If Gay Guys Said the Shit Straight People Say…

“I don’t mean straight in a heterophobic way, I just mean, you know, dumb and stupid,”

“You’re a great guy, but just so you know – nothing straight is going to happen between us.”

Word to the wise, do not head over to the YouTube comments section of this video, unless you want to read a whole lot of, “I’m not homophobic but…”

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

Racist Humour in Australian Advertising: Reflections from the Sociology of Whiteness

Below is a great post by sunili on “casual racism” in a recent advertising campaign that has thankfully been banned by tv networks. To situate it for non-Australian readers, here’s the background. There is an electronics entrepreneur in Australia called Dick Smith. His company is Australian-owned and his advertising campaigns often rest on notions of patriotism. His latest ad was an attempt to cash in on Australia Day, coming up on the 26th of January. It has caused tremendous controversy because it is based upon sexist and racist “jokes.” The ad features cringe-worthy dick jokes as well as asylum seekers literally arriving on Australian shores. A stereotypical Afghan/Islamic man is handed a Dick Smith’s food product, as Smith says “And the taste is a beauty, why else would thousands be trying to get here?” The “asylum seeker” looks to the camera and says “I love Mr Dickssss.”

Dick Smith has defended the sexism and racism in his ads to the Sydney Morning Herald, saying:

one of the reasons that asylum seekers come here [to Australia] is because we have good food. So I can’t see what’s really wrong with that.

Guess what? Asylum seekers come to Australia for asylum, to escape prosecution and political turmoil, not to eat Australian food specifically and certainly not to help Dick Smith reduce their plight into a racist skit.

The entire ad campaign is offensive and ridiculous, but the asylum seeker angle is socially irresponsible, given that Australia has an ongoing debate about asylum seekers, which are based on fear and racism. Negative stereotypes, including those perpetuated by “jokes,” have a real consequence on the lives of refugees in Australia, including on their employment prospects. Media that replicates race and gender-based “jokes” actually rest on racist and sexist notions, as the humour is a direct interaction with cultural stereotypes.

Sunili has written to the ad director, who defended the Dick Smith ad saying it was not meant to be racist. As Sunili points out, racism, whether intended or not, whether as a joke or as malice, is still racism:

There are two huge problems with casual racism and racist jokes:

jokes that are based on racist stereotypes and the normalisation of casual racism trivialises the huge problem of what you describe “malicious” racism and the harm that that racism causes because people go “oh c’mon it’s just a joke love, get over it!” when the basis of that joke is something that is deeply not funny and terribly hurtful; and

making jokes and then defending jokes that are based on racist stereotypes normalise a harmful practice that has and continues to effect a lot of your fellow Australians, and it gives the really vocal, nasty, malicious element of the community the ammunition it wants to make racist jokes in a nasty, malicious way.

I have discussed the sociology of “unintentional racism” with respect to history and music on my other blog. I noted that the reason why non-white people, particularly those in positions of privilege, are able to claim that they fail to see racism in their words or actions is because racism is institutionalised. It is so firmly entrenched in society, that people claim not to be aware of it, even when they participate in it. This is why whiteness studies are so important: people who belong to a dominant white group have trouble owning up to racist discourses. As Dick Smith says, “I can’t see what’s really wrong” with his unintentional racism. 

Check out Ruth Frankenberg’s work on white American women and Margaret Wetherell and Jonathan Potter’s work on racist discourses in New Zealand. These studies show that ordinary folk who see themselves as highly tolerant and forward- thinking citizens actually use racist language and they replicate racist ideologies without being able to discuss this as racism.

You should also read Sunili’s post in full.


Dick Smith is a bit of a tool but he made this ad for his food products for Straya Day and it’s awful and racist and you can google it if you want but I sure as hell will not be linking to it.

I contacted the director of the ad via Twitter and engaged in a bit of discussion about how problematic it was. He responded, firstly by calling me “Sunil”, EPIC AWKWARD TURTLE, but then saying that the ad wasn’t racist because there was no malicious intent to be racist.

This was my response to him.

Read More

HT @26pgt for the link to sunili’s post.

Homo Academicus Redux


Shit Scientists Say

I’m a little tired of the “Shit ____ Say/Don’t Say” meme already, but I’ll make an exception for this one. It’s mildly hilarious.


(by RoseEveleth)


Pretty good parody video. “In conclusion more research is required” (ha!).

Part of the joke in this video is the little regard some scientists have for treating living beings empathically and ethically, instead referring to animals and people as disposable tools: “Do you have an extra monkey?” “Hey, you got an extra undergrad?”. And feeling superior to everything and everyone: “She keeps talking about her Nature paper, but she was only the third author”. “I mean there’s science and then there’s social science”.

Funnily enough apart from this remark, the only science portrayed in this video are the natural sciences. Yes, this is a reflection of the producers of the video (who may be natural scientists doing a parody), but this is also indicative of how science is constructed in the public imagination. Plus on Tumblr I might add: the science and social science tags are separate, though I’ve yet to see social science show up in the science stream. (Also our thread has no editors, which I know some other sociologists have pointed out.)

Before we sociologists get up on our moral high horse about scientific superiority, I have heard some amazing derision amongst our peers, particularly from senior academics putting down applied sociologists.

Where does all this science holier-than-thou-shit come from? Read Bourdieu Homo Academicus, where he talks about how scientific disciplines structure knowledge, status and symbolic power. Here’s a clue, where Bourdieu quotes Hobbes: “Reputation of power is power”.

Ahh science, science, where for art thou science…