Category Archives: gender

asa council decides on gender categories

Remember how the ASA was trying to decide how to expand its gender categories? Since then, the ASA Committee on the Status of LGBT Persons in Sociology has been holding conversations, doing research on how other organizations do it, and thinking through what schema will best capture the sociological categories that are meaningful to people. They came up with the following proposal, which ASA Council voted on and passed at their meeting this week:

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productivity, sexism, or a less sexy explanation.

I apparently attended the same session at the ASA conference as Scott Jaschik yesterday, one on Gender and Work in the Academy. He must have been the guy with press badge who couldn’t wait to fact-check his notes during the Q&A.

The first presenter, Kate Weisshaar from Stanford University, started the session off with a bang with her presentation looking at the glass ceiling in academia, asking whether it was productivity that explained women’s under-representation among the ranks of the tenured (or attrition to lower-ranked programs or out of academia all together). A summary of her findings – and a bit of detail about the session and the session organizer’s response to her presentation – appeared in Inside Higher Ed today. Continue reading

splaining

This essay is about the phenomenon often called mansplaining (with its variant whitesplaining). It is prompted a recent 90 minute episode of what felt to me like mansplaining. Any use of the term mansplaining or whitesplaining in mixed company typically evokes complaints that the term itself is sexist/racist. Even our own scatterplot had a minor eruption of this conflict when mansplain was used to describe something women had said to a man  Of course both mansplaining and whitesplaining are very common special cases of the more general privilegesplaining or, better, just splaining. The term splaining has not been applied to class, or to student vs. professor status, or other hierarchies, but it could and should be. Let’s begin by saying that I am often guilty of splaining, at least in the basic sense of telling someone else something they already know or of speaking with confidence about something that is later revealed to be wrong. In fact, when I told my spouse what I was thinking about, he said: “well, you know, you do that.” As if I didn’t know that. This essay is thus not about my own virtue and others’ vice, but about unpacking the idea of splaining, examining its sources and making distinctions. And then explaining why we don’t stay neutral about it. Continue reading

intensive mothering and movie star moms.

Oh, Gwyneth. What a week is has been. While I am not planning to teach an entire course on her, or on any other celebrities in the news, I do want to briefly say that her recent gaffe illustrates an important shift in the mothering of the rich and famous and shows how few mothers are immune to the demands of intensive mothering.

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(grad)student-faculty interaction

Notre Dame loves to make videos. They are currently working on a series about graduate students’ experiences on campus and I had a meeting with the production company today to discuss one of the videos, a segment focused on (grad)student-faculty interaction. As great as the meeting was, I left feeling incredibly discouraged about the state of (grad)student-faculty interaction and wondering what, if anything, can be done to change it.

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cfp: fun with dick and jane

Notre Dame’s ever-creative director of Gender Studies, Pamela Wojcik, is at it again. Last year she designed “That’s what she said” t-shirts (the year before, they read “Get Bent”). Pushing the envelope (which might mean different things here at Notre Dame than elsewhere) ’round these parts this year, she offers up a creative conference title:

“Fun with Dick and Jane: Gender and Childhood”
A Gender Studies Conference at the University of Notre Dame
South Bend, Indiana
December 4-6, 2014
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feeling like a fraud? you’re not alone.

There’s nothing quite like having someone else write about my research in a public forum to rouse my generally dormant sense of impostorism. So, why not use that publicity–about fraudulence, no less–to have a discussion about the negative effects of a fear of fraudulence for academics (and the academy).

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racial coding in the skies

On the way to a wonderful vacation this summer, I flew Delta RDU-ATL-SEA and SEA-MSP-RDU. The flights in and out of SEA showed Delta’s edgy new safety videos, a version of one of which is here:

(The versions I saw were slightly different, as I’ll describe below. One was on a 767-300, the other on a 757-200). WARNING: Spoiler alert below the break.

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bad decisions and fairness

I have often discussed in class an example from Lani Guinier’s 1994 book, The Tyranny of the Majority, that deals with notions of fairness and rules of the game. Consider a road race in which the first-place finisher wins $10,000, and all other participants are banned from future competition. Consider, by comparison, a road race in which the first-place finisher wins $1,000, the second-place finisher $999, the third-place $998, and so on down the line. Continue reading

families and the academy.

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a week now, ever since I saw a presentation by the ASA’s Director of Research – the venerable Roberta Spalter-Roth – at the Work and Family Researchers Network (WFRN) Conference in New York City.*

But, I just wasn’t sure where to start. Until today, when a colleague sent along a piece from The Atlantic Magazine today, “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All.”

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every rose has its thorn

I know yesterday was Valentine’s Day, so this post might seem a bit late. But it’s Susan B. Anthony Day, which is as good a day as any to turn to the thorny relationship between women, love, and education.

This past weekend, Stephanie Coontz wrote an encouraging opinion piece in the NY Times that asserts that “for a woman seeking a satisfying relationship as well as a secure economic future, there has never been a better time to be or become highly educated.” She cites the decline in the “success” penalty for educated women, asserting that men are more interested in women who are intelligent and educated than in the past.* Marriage rates are similar, and divorce rates lower for educated women. In fact, “by age 30, and especially at ages 35 and 40, college-educated women are significantly more likely to be married than any other group.” As if this wasn’t enough, Coontz cites other benefits for educated women: better physical and mental health, satisfying relationships, less housework, and steamier sex. Like usual, she makes a great (and entertaining) argument and her sources – including a number of sociologists – are sound. However, I’d like to suggest that things aren’t as rosy as they seem, particularly for women with (or pursuing) a Ph.D. Continue reading

same-sex marriage and the courts

I am, of course, thoroughly delighted with the California federal court’s decision overturning Prop. 8 as unconstitutional under the due process and equal protection clauses, doubly so because the judge, Vaughn Walker, is a card-carrying conservative. I am also thoroughly delighted with the Massachusetts federal court’s ruling the DOMA is unconstitutional on grounds of states’ rights. However, I am a bit confused at what seems to be a contradiction between the two rulings. The Massachusetts case seems to claim that DOMA infringes on states’ rights to define marriage for themselves–that is, that federal law should not determine how states may define and regulate marriage. The California case, on the other hand, argues that the state’s decision on how to define and regulate marriage is wrong and violates federal law. Now, I thoroughly admit that IANAL and so there is likely a way that these two decisions can…er…cohabit. Thoughts?

UPDATE: I’m reading through the California decision instead of working on a pressing deadline…. it makes for great reading! There’s quite a bit that is essentially about how best to gauge the reliability of social science, and much of it picks specifically on David Blankenhorn, to wit:

24. Blankenhorn identified several manifestations of deinstitutionalization: out-of-wedlock childbearing, rising divorce rates, the rise of non-marital cohabitation, increasing use of assistive reproductive technologies and marriage for same-sex couples. Tr 2774:20-2775:23. To the extent Blankenhorn believes that same-sex marriage is both a cause and a symptom of deinstitutionalization, his opinion is tautological. Moreover, no credible evidence supports Blankenhorn’s conclusion that same-sex marriage could lead to the other manifestations of deinstitutionalization.

and:

Blankenhorn’s book, The Future of Marriage, DIX0956, lists numerous consequences of permitting same-sex couples to marry, some of which are the manifestations of deinstitutionalization listed above. Blankenhorn explained that the list of consequences arose from a group thought experiment in which an idea was written down if someone suggested it. Tr 2844:1- 12; DIX0956 at 202.

50th anniversary of the pill

Happy birthday, The Pill!

(Also, May the Fourth be with you–I’m sorry; I couldn’t help myself.)

on the robustness of evolutionary explanations

I just finished reading Rosemary Hopcroft’s interesting article, Gender Inequality in Interaction – an Evolutionary Account (Social forces 87:4, June 2009). If I understand the article correctly, it argues essentially that frequent female deference to men is (a) well demonstrated; (b) subconscious; and (c) the result of evolutionary pressures. There’s an interesting spin, which is that because these preferences or behaviors are subconscious, feminist approaches like consciousness raising might work to change them. But otherwise the article strikes me as open to several important alternative hypotheses.

The principal alternative hypothesis results from the time problematic. Like other studies based on evolutionary psychology, the article is premised on behaviors having emerged during the Evironment of Evolutionary Adaptedness (EEA), a period of historical development in which human genetic characteristics are said to have become relatively fixed. But there are important differences in gendered behavior, including sex deference, sexual preferences, and male “control” of female mates, across the historical time period that comes after the EEA. Thus the constant the article seeks to explain really isn’t a constant at all!

This is true synchronically as well as diacronically. The studies cited, as is common in psychology, are based overwhelmingly on US college students from the late 20th and early 21st centuries. This may be less of a problem in standard psychological studies (though of even that I’m not convinced) but it’s a huge problem when what you want to demonstrate is that something is a human constant!

If, in fact, male sexual domination is essentially a variable instead of a constant, it follows that whether it is conscious or subconscious, it can’t be explained by a constant (fitness during the EEA).

It seems to me that the only way an article like this can be said to demonstrate its claim is if we take that claim to be a valid premise–that is, if we begin with the assumption that humans are essentially evolved actors, their behavior a more-or-less clear reflection of adaptation during the EEA, then we can arrive at that conclusion as well. But if we allow even the possibility that culture is an independent force of its own, distinct from the individual predispositions inherited from the EEA, I don’t see how we can arrive at the point of understanding evolution during the EEA as the essential cause of human behavioral patterns.

getting there

We put the tree up on Sunday, like a real family: holiday music, fireplace on, lights and ornaments everywhere, dog meandering through everything constantly. It was great. Kid put all his ornaments in one section of the tree, which is even merrier than the rest of the tree. Awesome cupcakes baked for the bakesale, for our dinner party, and some saved for Husband, who had just arrived home from a business trip. Lovely.

Yesterday was my shopping day. I hit the toy stores during the day, when they were crowded, but not insanely so. I had a list, but I was still overwhelmed by all the products. It’s weird how they can simultaneously have so many choices, but then still not have the things I am looking for, like a giant bucket of regular-old Legos, as opposed to a specific Star Wars Starfighter Jet ™ or a Lego City Helicopter(tm), each of which runs for over $50. Ebay was no help, so I ordered online. No big whoop. And I had an epiphany about teacher gifts: a charity donation in their name will be just the thing. Done. Husband and I are going to shop for a dining table together in lieu of gifts–that may sound lame, but from my perspective, it is perfect.

So, no holiday cards out (but maybe in the new year), classes in fairly good shape. Books ordered for next semester. Still to do: wrapping, one more bit of writing to get that paper out today, one letter of recommendation, finish the syllabus for next semester’s class, read grad student papers and provide feedback, and packing for my pre-holiday trip that starts tomorrow. I have a meeting this afternoon and a great party tonight with the frisbee team.

Hmmm, I was feeling ahead of the game until I wrote that down. Gotta run.

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