Tuesday, April 29, 2014

invisible homeless

The New York City Rescue Mission recently distributed a video to suggest just how invisible the homeless are--even to presumably well-meaning people. Close relatives, who dressed and posed as homeless, went unnoticed as their loved ones passed by on the street. Their reactions to being informed of their failure to recognize them are most compelling. The video does not suggest how many passers-by actually recognized pretending-to-be-homeless relatives. See the Rescue Mission's project at http://www.makethemvisible.com/.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Picketty discussed

See Thomas Picketty's acclaimed Capital in the 21st Century discussed by Picketty and other popular economists at this CUNY event earlier this month. Read an excerpt from his book at the Harvard University Press site. For a list of recent reviews on this book, see this compendium.

monkey injustice

Although this TED Talk clip has been online for over two years and garnered over 2 million views, the reaction of a Capuchin monkey to receiving a food perceived to be inferior to that received by another Capuchin is timeless. The entire Frans de Waal presentation on animal morality is on this TED page, and see the human contexts of similar invidious treatment at www.microaggressions.com.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

turning the tables on everyday sexism...

Leah Green turns the tables on men by playing an in-your-face sexual harasser on the streets of London in this video featured in a recent article in The Guardian. In doing so, she is trying to sensitize men to how it feels to be the object of sexism by simply relating to men in the same ways many men interact with women in public space.

Quoting Green in her article:

As is usual when men make inappropriate sexual remarks to me, I felt embarrassed. This time, at least, there was a slight silver lining, as it was a perfect scenario to recreate for my film, in which I tested out real sexist situations on men. I took tweets from @EverdaySexism, where women (and men) recount sexist incidents and, using hidden cameras, acted these out on unsuspecting members of the public. Since launching the film on the Guardian website on Friday it has garnered more than a million hits and nearly three thousand comments.           

Responses have been varied. Women have said that the film, which uses comedy to make a serious point, highlights perfectly the kind of harassment they receive on a daily basis. Many men have said that the words coming from the mouth of a woman made them realise their weight and impact. However, others felt the film was cruel, and that subjecting innocent men to sexually aggressive comments made me no better than the men who do that, thus completely undermining the feminist message. Those are the criticisms I would like to answer.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

forces driving US inequality for all

This post was written by Lester Andrist and originally appeared in The Sociological Cinema.

In this interview on Moyers & Company, former Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, Robert Reich, discusses economic inequality and the worrisome connection between money and political power. Reich notes that "Of all the developed nations, the US has the most unequal distribution of income," but US society has not always been so unequal. At about the 6:20 mark, the clip features an animated scene from Reich's upcoming documentary, Inequality for All, which illustrates that in 1978 an average male worker could expect to earn $48,302, while an average person in the top 1% earned $393,682. By 2010, however, an average worker was only earning $33,751, while the average person in the top 1% earned $1,101,089. Wealth disparities have also been growing, and here Reich explains that the richest 400 Americans now have more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans. What happened in the late 1970s to account for the current trend of widening inequality? According to Reich, there are four culprits. First (at about 19:10 min), a powerful corporate lobbying machine successfully lobbied for laws and policies that have allowed wealthy people to become even more wealthy, often at the expense of the poor. Examples include changes to antitrust, bankruptcy, and tax legislation. Second (at 34:00 min), Reich argues that unions and popular labor movements have been on the decline, which means employers have been under less pressure to increase wages over time. Third (at 38:30 min), while globalization hasn't reduced the number of jobs in the US, it has meant that employers often have access to cheaper labor, which has had the effect of driving down wages for American workers. He points out that in the 1970s, meat packers were paid $40,599. Now they earn only about $24,000. Fourth (at 38:30 min), technological changes, such as automation, have had the effect of keeping wages low. He concludes that there is neither equality of opportunity nor equality of outcome in the US, and unless big money can be separated from politics, the US economy is unlikely to free itself from the vicious cycle of widening inequality for all. (Note that a much shorter video featuring Reich's basic argument is also located on The Sociological Cinema.)        

Friday, April 4, 2014

U.S. not so good in terms of social progress

The folks at the Social Progress Imperative recently underlined via hard data what we pretty well already knew about the quality of living in the U.S. While we are doing well in the aggregate on economic indicators such as GDP, their compendium of non-economic indicators presented in the Social Progress Index finds that we are doing rather poorly in meeting a host of basic human needs.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Snickers mocks idea that working-class men can respect women

Post written by Lisa Wade and originally appeared in Sociological Images.

This is one of the most demoralizing ads I’ve seen in a long time. It’s an Australian ad for Snickers in which construction workers on a busy city street yell pro-feminist comments at women, like “I’d like to show you the respect you deserve” and ”You want to hear a filthy word? Gender bias” and “You know what I’d like to see? A society in which the objectification of women makes way for gender neutral interaction free from assumptions and expectations.”
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The construction workers are actors, but the women on the street are (or appear to be) real and their reactions authentic. The first thing women do is get uncomfortable, revealing how a lifetime of experience makes them cringe at the prospect of a man yelling at them.  But, as women realize what’s going on, they’re obviously delighted.  They love the idea of getting support and respect instead of harassment from strange men.
This last woman actually places her hand on her heart and mouths “thank you” to the guys.
And then the commercial ends and it’s all yanked back in the most disgusting way. It ends by claiming that pro-feminist men are clearly unnatural. Men don’t respect women — at least, not this kind of man — they’re just so hungry they can’t think straight.
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The twist ending is a genuine “fuck you” to the actual women who happened to walk by and become a part of the commercial.  I wonder, when the producers approached them to get their permission to be used on film, did they tell them how the commercial would end? I suspect not. And, if not, I bet seeing the commercial would feel like a betrayal. These women were (likely) given the impression that it was about respecting women, but instead it was about making fun of the idea that women deserve respect.
What a dick move, Snickers. I hope you’re happy with your misogynist consumer base, because I don’t think I can ever buy a Snickers bar again.  What else does your parent company sell? I’ll make a note.
A petition has been started to register objections to the commercial. Thanks to sociologist and pro-feminist Michael Kimmel for sending in the ad.