Religion is not territory we’ve covered in any real detail here on our blog. The Democratic Party Platform, however, has raised an interesting intersection between work and religion that deserves some attention. Last week, the Democratic Party opted to alter the language of its 2012 Party Platform to remove the word “God” (though they have since reinstated the language). This created an immediate stir among Democrats and Republicans, and elicited an highly critical response from Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney (his comments on the removal of “God” are at the beginning of the video). What this debate reveals is the particular way in which the Democratic platform describes, in the same breath, individual labor, and religion.
An emerging critique of U.S. President Barak Obama’s record is the idea that Americans are not better off than they were four years ago. A quick caveat – it seems that Republicans are speaking primarily to “average”, i.e. middle class, Americans here. Paul Ryan, the Republican nominee for the Vice Presidency, has forcefully adopted this critique of Obama, suggesting that his record should be judged based on whether Obama’s policies have improved the lives of Americans. In a campaign stop on September 3rd, Ryan went as far as to suggest that Jimmy Carter’s Presidency, much derided by the right, seems like the “good ‘ole days” compared to Obama’s:
This reference is more than just a slant at President Carter. It is a reference to then candidate Reagan’s campaign against Carter in 1980, when he famously asked Americans whether they were better off or not than they were when Carter began his term.
What these arguments miss, however, are the fundamental changes these so-called “average” Americans have experienced over a much longer period.
A quick note to our colleagues in Sociology and related disciplines: the University of Arizona is hosting their 3rd annual series of Methods Workshops this winter from January 3rd through January 8th. More information can be found on their website, and a copy of the flyer is available by clicking ‘read more’ below.
The New York Times’s Economix Blog had a post on Friday that summarized some interesting new polling data from Gallup. In light of our recent panel on the gender wage gap and the role of “choice” in individual decision making around staying at home vs. working, I thought it would be good to share some quick highlights here.
Among the most interesting findings is that stay-at-home moms reported higher rates of worry, sadness and depressed emotions than their employed counterparts (both with and without children).
This varies by income level, with mothers in households that earn less than $36,000 annually expressing higher rates of worry and stress than their employed peers.
My take away is not that being a stay-at-home mother is intrinsically bad for your mental health. Rather, it may be that the stressors associated with being a stay-at-home mother are such (for some women) that their mental health suffers in comparison to their employed peers. These stressors are likely complicated phenomena with a diverse range of etiologies. Unfortunately, the Gallup report does not go into any follow-up questions that were asked, so we aren’t given a good picture as to why women felt this way.
A couple caveats – these are self reported mental health evaluations, not evaluations by mental health professionals. They are also only descriptive statistics, with no included difference of mean measures or the like. Gallup reports that these data are drawn from a sample n of 60,000 and have a maximum margin of sampling error of +/- 1% (95% confidence).
The continuing presidential campaign in the United States has been dominated by a number of noticeable trends, including contentious debates about reproductive rights specifically (what some have called the “war on women“) and, more broadly, about gender roles in American society (think about the recent commentary on Ann Romney, a topic Adia has blogged about). There has also been much discussion about the state of the economy in the United States and continuing issues of un- and under-employment (see my posts here and here).
An important intersection of these two political debates is the counting disparity in pay by gender. A recent article in The Economist, citing work done by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, documented this phenomena, noting that women continue to earn, on average, 82.2% of what men earn. This gap, as the graphic below shows, varies considerably by occupational category.
Image via The Economist (April 17, 2012)
In the following three pieces, our regular bloggers Adia Harvey Wingfield and Julie Kmec join guest blogger Rebecca Glauber in dissecting some of the causes and debates surrounding the gender wage gap, both within and outside of sociology.
Media has an immense power to both reflect the society it is a product of and initiate social change. For these reasons, it is often an effective tool for illustrating particular social concepts. The blog Sociological Images frequently uses visual imagery to illustrate a host of sociological concepts in an exceptionally compelling way. In a pair of posts today, Rachael Gorab and Adia Harvey Wingfield discuss the recent Academy Award Winning film The Help in terms of its portrayal of both race and gender in the world of domestic service work. For those of you who haven’t seen it, we’ve embedded the trailer to the film above. We hope you enjoy our latest panel!
We wanted to take this time to remind everyone that the awards deadline (March 31st) is quickly approaching! Details of our three awards – the Scott, Thompson and Weber Awards – are all available in the call for papers here on our site. If you have questions, contact information for all committee members is also included in the call for papers. Please consider a submission!
We’ve been posting quite a bit on Facebook here in recent weeks, and I wanted to pass on a pair of new stories that have recently been posted on MSNBC’s website. Each are quite troubling and deserve our attention as digital citizens and as sociologists.The first article, which was published last week, describes how employers (including a police department) and colleges have been demanding “behind the scenes” access to Facebook accounts as part of their “background” checks of employees and/or students. The second article, published just yesterday, describes how a middle school student was forced, with police in the room, to turn over her Facebook password to her school principal. What is most troubling is that this is done, in all cases, to gain access to “private” messages that are not publicly available to viewers of an individual’s page on Facebook.
Each of these stories represent our society’s struggle over how to cope with the brave new world of social media. Facebook has become just the latest venue to criticize the boss or principal (though nothing beats a resignation letter posted on the New York Times’ opinion page). Unlike the water cooler or the local coffee shop, however, the digital footprints left behind on Facebook provide physical evidence of an employee’s displeasure. We lack a cohesive set of legal protections in the United States from this sort of behavior by management (be it the boss or the principal), though such intrusions do violate Facebook’s terms of service.
Until such protections are enacted, some are advising their students and colleagues to take their more sensitive discussions underground. We should all consider strongly the ramifications of our tweets, Facebook status updates, and blog posts for that job down the road or the one we’ve got. This much perhaps goes without saying. Yet we also need to consider as a society how to protect this speech and ensure that speech that occurs out of the public eye using social media can stay that way.
We’ve all seen the potential for social media platforms to take part in some of the most important social movements of the last year. From Twitter’s use in Tunisia, Egypt and other Arab countries to the widespread use of social media during the worldwide Occupy protests, we’ve seen how social media can bring us together and bring down governments. More recently in Syria, we’ve seen how YouTube can emerge as the sole source of information on the ground in areas where the world’s traditional media may be unable to reach.
Last week, in the wake of Facebook’s decision to “go public”, I wrote a post about Facebook and the potential for the exploitation of its members. After some discussion among the editorial team, we decided to reach out to some of our colleagues for whom social media is a true intellectual passion. We’ve been able to put together a small panel on Facebook and the possibility for labor exploitation that seeks to address the ways in which all members of Facebook help to contribute to Facebook’s monetary value.
While we’re not “anti” Facebook – indeed, we at OOWBlog have our own Facebook page – we think the decision to “go public” by Facebook provides an ideal moment to reflect on the changing nature of business, labor, and leisure in the 21st century.
To that end, please check out my lead post as well as a response by the University of Maryland’s PJ Rey and two scholars are the University of Essex, Christopher Land and Steffen Böehm. We hope you enjoy them!
Facebook’s decision to file for an Initial Public Offering (IPO) with the Securities and Exchange Commission has made headlines and will likely be the most notable tech IPO since Google went public in 2004. Not everyone is rushing to “like” Facebook’s decision to make an IPO, however. The New York Times published an op-ed entitled “Facebook is Using You”, which criticized Facebook’s business plan and argued that the implications of an individual’s online activity extend far beyond the potential for embarrassing photos to surface. In sociological terms, there seems to be an argument surfacing that Facebook is exploiting the labor power of its users. If this is indeed so, Facebook may represent a new frontier for work and labor where even leisure activity can be exploited for the generation of profit.
ZD Net’s Emril Protalinski, who blogs about Facebook for the twenty year old tech site, responded to the Time’s piece and decried the position that Facebook somehow owed its users. Protalinski’s argument rests on the idea that becoming a Facebook member is a voluntary act. Users who enter into this relationship with Facebook receive a service that is free because Facebook can cover its operating costs through advertising revenue.