Tag Archives: Sociological Images

On the table, 7/6

Happy 4th!  I’m still recovering from my weekend of little sleep, grilling out, and eating lots of peaches.  I miss it all already.

Here’s what’s been brewing over the weekend:

In his book, Michael Billig coined the term “banal nationalism” to draw attention to the ways in which nationalism was not only a quality of gun-toting, flag-waving “extremists” (p. 5), but was quietly and rather invisibly reproduced by all of us in our daily lives.

So, what’s the problem with banal nationalism?  Sociologists have critiqued nationalism for being the source of an irrational commitment and loyalty to one’s nation, a commitment that makes one willing to both die and kill….  [Read on]


Read more: Check out Michael Billig’s book Banal Nationalism




A few months ago I read about encouraging advances in the science of male contraception. That led me on a long search to speak to the leading minds in the field.

As readers know, I had a vasectomy several years ago. But I have several buddies who are either on the fence about wanting kids or don’t want them right this second. So, for those guys, I wanted to ask these scientists: What’s taking so long? [Read on]

 Read more:


Georgia is having mixed results with a new program replacing migrant farm workers with probationers.

Republican Gov. Nathan Deal started the program after farmers complained a crackdown on illegal immigrants was scaring away the mostly Latino workers needed to harvest labor-intensive crops like blueberries and cucumbers.  (This article sparks a plethora of conversation points – worker’s rights, prisoner’s rights, the value of migrant work and the claim that migrant workers take jobs from US citizens, and the intersections of class, race, and ethnicity to name a few.) [Read on]

Read more:


“The moment when something is transformed into something else is the most beautiful moment; it’s a magical moment,” said Brazilian artist Vik Muniz in the 2010 Oscar-nominated documentary Waste Land (in Portuguese, “Lixo Extraordinário”), directed by Lucy Walker, João Jardim and Karen Harley.

The movie tells the remarkable story of how the “catadores,” scavengers of recyclable materials found in an enormous landfill on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, are coached by Muniz to transform mountains of discarded items into breathtaking works of art….[Read on]


Read more:

Watch the documentary Wasteland on Muniz’s work.  Check out the trailer here or watch the film on Netflix.

NPR also has a few more articles on the project.  Check them out:

 NPR – “Recyclers Turn Rio ‘Waste Land’ into High Art”

NPR – “Film Chronicles Artist’s Work from Rio Dump” by Pat Dowell

Leave a comment

Filed under On the Table

The Smurfette Principle

Defined as having one token female accessory.  Can you think of any?  Inception, Seinfeld, Tool Time, Star Trek…

Here are some interesting comments included on Sociological Images’s reposting of this Feminist Frequency video:

jfruh 10:44 am on May 3, 2011 | # | Reply

The logic behind the Smurfette principle is about how in our culture being male is the “default” gender and being female is “marked.” (This is true even though there are slightly more women then, because of institutionalized sexism, etc.) Women are defined by their gender, but men aren’t. So, with the male smurfs, just the fact that they’re male isn’t enough to define them; they need some other characteristic (they’re smart, they’re vain, they’re good with their hands, etc.). But Smurfette is defined by her femaleness; there’s no need to give her further identity.

Or, to put it another way, “Men are people; women are women.”

(Please note that I’m not endorsing all of this or saying it’s immutable, I’m just talking about how the cultural logic works.)

One cartoon of a similar vintage that does a good job of avoiding this, interestingly enough, is Scooby Doo. The main characters feature two men and two women, all with pretty different characteristics. So it’s not has if there are no other options open to the writers and cartoonists, even for cheesy kids fare.

M 5:14 pm on May 3, 2011 | # | Reply

I also find it faschinating that our perception of gender is so skewed that this actually works – throw in one or two women with a group of guys, and we think it’s balanced. But approach 50/50 or more for the ladies, and all of a Sudden we feel like they are taking over.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Full-Body Scanners…at your local mall

(Reposted from the New York Times at Sociological Images)

My grandmother worked in a clothing factory a few decades ago, and she always told me how little size tags actually mattered – if you were supposed to sew 20 pairs of size 10 pants and you had only so much fabric and so much time, by the end of the day the tags got put on whatever size pants you’ve made.

On a side note, she also told me that when thongs first came out that they were easy to steal since they were so tiny.  Her boss figured this out pretty quickly on in the production process as barely any thongs made it to the end of the assembly line.  Factory workers were then prevented from wearing long sleeves.

But, alas, I have always thought about the tired factory worker with only size 10 tags every time I go shopping for clothes.  And whether you shop fair-trade or not, sizes vary across brands and even within brands.

Have you ever carried the same pair of pants in three different sizes into the dressing room, wondering which one will fit today?  I sure as hell have.

According to the New York Times, companies have finally begun tackling the problem of unreliable sizes and “vanity sizing”:

Some are pushing more informative labels. Some are designing multiple versions of a garment to fit different body shapes. And one is offering full-body scans at shopping malls, telling a shopper what sizes she should try among the various brands.

NYT writer Stephanie Clifford reports that the company My Best Fit has designed a full-body scanner that can provide you with a shopping guide of your sizes from different stores:

The customer steps into a circular booth, fully dressed. A wand rotates around her, emitting low-power radio waves that record about 200,000 body measurements, figuring out things like thigh circumference.

Next, the system matches the customer’s measurements to clothes in its database. MyBestFit currently measures clothes from about 50 stores, including Old Navy, Eddie Bauer and Talbots.

Customers then receive a printout of the sizes at each store that ought to fit the customer best.

The retailers pay a fee when they appear in the results, but they cannot pay to be included in the results; the rankings are based solely on fit.

This chart demonstrates how a size 8 can vary from store to store:

Although the article didn’t mention variations in men’s sizes, Sociological Images was quick to point out that men’s clothing suffered from size inflation as well.

Ok, great.  So we have proof of the Loch Ness Monster – we know we’re being duped into buying smaller and smaller sizes.

Will this revelation convince men and women that body shape can’t be summed up in a number?

Will full-body scanners teach young men and women who suffer from poor self-esteem that all bodies are different, and that absolute conformity is impossible?

Or will this just teach adults and children to memorize what clothing stores have the smallest sizes?

If I ever have a child, I’m really tempted to cut out the tags of all clothing they wear until they start buying their own.  As revealed by this post, sizes are apparently more than even adults can bear.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

“Stuffed” Girl’s Heads! Only $2.98!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Blog Post Blizzard

Women’s Media Visibility in Egypt’s Protests – Sociological Images

Coverage of the Egyptian protests this week disproportionately interviewed and photographed male protestors, occasionally using the terms “Egyptian men” and “protestors” interchangeably (excellent example here).  What images we did receive of women depicted them as separate from the demonstrations if not dependent on male guardianship.  The paucity of images or stories about women activists excludes them from the national uprising and silences their protests.

These Attractive Sneakers Become Trees When You’re Done with Them – Good Magazine

The second-place winner at Amsterdam’s Green Fashion Awards last week, OAT’s “Virgin Collection” is the world’s first line of sneakers that, upon disposal, will biodegrade and sprout trees. The materials—some developed by OAT itself—are all easily broken down, and tree seeds packed in the lining will hopefully leave saplings where your sneakers once stood.

The ‘Black History’ of America’s White House – NPR

Vodpod videos no longer available.

For many Americans, the White House stands as a symbol of liberty and justice. But its gleaming facade hides harsh realities, from the slaves who built the home to the presidents who lived there and shaped the country’s racial history, often for the worse. In The Black History of the White House, Clarence Lusane traces the path of race relations in America by telling a very specific history — the stories of those African-Americans who built, worked at and visited the White House.

The Thorny Path to a National Black Museum – New York Times

Fabrizio Costantini for The New York Times - Katricia Gray, left, of Detroit, brought sculptures to Tulani Salahu-Din, a researcher for the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture, at a November event to appraise possible donations to its collection.

As the director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Mr. Bunch, 58, is charged with creating an institution that embodies the story of black life in America.

The pressure couldn’t be greater. To open in 2015, in a $500 million building designed to evoke the art of an ancient West African kingdom, the museum will stand at the geographic center of American civic identity, on the National Mall.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Blog Post Blizzard

I have too many interesting articles to share with you and so little time.  So, in honor of the snowcalypse in the Midwest, here’s a blizzard of fabulous things to read.  Choose your poison:


Why Keeping Little Girls Squeaky Clean Could Make Them Sick – NPR

WESTLAND, MI – JULY 6: Hannah Rose Akerley, age 7, of Grosse Point Park, Michigan, gets some relief from the heat by playing in a gigantic lake of mud at the annual Mud Day event July 6, 2010 in Westland, Michigan. The lake was created by mixing 20,000 gallons of water with 200 tons of topsoil. The event, which is sponsored by the Wayne County Parks Department, draws about 1,000 children each year. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)


Middle Eastern and North African Protests Shatter Myths About Muslim Women – Ms. Magazine

Young people are coming out in full force to fight for democracy, and women are at the forefront of these protests, breaking a huge stereotype that Muslim women passive, voiceless or apathetic.





Beauty and the Double Standard of Aging – Sociological Images

Today I had the pleasure of reading a 1978 essay by Susan Sontag titled The Double Standard of Aging. I was struck by how plainly and convincingly she described the role of attractiveness in men’s and women’s lives: “For women, only one standard of female beauty is sanctioned: the girl. ”


Brisenia Flores, Another Nine-Year-Old Girl, Was Shot and Killed in Arizona – Village Voice

Brisenia Flores, 9, was killed on May 30, 2009, when a group led by anti-immigration fighter Shawna Forde raided the girl’s family home in the border town of Arivaca, Arizona. Allegedly, the attack was organized in the name of the Minutemen, a crew of vigilante border patrols, who hoped to steal money and drugs to fund their revolution against immigration. The Flores household was attacked mistakenly, for they had no drugs or money, but according to reports, Forde and her cronies commenced to shoot Brisenia’s father in the head, killing him, before wounding her mother and eventually, shooting Brisenia in cold blood…




The Black Power Mixtape – Democracy Now

We broadcast from Park City, Utah, home of the Sundance Film Festival, the nation’s largest festival for independent cinema. One of this year’s selections that is creating a lot of buzz is a documentary called The Black Power Mixtape. The film features rare archival footage shot between 1967 and 1975 by two Swedish journalists and was discovered in the basement of Swedish public television 30 years later. We speak with renowned actor and activist Danny Glover, who co-produced The Black Power Mixtape.


Oscar nominations an all-white affair – The Gazette

It’s a wonder that the security guards at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences didn’t stop Mo’Nique and make her show ID when she arrived to help announce the Oscar nominations early Tuesday at the organization’s Beverly Hills headquarters. After all, she was the only person of colour involved with the extravaganza, since the 83rd annual Oscar nominations have the dubious distinction of being an all-white affair…



Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Race and Gender in Diesel Ads

Sociological Images just posted an interesting article on race and gender in Diesel ads.  Check these out.  Notice any pattern?

How ’bout now?

Check here for the answer from Lisa Wade!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Engaged Public Space: How are Soldiers Dying?

This post is from Sociological Images.  Art by Sebastian Errazuriz.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Weirdest Video You’ll See Ever

So I was about to do a post on preying mantises, specifically about the myth about female preying mantises having sex with their mates and then biting their heads off.  Since Leland Howard “discovered” this fact in 1886, this myth has lent a hand to a wealth of femme fatale stereotypes, including the penis-envy or man-hating feminist.  Lisa Wade from Sociological Images further explains this myth and the ensuing unfair characterizations of women as villains here.

One commenter on Wade’s post included a link to Seduce Me with Isabella Rosselini – a series of online sorts about the sexual habits of animals, often using costumes and cardboard cutouts.  YES.

My sister is the queen of finding awkward things online, and she really should’ve beat me to this.

Here’s a clip from the episode on snails:

Here’s an equally awkward excerpt from her interview with Eric Spitznagel at Vanity Fair:

Thanksgiving is next week, so we should probably talk about turkeys. What can you tell us about turkey sex?

I don’t know much about turkeys. Birds are not so interesting generally. In terms of sexual organs, birds have a cloaca, which is an opening where everything happens, from feces and urine and also sperm. I imagine turkeys also have a cloaca, but I’m not absolutely sure. I think maybe it would be interesting to know about their method of courtship. I’m sure it would be very colorful and very strange.

I’ve heard that a lot of turkeys have virgin births.

Really? No, that cannot be right.

I swear that’s what I read. It’s called parthenogenesis, and the percentage of virgin turkey births is something like 40 percent.

I don’t think so, I don’t think so. Birds are not like aphids, where an animal can reproduce by cloning itself. You can segment the worm and the worm can become two worms. Or you can segment a starfish. But I’ve never heard of that happening in a higher animal such as birds.

If it’s true…

No, no, I don’t think it is.

But let’s assume for a moment that it is. If we eat turkey for Thanksgiving, is it possible that we could be eating the Son of God?

[Laughs. Long pause.] I don’t really want to go there, I’m sorry.

I’ve also heard that many of the turkeys sold at grocery stores are physically incapable of having sex. They’re genetically bred to be so fat that they have to be artificially inseminated.

And believe me, it gets better (really, more like worse).  Read on!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Gender, Shopping, and Thanksgiving

Before I begin, I wanted to give a shout-out to Small Business Saturday.  Although I’m not encouraging you to buy anything for anyone, you might consider buying something from a small business this year.  Consider your local townies, OR nationally organized small businesses, such as Etsy.

Wouldn’t it be great if every day of this week could be a different shopping day?  Wednesday – buy local/organic food day, Thursday- Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small-Business Saturday, Used/Vintage Sunday, Fair Trade Monday.  Let’s make it happen people!


Back to Thanksgiving – Why’s it always gotta be a mom’s job to cook?  And clean?  And buy the damn presents?  Give some ladies a break.

Sociological Images posted an enlightening ad yesterday highlighting the gendering of Thanksgiving-themed cooking and cleaning in advertisements.  Check it out.  The text reads: “When you need a hand with holiday entertaining,” and shows a mom happily juggling her responsibilities as hostess, cook and cleaner.

Lisa Wade aptly pointed out, “But apparently those extra hands do not include kids and adult men (of course, those can’t be sold, so why would Bed, Bath, and Beyond bother).”


And this was just too coincidentally good to not re-post.

In her article, “Gender Inequality in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade,” Huffington Post writer Lilly Blau explains gender discrimination in the US’s most famous parade:

See, no women!

On November 10 of this year, Lynnette Long, president of Equal Visibility Everywhere–a not-for-profit charmingly acronymed EVE–published a blog on the astounding under-representation of female characters among the Macy’s parade balloons.

For a few key feminists, despite the holiday, it was a call to action.

In the 84-year, 129-character history of the parade, only 10 female characters have ever sailed down the avenues.

[Here are the 10 female character balloons Macy’s has already introduced: Olive Oyl, Raggedy Ann, Betty Boop, Sky Dancer, Petunia Pig, Cassie from Dragon Tales, JoJo the Clown, Dora the Explorer, Hello Kitty, and Abby Cadabby.]

“Parade balloons are not a trivial issue,” said Long. “Every year millions of young girls eagerly attend Macy’s and other parades, only to look up and see nothing but male characters float by.”

Long concluded with a latent call for action: “Hopefully, one day, the parade skies of the United States will be filled with an equal number of male and female characters.”

EVE has created a petition to bring gender equality to the famous parade by 2012.  AND you can go to EVE’s website to vote for your favorite female balloons.  The leading lady is, of course, Purdue’s own Amelia Earhart.  I’m actually more partial to Miss Piggy and Wonder Woman.

So far EVE has flown the Amelia Earhart balloon in Indiana and Iowa – holla, Louisa!

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized