Posted in AS Sociology: Family

Embodiment and gender

Marcel Mauss (1872-1950)

Culture – generated meanings from living together.

Ideologies become embedded into us which appear natural.

The social is expressed through the collective which becomes inscribed in the body.

Things that appear natural are not. Even simple things such as swimming are done differently in every culture.

Pierre Bourdieu – ‘The Peasant and his Body’

‘Habitus’ – the socially acquired embodied systems of dispositions history is turned into nature.

Gender – what does the way we act say about the embodiment of gender?

Iris Marion Young – Throwing like a Girl’

Strongly disagrees with Erwin Strauss who argues that girls and boys throw differently due to biology.

‘Every human existence is defined through its situation’ (Simone de Beauvoir). Femininity is a set of structures particular to a culture.

‘We feel as though we must have our attention directed upon our bodies to make sure they are doing what we wish them to do, rather than paying attention to what to do through our bodies’.

Women fail to make full use of spatial and lateral positions – sitting, standing etc.

Women are aware of being objectified (male gaze).

Gender scripts are very defined and hard to break – women who do try and break out of them are often publicly chastised and seen as a deviant. Famous female sports players such as the Williams sisters have often been denounced for being too masculine and it being unfair for the other female players!

Wonder Woman is a very good contemporary example of a more powerful representation of females which has been welcomed by many female audiences. However, the film still clearly sexualises the women – so have things changed that much?

How do these ideas link to the family topic?

Embodiment of gender scripts clearly relates to the feminist argument that patriarchal biological determinist arguments are unfounded. New Right and functionalists argue that it is natural for women to fulfill the expressive role but Young and Mauss in particular help explain why this is not the case. Women are socialised to be caring, to be feminine and gentle. There is nothing natural about it. There is no reason why men cannot be socialised in this way too and increasingly with the rise of the new man, it appears that this is already happening to some extent. Feminism has had a massive impact upon how British people view the roles within the family and without doubt, many males are happy to pursue a much more expressive role than their forefathers.

Posted in General Sociology

Gendering intelligence

Photo by woodleywonderworks, Flickr CCA recent study found that by age six, girls perceive themselves as less intelligent than boys. The study consisted of an experiment asking girls and boys if they wanted to play a game for smart kids, then telling them a fictional story about a smart person. At the end of the…

via Gendering Intelligence — The Society Pages

Posted in AS Sociology: Family

Growing number of people are without children

Taken from The Guardian: Wednesday October 5th 

The number of women in the UK and US not having children is at an all-time high. American women without children between the ages 15-44 increased from 35% in 1976 to 47% in 2010.

Women in the UK born in 1984 had an average of 1.02 children by the time they were 30 years old, which is slightly fewer children than women born in 1969 who have on average 1.12 children by 30 years old. 18% of women born in 1969 remain without children, whereas only 11% of those born in 1944 were without children.

Choice, circumstance, medical reasons and the perceived benefits of having children all play a part in deciding whether to have children. 10% of women without children in the US are so by choice, 10% for medical reasons, and 80% by circumstance according to research conducted by sociologist Renske Keizer, a professor at Erasmus University Rotterdam.



Posted in A2 crime and deviance, A2 Sociology: Religion, AS Sociology: Family, General Sociology

Y13 trip to University of Sussex

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Hopefully everyone will agree that the trip to the University of Sussex gave you all a taste of university life but most importantly, two fantastic sociology lectures. Personally, I was particularly riveted by the first lecture by Dr Ben Fincham. Using Simone de Beauvoir, Judith Butler and in particular, Iris Marion Young (who he claimed is a “genius”), he really broke down gender to highlight how masculinity offers males an advantage in life and conversely femininity imposes limits on what most women can achieve. For Young the example of how many girls throw is the perfect example of how females are socialised into acting in an inferior way – throwing a ball badly. There is nothing genetically predisposed that means a female should throw a ball like a shot put but this is something that is taught.

Another good example of this is how males and females sit. Many males stretch out or sit with a wide posture, they effectively own the space around them. On the other hand, females often sit with their legs crossed or together, so unlike the men, they are inhibited and are filling as little space as possible. Again, this is an example of gendered learnt behaviour and cleverly encapsulates the limitations of femininity.

Here is the Vice magazine article that Ben (The Professor of Fun!) mentioned:

The second lecture delivered by Dr Paul McGuiness was also very interesting. Discussing Bentham’s panopticon prison he utilised Michel Foucault to help him consider how these ideas could be applied to contemporary society. For example, it could be argued that with greater governmental powers to monitor internet usage many British modify their behaviour for fear of being watched. This is crucial to Bentham’s panopticon prison idea with the central guard station being positioned in the centre of the prison with very small slits for the guards to look out of. Thus the prisoners could not know for sure if they are being watched, therefore they would have to regulate their behaviour just in case they were.

Also, remember that Jaques Donzelot applied the ideas of Foucault to the family. He argued that government policy could be considered a form of state control over families because surveillance is taking place. For Donzelot, a policing of families is taking place because doctors, teachers and social workers are all implementing these policies and to control and change families.

Dr McGuinnness also considered the role of prison. Is it there to punish or rehabilitate inmates or does it exist to deter the public at large. Interestingly, using a Marxist perspective he argued that if capitalism was replaced by socialism perhaps prison would be unnecessary…



Posted in AS Sociology: Family

AS Family

Dads in Ads: Are Times Changing?

Sociologists have known for a while now that even though women are more integrated in the workplace, men are not as integrated at home. This disparity places extra constraints on women’s time, which Arlie Hochschild calls the “second shift.” During the second shift, women have an obligation to spend their time off caring for their houses and their children without equivalent effort from men.

For the most part, advertising has reflected that (see over 150 examples here). Ads directed at women often tie the product to a smiling, laughing, or hugging child. But until recently, dads have been largely absent from the picture—unless it’s conveniently close to Father’s Day. When dads have made an appearance in an ad, they have been accompanied by an explanation for why their unique take on parenting can be manly, implying that childcare is still women’s work.

Recently, dads have found their way into the ads and they’re starting to look more comfortable there. Swiffer has a father taking care of his son by himself,Dove connects masculinity to caring for kids of all ages, and NyQuil even has two ads with the same plot about the constant demands of parenting for amother and father.


But is active fatherhood the new norm?

Not quite. While some ads casually use competent dads to sell laundry detergent, others use themes that reflect a more troubled transition into a hands-on fathering style. For example, the Nissan Superbowl commercial tells the story father with a risky profession that keeps him on the road and away from home. The ad ends with the dad physically being in the same space as his teenage son. This is cast as a huge victory, but in reality, it’s a pretty low bar. Still, the ad got a lot of attention for being a tearjerker for its emphasis on fatherhood.

When considered as a group, these ads imply not that we’ve arrived at gender equality in the home, but instead that we’re in a stage of transition. We can appreciate active fatherhood, but we’re not entirely sure what it should look like. With the recent popularity of dadvertising, we can expect to see the commercial conversation around fatherhood continue, giving us the chance to watch as Americans learn #HowToDad.


Nicole Bedera is a PhD student in sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is currently studying college sexual assault and construction of young men’s sexualities.

Posted in AS Sociology: Education

The Theory of Everything, The Gendering of Genius

The-Theory-Of-Everything1Spoil alert! White men are going to take home a lot of Oscars this year. America and the world will once again honor the cult of male genius, and the great men of history.

Steven Hawking, Alan Turing, Martin Luther King Jr. – these are some of the great men of this year’s Oscar line-up. Their accomplishments are significant. And kudos to the filmmakers, who, in a few of these cases, complicated the “lone genius” idea by telling a story that reveals the power of mentors, colleagues, and friends. But the genius or the hero is always male, isn’t he?

I still haven’t seen a movie about a woman genius, and I’m wondering if I will in my lifetime. Afterall, our social construction of “genius” is a math-equation-solving white male nerd who is usually associated with an elite institution. We have SO many movies about that guy. Are women ever part of the equation? Isn’t the equation itself reductionist and unfair? Taking this even further, do all geniuses have to use chalkboards, or can we find great thinkers and problem-solvers outside of classrooms?

The genius stereotype isn’t something we let go of when we leave the theater. Fiction shapes real life. Sarah-Jane Leslie is a philosopher at Princeton University who writes in the journal Science that the male genius stereotype is holding women back.  And therein lies the challenge – the vicious cycle of fiction shaping reality and vice versa. How can women be called to math, physics, and philosophy, for example, when all we hear about are the great men of these fields?

This genius question undergirds Walter Isaacson’s great new book about the forgotten female programmers who created modern technology. Will anyone invest in making this story into a movie, or does it not fit our narrow idea of genius?


It isn’t clear if Oscar-nominated The Theory of Everything pushes the genius trope to the next level. The film doesn’t put a woman in the equation, exactly, but she is nearby. While the film sets us up to follow Steven Hawking’s career and contributions, there next to him in almost every scene is his girlfriend and then wife Jane, who saves him from his depression upon being diagnosed with ALS, and then nurses him and cares for him for not two years (the period of time his doctors give him to live), but decades upon decades, while raising a family and pursuing a PhD. Just as important, she is an educated peer who pushes his thinking. She’s a superwoman! And she speaks to us. What woman doesn’t feel a pang of familiarity watching her balance work and family, thought and emotion? That said, Jane’s load is huge and lonely, especially without her husband’s consent for additional assistance.

felicity_jones_interview_theory_of_everythingIn The Theory of Everything, Jane is a type of hero in a film about defying all odds. Still, the film left me feeling like she didn’t get her due. Given her heroism as a caretaker, perhaps Jane should be the one, at the end of the film, who takes the stage and tells us how she did it. Afterall, she appears to be a problem-solving genius. How in the world did she study Spanish literature, raise three kids, care for a severely physically disabled husband, and get food on the table every night?

The Theory of Everything enables us to see the great woman behind the great man. But we still have a ways to go before the great women are the stars of the show, and the Oscar recipients.

For a great infographic, see Women’s Media Center on the gendering of this year’s Oscar nominations.

We need to keep critiquing the genius effect. Just for fun, I’m going to start using the word a whole lot more, to describe the women in my life. There are a lot of amazing problem-solvers out there.