“Daddy brings home the bacon and mama fries it up in the pan,” this old and in so many ways outdated saying is actually a handy way to remember the sociologist Talcott Parsons complementary sex role theory. In this piece Nathan Palmer takes a look back at Parsons’s theories and shows us how a recent iPhone game called Girls Like Robots seems like it could have been designed by Parsons himself.
The world is a more stable place when women focus on taking care of children and maintaining the household. Wait! Wait! Don’t go! Before you write me an ALL CAPS email calling me a sexist, let me tell you that what I just said is actually the belief of one of the most prominent sociologists ever, Talcott Parsons. I personally disagree with Parsons, but it’s important that any student of sociology know about such a important historical figure in sociology. But before we talk about Parsons, let me tell you about Structural Functionalism.
What are the norms of sickness? Are their certain expectations of people who are sick compared to those who are healthy? In this post, Stephanie Medley-Rath explains what the sick role can teach us about other aspects of role theory.
Talcott Parsons identified the concept of the sick role in 1951. The sick role was developed out of role theory. Though the sick role may be outliving its original usefulness, it still can help illuminate the concepts of roles, role conflict, and role strain. Let me explain these concepts and then we’ll get back to the sick role.
Roles refer to the expectations associated with a particular status. For example, as a college professor, I am expected to come to class on time and teach my subject matter, that is, sociology. I am not expected to walk in late or not show up at all, nor am I expected to be able to answer questions related to physics.
Role conflict occurs when the expectations of different roles conflict with one another. For example, a working mother with a sick child. The expectations of the worker is that they go to work. The expectations of the mother is to care for the sick child. The expectations of the worker role and the the expectations of the mother of a sick child role conflict with one another. What is a working mother with a sick child to do? (Of course, someone else could take care of the sick child. But the reality, is that it often falls on the mother.) Continue reading
The journey of studying sociology always begins with the concept of the “sociological imagination”, a term coined by C. Wright Mills. This concept is challenging when it is first presented, but by using the film, The Matrix, Kim Cochran Kiesewetter explores the concept of developing a sociological imagination and the decision all students must make in a sociology class at some point during the semester: do you take the red pill or the blue one?
The camera pans across the dark, dank-looking room where two men sit, facing each other, after pacing pointedly around the space. The man in the dark sunglasses, Morpheus, is talking in a deep, calm voice to Neo, “…Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I am talking about?” Neo does, indeed, know of this feeling that Morpheus speaks of.
Morpheus then presents a question as he holds out two pills to Neo – one red, one blue. “This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”
The Sociological Imagination: What Is It?
The Matrix came out long before I even knew what sociology was, but I remember watching it again in college at some point and being struck by the whole movie in relation to the sociological imagination. The sociological imagination is a fancy term for the ability to connect and individual to their larger social institutions that invisibly influence their behaviors and opportunities. So many of us experience our own personal life story as something we are totally in control of and solely responsible for, but this is not the whole story. Throughout your entire life your individual actions and choices were heavily influenced by the people and institutions around you.
What kind of cell phone do you have? Is it the latest and greatest smart phone? How about your TV? Did you upgrade from a plasma to LCD, then to LED? How about your laptop, tablet, ipod, and nook? Are they the lightest, thinnest, and most advanced out there? Our technology is changing faster than even most of us can keep up with, and definitely faster than Mother Nature would like. In this post, Mediha Din explores the significant impact technology has on the environment.
My brother had a sparkle in his eye while he was opening up the package to his new iPhone 5. Almost all the men in my family work in the technology industry, so I’ve listened to them discuss that dang phone for months now. My brother was among the first to receive it. Does he need it? Doubtful. He already has the iPhone 4s. I remember not too long ago rolling my eyes as he made countless requests to Siri, only to hear “I’m sorry, I’m afraid I can’t answer that” over and over.
I watch as he takes the new iPhone5 out of the box and marvels at all of the changes. The changes that will help everyone else know that he has upgraded. It is a little longer, a little lighter, and the case is clearly different on the back side. I can already see him in my mind walking around with it as everyone takes notice. “Is that the new iPhone? Can I see it?” someone is sure to ask him.
To my brother, and Apple’s advertisers, this phone is a revolutionary upgrade. Never mind that the phone will require my brother to buy all new power cables, docks, speakers, adapters and car chargers because it has a different style of plug in at the bottom of the device than last year’s model. Never mind that his phone won’t fit in his old phone case and he’ll have to replace that. It’s funny how one new purchase leads to a cascade of consumerism.
Parents often say to their children, do as I say not as I do. That’s because parents make the rules and they can punish their children for doing things that parents do everyday. It’s easy to see how having power allows the powerful to define their behavior as normal or at least acceptable while at the same time defining the actions of the less powerful as being abnormal or wrong. In this piece Nathan Palmer illustrates the sociological concept of labeling theory by discussing how members of Congress, up until recently, were able to legally break the law to make millions of dollars using insider trading schemes.
Hey, come over here. Look, I got this inside information about a law that is about to get passed. If I hook you up with this juicy piece of intel, you could make millions of dollars. Do you want to know more? Before you answer that question I should tell you, if you say yes you may face 20 years in jail and up to a $5 million fine. So, keep that in mind.
Trading stock based on information that is not publicly available is the textbook definition of insider trading. Many people including home decor guru Martha Stewart, have done time for this serious crime. It’s a big deal and if you dabble in some insider trading, you can expect the Department of Justice to hunt you like a Wall Street dog. That is, unless you are a member of Congress.
U.S. Senators and members of the House of Representatives trade on insider information all of the time. As discussed in a 60 Minutes exposé late last year, because of a legal loophole members of Congress are not able to be charged with insider trading. And let me be clear, there are recent examples of both Democrats and Republicans cashing in on the inside information they come across while writing the nation’s laws. In fact, this is such a large issue that an industry called “political intelligence” has sprung up around members of Congress to buy their insider information and sell it to the highest bidder.
So to reiterate, if you buy or sell stock based on insider information you better like the taste of prison food. However if you are a member of Congress, it’s all good; play on playa.
Answer me this: Who are you and how did you find yourself? That may seem like mumbo jumbo non-sense, but keep in mind that babies are not born understanding that they are a separate being nor do they know that others exist. So that begs the question, how did you find your “self” and become aware that others exist? In this piece Nathan Palmer helps us answer these questions by discussing George Herbert Mead’s concept of “the I” and “the me”. And some how he also talks about Hammer-pants.
I wanted to strip off my clothes and spend the rest of the day walking around my whitey tighties. That somehow would have been less mortifying. I should back up.
It was the first day back from winter break during my 5th grade year and I had fallen victim to the convergence of three cultural trends. First, during the Christmas of 1991 I was infatuated with M.C. Hammer; frequently incorporating the phrase, “you can’t touch this,” into everyday situations. My mother, bless her heart, had sewed me multiple pairs of “Hammer-pants" (You know, the ones with the extra poofy legs).
Second, neon colors were, much like today, all the rage. My personal favorite color was neon green.
Third, nylon wind suits were momentarily popular. It was not uncommon for the kids at my school to swish down the hall in nylon from head-to-toe. It was cool, you’ll just have to trust me.
Christmas day 1991 these three cultural trends collided. I tore the wrapping paper off a long rectangular box and threw the lid off. I screamed with joy as I pulled out a blinding neon lime green wind suit and Hammer-pants combo. I rocked that suit everyday of break and couldn’t wait to strut down the hall the first day back.
As I rolled up on Merle Beattie elementary my confidence was peaking. Walking toward the front door I took notice of my classmates looking, pointing, and whispering in each other’s ear. Right there, at that moment, I felt like I was “ballin” as they say. I gipped the entrance door started to pull it open when Damon, the coolest kid in school, hollered, “Eh! Palmer! You jumping out of a plane today or what?” Laughter erupted all around me and seriously contemplated stripping in public.
That was the day that I learned that others opinions of myself mattered more than my own. Sociologists George Herbert Mead would probably argue that feeling mortified that day I was a sign of a maturing sense of self. Continue reading
What’s logic but a second-hand consideration? In this post, Bridget Welch explains that understanding logic should be central to forming opinions, theories, and research methods.
My adorable son, whom I’ve introduced before, is now in the stage where he is fascinated by cause and effect. He turns the light switch off, then flicks it on, smiling like he invented the world when there is light. He plays peek-a-boo over and over and over again just to see the faux-surprise look on my face. Slowly he is learning that causes have consequences.
This is the basis of theorizing. We are interested in creating a set of ideas that explain how, when, and/or why a particular outcome occurs. Generally, what this will consist of is a statement of relationships that take the form of something you may be familiar with … the transitive property.
Remember this from high school? If A = B, and B = C, then A = C? In theory, it is frequently: If A –> B, and B –> C, then A –> C. Take for example this mini theory about Fast & Furious presented by Colbert:
Let’s bust out some of our critiquing skills to analyze the logic of these politicians and media pundits: Continue reading
This weekend on July 7, mixed martial arts’ (MMA) most dominant champion, Anderson Silva, will defend his middleweight title against long time nemesis, Chael Sonnen. The fight is a rematch from their first fight, which took place on August 7, 2010, when Sonnen controlled Silva for four and a half rounds, before being submitted by Silva with less than two minutes left in the fifth and final round. Though MMA reflects one of the more physically visceral sports out there, the Silva-Sonnen rivalry is known as much for Sonnen’s brash trash talking, as it is for their first epic encounter in the cage. In this post, David Mayeda examines the hype going into the Silva-Sonnen rematch to illustrate the concept of “fight sport theatre.”
Ask just about any athletic coach what values sport brings to society, and s/he will typically rattle off a number of clichéd responses: “Sport builds character”; “Sport teaches people to bounce back from defeat”; “Sport produces discipline.” Okay, I won’t deny that sport if coached under certain conditions can, and sometimes does teach those values while also enriching our lives. On the other hand, there is no denying that sport is tied intimately to the capitalist market; sport is a form of entertainment with its own set of commodities (namely the athletes) that can be bought, sold, and used for profit-based motives. As John Sewart (1987) writes, “when sport becomes a commodity governed by market principles there is little or no regard for its intrinsic content or form” (p. 172). Like other professional sports, MMA is no doubt governed by market and gendered principles. Continue reading
In the United States we tend to think of racism as overt, intentional, hateful acts carried out by evil people. Many students of sociology are quick to claim they are colorblind or that they “don’t have a racist bone in their body.” In this post Nathan Palmer asks each of us to reimagine racism and rethink how our words and actions may impact others.
“Hey, I’m going upstairs for a few minutes, but my husband’s coming to pick me up for lunch any minute. If he shows up will you have him sit at my desk till I get back?” my officemate Laura asked me as she was walking out of the closet sized room that was our office. “Yeah, sure. I have to wait for the IT guy to come fix my computer anyways.” Laura and I worked for a small company the summer before I started graduate school. Laura was a tall white girl from Maryland. We were fast friends and we spent many lunch breaks talking about all the places she traveled. She taught me how to make Massaman Curry at home.
I was pissed. My computer had blue-screen-of-death’ed me for the third time that week and I had a big project due. I had called the IT help desk nearly an hour ago and was pacing back and forth in my tiny office (I could take a full 2 steps before having to turn back around). With each minute that passed I became more unnerved. I stopped, ran my hands through my hair to release the tension and took a deep breath. “Knock, knock.” I turned around making eye contact with an Asian American man standing in the door frame. Not recognizing his face, I squinted slightly and cocked my head to the side, “Can I help you?” His smile melted away, “Oh, I’m sorry. I’m here to-” I cut him off before he could finish. “Fix my computer, right? You must be from IT,” I said with certainty. “No, I’m here to pick up my wife, Laura.”