Author Archives: ty137258

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Sexism and Women in Sports

I’m not a particularly athletic person and I didn’t follow sports much growing up, but I’ve got to say, when this commercial first aired before the beginning of the Olympics, I felt pretty inspired. I think I might have even yelled “Yeah, girl power!” after watching it.

In our last topic on sex and gender we differentiated between the two as biological markers and socially constructed ideals of femininity and masculinity, respectively. In Judith Lorber’s piece, “Night to His Day”: The Social Construction of Gender, she writes that people rarely think about gender because it is so closely tied to sex; at birth, most children are marked as either male or female, and from there once they have been identified as such, people begin to treat them differently. We don’t think about it because our ideals of femininity and masculinity are learned at a very early age and are enforced by those around us.

Now that I think back to my childhood, I wonder why I didn’t engage in sports more, and I’m realizing it all comes from social norms and wanting to be accepted. I didn’t avoid sports because I was uncoordinated and awkward (my mom played basketball, and my dad did martial arts, so some of those genes have to be passed on to me, right?), but more so because none of the other girls in my class showed much enthusiasm for it either. I didn’t want to be the only girl. The teachers also furthered the ideal that boys are more attuned to the rough-and-tough games in P.E. while my coordination skills were more directed to dance, in particular, ballet.

What’s Wrong with Media Coverage of Women Olympians? [Sarah J. Jackson]

Which brings me to the next, but related topic. – Women have made strides in sports in that they now can compete publicly (yay for women’s boxing in the Olympics for the first time!), but they still face a lot of sexism. People accept that women can play just as hard as men in sports, but their bodies are still being objectified and their worth is still very much dependent on their looks. In this article by Sarah Jackson, she criticizes how the media plays a role in perpetuating sexism in sports — it’s obvious through outfits/uniforms that women wear compared to men as well as how quick people are to criticize an accomplished woman athlete’s make-up or hairstyle.

Women have got their foot in the door in sports, but society still has a long way to go in rewiring ideals about gender.

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Mr. Feeney is Amazing

Philanthropist Wants to Be Rid of His Last $1.5 Billion (NYT, Jim Dwyer)

How The Poor, The Middle Class, and The Rich Spend Their Money (NPR, Jacob Goldstein, Lam Vo) – An interesting infographic showing that the 99% and the 1% are not all that different

No, not the one from “Boy Meets World,” (though he is pretty awesome in his own right).

The Mr. Feeney that I speak of is an 81-year-old multi-billionaire philanthropist, who is trying to give away all his wealth before he passes on. For years he has kept his charity work a secret, but has recently come forward about his generosity. Mr. Feeney is pretty much the complete opposite of a rich person stereotype. Although many rich people give generously to various organizations that help the less fortunate or fund humanitarian projects, Mr. Feeney stands out because he lives an extremely modest life, rarely, if ever, showing any signs of his overflowing wealth.

He admits that he is a “shabby dresser,” often buying clothes off the rack (Dwyer). His TV set is almost as old as I am (never bothered to keep up with technology), and he prefers to mingle with commoners by flying coach and choosing to settled in Midtown Manhattan (though he could have easily afforded an Upper East Side apartment near others of his economic class).

His is a true rags-to-riches story – raised in a working-class family, joined the Air Force, attended Cornell through G.I. bill, worked as a merchant, started his own business, founded his own philanthropic foundation (Dwyer). In class we talked about social mobility and how it takes 5-6 generations on average to move up/down the socioeconomic. Mr. Feeney is one of the exceptions to the trend, but his story is interesting still — even though he became fairly rich (economically), he didn’t change that much in his lifestyle (socially). At the end of the article, Dwyer writes that Mr. Feeney’s five children will receive an inheritance, but it won’t be enough to continue a legacy of “old money.” His daughters and son could have had the all privileges of the upper class, but instead they have all experienced working through college as waiters, maids, and cashiers.

This story was incredibly inspiring and I wish there were more Mr. Feeneys in the world.

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Asian-Americans and Endogamy

For Asian-American Couples, a Tie That Binds” (NYT article)

The video above, “Yellow Fever,” is about 6 years old, but I feel like the “issue” portrayed in it is one that won’t be going away any time soon. Yellow fever is a real disease, but the yellow fever that the guys at Wong Fu Productions speak of is more of a social epidemic. If you are unfamiliar, it refers to couples that are generally composed of a white man and an (East) Asian woman.

It’s not that rare to see an interracial couple these days, and it may not even consciously register in people’s minds (since it has become so common), but as an Asian-American, I always notice when a couple is white male and Asian female. I’ll be honest and say that I use to be one to think “Oh, that guy has an Asian fetish” or “She’s a mail-order bride.” However, that is not the case anymore and I do believe that people of different race backgrounds can make a relationship work if they put the work into it.

The video of course is satirical, but as with any piece of satire, there’s some truth to it. Earlier this summer I went to my cousin’s wedding and of all the young, unmarried couples, I would have to say that 90% of them were white man and Asian woman. I’ll have to take into consideration that my cousin’s friends were mostly from a small, farming town in western Massachusetts, but there’s no denying that yellow fever was running rampant.

The New York Times article actually points out that what I saw at the wedding was an exception – that “yellow fever” kind of relationships has been on the decline since 1980, even though Asian-Americans still hold the highest percentage of interracial marriages (Swarns, NYT). I can relate to what many of the interviewed couples shared in that there is an ease with marrying or being in a relationship with someone of the same or similar racial/cultural backgrounds. Although communication is necessary in any relationship, there’s sort of an unspoken understanding of what is expected from each other for Asian-American couples. For example, a female cousin of mine is currently dating a Jewish man. Whenever he comes over for family dinner, he asks what all the “weird” food is. I appreciate him wanting to know more about his girlfriend’s family and their cultures and traditions, but it can get a bit annoying/tiring to explain everything.

It seems like a trend of “returning to your roots,” but I’m sure some subconsciously racist grandparents out there are glad that their grandchildren are choosing mates from within their own group.

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Social Norms of Personal Space – Holding People’s Hands (Part 1 and 2)

Some people are very touchy. Literally. Some others preferred to keep at least an arms-length distance from everyone at all times, and may freak out if hugged or even tapped on the shoulder. Most babies are born with the desire for touch, to be held and comforted, and if the parent(s) is/are not completely sadistic, will oblige to the child’s wants. As one gets older though, he/she is weaned off from getting everything he/she wants, and picked up less, etc. We eventually learn about “personal space” and what kind of physical touch is acceptable between strangers, acquaintances, friends, and family.

In the U.S., with a general individualistic culture, we take our personal space very personally. Whenever possible, we try to keep as much distance from the next person (ex. not sitting next to the only person on an otherwise empty subway car, or male restroom etiquette for using urinals).  It’s interesting to actively think about something that seems so innate or common sense, when it is in fact not. I had a bit of culture shock, when I visited China a few years back, and found that people will pass right next to you on the sidewalk when there is so much space around. At first I was nervous that they were pickpocket-ers, then I realized that that’s just how people in China are socialized. It may be due to the large population that is usually packed like sardines, or possibly influenced by their communal culture which doesn’t quite have the ideal of personal space (since most stuff is shared).

In the two videos above, Andrew and Jacqueline Hales (siblings) conduct a social experiment of walking close to random people and holding their hands to see their reactions. The results are hilarious. First you think, “Man, that’s ballsy” and see most people react instinctively by flinching or retracting their hands with a “WTH?!” face. Then there are the few that go along with it. The conversations and puzzled faces that follow are most fascinating!

Imagine the relations we could have with people if we didn’t have so many learned social inhibitions.

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Social Media and the Sociological Imagination

Online Now

This week we discussed the sociological imagination as the “ability to see the impact of massive cultural and historical processes on our private lives,” and that we are not merely the product of our own decisions, but that everything we are – beliefs, behavior, fashion-sense, etc., is influenced by society. Traditionally, society is defined as a people with a common identity, shared culture, under the same political authority, and in the same geographic location. However, with the internet and the explosion of social media (at least in the developed world) this definition of society can pretty much be thrown out the window. Well, of course, we can always talk about ‘pockets of society,’ but it’s undeniable that the world is “shrinking” as we become more interconnected.

The video above shows a spectrum of how social media and technology is changing society. Some people say that this generation is doomed because we are addicted to our “phones” (I put phones in quotations because many of them functioned more than just a hearing-speaking device), and that our social skills are going down the drain because we favor media communication over face-to-face interaction. This is evident in the scenes with the girl waiting for her phone to beep, the boy hiding in his jacket in the middle of the playground, the women at the bar, the alienated young lady in the elevator without a smartphone/tablet, the guy on his computer at a party, and the kids on their separate devices during what appears to be “family time.” We even see a woman committing the social faux pas of breaking up via e-mail, but I guess that’s acceptable now (considering the circumstances).

The video goes on to show how society is seemingly “losing its values” and ends with a final scene of a girl contemplating suicide. You almost lose hope, but then you see a glimmer of light (aside from those of the oncoming train) as the girl’s phone is bombarded with encouraging words.

Anyway, tying this back to “The Sociological Imagination,” it is amazing how Mills’ writing is still applicable today. Even though he wrote about the sociological imagination decades before the computer and internet, etc., it seems like he is referencing it just the same. He talks about the “Age of Fact” as we are now living in the age of information and how almost everything we want to know is at our fingertips. Yet, as much as we want to consume all this information about the world and people in our immediate circles, we are severely concerned with privacy. It’s interesting to think about how we are to reconcile our want to know everything about everyone else, but limit everyone else’s knowledge of us.

That last scene with the girl was especially moving because, although the audience doesn’t know exactly what is causing her to feel so alone and want to give up, it seems to be something universally understood. We have all heard the stories of how internet bullying was the cause (or a cause) of suicide for many youths, but in this video narrative, we see how the internet community came together and saved her life in the nick of time. With the world getting smaller and people realizing that they have more in common than differences, the sociological imagination for the masses is expanding.

Obviously, there will always be those who are informed yet closed-minded, but if we are to look at this expanding sociological imagination with optimism, we might achieve world peace in our lifetime  (insert A LOT of optimism here).

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