerned about their eyelashes, even though men can also have sparse, short, and/or light-colored lashes. While the producers of the commercial never say Latisse is developed for use by people with hypotrichosis (this message is only written in a caption at the bottom of the screen), a classroom discussion can underscore the blurring of the medical and the cosmetic in this advertisement. Instructors can point out that the active ingredient in Latisse is used to treat glaucoma. When some glaucoma patients began to notice more prominent eyelashes, they perceived this as a desirable side effect of their glaucoma medication since longer, thicker, and darker eyelashes on women are symbolic of beauty in our culture (Law 2010). Class discussion can then lead to a conversation about human diversity, in which the diversity of eye color and eye shape, as well as the length and thickness of eyelashes, among the world’s population can be examined. The Latisse commercial can prompt students to question whether eyelash hypotrichosis and other medical problems (e.g., andropause, erectile dysfunction, short stature, ADHD) (Conrad 2007) are medical problems or natural human conditions and/or characteristics that create human diversity. Advertisements such as this point to the commodification of such naturally occurring human conditions.
Submitted By: Amy Irby
Tags: bodies, gender, health/medicine, political economy, sex/sexuality, social construction, medicalization, subtitles/CC, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: In her article, "In Pursuit of the Perfect Penis," Leonore Tiefer endeavors to "show how the persistence and increased use of the stigmatizing and stress-inducing label of impotence reflects a significant moment in the social construction of male sexuality." Liz Canner seems to be attempting something similar in her documentary, Orgasm Inc (watch the trailer here), which tracks not only the development of a drug that promises sexual satisfaction for women but also the social construction of a new illness called female sexual dysfunction. In this clip Canner recounts what she learned while making the documentary, including the role Pfizer and other drug companies played in funding conferences where a small group of hand-picked doctors met and formally described the symptoms of female sexual dysfunction. Their work in defining the disease, Canner argues, was largely driven by the ambitions of drug companies to create a demand for a new drug. I find this clip works nicely in class discussions wrestling with the social construction of illness and the concept of medicalization, which can be defined as a process where phenomena related to the human body come to be defined as medical conditions. As such they fall under the responsibility and authority of medical doctors and other health professionals to study, diagnose, prevent, and treat.
Thanks to Sociological Images for suggesting Leonore Tiefer's article.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
Tags: consumption/consumerism, corporations, food/agriculture, health/medicine, marketing/brands, media, social mvmts/social change/resistance, culture jam, sociology of culture, subvertising, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: This McDonald's culture jam montage demonstrates how, by mashing up a readily recognizable yet rarely questioned piece of popular culture, new and critical questions can emerge that draw attention to social problems. In this mash-up, various scenes from McDonald's commercials are rearranged and placed alongside U.S. health data trend maps, images of obesity, and graphic scenes from a liposuction surgery in order to highlight the alarming rates of chronic health problems facing our "Fast Food Nation," including coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, respiratory problems, various cancers, insulin resistance, among many others. The accompanying music, "Pusherman" by Curtis Mayfield, provides further commentary on the role of McDonald's in American society, one that resembles that of a drug dealer, providing addictive and unhealthy products to consumers that can ultimately lead to life-threatening and socially dysfunctional outcomes. This clip would be good to use in a lecture on sociology and health, food, or media studies. This clip also adds to The Sociological Cinema's growing collection of video clips on culture jamming, (e.g., here).
Submitted By: Valerie Chepp
DJDave raps about consumption at Whole Foods
Tags: art/music, class, consumption/consumerism, environment, food/agriculture, health/medicine, marketing/brands, theory, conspicuous consumption, privilege, thorstein veblen, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: In this rap parody, DJDave (aka David Wittman) raps about his frustrations shopping at Whole Foods, which includes over-priced grocery items, loud shoppers on I-Phones, and over-crowded parking lots. To illustrate useful sociological concepts using this YouTube summer sensation, instructors can begin by simply asking students: Why is this video funny? Instructors can facilitate a conversation about middle- and upper-class consumption practices; specifically, the clip might be useful in a class discussion on Veblen's notion of conspicuous consumption, whereby upper-class consumers carry out very specific consumption practices in an effort to wield social power, whether real or perceived, thereby conveying a particular social status. The video's portrayal of a "typical" Whole Foods shopper involves a host of recognizable consumption patterns, including the foods they eat (organic chicken, kale salad, pinot noir, gourmet cheese, quinoa, kombucha tea), the cars they drive (e.g., a hybrid, Prius, Mini Cooper), the health practices they engage (yoga, cleansing diets), the gadgets they use (I-Phones), and even the social justice initiatives they are financially able to support (e.g., the environment, natural/organic/sustainable foods). A critical perspective might involve a conversation around whether health is a class privilege, pointing to the high costs associated with a healthy American lifestyle. Instructors can further unpack the humor of the clip to illustrate sociological insight by pointing to the choice of musical genre deployed. Given that rap music's origins are largely rooted in a form of social commentary on the struggles of poor and working-class urban communities of color, the "struggles" that Whole Foods shoppers endure while purchasing groceries is clearly cast tongue-in-cheek. Like other clips featured on The Sociological Cinema, this rap parody shows the ways in which art can provide a useful medium for social commentary, as well as sociological insight (e.g., see here).
Submitted By: Valerie Chepp
Tags: demography/population, globalization, health/medicine, inequality, methodology/statistics, political economy, data visualization, global development, income, life expectancy, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: This clip plots the health and wealth of 200 countries over 200 years. Animating data in real space, Hans Rosling explains how global health and wealth trends have changed since 1810. Despite persistent and extreme inequalities (both across countries and within countries), Rosling's data point to a closing gap between Western and non-Western countries, fostering a "converging world" perspective. He projects that, in the future, everyone can "make it" to the healthy and wealthy plots on the graph. This clip might be useful in a statistics, demography, globalization, or health/medical sociology class, as it helps students (particularly the novice statistician) to visualize data trends and illustrates for students the very cool things that can be done with statistical data. Instructors of medical sociology, health, and inequality might also facilitate a discussion about social factors that might inhibit or foster Rosling's optimistic portrait of the future. This clip might work well with another Hans Rosling's clip, in which he uses data visualization to illustrate global changes since the 1960s related to fertility, life expectancy, child survival and poverty by nation (and region).
Submitted By: Valerie Chepp
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