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June 2, 2014 / brockportsociology

Notes from the Field

Now that the academic year is over, we thought it would be interesting to profile what some of our faculty do during the summer months. Dr. Boyd is doing fieldwork in Dallas, Texas this summer, and here she tells us about her research.

By Melody L. Boyd melody boyd_4x5_edit

I am part of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on How Housing Matters for Children and Families, and am collaborating with a team of researchers doing a two-year qualitative study analyzing the housing decisions that families make. Our goal is to interview families from various income and racial backgrounds to understand how families make tradeoffs when deciding about where to live, and how these decisions affect their children. We are collecting data in Cleveland, Ohio and Dallas, Texas. This is a longitudinal study, which means we are talking to families at multiple points in time to analyze changes over time. We conducted the first round of interviews in the summer of 2013, and this summer we are following up with the families we interviewed last summer.

ClevelandLast summer I was in Cleveland for two and a half months recruiting families to participate in the study and conducting in-depth qualitative interviews with families. We created a random sample of addresses in various neighborhoods throughout the city of Cleveland and the surrounding suburbs, and from that sample determined which families were eligible for the study. Since this project is focused on the impacts of housing on children, we limited our sample to families who have children between the ages of 3 and 8. Once we determined that a family was eligible for the study we conducted an interview with them, usually in their home. The interviews usually lasted around 3 hours, so we learned a lot from the families! I invited tAnna and Lindsaywo sociology majors, Anna Sommer-Grohens and Lindsay Stumpf, to come to Cleveland for a short time to participate in the fieldwork and learn about the process of recruiting respondents and conducting in-depth interviews.

This summer I am doing follow-up interviews in Dallas. It’s great to get to know a new city, and there are a lot of aspects about the housing market and neighborhoods that are different in Dallas than Cleveland. Since we are interviewing families again who we interviewed last summer, we are learning about the changes that their family experienced in the last year. For families who moved between last summer and this summer we are able to learn the whole story about how they made the decision to move, and why they chose to move to their new location. DallasSome families are in the process of moving this summer, and for those families we are collecting observational data by accompanying them on their housing searches and learning about their housing choices while these decisions are being made.

So, there is a glimpse into my fieldwork this summer. I look forward to talking about what I’m learning in classes and conversations in the fall!

 

May 26, 2014 / brockportsociology

A Crippling Combination: How Business and Technology are Killing Journalism

The news industry has changed significantly over the past few decades, and not necessarily for the better. With the emergence of digital technology and modern business strategies, the situation has improved only for the CEO’s, while journalists are being sucked dry.

ImageBy: Benjamin Haskell*

In his article, “Convergence: News Production in a Digital Age,” Eric Klinenberg (2005) discusses his research into the ways the news media industry has changed since the advent of digital technology. He uses in-depth field observation of the company Metro News to analyze the effects that emerging digital technologies and the application of modern corporate convergence strategies have had on individual journalists, the journalistic profession as a whole, and the way news corporations are structured and managed.

ImageKlinenberg discusses the ways that modern business tactics have led to the creation of large media conglomerates, as town newspapers and local television stations are either bought out or undercut by competition. As many of the companies grew larger, including Metro News, they raised funds by offering publicly traded stock, allowing them to grow even more swiftly and buy out more of their local competitors. From that point forward, the large companies were beholden to the profit demands of stockholders, and overall earnings became more important than journalistic integrity. Corporate managers “streamlined” the workforce, “laying off” large numbers of journalists and requiring the remaining employees to fulfill the duties of multiple individuals. All of these are serious problems, Klinenberg assures readers, and they would have been cause for concern regardless, but the advent of digitization intensified the issues dramatically.

With faster communications technology, vast news networks could be overseen from a single headquarters, allowing for further streamlining of the staff and more intense, less individualized micromanaging. At the same time, with more methods of presentation, including television and the internet, the number of tasks that each journalist must perform has increased exponentially, further decreasing the amount of time they have available to work on any given story. The increased workload and lack of commensurate compensation, along with little allowance for journalistic individuality or integrity, has reduced the profession to a terrifying state. The occupation is now consistently ranked at or near the bottom on a majority of popularity opinion polls. Eric Klinenberg shows that these massive media conglomerates are trying to squeeze every possible cent out of the news industry, and in the process they are changing the journalistic profession into demanding, low-compensation menial labor occupation.

If the implications of Eric Klinenberg’s research are fully considered, they paint a bleak picture. News journalism was once a prestigious and highly respected profession, combining the best and brightest writers with skillful interviewers and high work standards for writing and integrity. If the current trend of maximizing profit continues, however, news journalism will be a profession for those who are willing to work long hours for little pay. Also, there are political ramifications to this shift in journalism. The industry is dominated by talking points, with every station recycling the work of their competitors without adding much value. The industry scrutinizes the every action of celebrities because they are popular, and that association with popularity increases sales. Stations are often polarized along political lines, vehemently attacking the opposing party and supporting the party of their corporate owner’s political agenda, regardless of factual evidence. Corporations sometimes pull stories from broadcasts if they conflict too intensely with the party platform, refusing to report on what is actually happening in its entirety. There is a reason that political scientists consider the news organization a political institution, as it is the news industry that the general public relies on to inform us of political issues. The public requires unbiased political reporting so that decisions can be made based upon the facts, rather than upon a skewed representation of reality driven by profit and corporate interests.

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Reference

Klinenberg, E (2005).”Convergence: News Production in a Digital Age.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 597(1), 48-64.

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*Benjamin Haskell is a freshman in the Honors Program at The College at Brockport. He is majoring in both Communications (Electronic and Print Journalism) and Sociology. After graduation, he wants to write for a prominent newspaper or magazine, such as the BBC, on the subject of new and groundbreaking technology. This post was originally submitted in Dr. Eric Kaldor’s Introduction to Sociology course (SOC100) in the spring 2014 semester.

May 21, 2014 / brockportsociology

Does Race Stop the Glass Escalator?

Research has shown that men are extremely likely to experience upward mobility in women-dominated professions. But new research suggests that not all men benefit in the same ways.

Screen shot 2014-05-21 at 3.35.24 PMBy: Dalton Rarick*

Nursing is one of the most in-demand jobs in America. As a result of this high demand, many men are seeking employment in the field. And the influx of male nurses has led to a “glass escalator effect.” This can best be described as the advancement of men in both pay and position in jobs dominated by women. Rather than confronting the “glass ceiling” women face in professions dominated by men, research has shown than men’s experiences in women-dominated professions are almost exactly the opposite. 3.coverIt was thought that this glass escalator offered a “free ride” to all men, but a new qualitative case study of 17 black male nurses by Adia Harvey Wingfield (2009) suggests otherwise. Wingfield found that black male nurses were more likely to experience the “glass ceiling” than the “glass escalator.” In the study, Wingfield conducted semi-structured interviews with 17 black male nurses and sheds new light on racial tensions and inequality in America.

Some of the roadblocks affecting black male nurses are put into stark relief in the interview data she presents. The most intense and difficult roadblock has been “institutional racism”—the system of racial inequality that has become engrained in social institutions (Giddens, et al. 2013, p. 300)—in this case hospitals, health care, and perhaps the economy more generally. Certainly, old-fashioned racism still exists today as well. This can best be explained by one of the black male nurses interviewed. He shared an instance in which he walked in to treat a patient while dressed in full scrubs. Despite his hospital attire, and working with a patient vitals machine, the patient assumed he was a janitor. White male nurses often share experiences of being mistaken for doctors. The idea that black men are better suited for lower-skilled service jobs is common in our society. Clearly Ray was not benefiting from the invisible privileges that seem to work for white men in women-dominated professions.

Another serious roadblock was stereotyping. Black men have long been stereotyped in America as less intelligent, more prone to violence, more sexually aggressive, etc. While we may think of these stereotypes as a thing of the past this was not the case for Ray. Ray recalls an incident where he walked into a patient’s room and began to care for her. When asked by the older white female patient where the nurse was, Ray responded, “I am the nurse.” The patient immediately asked to see “someone else.” Despite what we might want to believe, stereotypes continue to threaten black men, even those in respected professions.

Research like Wingfield’s is important because it shows us that inequalities are institutionalized. Women are often disadvantaged because of their gender. But, we also find that men of certain races are also disadvantaged. The intersection of gender and race form a barrier that prevents fair treatment of many members of society. By analyzing these inequalities, we come to the sobering conclusion that America’s race problems cannot be solved overnight. Rather, it will require a systematic approach of attacking institutionalized forms of racism and recognizing that inequalities are not only perpetuated by racist, sexist, classist, heterosexist, etc.ist people. They get built into the institutions through which we all pass. Wingfield’s research also provides new directions for more research on this topic. What other research can be done? Are all minority men equally unlikely to benefit from the “glass escalator”? Does a man’s sexual orientation have any effect? Would a gay upper-class man experience the “glass escalator,” or would homophobia prevent this? This research also leads us to question if this type of racism is institutionalized in certain parts of the country more than other? Wingfield’s study was carried out in the South, an area many associate with racial prejudice. It’s important research and challenges us to think more carefully about intersections between gender and race when studying contemporary forms of inequality.

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References

Giddens, A., Duneier, M., Appelbaum, R.P., Carr, D. (2013). Essentials of Sociology. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
Wingfield, A.H., (2009). Racializing the Glass Escalator: Reconsidering Men’s Experiences with Women’s Work. Gender & Society, 23. 5-26.

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*Dalton Rarick intends to join the nursing program at The College at Brockport.  His interest in sociology stems from a desire to better understand social problems and systems of inequality.  This post was originally submitted in Dr. Tristan Bridges’ Introduction to Sociology course (SOC100) in the spring 2014 semester as a project helping students learn more about the process of searching for and evaluating social scientific research.

April 13, 2014 / brockportsociology

Promoting Marriage May Perpetuate Inequality

Pro-marriage initiatives may well perpetuate the cycle of poverty, rather than arresting it.

attachmentBy: Haley A. Markham*

home_coverIn 2010, authors Wagmiller, Gershoff, Veliz, and Clements, reported their findings to the query: “Do Children’s Academic Achievement Improve When Single Mothers Marry?” in Sociology of Education. Since maternal marriage is often touted as a panacea for challenges endured by children in single parent homes, the researchers attempted to discern when and if this is so, and to what degree maternal marriage specifically impacts academic achievement, if at all. Their sample included 21,260 children enrolled in 944 kindergartners during the 1998-1999 school year. Data were collected by the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). An average of 23 kindergarteners were selected from each of the sampled schools; their academic achievement was assessed annually using math and reading scores collected through fifth grade. They accounted for variables such as: parental education, financial status, and learning support/enrichment activities provided to the children. Wagmiller, Gershoff, Veliz, and Clements concluded that the benefits of maternal marriage to their children is so limited and circumscribed that federal and state marriage initiatives should be reevaluated for relevancy and appropriateness in the context of social policy.

Beyond the scope of governmental initiatives, this study provides new knowledge about the cycle of poverty. The study itself is hampered, in that there are far too many critical variables not identified or addressed in the data they rely on for their research, such as: siblings and step-siblings and their numbers/ages/genders/birth order/behavioral impact upon the family; extended family and their involvement with the child, including the biological father (if not the man who mother married, if indeed the mother married a man at all!); the neighborhood/school/external support system available to the child; the tangible goods and foodstuffs available to the child, his/her health and access to appropriate care; history of trauma, disability, developmental delays and temperamental variances, the ages of the parents, and their own histories, etc. Given the magnitude and number of such key factors not mentioned in the study, it seems doubtful that a strong correlation could be made between maternal marriage and academic achievement. The study does, however, afford the researchers the opportunity to discern a notable disparity within their sample: while maternal marriage amongst lower income and less educated people seemed associated with lower levels of academic achievement for the reporting child, maternal marriage among higher income and higher educated people seemed to produce a benefit, at least within the limited age range of the sample.

This may suggest that the marriage of two disadvantaged people has the potential to compound problems faced by their children (instead of lessening them, as the social strategists would suggest) whereas the marriage of two advantaged people might enhance their children’s achievements. It is a simplistic hypothesis, but provocative. If this is true—and further research will have to address this—the very governmental initiatives that purport to benefit the poor may in fact ensure that the well-to-do are buffered and the poor remain mired within the confines of the cycle of poverty with the challenges of one generation influencing and compounding the next.

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Reference:

Clements, M., Gershoff, E., Veliz, P., & Wagmiller Jr., R.L. (2010). Does Children’s Academic Achievement Improve When Single Mothers Marry? Sociology of Education. 83(3), 201-226.

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*Haley Markam is a sophomore recently accepted into the Nursing Class of 2016 at The College at Brockport. This post was originally submitted in Dr. Eric Kaldor’s Introduction to Sociology course (SOC100) in the spring 2014 semester as a project helping students learn more about the process of searching for and evaluating social scientific research.

April 10, 2014 / brockportsociology

Jackson Katz Visits MCC!

lvspicBy Lindsay Stumpf

On April 2, 2014, Jackson Katz visited the Brighton campus of Monroe Community College to discuss masculinities, manhood, and his violence prevention program. Dr. Katz’s books The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help(2006) and Leading Men: Presidential Campaigns and The Politics Of Manhood (2012)address the facets of masculinities in the political arena and in personal lives of both men and women.

SocClubKatz

Dr. Jackson Katz with Lindsay Stumpf, Sociology department alumnus Tyler Sollenne, and one of our newest majors, Carmelo Crasi.

Dr. Katz began his lecture with a discussion of Women’s History Month and why women need a month to begin with. He then discussed his Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) program and how it has been effective in a variety of arenas: sports teams, police departments, and even in the military. Dr. Katz spoke about one of the main problems with ending violence against women—the tendency to use the passive voice when discussing it so that men’s role in it is obscured. Instead of calling it a “women’s issue,” Katz recommends referring to this as “men’s violence.” In this way men will feel that they have responsibility to help end this problem.

The way that Dr. Katz suggests everyone in the audience can help end this violence is through addressing the role of bystanders. Instead of focusing on the victims or perpetrators, Dr. Katz believes that equipping those around a situation with the tools to confront someone for sexist remarks and behavior or to intervene in a negative or dangerous situation is a way that violence can be prevented before it occurs. Jackson Katz talked about men as a “default setting”—one to which we do not pay attention (similar to whiteness or heterosexuality). It reminded me of Michael Kimmel’s article, “Invisible Masculinity” that we read and discussed in my Sociology of Men and Masculinities course taught by Dr. Bridges last spring (2013). The privileged group rarely has the experience of being reminded of their status or having to compensate for it.

Because men are given privilege in our society, Dr. Katz mentions that it is especially important for men to speak out against men’s violence. Although women are the group that receives the most attention as victims of violence, Dr. Katz reminded the audience that many men can be raped or beaten by partners, that many boys as well as girls grow up seeing their mothers beaten by their husbands or boyfriends, and that even when men do not experience violence firsthand, many have had to deal with the aftermath of violence in their relationships with women who have. Another reason that Dr. Katz mentioned it is important for men to speak out is because of the tendency for society to “shoot the messenger” when women attempt to raise awareness for men’s violence. Women who champion equal rights and safety are often called slurs such as “bitch”, “feminazi”, and “manhater.”

Dr. Katz ended the night with some humorous clips depicting a not so humorous topic—street harassment. Street harassment and catcalling are ways that women are made to feel unsafe, and are one of the overlooked ways that men can intervene in the harassment and violence directed towards women. What seems like a harmless compliment or friendly banter can actually cause stress and fear in women who are unsure of a man’s intentions. Overall, Dr. Katz’s lecture was a wonderful introduction to thinking more critically about the relationship between men, masculinity and violence as well as rape culture, the bad reputation of the “f” word (feminism) and the bystander approach towards preventing violence. If more men can be made aware of their potential to help stop violence, both men and women can live happier and safer lives.

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Lindsay Stumpf is a graduating senior at The College at Brockport. She is majoring in Sociology with a minor in Women and Gender Studies.  As a member of the Honors Program, Lindsay is also completing a senior thesis addressing representations of masculinity in children’s cartoons under the guidance of Dr. Melody Boyd. Lindsay was recently admitted into the Public Administration program for graduate study at The College and Brockport. She starts in the summer of 2014.

January 16, 2014 / brockportsociology

New Year, Same Inequality

peter 1by Peter Rydzewski*

I recently came across a calendar from a safety supply company: Condor. It depicts workers in various occupations, from construction to dentistry. Most of the images depict manual-labor jobs (lifting, working with hazardous chemicals, or operating dangerous machinery). The small sample of images speaks to the ways in which we rely on simplistic categorizations to share messages about safety through commonly-held beliefs about who will need it most.

paapIn Kris Paap’s book, Working Construction: Why White Working-Class Men Put Themselves – and the Labor Movement – in Harm’s Way, she explores gender and racial inequality in construction jobs. The calendar’s lack of racial diversity (only three minority groups are depicted) helps to illustrate some of Paap’s findings.  Women and racial minority groups are subtly discouraged from participating in this work setting, limiting their options for employment prior to a fair assessment of their abilities. In addition, this discussion contributes to the idea that masculinity – as with gender – cannot be easily defined. It’s situational, location-sensitive, and always in flux.

The most interesting of these twelve calendar images is the one that depicts a woman wearing safely glasses. Even though she is pictured in the calendar with men working various manual-labor jobs, calendar 1this image does not show the advertised safety gear in motion and, in fact, the description under this woman speaks not of safety from harsh conditions, but only about the customized lens colors. It reads, “choose from various lens colors and anti-fog or scratch-resistant coatings.” While most of the images in the calendar speak of “high-impact” protection and using safety to “improve productivity,” only three of the twelve images reference color as an important factor to the gear itself.

Read more…

November 8, 2013 / brockportsociology

Sarah Sobieraj—How and Why Social Movements (Fail to) Gain Media Attention

IMG_3154By Thalia Nunez
Thalia Nunez is a freshman intending to
double major in Education and Sociology.

On October 24, 2013 Dr. Sarah Sobieraj came to The College of Brockport to speak about her book, Soundbitten: The Perils of Media-Centered Political Activism (2011).  Dr. Denise Copelton worked with the American Democracy Project at Brockport to organize the visit.  Dr. Sobieraj started out her exciting talk by sharing a story of a protest she witnessed in Philadelphia that seemed incredibly massive.  Protestors successfully gridlocked the city for a couple of hours, people were dragged to police wagons passively letting their bodies hang slack, they locked hands inside of PVC pipes to make their human chain more difficult to disassemble.  She was awestruck.  Later, she was even more surprised to find that this massive event failed to gain media attention.  This sparked her interest in how activists’ voices get heard, particularly by the mainstream news media.

To study this interesting issue, Dr. Sobieraj worked with 50 different activist groups, covering an incredible range of political issues (anti-war, education, abortion, immigration, environmentalism, etc.) and across the political spectrum. The main focus of Dr. Sobieraj’s research was a consideration of how activists endeavored to get their message to the public (via news media outlets) and how journalists made sense of activists’ attempts to do just this.  The groups that Sobieraj studied received little coverage from the press. When the activists were mentioned in the media, their cause was given little attention. The media often trivialized their cause by focusing on fringe members or not giving the cause prime billing.

In Dr. Bridges’ Introduction to Sociology (SOC100) course, we learned about different theories of “collective action.”  Sociologists are interested in how groups of people come to act collectively with a common cause and offer more than one explanation for how and why this occurs. Once groups are able to act collectively, Sobieraj asks, “What happens next?”  There’s more than one way to talk about how social movements can and do affect social change, but, gaining media attention is a critical step in the process. Sobieraj’s research illustrates that this is a far more complicated process than we might initially suspect.

Sobieraj found that journalists do not always consider protestors worthy of media attention.  Most of the movements she studied were acutely aware that if they did achieve media attention, they were likely to only get a short excerpt from what they said on camera (a “sound bite”).  Sensitive to this, the movements Sobieraj studied practiced and polished the statements they wanted to share with the media to try to distill their message in as clear and succinct a way as possible (to guard against misrepresentation, among other things).  But, Sobieraj found that when journalists interacted with these polished performances of protest, they did not interpret the protestors as “authentic.”  Rather, they read those practiced performances as “staged”—perhaps just individuals looking for their 15 minutes, but not activists passionately committed to a cause.  Activists’ attempts to garner media attention and to ensure that their messages were heard, accurately interpreted and represented in the media were actually working against them.

Interestingly, although Sobieraj’s research was undertaken prior to Occupy Wall Street, she discusses the intense media attention this movement garnered in her discussion.  Consistent with her theory, journalists reporting on Occupy Wall Street interpreted the protestors as “authentic” in ways that many contemporary social movements are not.  Dr. Sobieraj discussed why this was the case and how this process worked to the advantage of the Occupy movement, but also may have produced a less than clear message about the movement’s origins, qualms, meanings, and intentions.

The discussion after the talk produced a lively discussion of what to do next.  We learned that Dr. Sobieraj’s book is being taught in courses on journalism at some colleges and universities.  Perhaps a new generation of journalists will learn to be more careful about prejudging what ought to count as authentic political participation and civic engagement.  Afterwards she spoke candidly with the Sociology Club about her research.  Thanks for joining us, Dr. Sobieraj!

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