You’re Killing Me Susana: Film Review

At CineLatino, the Latin American film festival, I watched, You’re Killing Me Susana, starring Gael Garcia Bernal. As always, his performance is charming and the movie has lots of affable comedy. But his character and the story is not endearing. He is an unfaithful and selfish husband who does not take any interest in his wife and her writing. He is disparaging of her teaching, which supplements her writing aspirations. He has repeatedly talked his wife out of going away on writing trips because he is suspicious and jealous. Continue reading You’re Killing Me Susana: Film Review

White Male Rage and Hollywood Storytelling

“The rage that white men have been expressing, loudly, violently, over the very idea that they might find themselves identifying with characters who are not white men, the very idea that heroism might not be particular to one race or one gender, the basic idea that the human story is vast and various and we all get to contribute a page – that rage is petty. It is aware of its own pettiness. Like a screaming toddler denied a sweet, it becomes more righteous the more it reminds itself that after all, it’s only a story.”

Source: The New Stateman

Sexism on Wikipedia: Why the #YesAllWomen Edits Matter


The Wikipedia page for #YesAllWomen, a record of an anti-sexism online protest movement, is being edited to make it “less misandrist.” This Wiki page documents the Twitter hashtag that is being used internationally by women to share their experiences of sexual harassment, abuse and discrimination following the Isla Vista mass shooting in America. Some men are using this tag to listen and support women, but predictably, others are abusing it to hurt women and argue that the hashtag is “sexist against men.” The Wiki edits matter because Wikipedia has a massive problem with sexism. These edits reflect the very issues of gender violence, intimidation and power that the #YesAllWomen hashtag is trying to address. Continue reading Sexism on Wikipedia: Why the #YesAllWomen Edits Matter

Ending Violence Against Women

Last week was also the 10th anniversary of White Ribbon Day in Australia, which begins a period of activism to stop violence against women, culminating on December 10th with Human Rights Day.

It’s disturbing to see this anniversary greeted not with encouraging reports of widespread activism and positive change, but with ongoing reports of male violence toward women. In a society where men are statistically the main perpetrators of violence against all genders, we need to accept some hard truths. The problem is whenever we try to accept anything, a raft of excuses and counter attacks arrive: violence is caused by monsters not men, the statistics are wrong, men suffer violence as well. Continue reading Ending Violence Against Women

White Male Privilege

The best part about historical fiction is, I always have someone to relate to. The past is pretty sweet.

Here’s a satirical look at white male privilege, which refers to the gendered and racist discourses that maintain sexist, racist and heterosexist balance of power society. White men’s experiences are dominant in Western history, education, art, religion, the law and through every other major social institution. Men’s experiences shape the the dominant discourses that pervade everyday social interactions. Discourse is the way in which language is used to impose specific ways of talking and thinking about the established social order. People come to associate particular social practices with commonplace assumptions about “the way things are.” Language is used associate these practices with an idealised vision of normality and “the way things should be.”

Mainstream popular culture makes it seem as if white men’s experiences are “natural,” “normal,” and the universal ideal through which societies should judge the lives of Others. For example the way we use words shape what people come to accept about what it is acceptable about being a man and what is acceptable about being a woman: it is not okay for a woman to walk through the streets at night… but if she’s sexually harassed throughout her day, can’t she take a bit of “harmless teasing”? It is okay to use homophobic language on Twitter 45,000 times in less than half a day (and counting). It’s okay to use sexist language and imagery in gaming and to abuse women who speak out against this.

Gender discourses rest upon heterosexist ideals. Heterosexism is the idea that all people are “naturally” heterosexual and other sexualities are subservient or deviant. This position is unsupported by historical and empirical data, which chart the historical forces that give rise to white, heterosexual male privilege.

For classic overview texts, read:

For empirical studies of how men and women adopt white male privilege, read:

Image Source: mackiejunior.

Sociology of Tumblr

In mid-July, David Karp appeared on The Colbert Report.  I’m going to tease apart Karp’s brief appearance because it came after the announcement of Yahoo’s acquisition of Tumblr. The interview touches on issues of digital equality, the hijacking of “cool,” and privacy. Colbert is clever and hilarious as ever. His comedy is about making fun of his guests, so unsurprisingly, during the exchange, we see that Tumblr is dismissed as a frivolous waste of time, mostly because of its reputation as a site for porn. A sociological perspective sees that even the most trivial dismissals, even during in a short comedic exchange, carries social messages that need critical exploration.

Tumblr is a fun way to spend one’s time. Yet Tumblr stands for something more: it is a popular way for young people to interact online, particularly those between 18-29 years, and it is especially used by minorities. Data from America also shows that Tumblr is unique in its gender breakdown. Unlike Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, which are more popular among women, and Twitter which is slightly more popular among men, Tumblr has a near equal split between male and female users. There are no data on non-cis gender users, but Tumblr’s transgender and queer tags are popular, suggesting Tumblr is an important blogging platform for LGBTQI youth. Tumblr also draws a slightly higher proportion of urban and educated users.

Given its unique demographics, it’s useful to place Karp and Colbert’s discussion in a broader socio-economic context. Much of their jokes centre on porn use on Tumblr, but underneath, this is a conversation about digital privilege.

Continue reading Sociology of Tumblr

The Social Construction of Masculinity

Man of colour being measured by a Black male tailor across the chest

Let’s quickly dip into Raewyn Connell’s influential research on masculinities. While she’s been writing on masculinities since the 1980s, her seminal work on the hierarchy of masculinities shows that there are several competing models of masculinities at any given point in history. These models have changed over time and vary across cultures. As with all other studies on the sociology of gender.

Connell explores how societies are structured to replicate social inequalities among different genders, but also within genders.

In the case of “Western” societies, masculinity is primarily defined through ideals of dominance and physical power over women, men and children. Cultural institutions such as education, the media, the economy and politics uphold a singular and view of the way masculinity “should be.” We come across this constrained view of masculinity throughout our socialisation and it becomes accepted as “normal” and “natural” (“hegemonic masculinity”).

Movies are one example of this rigid dominant model of masculinity, by holding up white, heterosexual, able-bodied men who exert their authority using violence and sexual dominance. The epitome stereotype might be action heroes, such as James Bond, who is socially unattached, largely devoid of emotion, executes violence with impunity, and who acts as if sex is a competition. He does not behave as if other people are his equals who require respect and empathy. Another dominant model of masculinity is embodied by sports stars, whose physical progress makes them worthy of cultural and institutional esteem, while other occupations, such as teaching, are undervalued relative to the cultural esteem and economic rewards heaped upon athletes.

Competing models of masculinity, such as those found within the feminist and the environmental movements, challenge such ideals. They focus on human rights  and gender equality  among genders and amongst different groups in society. Connell makes it clear that her work is not a condemnation of men; but rather she explores and critiques the institutional processes that shape how societies talk, think and act out masculinities and gender relations. For example, Connell’s other empirical studies have focused on how the educational system rewards certain types of masculinities (amongst middle and upper class schools) while punishing other types of masculinities (such as in working class neighbourhoods). Connell is interested in expanding how we understand the impact of masculinities not just in the way men relate with women, but also how different masculinities reproduce inequalities among boys and men.

Connell’s work has informed hundreds of empirical studies around the world, which have, in turn, critiqued and expanded upon Connell’s original premise. More contemporary researchers examine how ethnicity, race, culture and other intersecting social demographics can represent alternative hierarchies of masculinity. Connell’s work has made an important impact on educational and social policies, through educational programs aimed to create a space to help men better communicate their personal experiences; as well as improving educational and economic outcomes amongst working class men.

Connell argues that all too often we focus on the problems of men who are disadvantaged, but we need to do more ethnographies of men in power:

“Research on men and masculinities is not a separate field spun off from feminism. It is, rather, part of the feminist revolution in knowledge that has been opening up in the last generation. Indeed it can be seen as a strategic part of feminist research, the moment of ‘studying up’, the power structure research that we need to understand the gender order. Therefore, a key part of the enterprise is researching institutions in which masculinities are embedded and which have weight in the social order as a whole: the state, armed forces and security services, corporations, and international capital markets.” 

My post today was inspired by Tuki Clavero on Google Plus, who reshared a quote from Role Reboot:

To answer the question, “What is good about masculinity?” we need to remind ourselves that:

Masculinity doesn’t exist. At least not in the way we think it exists. There is no timeless definition of manhood. It varies from culture to culture, era to era. It’s simply how we define manhood and how we define the relations of power among men and between men and women.

That means that masculinity (like femininity) is a collective hallucination.

What The Sociology of Shoes Says About Gender Inequality

17th Century Persian Men's Shoe. Via BBC
17th Century Persian Men’s Shoe. Via BBC

By Zuleyka Zevallos

High heel shoes were once a status symbol for powerful men, from horse riding soldiers in 16th Century Persia, to European aristocrats in the 17th Century. Since the Enlightenment period, heels became associated with “irrational” fashion and pornography, and so “impractical” shoes became a symbol of femininity. What changed? Today’s post examines how history and fashion trends related to high heels help us to see how gender is a performance that entrenches inequality. Continue reading What The Sociology of Shoes Says About Gender Inequality

Raewyn Connell on Masculinities

Here’s my transcription to aid accessibility, featuring the University of Sydney interviewing Professor Raewyn Connell talking about her career researching the sociology of masculinities (watch below).

Gif of Raewyn Connell, with her name and following text overlaid: It's about what they actually do in the worldConnell: Well for me, masculinity is a pattern of practice. So it’s not an attitude; it’s not what’s in people’s heads; it’s not the state of their hormones; it’s what they actually do in the world and that’s something that has a relationship to your body, to your biology, but not a fixed relationship. So women can behave in a masculine way, though usually it’s men who do, and also there are different patterns of masculinity, so different groups of men will conduct themselves different ways and those patterns can also change over time. And that of course is what we hope to achieve in anti-violence work because some patterns of masculinity do include a willingness to use violence, an openness to using violence. Whereas other patterns of masculinity are, in comparison, peaceable. And part of the problem of reducing violence in the world is to shift from the first and second kind of masculinity. Continue reading Raewyn Connell on Masculinities