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Intersex Policing – the case of Caster Semenya

You’ll probably recognize Caster Semenya the female 400 meter runner with intersex traits who won the 800 meters in the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.

800 meter gender police.PNG

However she probably won’t be at next year’s in 2020 because the Court of Arbitration for Sport recently judged that female athletes with intersex traits won’t be able to compete in middle distance events (from 400m to 1 mile) unless they take medication to suppress their naturally high levels of testosterone.

On the surface this seems to be creating a ‘level playing field’ for all female athletes, but if we’re going to insist that someone like Semenva takes medication to suppress her unfair natural advantage, surely we should drug all the future Michael Phelps and Usain Bolts of the athletics world too?

Michael Phelps’ 6 ft 7″ arm span and size 13 feet certainly gave him an unfair natural advantage, and Usain Bolt’s supreme body-mechanics contributed to his sprint world records: how many other people have you seen ‘jogging to line’ and winning that often?

So maybe there’s more to the Semenva Case? 

Maybe she (and anyone else whose intersex) is being punished for their ‘gender ambiguity’ rather than this being a just penalty for being physically advantaged.

Then there’s the fact that she (and other intersex females) are easy victims here: they are an extreme minority, and relatively powerless, after all – easy to mete out harsh justice on such individuals and then forget about it in the name of ‘fairness’.

Maybe this is about rendering intersex females invisible – policing our ‘normalised’ sex-boundaries, making sure the rest of us don’t become too uncomfortable about the reality that sex/gender are complex/ fluid….. it CANNOT be about just biological advantage as the cases of Phelps and Bolt demonstrate – we celebrate their ‘good’ freakishness, after all!)

NB – she’s rejected the ruling, it is a violation of her human rights, after all!

Sources

https://www.vox.com/identities/2019/5/3/18526723/caster-semenya-800-gender-race-intersex-athletes

 

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Sexism in Media Companies – the League du Lol

The league du LoL was a closed Facebook group of around 30 male journalists who co-ordinated sexist trolling of various female journalists, feminists and LGBQT activists between the years 2009-2012, although it’s believed that some of the members were active well after this period.

Examples of their harassment include co-ordinated condescending comments on twitter, photomontages mocking the appearance of some female journalists and one member of the league even posted a recording of himself offering a fake-job to another female colleague.

The League has resurfaced in the news recently because Check News, a fact checking web site has recently published an article querying whether the League actually existed.

Clearly it did, given that most ex-members have issued formal apologies for their being members of it it and 6 of them have faced disciplinary action at work over their previous membership of the league.

It goes without saying that various victims of the league’s activities can also testify to its previous existence.

Relevance to A level sociology

This example is relevant to the media and crime and deviance.

I thought this was of particular interest given that it specifically involves journalists, so it’s very relevant to the media and crime – being an example of how a group of male journalists can effectively belittle and thus prevent female and minority journalists from making the most of their careers. Shows journalism in France is far from objective and value free.

It’s also an explicit example of Heidensohn’s control theory of crime – this is a group of men quite literally ‘keeping women in line’ through the use of co-ordinated sexist attacks, although it shows how the practice has moved on (or moved online, excuse the pun!)

Then there’s the ‘denial of responsibility’ on the part of the equation – members of the league justified their actions by claiming that they were just doing it all for the laughs, it was basically banter rather than done with the intention of harming anyone.

This example may be several years old now, but it really stood out for me given the explicit use of a closed group for malicious purposes. It’s also quite possible that such closed groups exist today, possibly on more secure platforms such as Telegram.

Sources 

The Guardian

 

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Why are there more women in the New Age Movement than men>?

Woodhead (2007) suggested women are more attracted to New Age Movements because they experience double alienation in the family…. they family fails to give them a sense of occupational identity, and they feel dissatisfied with their limited role as housewife and caregiver. New age movements offer a chance for self-exploration and can provide women with a sense of identity and self worth. (However this position has been criticized – forthcoming post).

For example, some elements of the New age encourage women to express their ‘authentic’ selves, rather than trying to reinforce their traditional socially constructed female roles as mothers and housewives.

However, at the same time, the New Age ALSO celebrates many positive aspects of femininity, such as subjective experiences, intuition and emotion, and this may also appeal to women much more than men.

The New Age movement may appeal especially to middle class women, stay at home mums, who have the time and the money to be able access the rather expensive and various New Age therapies; and the new age is partly about health and healing.

Finally, there is also the fact that New Age Movement is mainly run by women, who primarily seem to market their products and services to other women.

Criticisms of the above theories

  1. The New Age Movement is tiny, very few people and thus very few people show any interest in it!
  2. If women did join the new age movement because of double alienation, then most women should be working class, but they are not, most women are middle class.
  3. Most of the activities engaged in do not provide a sense of coherent identity, making up for dissatisfaction with life in general: seriously, how is a couple of yoga classes a week going to do this?

 

 

 

 

Limitations of ‘Traditional Gender Role Theory’ in explaining why women are more religious than men

Women’s higher levels of religiosity could be due to different age profiles: women live longer than men, and older people are more religious than younger people.

Also, it doesn’t explain the higher levels of religiosity among women who don’t accept traditional feminine roles. Most members of the New Age Movement are female, and very few accept traditional, hegemonic prescriptions of femininity.

 

 

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Why are women more religious than men? Explanation one – traditional female social roles

Women tend to be more religious than men. Some sociologists have argued that traditional female roles explain why this is and this post examines and evaluates some of these ‘social role theory’ explanations for this trend in gender and religion.

Characteristics of the traditional female gender role (or traditional femininity) include being nurturing, caring, emotional, intuitive, passive and submissive.

Many religions, especially Catholicism and Islam, stress that the ideal woman would take on all of the above characteristics, and willingly take up the role of ‘primary carer’ within the family, supporting husband and children through providing love and support and being a ‘home-maker’.

If women do accept these roles, then religion can act as a source of guidance, comfort and reward, so ‘role theory’ in itself might go some way to explaining the higher level sof religiosity among women.

Three examples:

Women’s traditional role as the main child carers within the family means they are primarily responsible for the primary socialization of children. They might find religion appealing because it offers moral guidance to children ‘from above’, thus making their job as ‘enforcers of behavior’ easier.

The traditional female role also places women as the primary ‘end of life’ carers: caring for the sick and the elderly. This means they experience death more often and more directly than men. Thus they might be more religious because religion offers them a source of comfort or explanation when dealing with death.

Finally, the classical Feminist line on this, as theorized by Simone de Beauvoir, is that religion simply compensates women for their second class status. Women have less status than men, so they turn to religion for comfort (albeit a false comfort which reinforces their second class status).

Limitations of ‘Traditional Gender Role Theory’ in explaining why women are more religious than men

Women’s higher levels of religiosity could be due to different age profiles: women live longer than men, and older people are more religious than younger people.

Also, it doesn’t explain the higher levels of religiosity among women who don’t accept traditional feminine roles. Most members of the New Age Movement are female, and very few accept traditional, hegemonic prescriptions of femininity.

 

 

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Good Sociology Movies: The Miseducation of Cameron Post

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a soon to be released move that looks like it touches on a lot of sociology themes.

It’s a movie about a girl who gets sent to a Christian Conversion Therapy Camp where she is subjected to various forms of psychological manipulation to avert her from being gay.

It’s definitely time for a movie like this – apparently 700 000 people in the USA have undergone Christian Conversion Therapy, and 50 000 is the base point for those likely to undergo some form of it in the next five years

It’s Illegal in 14 states for America, but only for minors…. For adults, it’s legal in every single state.

The lead actress, Chloe Grace Moretz, discusses the movie on that most excellent sociological resource: The One Show –  (available on iPlayer until mid September!)

In the interview she outlines how the film focuses on the micro interactions between the various ‘inmates’ in the centre, and how they still manage to hold on to their true identities and find their chosen families despite the enormous barriers put in their way by the oppressive system.

The movie has clear relevance to religion, sexuality and identity, as well as to theories of social change.

My concern is that the overall message of the movie might be that all you need to do to ‘fight anti-gay oppression’ is to be yourself, focus on developing your close relationships, and the oppressive institutions will just whither away around you.’

The Movie closes with the main protagonists disappearing on a road trip – which kind of reminds my of Bauman’s concept of the individualized utopia… the never ending journey, with no real thought about where we are going, society abandoned.

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Why do so few women work in Silicon Valley?

Women today make up less than a third of the work force in the largest technology companies. For example, only 39% of Amazon’s workforce are female, while for Microsoft the figure is down at 26%!

women tech companies.png
2017 data, published March 2018, based on company reports.

Why is it that women are so under-represented in the tech-industry? 

Is it just because women, on average, are less interested in becoming computer programmers and software engineers than men? More than 80% of computer science and engineering graduates in the US are male, while women receive 75% of psychology degrees. Women have made progress in many traditionally male-dominated fields, but perhaps in this case, their lack of representation in tech is just a matter of personal choice?

Or is it that the male-dominated tech-profession is simply unpleasant for women? This might be the case in Silicon Valley: the land of ‘nerd-kings’ and ‘brogrammers’, which the BBC defines as.. ‘A more recent stereotype: the macho, beer swilling players who went to top schools and are often hired by their friends or former fraternity brothers in the technology industry’.

Then there’s the fact that Apple’s new headquarters has a 100, 000 square foot fitness and wellness centre, but no childcare centre…?’

There have also been very serious cases of women serving lawsuits for sexual harassment on some companies. On example of someone who did so is Whitney Wolfe, the co-founder of Tinder. In 2014 she claimed that Tinder  “represent[ed] the worst of the misogynist, alpha-male stereotype too often associated with technology startups”.

Explore the issue further….

Sources

Statista

 

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Saudi women behind the wheel… A genuine step towards female liberation?

On the 24th of June 2018, Saudi Arabia finally allowed women the freedom to drive, and more than 120 000 Saudi women have already put in applications for driving licences.

Saudi women driving.jpeg

This change is part of ‘Vision 2030’, a package of social and economic reforms introduced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) designed to help modernise Saudi Arabia. Along with being allowed to drive, women have recently been granted the freedom to attend sporting and recreational events and have been given greater access to jobs.

But is this apparent move towards ‘female empowerment’ really that significant? There are other, more conservative forces in Saudi Arabia which are very much against these reforms: as recently as 2017 the Grand Mufti, Saudi Arabia’s most senior cleric, declared that driving was ‘a dangerous matter that exposes women to evil’, and the regime has also recently persecuted a number of feminist activists.

There’s also the fact that women still have the legal status of minors and need to permission of male guardians to study, travel, work or marry, so we’re still a long way off formal legal gender equality!

Source

The Week, issue 1183.

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Top five worst explanations for not appointing women to company boards…

While some progress has been made to breaking down near total male control and dominance of our top companies, the move towards greater gender equality at the top end of the economy is slowing, and today almost a 100 out of the top FTSE 250 companies still have only 1 woman on the board.

It would seam that for the leaders of our most powerful companies, promoting women is still a bit of a pain in the male ass, at least according to the recent government backed Hampton-Alexander Review of the attitudes of the Chairs and CEOs of Britain’s 350 FTSE 350 companies…

Some of the worst reasons for not appointing more women to the boards of the top companies included:

  1. ‘There aren’t that many women with the right credentials and depth of experience to sit on the board – the issues covered are extremely complex’
  2. ‘Most women don’t want the hassle or pressure of sitting on a board’
  3. ‘Shareholders just aren’t interested in the make-up of the board, so why should we be?’
  4. ‘My other board colleagues wouldn’t want to appoint a woman on our board’
  5. ‘I don’t think women fit comfortably into the board environment’

NB – these are my own rankings, I’ve gone with order because of the following logic:

  1. Based on the assumption that women are less capable of dealing with complexity than men.
  2. Based on stereotype of the ‘delicate female’.
  3. Based on the ‘denial of responsibility’ – ‘we’re not appointing because other people don’t want it’.
  4. Denial of responsibility again.
  5. We shouldn’t appoint women because there aren’t any women already. You might actually want to rank this first, because it also suggests that ‘women can’t handle unpleasant environments’.
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Men enjoy 2 years more leisure time than women, over the course of a working life

Men are enjoying more leisure time than they did 15 years ago, while women have less. according to the latest stats from the Office for National Statistics.

In 2015 Men spent 43 hours a week on leisure activities, up from 42.88 hours in 2000. In the same period, women’s leisure time fell to 38.35 hours, from 39.24 hours.

NB – it doesn’t matter what age group we’re taking about, men have more leisure time than women (unlike the pay gap, which ‘switches’ in the 20s and 30s.)

gender inequality UK

Over a 40 year period, this means that men have 9672 more hours of leisure time than women, or just over 600 days (calculated by diving the original time by 16 to reflect the number of waking hours in a day), or getting on for 2 years….

I want to blame this on the X box, but other surveys suggest that one reason for this is that women spend more time caring for adult relatives than men.

Related Posts

This is good evidence supporting the view that the gendered division of labour is still not equal, in fact it’s suggesting the trend towards equality is reversing!

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How equal are men and women in relationships these days? Student survey results

Women who do the lioness’s share of the housework, but men and women seem to have equal control over the finances, at least according to two surveys conduct by my A Level sociology students last week.

This acts as a useful update to the topic of power and equality within relationships, especially the ‘domestic division of labour’ aspect.

I actually did two surveys this week with the students this week, both on Socrative.

For the first survey, I simply asked students via Socrative, who did most of the domestic work when they were a child (mostly mother or mostly father – full range of possible responses are in the results below), with ‘domestic work’ broken down into tasks such as cleaning, laundry, DIY etc…

For the second Survey, I got students to write down possible survey questions on post it notes, then I selected 7 of them to make a brief questionnaire which they then used as a basis for interviewing three couples about who did the housework.

Selected results from the initial student survey on parents’ housework

These results were based on students’ memory!

Housework survey 2018

Housework survey 2018 DIY

Selected results from the second survey

based on student interviews with couples

Domestic labour questionnaire 2018

men women finances survey 2018

Discussion of the validity of the results…..

These two surveys on the domestic division of labour (and other things) provided a useful way into a discussion of the strengths and limitations of social surveys more generally….we touched on the following, among other things:

  • memory may limit validity in survey one
  • lack of possible options limits validity in survey two, also serves as an illustration of the imposition problem.
  • asking couples should act as a check on validity, because men can’t exaggerate if they are with their partner.
  • there are a few ethical problems with the ‘him’ and ‘her’ categories, which could be improved upon.

Postcript – on using student surveys to teach A-level sociology

All in all this is a great activity to do with students. It brings the research up to date, it gets them thinking about questionnaire design and, if you time it right, it even gets them out of the class room for half an hour, so you can just put yer feet up and chillax!

If you want to use the same surveys the links, which will allow you to modify as you see fit, are here:

  • Quiz one – https://b.socrative.com/teacher/#import-quiz/16728393
  • Quiz two – https://b.socrative.com/teacher/#import-quiz/33508597