Applying material from Item B and your knowledge, evaluate the view that the media portray women in a stereotypical way [20 marks]

An essay plan covering some of the knowledge and evaluation points you could use to answer this question for AQA A-level sociology paper two: the media option.

You might like to review this post on how women are represented in the media before going through the plan below.

The item refers to three main types of stereotypical representations

  • A limited range of roles (Symbolic annihilation)
  • Concern with appearance (The Beauty Myth)
  • Women needing a partner

Symbolic Annihilation

  • Symbolic Annihilation (Tuchman, 1978) =  under-representation/ narrow range of social roles, gender stereotypes – housework and motherhood
  • ‘Mouse that Roared’ Henry Giroux – Disney Films – Snow White.
  • Gauntlett – increase in the diversity of representations, reflects wider social changes.
  • films with ‘strong’ lead female characters – e.g. Alien, Kill Bill, and The Hunger Games.
  • However, lead female characters are slim and attractive
  • The Bechdel Test.
  • Global Media Monitoring group (2015) – women in news – the overall presence of women as sources was 28%. largely confined to the sphere of the private, emotional and subjective, while men still dominate the sphere of the public, rational and objective.

The Beauty Myth

  • media present unrealistic and unattainable images of women which encourages women to worry unnecessarily about their looks (Naomi Wolfe).
  • Tebbel (2000) body and faces of real women have been symbolically annihilated, replaced by computer manipulated, airbrushed, artificially images.
  • Killborn – women presented as ‘mannequins’ – size zero, tall and thin, and with perfect blemish-free skin.
  • Orbach – media associates slimness with health, happiness, success and popularity
  • Recent evidence challenges Beauty Myth…. Backlash to 2015 Protein World’s ‘Beach Body Ready’ advertising campaign
  • Since 2015 increase in the diversity of representations of women in advertising: Dove‘s Real Beauty‘ campaign72 , Sport England ‘ This Girl Can‘ campaign.
  • 2017 – Advertising Standards Authority launched new guidelines on avoiding gender stereotyping in advertising, banned ads 2019.
  • UN women’s Unstereotype Alliance‘.

Women needing a partner

  • Ferguson (1980) – content analysis of women’s magazines from the end of WWII to 1980: cult of femininity: caring for others, family, marriage, and concern for appearance.
  • Ferguson: teenage magazines aimed at girls offered broader range of female representations, but still a focus on him, home and looking good for him.
  • However, McRobbie – Cosmopolitan has featured positive representations of young women as seeking to control their own lives rather than being dependent on men.

 

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Outline and Explain Two Practical Advantages of Using Social Surveys in Social Research (10)

It’s possible that a 10 mark question on A level sociology papers 1 or 3 could simply ask you about a ‘pure’ research method, as with the example above.

This post suggests a strategy for how to answer such possible questions and provides one exemplar answer, which I think would get full marks in the exam….

Strategy 

  • Make two, distinct points—as different from each other as possible!
  • For each of the points, explain, develop it twice, and (if it flows) do a linked evaluation.
  • It’s good practice to link to Positivism and Interpretivism and use examples.

Exemplar Answer

Firstly, surveys are a quick and cheap means of gathering data from large numbers of people, across wide areas, because, once sent out, millions of people could potentially fill them at the same time.

They are especially quick/ efficient if put online because computers can analyse pre-coded answers and quantify/ compare the data instantaneously.

They also make it easier to gain government funding because you can generalise from large data sets and thus use to inform social policy—the census, for example, allows the government to plan for school places in the future.

However, Interpretivists would argue you never get in-depth/ valid data with this method, and so predictions can be flawed—the polls on Brexit didn’t tell us what people really thought about this issue!

Secondly, you don’t need ‘people skills’ to use social surveys, thus anyone can use them to do research.

This is because they can be written in advance, and put on-line or sent by post, and thus sociologist’s personal involvement with respondents can be kept to a minimum.

This also means that busy people with family commitments can easily use social surveys.

However, Interpretivists and Feminist argue this wouldn’t be an advantage for all topics—some areas are so sensitive they require personal contact, such as domestic abuse.

Theory and Methods A Level Sociology Revision Bundle 

If you like this sort of thing, then you might like my Theory and Methods Revision Bundle – specifically designed to get students through the theory and methods sections of  A level sociology papers 1 and 3.

Contents include:

  • 74 pages of revision notes
  • 15 mind maps on various topics within theory and methods
  • Five theory and methods essays
  • ‘How to write methods in context essays’.

AS Sociology – how to Answer ‘using one example, briefly explain’ questions

Question 2 on the AS sociology paper 2 exam (research methods with topics in sociology) will ask you to briefly explain something using one example. Below are a few examples of how you might go about answering such questions, using the families and households topic as an example…

Using one example briefly explain what is meant by the term Patriarchy (2)

Patriarchy is a system of male domination and control of women. A good example of this is where social norms and values suggest women should be at home looking after the kids and men work, this makes women dependent on men for money,  and thus easier to control.

Using one example explain what is meant by the term ‘childhood is socially constructed’ (2)

The idea that the norms and values and social roles associated with childhood are not determined by the biological age of a child, but are influenced by society, and thus ideas associated with childhood vary over time – FOR EXAMPLE in Britain today ‘children’ aged 15 are prevented from working full time by law, but in the Victorian era it was acceptable for children to work.

Using one example explain what is meant by the ‘commercialisation of housework’ (2)

New technologies mean that there are now products people can buy which reduces the amount of domestic labour people have to do at home – e.g. hoovers, washing machines, microwaves and microwave meals reduce the amount of time spend cleaning, washing and cooking.

Hints for A Level Sociology Paper 3 (Crime and Deviance)

A few hints for how I recommend answering the Crime and Deviance section of AQA’s paper 3 (which also contains theory and methods, more of that later). NB – What’s below isn’t endorsed by the AQA, but it’s my best interpretation based on what I’ve been told works.

Questions 1 and 2 (4 and 6 mark short answer questions) –‘Outline two ways/ Outline three reasons’

  • Point (1 mark) + Explanation (1 mark)
  • Do this (two times over for question 1, three times over for question 2)
  • Bullet point each point and explanation.

Question 3 – The Outline and Analyse Question (10 marks) – ‘Using material from Item A, outline and Analyse two ways in which…’

  • Read the item – this will give you your two ways (it will effectively limit you to two points)
  • For each of the two points, make two further analytical points to develop that point, and ideally evaluate it.
  • Do this twice.

Question 4 – The essay question (30 marks) Applying material from Item B evaluate something

  • Read the question – if it asks you to do two things, make sure you do both
  • Read the item – at least two of your points should stem from the item
  • Make 3-6 total points depending on the essay – deeper or broader
  • Use the Point –Explain – Expand (analyse) – Evaluate structure
  • If it’s a perspectives essay, evaluate using other perspectives towards the end of the essay as you build up to your conclusion.

 

Analyse two criticisms of the theory that police racism is the main factor which explains the higher imprisonment rates of ethnic minorities

An example of a 10 mark ‘analyse’ question written for the AQA’s crime and deviance paper.

This could form the basis of a 10 mark question in the crime and deviance paper, in which case, you would have an item, which will direct you to two of the reasons mentioned below, which you must use if they are in the itme to get 10/10!

A mark scheme and some suggested answers to the above question*

8-10   

  • Answers in this band will show good knowledge and understanding of relevant material on two reasons.
  • There will be two developed applications of material from the item
  • There will be appropriate analysis/evaluation of two reasons.

To get into this mark band you need to identify one reason, develop it, analyse it (so three good sentences of development/ analysis) and then repeat this for your second reason.

4- 7

  • Answers in this band will show a basic to reasonable knowledge and understanding.
  • There will be some successful application of material from the item.
  • There will be some analysis/evaluation

This means you’ve identified, developed and analysed one reason well, but not effectively developed or analysed the second reason.

1-3     

  • Answers in this band will show limited knowledge of one or two reasons
  • There will be limited application of material from the item.
  • There will be limited or no analysis/evaluation.

You shouldn’t be down here.

Possible Criticisms

These could form the basis of any one of your two points. 

  • Underlying patterns of offending are different…
  • The characteristics of offenders are different….
  • It’s the public that’s racist, the police just respond….
  • Racism is subjective, thus difficult to define
  • Racism is difficult to research in practice.

Example which should get you 5/10

Repeat with one of the other reasons to get 10/10

The first reason why it is doubtful that police racism explains the higher imprisonment rates of ethnic minorities is that there is some evidence that ethnic minorities might commit more crime.

Development  For example, many ethnic minority groups experience higher levels of relative deprivation and marginalisation (applying left realism) which could explain actual underlying higher levels of offending.

Analysis Thus it might be these factors related to class and deprivation which explains the higher levels of policing and stop and search (and corresponding imprisonment) in minority areas rather than police racism. The police are not necessarily racist – they are just responding in an objective, rather than a racist way to really existing high crime rates in poorer areas, where ethnic minorities are more likely to live.

*Answers not endorsed by the AQA. These are my best guesses as to a safe minimum for getting full marks. NB –  You may as well go with my best guess as the exemplars produced by the AQA don’t necessarily reflect the standards they mark to anyway. 

Analyse two ways in which patterns of crime may vary with social class (10)

Just a few thoughts on how you might answer the above 10 mark question – a possibility for the A Level Sociology Crime and Deviance/ Theory and Methods Paper 3

NB – There is every possibility that the actual 10 marker will be much more convoluted (complex) than this, but then again, there’s also the possibility of getting a simpler question – remember you could get either, and there’s no way of knowing which you’ll get – it all depends on how brightly the examiner’s hatred of teenagers is burning when he (it’s still probably a he!) writes the paper… 

FirstlyUnderclass – New Right – highest levels of crime – unemployment/ single parents = low attachment (Hirschi) also less opportunity to achieve legitimate goals (Merton’s strain theory), also more relative deprivation, marginalisation and subcultures (Young). Results in more property crime (theft) , possibly violent crime because of status frustration (Cohen). Backed up by prison stats – disproportionate number prisoners unemployed etc.

In contrast Middle classes supposedly have lower crime rates because they experience the opposite of all of the above.

However, Interactionists argue this difference is a social construction – Media over-reports underclass subcultures and deviance (Stan Cohen), Police interpret working class deviance as bad, middle class deviance as acceptable (Becker).

Secondly… Elite social classes – Because of greater access have the ability to commit different crimes – Corporate Crime – health and safety negligence (e.g. Bhopal) – Marxists = cost is greater than street crime – more people die annually than from street murders (Tombs and Whyte) – Also white collar financial crimes (e.g. Kweku Adeboli/ Madhoff/ Enron) – Total economic cost greater than street crime (Laureen Snider) – often go unpunished because of selective law enforcement (Gordon) – e.g. Sports Direct’s Mike Ashley paying below the minimum wage – but crimes = technically more difficult to prosecute and the public generally aren’t that worried about them.

In contrast ‘the rest of us’ don’t have the ability to commit high level Corporate Crimes, and so any one crime committed by an ordinary individual is relatively low-impact in comparison, although more likely to be picked up by the media and the authorities.

Finally (relevant to both of the above) – the government doesn’t collect any reliable stats on the relationship between social class and offending so we can’t actually be sure how the patterns vary any way!

And a few bonus thoughts on a related question… 

Outline and analyse two reasons why crime statistics may not provide us with a valid picture of the relationship between social class background and patterns of criminal behaviour (10)

First way into the question = pick two different sets of stats on crime and talk them out…

1. Prisoner statistics suggest that…..

2. The Crime Survey of England and Wales suggests that…

Second way into the question…. More general points (easier, but more danger of repeating yourself)

1. The types of crime committed by elite social class are different to those committed by those from lower social classes…..

2. According to Interactionists, the different labels agents of social control attach to people from different class backgrounds mean the crime stats may lack validity…..

3. There are so many different ways of measuring social class and the government doesn’t collect any systematic data on the relationship between social class and crime….

Evaluate the Contribution of Consensus Theory to Our Understanding of Crime and Deviance (30)

An essay plan on Consensus Theory for the A Level Sociology Crime and Deviance Module

Consensus Theory sees crime as a result of social institutions losing control over individuals. This is associated with the Functionalist point of view, first being expounded by Emile Durkheim who argued that when social institutions such as the family, education, and work, lose control over people, they effectively miss out on socialisation and suffer from anomie, a state of normlesseness, which can lead to criminal and deviant behaviour.

This idea was developed by Hirshchi who argued that when an individual’s bonds of attachment to institutions weaken, when, for example, they do not feel as if they belong to institutions, or when they are not involved with institutions, they are more likely to commit crime.

The blame for crime lies with weak institutions and their agents. For example, single parent families and ‘absent dads’ are accused of lacking control over their children, as are unstable families. This theory would also predict that children with a history or truancy and exclusion would be more likely to turn to crime and those who are long term unemployed could also be a problem.

This is also the point of view emphasised by both the present labour government and the conservative opposition. The then home secretary Jack Straw argued that ‘Dads need Lads’ sound bite, and David Cameron’s speeches about the importance of the family and the problems associated with absent fathers. These views are popular with the right wing press, which often reminds their (middle class, nuclear family) readers of the problems faced by lone mothers and the underclass.

Initially, it seams that there is a lot of evidence to support Consensus Theory. For example, the Cambridge Study in Delinquent Development (Faring ton and West 1991). This Study of 411 ‘working class’ males born in 1953 who were studied until their late 30s. The study found that offenders were more likely to come from poorer, single parent families with poor parenting and parents who were themselves offenders. This study suggests that good primary socialisation is essential in preventing crime.

The daily telegraph recently reported that ‘Seventy per cent of young offenders come from lone-parent families; and children from broken homes are 70 per cent more likely to become drug addicts.’

Criminologist Martin Glyn who works closely with young offenders has pointed out that many young offenders suffer from what he calls ‘parent deficit’. He argues that this is the single most important factor in explaining youth offending. He argues that children need both discipline and love, two things that are often both absent with absent parents.

Research commissioned by NASUWT, a teachers’ union, based on reviewing existing literature and in depth studies of two schools in Birmingham and London found that ‘Family breakdown and a lack of father figures could be to blame for pupils joining gangs, Children as young as nine are being drawn into organised crime for protection and to gain a “sense of belonging” because of the lack of positive role models at home.

One take on ‘Consensus Theory’ is Charles Murray’s theory of the underclass. Recent government statistics suggest that there is a relationship between the long term unemployed and youth crime. Those known as NEETS are much more likely to commit crime. In this sense it is a whole group rather than individuals who socialise their children into anti-social values.

There are many Criminologists who argue that Consensus Theory is too simplistic…

For a start, it could be regarded as deterministic. Not all broken families’ children commit crime, and there is no immediate causal link between the two variables.

Other factors often influence whether a child from a broken home to turn to crime. Albert Cohen’s status frustration theory reminds us that the pressure to attain status within a deviant group may lead an individual to get involved in violent crime to gain a reputation. Many recent documentaries on the problem of gang crime suggest there is some truth in this.

In addition to these pull factors, poverty and the area one lives in are both correlated with criminal behaviour.

Also, Merton’s strain theory reminds us that much economic crime is a result of a strain between the success goals of material wealth and the lack of opportunities for many among the lower classes to commit crime. He argued that some crime was a result of effective socialisation into the success goals (so no ‘lack of control’ here) and lack of legitimated opportunities such as high paid jobs to achieve these goals. Many sociologists who have carried out qualitative research with gangs have found evidence to back this theory up such as Sudhir Venkatesh.

Strain theory suggests that it is the fault of the system for encouraging us to want more than we can get, which creates the conditions that makes crime rational. More radical Marxists take there analysis further, arguing that it is the fault of the Capitalist system that breeds selfish individualism, inequality and poverty, all of which can lead to crime. A similar view was offered by Willis who argued that lack of control was less to blame than a system that did not meet the needs of the Lads who he studied.

Much of the evidence cited for CONSENSUS THEORY is quantitative, and even if 70% of criminals come from broken homes, it will still be a minority of families whose children commit crime. If we look at the cases of those who do commit crime in more depth, we realise that many of them face multiple problems such as living in deprived areas and drug and alcohol abuse.

CONSENSUS THEORY is thus problematic because it stereotypes all ‘broken families’ as potentially problematic. It could even be seen as ideological because it blames a minority group for society’s problems, rather than looking at the problems of the system.

It could be that CONSENSUS THEORY is a popular theory because lone parent families and NEETs are a minority and an easy target. In addition, such a simplistic theory is easy for the mass population to understand, as it fits populist discourse. CONSENSUS THEORY is also the kind of theory that can be summarised in ‘sound bite’ media, and wins politicians votes.

In conclusion, while there may be some truth in CONSENSUS THEORY, we need to be careful of adopting lack of social control and weak institutions as the main cause of crime, it is only one factor amongst many, and alone, it provides us with a very limited understanding of the causes of crime.

Crime and Deviance Exam Practice Questions (10 markers)

The ten mark question on crime and deviance in the A Level Sociology Crime and Deviance/ Theory and Methods paper will ask you to analyse two reasons/ ways/. Below are a few exemplars (well, one for now, more to follow!) I knocked up, which should get you 10 marks in the exam… 

My suggested strategy for answering these 10 mark questions is to make two points which are as different from each other as possible and then try to develop each point two to three times. You don’t have to evaluate each point, but it’s good practice to put a brief evaluation at the end, but don’t spend too long on this, focus more on the development (which is basically analysis).

NB – Usually there is an item attached to these questions, but more of those later!

Question: analyse two reasons for the formation of subcultures (10)

Point 1 – Consensus theorist Albert Cohen suggested status frustration was the root cause of subculture formation.

According to Cohen deviant subcultures are a working class problem – working class boys try hard in school, and fail, meaning they fail to gain status (recognition/ respect) – these boys find each other and form a deviant group, whereby they gain status within the group by being deviant – by doing things which are against the rules – for example bunking lessons – and the further you go, the more status you get. 

Another Consensus theory which we could apply here is underclass theory – Charles Murray would argue that lower class boys fail at school because their parents don’t work and fail to socialise them into a good work-ethic, hence offering a deeper ‘structural cause’ of why subcultures are more likely to form among the lower social classes.

Hence applying these two consensus theories together, the process goes something like this – and individual is born into the underclass – they are not socialised into a work ethic – they fail at school – they get frustrated – they find similar working/ underclass boys – they gain status by being deviant.

A Problem with this theory is that it blames the working class for their own failure, Marxism criticises consensus theory because the ‘root cause’ of subcultures is the marginalisation of working class youth due to Capitalism.

Point 2 – Interactionists would point to negative labelling as the root cause of subculture formation

According to Howard Becker, teachers have an image of an ‘ideal pupil’ who is middle class – working class pupils don’t fit this image – they dress differently and have different accents, and so teachers have lower expectations of them – they thus don’t push them as hard as middle class students – over the years this results in a self fulfilling prophecy where working class students are more likely to decide they are failures and thus think that school is not for them – It is this disaffection which results in subculture formation.

David Gilborn further applied this idea to the formation of subcultures among African-Caribbean students – according to Gilborn teachers believed black students to be more disruptive and thus were more likely to pick them up for deviant behaviour in class, while White and Asian students were ignored – this marginalised black students who when on to develop anti-school subcultures as a form of resistance against perceived racism.

In contrast to subcultural theory, in labelling theory it is the authorities who are to blame for the emergence of subcultures, rather than the deviant youths themselves.

A criticism of labelling theory is that it is deterministic – not everyone accepts their labels, so not every negative label leads to a subculture.

This should be sufficient to get you 10/ 10. 

Sociology in The News (5)

Care workers in Britain paid below the minimum wage

Seventeen care workers are suing contractor Sevacare for paying them below the minimum wage – The contractor had some staff in Haringey, north London, on a rate of £3.27 an hour – less than half the then minimum.

The workers were living as live-in carers, and were technically paid the minimum wage for 10 hours work a day, but were still required to live-in with the people being cared for for 24 hours a day, during which time they had to do caring duties.

Quite a useful example to illustrate the continued relevance of Marxist theory – demonstrating how employers bend the rules (‘innovating’) with their contracts to effectively pay below the minimum wage. It also demonstrates the relative powerlessness of these workers, and the importance of collective action – they put up with this for years because they needed the jobs, but eventually plucked up the courage to fight the company. If Marxist Theory is correct, the courts should side with Servacare.

David Cameron – Responsible for Fuelling War and Terror Around the World 

This is relevant to the war and conflict topic within Global Development (the topic every A level sociology teacher should be teaching IMHO) – This example is a useful illustration of how conflict and terror don’t just arise because of internal issues in foreign countries – military interventions sometimes have a role to play as well!

Britain’s intervention in Libya and the chaos and bloodshed that ensued sparked a “violent reaction” fuelling conflicts across Africa and the Middle East, as well as strengthening Isis and Al-Qaeda, according to a scathing report released by the Foreign Affairs Committee this week, which held David Cameron “ultimately responsible” for failing to stabilise Libya after the death of Muammar Gaddafi.

Following the fall of Gaddafi’s regime, opposition rebels and Islamists refused to lay down their arms and competition for territory spawned a second civil war that continues today , measing there is now a vast, mostly ungoverned space in the south of the country where jihadist groups are able to rest and resource themselves largely untroubled by external interference, allowing the smuggling of militants, weapons and refugees to neighbouring countries.

Libyan weapons have been found in more than 20 countries, while its conflict has fuelled war, insurgencies and terrorism in at least 10 other nations, and LIbya has also now become a major source of regugees which impacts on southern European countries.

Perhaps the most direct outcome was the conflict in northern Mali, where the United Nations is currently operating the deadliest peacekeeping operation in the world.

 

Families in the UK – Seven Interesting Statistics

What’s family life like in the UK today? Below is a statistical overview of family life in the UK – covering such things as households types, and marriage statistics.

1. There were 12.4 million married couple families in the UK in 2015, representing two thirds of all family-households 

changes to household structure UK 2005 to 2015

For all the talk of the decline in the nuclear family, the statistics suggest the traditional, married nuclear family is still the predominant family type.

However, of the 12.4 million married family households, only 4.7 million of them have dependent children, while 7.8 million of them are without dependent children. So if we’re taking about numbers of ‘classic nuclear family households – 4.7 million is only about 35% of the total number of family households (18.7 million)

Also, the statistics above only show family households, they don’t include single person households, which make up about 30% of all households in the UK today.

2. There were 27 million households in the UK in 2015  and one-family households accounted for just over half of them

Household types uk

3. In 2013 29% of all households in the UK were single person households

Single-Person-Households-UK.jpg

These are mostly people aged over 65 (who are mainly females). The number of people aged over 40 living alone is increasing, while the number of younger people living alone is actually decreasing, partly because….

4. The number of 16-34 year olds living with their parents has seen a recent rapid increase in recent years

Figure 6- Young adults aged 15 to 34 living with their parents, 1996 to 2015.png

In 1996 there were ‘just’ 5.8 million young people living with their parents. By 2015 this had increased to 6.7 million

5. The marriage rate has almost halved since the 1970s

In the early 1970s, there were over 400 000 weddings a year, but this steadily fell to under 250 000 in the 2000s. 2009-2012  saw a small increase in the marriage rate, but from 2013 marriage rates seem to be going back down again! The decline in the rate of marriage is three times more rapid than the corresponding decline in divorce over the same period…

6. In 2012 the mean age of marriage was 36.5 years for men and 34.0 years for women 

age of marriage

7. In 2015 Lone Parent Family Households were 8 times more likely to be workless than two-parent family households 

worklessfamilies

This goes a long way to explaining why lone parent families are more likely to suffer poverty compared to dual-parent households

 

Sources

Families and Households 2015 (Office for National Statistics)

Nine Facts about Marriage (Office for National Statistics)

Other (older) infographs…

marriage statitics