Author Archives: tina

blog party: elevenses

How did it get to be nearly August? I don’t know where the time flies. But I do know that you are flying to San Francisco in a few weeks, and you will need a drink when you get there. Your servants at scatterplot have selected a superb spot just for you. It’s the special sort of place that has fancy appletinis, $3 bottles of beer, and everything in between. I am very pleased to announce:

The 11th Annual Blog Get-Together

Sunday, Aug 17 at 5:30pm

Trocadero Club

701 Geary Street

All blog writers, commenters, and readers are welcome, as are folks-who-used-to-write-but-don’t-so-much-anymore-you-know-how-it-goes, lurkers, tweeters, and assorted people who simply would like to come. Please recall that well-behaved sociology faculty will generously purchase a beverage or two for a thirsty graduate student. We may be awkward, but we don’t need to be that awkward.

the lgbt movement did not, it turns out, tone it down

“Groups Debate Slower Strategy on Gay Rights” was the title of this 2004 NY Times article that I just discovered in my file drawer.* In which the author describes a bedraggled and frustrated LGBT movement just weeks after George W. Bush had been elected to his second term.

In the past week alone, the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay and lesbian advocacy group, has accepted the resignation of its executive director, appointed its first non-gay board co-chairman and adopted a new, more moderate strategy, with less emphasis on legalizing same-sex marriages and more on strengthening personal relationships…

One official said the group would consider supporting President Bush’s efforts to privatize Social Security partly in exchange for the right of gay partners to receive benefits under the program.

While the article quotes two academics, George Chauncey and Jonathan D. Katz , who disagreed with a sharp, “They are, of course, completely wrong,” the most interesting tiff is among politicians: Continue reading

the real facebook power: agenda setting

Did everyone have a chance to read Noah Grand’s post on the Facebook issue? He posted a link in the comments, but I am afraid it will be buried. Noah has a background in journalism, so his post compares Facebook to other news outlets.

He brings up an excellent point about the bigger problem behind the Facebook issue. It’s not that users’ emotions were manipulated, but rather that Facebook’s News Feed algorithm has the power to deem what kinds of news are important:

“Facebook Manipulates Users’ Emotions” is a great headline that prompts people to think of a lot of nightmare scenarios. However, the emphasis on stealthy, subtle emotional manipulation makes it hard for people to understand the most powerful and plausible effect of Facebook’s News Feed algorithm: the ability to influence which topics we think are worthy of debate.

Read the whole post here.

open access, borders and boundaries

On the topic of open access journals, John Holmwood shares his concerns about the growth of open access on Global Dialogue, the official blog of the International Sociological Association. Have a look.

so what did the asa council decide about those asr archives?

Well, gradstudentbytheday, I’m glad you asked.

The ASA Council had an extended discussion of the issue of 588 boxes of journal-related correspondence from between 1990 and 2009. It is a complete set of ASR-related materials, and an incomplete set of other ASA journal material. The set includes rejected manuscripts, reviews, and other correspondence.

Saving the materials involves digitizing them into searchable pdf files. The estimated cost for this is between $100,000 and $120,000. Holding onto them costs the ASA $5,300 per year and is at best a temporary solution, as eventually the paper will deteriorate or mold. Another complexity is confidentiality. These materials belong to the respective authors, who were promised confidentiality.

After much debate, Council decided to hold the materials for another year, calling upon the many supporters of saving these materials to come up with a plan to raise the funds to digitize the materials. There are much longer background memos and the full decision linked from the “What’s New” section on the main page of the ASA website.

the asa is planning to launch an open-access journal

At the ASA Council meeting last weekend, the Council voted to launch an open-access journal with its publishing partner, SAGE. The journal, called Sociology Open, will function similarly to the new and fabulous, Sociological Science, in that it will be a quick, up or down review process and a submission fee/author pay model. SAGE assured the Council that author fees would be waived for those without funding support for at least the first 12 months of publication.

Given that this proposal generated some controversy among open-access supporters, I wonder whether sociologists in general will embrace the new journal, or how the two new journals will develop distinct personalities. I do think that seeing the ASA embrace the open-access project will help diffuse some of the big concerns around the status of articles published in this type of journal.

separate the ick from the harm

The controversy over Colorado’s response to Patti Adler’s exercise, in which undergraduate teaching assistants role played various types of prostitute to consider the stratification of deviance, has produced a wide variety of opinions among academic sociologists. Many here on the blogs and on twitter have raised questions about the appropriateness of this exercise, which is a fair point, but one that requires a bit more scrutiny, in my view.

Sexual topics of all kinds have to deal with the “ick” factor. Many forces in our culture encourage us not only to be critical of, but also to be viscerally repulsed by, sexuality. So, I worry that the administration’s reaction, as well as that of my colleagues, is magnified, triggered, or made more extreme by the ickiness of the topic, rather than by the actual harm done. I am not saying that it is not possible for lectures/exercises on sexuality to harm students or teaching assistants. Of course it is. Sexism, as well as sexual violence and exploitation and harassment, are real phenomena and should be concerns of university campuses. Students and employees should be considered and cared for, and not subject to harassment. Period.

However, I am concerned that the sexual nature of the lesson itself makes it highly suspect to administrators, and I fear that the ick makes it seem obvious that such a topic must therefore be harmful. If the sexual nature of the topic–and our repulsion to it–gives us permission to skip the step where we weigh the benefits against the harms, then we are heading down a road to total censorship of sexual topics in sociology. And it is my view that, as sensitive as these topics can be, more harm comes from being silent about sexuality than discussing it openly. So, that is why my response to the news–which of course hasn’t yet been fully fleshed out–is to express great concern for administrative intrusion in the classroom and academic freedom. I am worried that it is all too easy for everyone to agree that this exercise is icky and assume, therefore, that it is also harmful.

what should asa’s gender categories be?

Cross-posted on Social (In)queery.

The ASA is trying to respond to a request from its members to expand the options for gender on its membership form. Right now, the choices are female, male, and prefer not to answer. There is no category that acknowledges transgender members at all, but creating a new category scheme is not as easy as it might seem. For example transsexual people and transgender people have not always appreciated being lumped into the same category. Some people reject gender categories altogether and might prefer a “none” or some other less alienating gender-non-specific category.

These gender categories are important for a number of reasons. First, by having exclusive gender schemes, the ASA is not acknowledging its trans members. Second, it is a missed opportunity to collect data on the size of the trans membership in the ASA. Third, gender categories are communicative; they tell members who may not be aware that transgender sociologists work among their ranks. Finally, it is important to get the gender categories right because they are teaching sociologists what the “appropriate” categories to use are, setting an important example for us as we design survey questions , courses, departments, etc.

The ASA staff have brought the matter to the Committee on the Status of LGBT Persons in Sociology, but there wasn’t consensus there. They propose (and are planning to implement), the following scheme: Continue reading

bloggerly beverage at asa nyc ftw

The ASA is catching up with the times. There is WiFi in all the meeting rooms. They are webcasting the plenaries. The organization even announced the twitter hashtag for the meetings (#asa13 – four digit years are so Y2K). It might seem like things are changing too fast for you (if so, you can take a course from The HUB). But there is one thing you can always count on to remain steadfast in these tumultuous times: the bloggers will drink together at the ASA.

Please join us at

5pm on Sunday, August 11

for a bloggerly beverage at

Lillie’s Victorian Establishment

249 W 49th St

It will be so wonderful to see you there. As always, all blog participants-writers and readers, commenters and lurkers-are most welcome. Rumors to the contrary aside, we also like twitterers and tumblrrs. Come on by!

We encourage faculty to buy at least one drink for a thirsty student, who will someday impress her future colleagues: “I recommend Citizen Speak for your work on democratic participation.” “Oh, yes, Andy bought me an appletini in New York that time. What a nice guy.”

I hope you all can make it.

take me out to the asa ballgame

Princeton U Press editor Eric Schwartz has a great idea for this year’s ASA baseball trip. Why not go to a minor league game? Cheaper tickets, better seats, and a chance to see some great baseball. So this year, we have cooked up the following plan:

Staten Island Yankees: Friday, August 9 at 7pm

Featuring:

  • tickets that cost no more than $25 plus fees
  • two free rides on the Staten Island Ferry, which has the best view of the Statue of Liberty (especially now that you can no longer climb into her head)
  • throwback jerseys given away to the first 2,500 fans
  • amazing views of the Manhattan skyline
  • friendly sociologists hanging out together

If we get a group of 10 together, we can get even cheaper tickets (I know, right?). Please email me at fetner@gmail.com if you are interested in joining us. Everyone is welcome; don’t be shy.

actually, now is the perfect time to ‘commit sociology’

This opinion piece by Bob Brym and Howard Ramos was published by iPolitics on April 26, 2013. Since that piece is behind a paywall, it is reproduced here with permission.

When questioned during a news conference Thursday about an alleged plot to blow up a Via Rail train, Prime Minister Stephen Harper — making a dig at his Liberal rival, Justin Trudeau — said that “this is not a time to commit sociology.”

Why not? Why does the prime minister consider it an offence — or perhaps a sin — to use sociology to help shed light on the roots of terrorism or, for that matter, other pressing problems in contemporary society?

Part of Mr. Harper’s thinking may be based on a belief that, in the face of disaster and terror, many people just want to hear a strong voice of reassurance and authority. There’s another, more sinister interpretation of his comments: If you probe too deeply into the roots of terrorism or other problems, you might come to the conclusion that Conservative party’s ‘solutions’ themselves are suspect. It follows that thinking sociologically must to be avoided at all costs.
Continue reading

when to retract?

The Regnerus controversy has us debating, among other things, the criteria for retracting a published sociology paper from a journal. There are clearly some cases in which there is widespread agreement that a retraction is warranted:

  1. fraudulent data
  2. plagiarism
  3. a mistake that invalidates the analysis

The case of Regnerus, however, has us disagreeing. So far, I can see that there is little agreement over whether these criteria require a retraction:

  1. a paper whose review included an undisclosed conflict of interest
  2. a paper with findings that have been demonstrated to be incorrect
  3. a paper of poor quality (such that it should not have been published in the first place)
  4. a paper with errant findings that is interacting in negative ways with the public/policy spheres

So far, Andy, Neal, Phil, Fabio, and Jeremy have made their thoughts known. I wonder if we can have a productive discussion about where the line–or at least the grey area–should be. Leaving it up to the editors without clear disciplinary norms seems less than optimal.

these salary data got you blue?

From the ASA Faculty Salary Brief:

US Salaries

Perhaps you need to relocate to Canada, where we don’t necessarily collect data on sociologists’ salaries, but the Ontario Sunshine List gives us a hint that there are plenty of sociologists up here who break the six-figure barrier. Plus, a real pension, all the snowballs you can throw, and summer breaks that run April-August. It’s a northern paradise! Tempting? I hope so, because my department is hiring a Chair.

Continue reading

it gets better, but only if you stay away from people like these

Happy Superbowl Sunday! My hometown team, the San Francisco 49ers, is in it this year, and they are my 3rd favorite hometown sports team (after the Giants, and the Sharks. In that order, if you must know). So, I’m hosting a gathering, and I’m cheering for my team, and then WTF–the 49ers go all homophobic on me:

Culliver was asked if there were any gay players on the 49ers.”We don’t have any gay guys on the team,” Culliver said. “They gotta get up outta here if they do. Can’t be with that sweet stuff.”

Well, apparently the 49ers do, or at least did, have gay men on the team. Continue reading

mary mcintosh

Mary McIntosh, author of “The Homosexual Role,” among other things, has passed away. This piece is of course one of the foundational works of a sociology of sexuality. It always struck me as such a brave work, as it applies general sociological concepts to a topic that, at the time, was so strikingly marginalized and “owned” so completely by psychology. Of course, it wasn’t written independently of a fledgling lesbian and gay movement; Mary McIntosh was a feminist and an lesbian activist. Still, it is a piece that reminds me of how powerful sociological concepts can be in re-imagining what we think we know.

Here is an excerpt from Ken Plummer’s memorial:

Mary was a serious intellectual and a passionate activist. A strong, caring, quiet presence – she also had a very strong sense of fun and always ready for a dance and a laugh.  I missed her greatly when she left Essex; the department could never be quite the same for me. And now she leaves a gaping hole in the world. But she will be loved in remembrance.

I won’t get a chance to meet her, but she certainly has left her mark on me.

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