Tags: class, culture, inequality, marriage/family, theory, assortative mating, cultural capital, 06 to 10 mins
Summary: People have increasingly married others from their same class; the number of people marrying up or down (to classes higher or lower than their own) has decreased over time. This is one pattern of assortative mating, or the process through which people tend to marry someone with similar traits to themselves (e.g. education, wealth, age). A 2013 ASR article, "Trends and Variation in Assortative Mating" identifies the many causes and consequences of these patterns. One cause, which is depicted in this excerpt from People LIke Us: Social Class in America, is the varying forms and levels of cultural capital across members of different classes. The different cultural practices and preferences related to class background can ultimately shape who we are attracted to and who we feel comfortable around. The video features a woman, who was born as a "poor country girl" but married into the upper class, and has made her living replicating the cultural practices and norms of her new class. She teaches a working-class woman how to position herself in proximity to others, how to dress (they shop for a $2500 outfit, and she is "worth it"), "desire shop," and be confident with members of the upper class, all in preparation for finding a partner from a wealthier background. Toward the end of the video, a commentator ponders whether a person is truly able to ever change their class, arguing that it would take "a lifetime of study and actors'/actress' training" to master the cultural practices of the wealthy elite. The clip works well to illustrate cultural capital and to engage in discussions about the causes and consequences of assortative mating, especially in terms of economic inequality. For example, what is the role of class and cultural capital in shaping our marriage partners and how does this lead to class reproduction?
Submitted By: Paul Dean
Diablo Steve panhandles at a busy intersection
Tags: class, crime/law/deviance, marriage/family, methodology/statistics, drugs, ethnography, homelessness, visual ethnography, substance abuse, 06 to 10 mins
Access: YouTube; Vimeo
Summary: This observational film from filmmaker Greg Scott and a crew of sociologists chronicles the daily lives of Diablo Steve and Sapphire Pam, a homeless and heroin-addicted married couple. Beginning with a brief wedding anniversary celebration, the camera follows Steve and Pam as they go about their daily routine, which includes a visit to a "shooting gallery," where they inject their "medicine," and a visit to a busy intersection, where they carry out their panhandling "hustle." The film sticks with Steve and Pam as they navigate various modes of transportation throughout the day, until finally setting up camp at a homeless shelter, where they attempt to get some relief in a momentary and fleeting setting of “home.” Although the film neither expresses judgement nor engages in the kind of overt analyses one typically finds in films that include interviews and narration, assistant videographer Thom Fredericks notes that "Ultimately the film represents an effort to analyze marriage and the ways in which the meaning of marriage has changed in society." In the context of a sociology class, instructors can easily draw on the film as a basis for contemplating a range of other topics, including homelessness, substance abuse, and deviance. The film is also an excellent example of visual ethnography, which is a form of ethnographic research that incorporates photography, video, or hypermedia.
Submitted By: Thom Fredericks
Jose Antonio Vargas talks about immigration reform
Tags: community, discourse/language, immigration/citizenship, marriage/family, assimilation, intermarriage, spatial concentration, 11 to 20 mins
Access: The Washington Post (Part 1 - Part 4)
Summary: At a post office, I recently overheard a Ghanaian child translate the prices for his parents. This was all happening while the Chinese cashier repeatedly yelled out that they needed to pay extra for something or other. The little kid struggled to string together phrases in English, and both the parents and employees seemed relieved when the whole ordeal was over, somehow vaguely proud of the child’s budding communication skills. I see so much of my childhood in that Ghanaian family. Doing the language limbo hits close to home for me, having grown up first generation Latino in California. Translating menu options for my parents and answering the phone when they didn’t recognize the number on our caller ID became standard protocol. Weaving in and out of English and maneuvering through this dizzying dialectical maze is something I still encounter today; and I know I am not alone. In June of this year the US Senate passed an immigration reform bill that promises to provide a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living and working in the U.S. The bill's passage also brings up questions of assimilation, which refers to the process of immigrants adapting to their new society. Contrary to an opinion held by many, it is possible to quantify how well immigrants make the transition to their new homes. For instance, sociologists sometimes measure spatial concentration, or the degree to which immigrants live apart from the native-born population. Sociologists also look at the degree to which immigrants socially integrate with native-born folks, irrespective of geographic distance. One way to do this is by examining rates of intermarriage between immigrants and natives. Another way is to examine the degree to which immigrants have access to natives or naturalized citizens. Drawing from The New Immigrant Survey (2003), sociologist Guillermina Jasso and her colleagues recently reported that 72% of immigrants in the United States with legal permanent resident status have ready access to natives or naturalized citizens of the United States. Thinking again about the Ghanian child, one of course can also look at language as a measure of assimilation, but it's important to keep in mind that language is a two-way street. To foster a sense of community, some have argued we must press for assimilation by demanding that new immigrants speak English. What is often lost in these discussions is that native English-speaking Americans can also foster a strong sense of community by embracing the rich immigrant history of the United States and learning a second or third language. It is useful to consider assimilation and the ability of Americans to build community in light of the turbulent history of formal immigration policy. This four-part series from The Washington Post provides a nice discussion of the past 30 years of policy changes.
Submitted By: Sal Ramirez
More emotional satisfaction brings less institutional stability.
Tags: emotion/desire, marriage/family, divorce, love, marital satisfaction, 11 to 20 mins
Summary: When teaching about social institutions, sociology instructors often aim to illustrate the ways in which, paradoxically, institutions are both rigid and changing over time. This includes the institution of marriage. The recent Supreme Court decision to federally recognize same-sex marriage offers a very clear, timely, and high-profile example of the changing nature of the institution. Students might not, however, see as readily the ways in which heterosexual marriages have also changed dramatically over time. In this video, Stephanie Coontz, professor of history and family studies, illustrates how marrying for love is a radical and very modern idea, first appearing in the late 18th century. Coontz points to two paradoxes that emerged once love played a role in marriage; both have to do with the stability of the institution. First, she shows that the very things that have made marriage as a love relationship more rewarding, have made marriage as an institution less stable. Today, marriage has the opportunity to be more loving than ever, but if it doesn't work out that way, it seems less tolerable. Second, the strongest emotions are not necessarily the ones that sustain the most satisfying relationships. She goes on to discuss research on marriage stability and marriage satisfaction. While this video, as well as the Supreme Court's decision on same-sex marriage, highlight the changing nature of the institution, viewers can be encouraged to think about the ways in which the institution of marriage remains quite rigid. How does this rigidity continue to structure behavior? Further, viewers can be encouraged to think about how increased emotional satisfaction in marriage has come at the expense of institutional stability. What are the societal costs and benefits of such an arrangement? This lecture is pulled from the arguments Coontz (2005) makes in her book, Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage.
Submitted By: Valerie Chepp
Scene from the music video "Same Love"
Tags: art/music, inequality, lgbtq, marriage/family, prejudice/discrimination, sex/sexuality, hip-hop culture, homophobia, marriage equality, privilege, 06 to 10 mins
Summary: Seattle rapper Macklemore’s hit track “Same Love” provides a social commentary for the relatively absent discussion of homosexual love in mainstream hip-hop culture. In “Same Love,” Macklemore expresses his support for gay marriage and creates a space for listeners to reflect upon their views of both gay marriage and homophobia—online, in rap music, and in our daily lives. The video tells a story of struggle with sexual identity, acceptance, love, and marriage. The video follows a man from childhood to old age, unraveling a story about the difficulties of navigating queer sexuality in a heteronormative environment. In the song’s opening lines, Macklemore unpacks stereotypical assumptions that society holds of prescriptions that define “gayness,” explaining his own confusion with his sexual identity as a child because he was “good at drawing” and “keeps his room straight.” Macklemore’s music provides a counter-narrative to typical messages in hip-hop centered around sex, money, drugs, and objectifying women. Instead, he uses his music as a forum to spread awareness about social issues. He effectively flips the discourse from the glorification of homophobic language in mainstream hip-hop to a discussion about prejudice and discrimination. Some questions that instructors can ask students include: “What do heterosexual people take for granted at school dances? At parties? At family dinners with their partner? How do these events illustrate some of the privileges associated with being heterosexual? What are some of the ways we “properly” perform heterosexuality in high school? Do you think hip-hop is an effective medium to educate and create discussions about social issues? For another post that features hip-hop music as a forum to engage social issues, click here.
Submitted By: Pat Louie
Bollywood actor and filmmaker Aamir Khan
Tags: abortion/reproduction, demography/population, gender, marriage/family, violence, domestic violence, gendercide, india, infanticide, patriarchy, sex ratio, subtitles/CC, 61+ mins
Summary: The cultural preference for sons in India and China is well known and widely discussed, and demographers observe that both countries have distorted sex ratios, due in part to a rise in sex selective abortions since the 1980s. According to estimates based on census and sample registration data, in mainland China the sex ratio stood at 120.6 boys per 100 girls in 2008, while it stood at 110.6 boys per 100 girls in India for 2006-2008. In some Chinese provinces and Indian states, the ratios are even higher than these national-level estimates. For instance, in Jiangxi, Anhui and Shaanxi provinces in China the sex ratios are 137.1, 132.2 and 132.1, respectively, and in India's northern states of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, the sex ratios are 119.6, 118 and 114.9, respectively. This video is from the Indian television talk show Satyamev Jayate and takes on the issue of sex selective abortions in India. The video can be used to supplement discussions on distorted sex ratios. In particular, it can be used to highlight the domestic violence that often accompanies the preference for sons but tends to be neglected in the demographic literature, given its tendency to focus exclusively on numbers and trends. From about the 6:10 mark to about 19:30 minutes, the audience hears the testimony of two women who were coerced into having sex selective abortions and have faced considerable harassment from their husbands and in-laws for their failure to have sons. Instructors can further use the video to begin a discussion about how the problem of imbalanced sex ratios can be addressed. Since patriarchal notions that men are more valuable than women underlie the trend toward coerced sex selective abortion, a truly systemic approach will likely include an attempt to dismantle patriarchy itself.
Submitted By: Manjistha Banerji
Steavon's mother is a single parent.
Tags: class, economic sociology, inequality, marriage/family,
income inequality, single parents, 00 to 05 mins
Access: New York Times
Summary: In this video, The New York Times notes that "as a single mother of three, Jessica Schairer falls in the middle of a sharp debate about how economic inequality is increasingly linked to changes in family structure" (see accompanying article and infographic). Through Jessica's story as a working class mother, it illustrates how family structure can exacerbate already existing class inequalities. Jessica explains her stress trying to raise her children as a single parent, including the difficulties of getting home and needing to meet the needs of children and her inability to pay for all the activities her children would like to do. This is contrasted with her married supervisor at work, who is able to rely on a partner when going home from work. The narrator notes that like Jessica's supervisor, college-educated people are more likely to marry and that their combined resources help provide an additional advantage in raising their income, which provides additional advantages conferred to their children. The narrator also notes that "many children of single parents flourish, but studies have shown that on average, children raised by single parents are more likely to fall into poverty, do poorly in school, or become teenage parents." The accompanying article provides many additional statistics. For example, it notes that "estimates vary widely, but scholars have said that changes in marriage patterns — as opposed to changes in individual earnings — may account for as much as 40 percent of the growth in certain measures of inequality." Viewers can be encouraged to consider how class and family structure intersect to shape intergenerational economic inequality, and how the jobs of low income workers face more job-related difficulties in meeting family needs as compared to salaried professional workers.
Image by Stephen Crowley/New York Times
Submitted By: Paul Dean
Reverend Dr. William J. Barber
Tags: crime/law/deviance, discourse/language, inequality, intersectionality, knowledge, lgbtq, marriage/family, prejudice/discrimination, race/ethnicity, sex/sexuality, social mvmts/social change/resistance, theory, civil unions, collective action frames, marriage equality, same-sex marriage, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: In Part I we explored the concept of a collective action frame in the context of the vote on North Carolina's Amendment One, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Reverend Dr. William J. Barber argues in this clip that the amendment passed because the wrong frame dominated the public understanding of the issue. In Part II we want to further interrogate Barber's own frame, which posits that the amendment writes discrimination into the state constitution. We think Barber’s argument draws on key insights from intersectionality theory in sociology. In short, this theory draws attention to the relationships among multiple dimensions of social inequality (e.g., race, sexuality, gender, etc.) and insists that the formation of any subject happens at the intersections of these dimensions. Similarly, systems of domination, such as racism and heterosexism, work through this invisible, intersectional scaffolding. Echoing an insight from Kimberlé Crenshaw's path breaking article on the theory, the failure of antiracism to interrogate heterosexism means that antiracist activists are doomed to reproduce the subordination of racial minorities in the LGBTQ community. Indeed, this is what might very well have happened in North Carolina. In the lead up to the vote on Amendment One, it is now clear that there was a coordinated strategy from a political group calling itself the National Organization for Marriage. The group aimed to drive a wedge between members of LGBTQ and Black communities (here and here). Recently unsealed memos from the group state clearly that “The strategic goal of the project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks” and another memo noted the group's aspirations to make the exclusion of gay people from marriage “a key badge of Latino identity.” Barber's frame, then, grasps the way racial and sexual identities were strategically pitted against each other in the vote on Amendment One, but his frame also grasps that violations of equal protection under the law for members of the LGBTQ community in this instance, leaves the door open for violations against racial minorities in the next. As illustrated in this moving speech, intersectionality theory, not only describes how political power relies on manipulating social constructed racial and sexual identities, but also how political resistance must take these constructs into account when formulating effective collective action frames.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
Tags: abortion/reproduction, aging/life course, biology, bodies, gender, health/medicine, lgbtq, marriage/family, science/technology, sex/sexuality, social construction, fatherhood, motherhood, parenting, pregnancy, stigma, transgender, subtitles/CC, 06 to 10 mins
Summary: This video portrays the experiences and voices of various transgender parents and their families, which includes their decisions to become parents, reflections on what it means to be a parent, experiences of being a child of a transgender parent, the social stigma attached to being a transgender parent (and transgenderism in general), and experiences with various reproductive technology options. The video is excellent for illustrating the diversity of family structures and alternative gender arrangements, and would be useful in a class on sociology of the family, reproduction, gender, or sex and sexuality. People in the video highlight the hyper-gendered experience of pregnancy and parenting, thereby illustrating the social construction of these core features of the life course; this social constructivist perspective stands in contrast to common biological understandings of pregnancy and parenting. This video would pair well with Laura Mamo's Queering Reproduction: Achieving Pregnancy in the Age of Technoscience, as well as with GLAD's recently released book, Transgender Family Law: A Guide to Effective Advocacy, which can offer a nice framework for discussing some of the legal issues and advocacy strategies that transgender people encounter in a family law context. The video is also available with Spanish subtitles.
Submitted By: Valerie Chepp
Image by Kristian Dowling/Getty Images for Beatie
Tags: discourse/language, emotion/desire, lgbtq, marriage/family, sex/sexuality, theory, identity politics, queer theory, 11 to 20 mins
Length: 8:57, 4:58, 5:12
Access: YouTube (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)
Summary: How do you talk about queer theory outside of the queer studies classroom? This question has challenged scholars in the interdisciplinary field of queer studies since its inception in the late 1980s. Lisa Duggan (1994) provided a classic characterization of the trouble with talking queer theory in the proverbial 'mainstream' in her classic "Queering the State": the highly constructionist language of queer theory and the predominantly essentialist assumptions of public discourse create a kind of "language gap" between the queer studies classroom and, well, everywhere else. This language gap is not a problem, of course, unless you want to actually do something with the radical insights of queer theory in the interest of promoting social justice for gender and sexual minorities. My students tackled the problem of communicating queer theory to "lay" audiences in an applied final project for our queer theory honors seminar this semester at Arizona State University. Jenn Blazer and Jake Adler first imagined their video project as a way to "translate" queer theory to non-experts, but they found that they were unsure how to even begin such an endeavor without turning the project into a pedantic lecture on jargon. So, they interviewed two groups of people (one queer-identified group in "Phase One," and a straight-identified group in "Phase Two") about their ideas on sexuality and sexual identity. After speaking with the straight people and asking them things such as, "Can you define heteronormativity?", they showed the straight folks the responses from their queer interviewees. Then, Jenn and Jake again asked the same set of questions to the straight folks to see how their responses might change. Their results, presented in the video titled "Phase Three," are fascinating. Jenn and Jake aptly titled their project "Queering the Folk." Enjoy.
Note that these videos would pair well with Michael Warner's book, "The Trouble with Normal" and Stein & Plummer's article, "I can't even think straight': Queer Theory and the Missing Sexual Revolution in Sociology."
Submitted By: Patrick R. Grzanka
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