British soccer team not happy at serving as the site for college field trip on gender

One British sociology class plans to visit Millwall FC to examine how gender is performed. The club is not happy:

Varndean College in Brighton is offering AS-level sociology students the chance to watch Brighton and Hove Albion take on the “notorious” Millwall Football Club at their home team’s American Express Community Stadium…

There will also be a chance to observe “issues around sexuality, race and ethnicity,” “women challenging gender norms” and to “even talk to football fans,” it promises.

A schedule of planned trips on the college’s website says the football excursion would help teach students about class, leisure and masculinity, and possible racism and homophobia as well.

But Millwall FC appeared less than happy with the idea of being studied as a sociological phenomenon.

“It does make me wonder why they chose Millwall for that,” a source at the club said.

One Varndean sociology student and Millwall fan said describing the club as notorious was “a bit outdated as we’re no longer in the 1980s.”

Sounds like an interesting exercise in seeing gender in action. I understand that few teams would want to explicitly be charged with racism or homophobia but such attitudes are certainly expressed at sporting events. Soccer has a particular history with racism (see a brief overview here) and even with explicit efforts and sanctions from professional associations, racist actions still occur. And professional sports tend to invoke commentary from some fans about masculinity, which in soccer can be associated with toughness, body times, and typical actions off the pitch (such as using their status to pursue women, drink, etc.).

I wonder if any teams would be willing to take part in such field trips because they had such confidence that students and observers wouldn’t see racism or homophobia. Imagine Millwall said, “Sure. Come observe and you won’t see anything like that” and then the observations backed that up. But, even inviting this sort of opportunity would probably be too risky in the eyes of most teams.

Low-income women evicted more often than men partly because of gender dynamics with landlords

A recent analysis of evictions in Milwaukee shows the gender of a landlord and a tenant influences who is more likely to be evicted:

It’s an all-too-common story. Low-income women are evicted at much higher rates than men. The reasons are varied, including lower wages and children, but one rarely discussed reason is the gender dynamics between largely male landlords and female tenants…

But the interactions between predominantly male landlords and female tenants is also a culprit, and it often turns on gender dynamics. Men who fall behind on rent, for example, often went directly to the landlord. When Jerry was served an eviction notice, he promptly balled up and threw it in the face of his landlord. The two commenced yelling at each other until Jerry stomped back to his trailer.

Meanwhile, Larraine, who had also been served notice, recoiled from conflict. “I couldn’t deal with it. I was terrified by it, just terrified,” she told the researcher. After Jerry calmed down, he returned and offered to work off his rent by cleaning up the trailer park and doing some maintenance work, something men often offer to do, I found. The landlord accepted his offer. The outcome for Larraine was different. After avoiding her landlord, she would eventually come up with the rent, borrowing from her brother. But by that time, her landlord had had enough. He felt that Lorraine had taken advantage of him. In keeping with women’s generally non-confrontational approach, Larraine, like many other women renters facing eviction, engaged in “ducking and dodging” landlords often put it.

This dynamic has long-term implications. An eviction record can make it extremely difficult for them to find housing again. Evictions can ban a person from affordable housing programs. And many landlords will not rent to someone who’s been evicted. As they like to say, “I’ll rent to you as long as you don’t have an eviction or a conviction.” These twinned processes—eviction and conviction—work together to propagate economic disadvantage in the inner city.

This sounds like a confluence of race, class, gender. Being non-white and having a lower income leads to fewer housing opportunities and then gender compounds the particulars of interacting with male landlords. The difficulty in finding decent affordable housing then affects what neighborhoods people can live in, influencing social networks, collective efficacy, exposure to violence and crime, differences in educational systems, and access to economic opportunities.

Desmond’s brief report suggests the best solution is to help avoid evictions:

The most important policy solution, however, would be to ensure that low-income families do not end up in eviction court in the first place. Stopgap measures that provide emergency funds for families in a jam – those who have lost a job, experienced a family death, or suffered a medical emergency – could help thousands stay in their homes…

More fundamentally, making housing more affordable could prevent many evictions.

A tough issue to address in a country that tends to accept residential segregation as well as the prevalence of market forces in the housing industry.

Cell phones are not an impediment to public social interaction

Recent research from a sociologist analyzing video footage of public spaces shows cell phones don’t limit public interaction:

Between 2008 and 2010, his team accrued enough footage to begin a comparison with the P.P.S. films — together the two collections totaled more than 38 hours. “Films were sampled at 15-second intervals for a total of 9,173 observation periods,” he writes in his article, which reads like a study in scholarly masochism. Hampton and a team of 11 graduate and undergraduate students from Penn spent a total of 2,000 hours looking at the films, coding the individuals they observed for four characteristics: sex, group size, “loitering” and phone use…

First off, mobile-phone use, which Hampton defined to include texting and using apps, was much lower than he expected. On the steps of the Met, only 3 percent of adults captured in all the samples were on their phones. It was highest at the northwest corner of Bryant Park, where the figure was 10 percent. More important, according to Hampton, was the fact that mobile-phone users tended to be alone, not in groups. People on the phone were not ignoring lunch partners or interrupting strolls with their lovers; rather, phone use seemed to be a way to pass the time while waiting to meet up with someone, or unwinding during a solo lunch break. Of course, there’s still the psychic toll, which we all know, of feeling tethered to your phone — even while relaxing at the park. But that’s a personal cost. From what Hampton could tell, the phones weren’t nearly as hard on our relationships as many suspect…

According to Hampton, our tendency to interact with others in public has, if anything, improved since the ‘70s. The P.P.S. films showed that in 1979 about 32 percent of those visited the steps of the Met were alone; in 2010, only 24 percent were alone in the same spot. When I mentioned these results to Sherry Turkle, she said that Hampton could be right about these specific public spaces, but that technology may still have corrosive effects in the home: what it does to families at the dinner table, or in the den. Rich Ling, a mobile-phone researcher in Denmark, also noted the limitations of Hampton’s sample. “He was capturing the middle of the business day,” said Ling, who generally admires Hampton’s work. For businesspeople, “there might be a quick check, do I have an email or a text message, then get on with life.” Fourteen-year-olds might be an entirely different story…

In fact, this was Hampton’s most surprising finding: Today there are just a lot more women in public, proportional to men. It’s not just on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. On the steps of the Met, the proportion of women increased by 33 percent, and in Bryant Park by 18 percent. The only place women decreased proportionally was in Boston’s Downtown Crossing — a major shopping area. “The decline of women within this setting could be interpreted as a shift in gender roles,” Hampton writes. Men seem to be “taking on an activity that was traditionally regarded as feminine.”

Perhaps there is such a reaction to people using phones in public because (1) they are a new technology and people still aren’t used to them – smartphones are only less than a decade old and/or (2) phones are less noticeable or personally intrusive in wide open settings like the steps of the Met but very noticeable in more confined settings where conversations can be heard.

I think there is also a lot sociologists could build on here with Hampton’s methodology. Video may seem archaic when you can utilize big data but it can still provide unique insights into social behavior. While the coding of the video was rather simple (they looked at four categories: “sex, group size, “loitering” and phone use”), it took a lot of time to go through the video and compare it to Whyte’s earlier film. This comparative element is also quite useful: we can then compare patterns over time. All together, think how much video footage is collected in public these days and how it might lend itself to research…

Infographic: “Gender Inequality in [Hollywood] Film”

Check out this infographic from the New York Film Academy on gender inequality in American films. A few of the facts involved:

-“Women purchase half of the movie tickets sold in the U.S.” but “28.8% of women wore sexually revealing clothes as opposed to 7.0% of men” in the top 500 films from 2007 to 20012 and the “average ratio of male actors to females is 2.25:1” in these same films.

-The number of men and women working behind the scene in major roles of the top 250 films of 2012 is pretty unequal: women are 9% of directors, 15% of writers, 17% of executive producers, 25% of producers, 20% of editors, and 2% of cinematographers.

-“Forbes 2013 list of the top ten highest paid actresses made a collective $181 million versus $465 million made by the top ten male actors” and “In 2013 the highest paid female actor, Angelina Jolie, made $33 million, roughly the same amount as the two lowest-ranked men. Furthermore, age appears to be a dominant factor in an actress’s monetary success compared to men.”

So much for progressive Hollywood? The infographic also suggests the depth of the inequality goes beyond just star actors and actresses; it applies to numerous important roles and how characters are regularly portrayed.

Another aspect of this is to think about using infographics for social activism. In one big graphic, this group has presented a lot of data regarding gender in American films. Is it more effective to present the data in (1) a splashy way – infographics are hot these days and (2) to overwhelm people with data?

Replacing the “master” in master bedroom

The term master bedroom is falling out of favor in the Washington D.C. area:

A survey of 10 major Washington, D.C.-area homebuilders found that six no longer use the term “master” in their floor plans to describe the largest bedroom in the house. They have replaced it with “owner’s suite” or “owner’s bedroom” or, in one case, “mastre bedroom.”

Why? In large part for exactly the reason you would think: “Master” has connotation problems, in gender (it skews toward male) and race (the slave-master).

Enter the owner’s suite…

Winchester, Pulte Homes, NV Homes and Ryan Homes (both under the NVR Inc. umbrella), Van Metre Cos. and D.R. Horton Inc. have all replaced “master” in their floor plans, some more recently than others…

Over time, “master” will be filtered out entirely, he said. The change is “just working through the industry, and finally, bingo, we got it.”

Randy Creaser, owner of D.C.’s Creaser/O’Brien Architects PC, said he ditched “master” in the early 1990s in his home designs. He vaguely recalled a few lawsuits brought against builders over the phrase. Pulte spokeswoman Valerie Dolenga said Pulte made the shift maybe three or four years ago.

How long will it take to get through the entire industry? This clearly hasn’t reached HGTV yet…

Analyzing gendered uptalk on Jeopardy!

As part of a household that regularly watches Jeopardy! via the magic of DVR, I was intrigued to read about this sociological study of uptalk on the show:

Linneman’s study involves issues deeper than how game show contestants talk—specifically, the implications uptalk has for gender identities. According to his article, “The primary sociological controversy surrounding uptalk concerns the fact that women use uptalk more often than men do, and some interpret this as a signal of uncertainty and subordination.”Linneman found that both gender and uncertainty played a role: “On average, women used uptalk nearly twice as often as men. However, if men responded incorrectly, their intonation betrayed their uncertainty: their use of uptalk shot up dramatically.”

The use of uptalk is not merely an academic concern, as Linneman discovered with one of his results.

“One of the most interesting findings coming out of the project is that success has an opposite effect on men and women on the show…The more successful a man is on the show, uptalk decreases. The opposite is true for women…I think that says something really interesting about the relationship between success and gender in our society, and other research has found this too: successful women in a variety of ways get penalized.”

Uptalk’s sometimes-negative connotations bring up the subject of how women speak, a provocative issue.

While this isn’t an earthshaking finding, two things are very interesting here:

1. It is a reminder that language usage and speech patterns reflect larger social forces. While individuals may have unique ways of expressing themselves, language and expression is also learned behavior influenced by others.

2. Selecting Jeopardy! as the research case for this particular phenomenon is clever. While uptalk is related to perceptions of a lack of confidence, the contestants on the show should not have as much reason for nervousness as others might have about being on TV. In order to make it on air, they have to be smart enough to pass a qualifying test and then they have to pass an in-person audition. In other words, the contestants, males and female, are bright people. Granted, being in front of a camera is a different matter but these contestants aren’t caught completely unaware nor should they be fully perplexed by the questions they are trying to answer.

Female characters in recent movies and TV shows still marginalized

A new study shows female characters in recent movies and TV shows still play very different roles than men:

The study, lead by sociologist Stacy L. Smith, analyzed 11,927 speaking roles on prime-time television programs aired in spring 2012, children’s TV shows aired in 2011 and family films (rated G, PG, or PG-13) released between 2006 and 2011. Smith’s team looked at female characters’ occupations, attire, body size and whether they spoke or not.

The team’s data showed that on prime-time television, 44.3 percent of females were gainfully employed — compared with 54.5 percent of males. Women across the board were more likely to be shown wearing sexy attire or exposing some skin, and body size trends were apparent: “Across both prime time and family films, teenaged females are the most likely to be depicted thin,” Smith wrote in the study’s executive summary. The ratio of men to women in STEM fields was 14.25 to 1 in family films and 5.4 to 1 on prime time TV. Perhaps most telling are the percentages of speaking female characters in each media form: only 28.3 percent of characters in family films, 30.8 percent of characters in children’s shows, and 38.9 percent of characters on prime time television were women.

In a summary of the study’s findings, the researchers reported that they found a lack of aspirational female role models in all three media categories, and cited five main observations: female characters are sidelined, women are stereotyped and sexualized, a clear employment imbalance exists, women on TV come up against a glass ceiling, and there are not enough female characters working in STEM fields.

This reminds me of the video Killing Us Softly 4: similar images of women are spread throughout advertising and other areas. Television and movies don’t exactly depict reality but we can still ask what values they are portraying. It is not just about entertainment; sure, people want to escape from the real world from time to time but any sort of media is creating and working with values an ideas. Of course, the real values portrayed by television and movies may be consumerism (for example, in the latest Bond film) and making money.