Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tracking the Sociology Job Market

"hire me, hire me"

We are now hitting that point in the year when those of us seeking professorships in sociology begin panic mode. And the current state of the market is grim.

However, it is still early. I have been reassured by a few people that, for whatever reason, many schools do not post job openings until about a month after ASA. Maybe they do it on purpose, to avoid having mobs of ABDs chasing down their professors in the hotel lobbies, waving copies of their vitaes and shouting their dissertation elevator speeches.

(But then the mob scene takes a strange turn as the hapless professor tries to escape, and more ABDs - this time looking alarmingly undead - start crawling out from behind every hidden nook and cranny, chanting "hire me, hire me...")

Okay, maybe that's not the best way to get a job.

But, I can certainly forsee some panicking. ASAs employment service is currently stocked with a grand total of 15 assistant professor jobs. FIFTEEN. Do you know how many job seekers have applied for the service? Well, I don't either, but if you are brave (stupid?) enough to wade into the waters of the Sociology Job Market Rumor Mill, then you will find evidence of at least 400 applicants. Hmmm...15 jobs and 400+ applicants. That is not a good ratio. Not at all.

So, what about schools with openings? ASA's job bank lists 24 assistant professorships. Of course, this isn't the definitive list. Jobs are listed in other places, as well. And there's that problem with insitutions not listing their open positions yet. However, a quick and dirty assessment of what might be out there is available on the socjobs2010 wiki. They list 28 institutions. But keep in mind that some schools have more than one opening. Boston, for example, has three. Oh, well that's much better...right?

Now if you'll excuse me, I think I spy a tasty brain over yonder.

[photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid]

Sunday, July 26, 2009

White Privilege and the Myth of Post-Race

The Root recently published a really good article excerpting a forthcoming book by Adam Mansbach. I especially like this metaphor for white privilege:

"The essence of white privilege is not knowing you have it; white people in America are bicyclists riding with the wind at their backs, never realizing that they owe part of their speed ­­– whatever speed that is – to forces beyond their control. By no means does this guarantee success. But few whites are conditioned to contemplate how much worse off they might be if they had to grapple with factors like police profiling and housing discrimination, in addition to the other travails of being an American in 2008."

Oh and this part's good too:

"The desire for personal post-race status is an impulse­­ I encounter frequently. Without fail, it comes from well-intentioned white people looking to be absolved of whiteness – not through their politics, but their biographies. They listen studiously to my take on race privilege, then raise their hands to identify themselves as white but gay, or white but Irish and thus part of an ethnicity that was once considered nonwhite, or white but from an all-Dominican neighborhood.

My response to such statements is always the same. I have no desire to belittle any aspect of your identity, I say, but either you walk through this world with white skin privilege or you don’t. There’s no such thing as being pulled over for Driving While Wanting To Be Black. Sometimes how you ‘self-identify’ is irrelevant. You could be a gay Irish dude from the heart of Washington Heights, with a Senegalese lover and a degree from Morehouse to boot. The cop and the judge and the loan officer and the potential employer are only going to check one mental box. And when they do, you’re going to benefit from the way they see you, like it or not."

And this:

"But this has become the blueprint for public figures who make inflammatory remarks about race ­­– as long as they’re white. First comes the claim that their words do not reflect their hearts. This puts the ball in the commentariat‘s court. The commentariat duly concurs that the figure is not racist, despite all evidence to the contrary. Then, after a probationary period of a few months, the figure quietly resumes his or her role in public life...It is a dramatic reversal of the standard criteria for judgment. Usually, we seek to be judged by our actions, not our thoughts, and we accept that the former is a manifestation of the latter. The success of this strategy, it would seem, hinges on the fact that it has become more acceptable to spout racism in the public arena than to accuse someone else of spouting racism."

Oh, just go read the whole thing.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

ASA Super Shuttle Discount!

SuperShuttle San Francisco is offering discounted shuttling services to American Sociological Association meeting-goers!

Between August 1-17, Annual Meeting attendees may obtain $2.00 off from San Francisco International Airport to ASA hotels (Hilton San Francisco and Parc 55 Hotel); and $4.00 from Oakland International Airport to ASA hotels(Hilton San Francisco and Parc 55 Hotel). ASA Discount code: THJK3

Make reservations on the website. I did a price check and to get from the airport to the ASA hotels is $15 with the ASA discount. Since the discount is only to ASA hotels, I also ran a check for the hotel I'm staying at, and it's $17 (no ASA discount).

UPDATE: The wonderful Wendy has also pointed out that you can take the BART for about $8. Maybe you'll have to wait a few more minutes for the next departure, and maybe you won't be dropped off at the hotel doorstep, but maybe you want to save yourself $7-9. It's a trade-off.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Prof. Gates, Men, and Anger

There are plenty of posts about Henry Louis Gates and his arrest and what it means and lots of information about the conflicting reports by Dr. Gates and the arresting officer. I'm not going to add to that. Others have analyzed this much better than I ever could.

I just want to do a quick hit on something I noticed over at Crooked Timber, which recently posted a statement by Brandon del Pozo (NYPD captain and Ph.D. candidate in philosophy at CUNY). The people in the comments are doing a good job pulling apart most of the potential problems with del Pozo's post (e.g., timeline issues, doesn't take Gates' account into consideration, etc.) What I'm not seeing (yet) is a reaction to this statement:

Around this time, the person begins to accuse the officer of racism, at first refusing to cooperate with the investigation. This makes the investigation more difficult, and might make the officer wonder if he is safe. To assume Gates isn’t the type of man to use violence when he is angry and using obscenities is to emasculate him, or patronize him, or to resort to stereotypes based on age, stature, type of employment, etc. Anyway, early on, the sergeant concludes this man is not a burglar, but reports that the man continues to be verbally belligerent.

Does nobody else have a problem with the implications here? Because I am reading this as saying that to NOT assume Gates would resort to violence and profanity when angry is to emasculate him, and that this is a Bad Thing. I might give him the benefit of a doubt; I mean, sure most people consider the term "emasculate" to be bad, but maybe he was just being descriptive? But the rest of what he wrote indicates otherwise. Patronizing? How? And by associating aggression with masculinity, isn't del Pozo resorting to some stereotypes of his own? Then saying it would be offensive (emasculating) to Dr. Gates if we don't fall back on this stereotype?

Am I missing something?

Also, in the interest of disclosure: When presented with conflicting accounts such as this, given by people we don't know, we almost have to resort to stereotypes in order to decide who to believe. We extrapolate from our personal experience, as we've interpreted it, to make "educated" guesses about this new experience.

So, I realize I am totally resorting to some stereotypes of my own here, but I believe Gates' account. He's an academic. But maybe that's less about stereotyping and more about ingroup bias.

Monday, July 20, 2009


There's nothing like watching Enchanted with your kid to find out what she thinks about life. It seems as though my kid is anti-consumerist, does not believe love has to be forever to be true, does not believe that all people are inherently good, but does firmly believes good will always triumph over evil.

In one part of the movie, Giselle encounters a couple getting a divorce. When she discovers they are separating FOREVER, Giselle cries. The kid was mighty confused: "why is Giselle crying?"

"Well, she's sad that those two are not in love anymore. They're getting divorced."

"But maybe that's not sad for them. They don't seem to be sad about it."

Later in the movie, you see the same couple deeply in love, telling their divorce lawyer that the strange woman made them see how much they still love each other. Everyone has bad times, but that's no reason to scrap the good ones, too.

"Mom, what are they doing?"

"They've fallen in love again."

"Well, that's not how it usually happens in real life."

That made me sad.

Later Giselle goes to the little girl in the movie to ask for help finding a dress for the ball (no fairy godmothers in this world). The girl whips out her dad's emergency credit card, and says "This is an emergency!"

My kid's response: "Shopping for a new dress is NOT an emergency!"

That made me proud.

While getting their hair done, Giselle and the kid are talking about stepmothers, and Giselle says the prince has a stepmother that she hears is very nice (except she's not; she's trying to kill Giselle).

My kid: "Why does she say that?"

"Giselle just has a positive view of people. She believes everyone's nice."

Kid: "Oh that's just wrong. Not everybody's nice."

However, she does still believe in the unerring power of good. When the wicked stepmother exclaims that she will triumph over them all, my kid looked right at me and said, "She's wrong. Good ALWAYS wins."

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Michael Jackson, Media, and the Self

Jay Smooth, of Ill Doctrine, has some interesting reflections on Michael Jackson that bring together issues regarding self & identity, media and technology. His hypothesis seems to be that Michael's life was an extreme, perhaps pathological, example of the presentation of self. Because he was "taught from an early age that the only love he was meant to receive was the love a consumer gives to a product" and his life, from birth, was thus defined by its presentation, the self was never able to fully develop.

At the memorial "we were all caught up in this collective ritual of trying to process our own grief by making media out of it. And I'm not saying that's a bad thing - I'm not sure it's good or bad, but I couldn't help thinking that this deep human connection and weird media circus was a perfect metaphor for Michael's career and how in a lot of ways the curse of Michael's life was that almost every second of it was defined by our ability to make media out of him."

[via Sociological Images]

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Current List of Sociology Jobs

Here's a list of all the jobs available, as of today, that have the following specifications: (1) sociology or related, (2) assistant professor or open, (3) tenure-track, (4) in the United States. So far, none fit me. Bleh.

But it's still early.

Sociology Assistant Prof Jobs

I'm searching the ASA job bank and Inside Higher Ed, btw.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Making SWS meetings greener!

Are you a member of Sociologists for Women in Society? Are you going to the conference(s) in San Francisco? Do you like to drink? Then you need an SWS Water (ahem*) Bottle!


And it can be yours in exchange for a mere $14 donation to support medical services for San Francisco's sex workers!

What an excellent opportunity to green up the conference AND help sex workers get the medical care they need!

The SWS logo-imprinted bottles are stainless steel, hold 16.9 oz. of your favorite hot or cold beverage and are well-priced at only $14! Profits from the bottle sales will be awarded to St. James Infirmary, a local medical clinic that provides services for sex workers.

According to their website, "St. James Infirmary provides compassionate and non-judgmental healthcare and social services for all sex workers while preventing occupational illnesses and injuries through a comprehensive continuum of services."

Also according to their website, this service is in trouble. They are facing budget cuts, and they need money. Regardless of what you think about the morality of sex work, I think we can all agree that these women need a safe place to get medical care.

And all you need to do to help is buy a beverage bottle (though I doubt they'd turn away direct donations, either.) Do it for the environment. Do it for the SWS bottle. Do it to publicize SWS by carrying around your beverage bottle. Do it for the sex workers. Whatever. Just buy one.

For more information or to pre-register for a bottle, email your request to Pick-up and pay in San Francisco. A limited number will be available for on-site purchase.

*They call this a water bottle, but it is stainless steel and holds hot AND cold beverages. Personally, I'm going to call it a vodka coffee bottle.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Harry Potter Statistics, revisited

In light of the new Harry Potter movie coming out, I am reposting my rant against the unilateral depiction of Slytherins as evil, and why this is statistically unlikely.

One thing that bothered me throughout the Harry Potter books is the negative depiction of Slytherin house. I mean, really; can one fourth of the total wizarding population be evil? And can anyone truly be evil? Isn't this a false dichotomy??? I was happy, then, when the books began to introduce the idea of "good" people doing bad things (Percy), and "bad" people doing good things (Draco). No one ever really knew where to place Snape, but even the fact that there was a debate means we still try to force everyone into this dichotomy (anyone else see the Snape is innocent/Snape is a bad, bad man stickers?). So, let's take that and run with it, shall we? And answer the question, once and for all. Are Slytherins evil? Let's settle this with some statistics (and my sad attempt at making tables):

In model 1, all the evil students at Hogwarts are Slytherin. In model 2, the majority of Slytherins are evil, but we also entertain the possibility that someone could be evil and in a different house. Model 1 is fairly straightforward: if you see a Slytherin, you know they're evil. If you see an evil student, you know they're in Slytherin house.

However, how likely is it in the real world for such a simple and clean correlation to exist (despite what some people might try to tell you about those damn Blacks, or women, or whatnot)? Perhaps there is truth to the perception that Slytherins are more evil than the rest. Model 2 clearly shows a greater likelihood of encountering evil within the house of Slytherin. However, note one important fact: of the 142 evil students residing within Hogwarts, only 70 (about half) of them are Slytherin. (*And 50% of all Ravenclaw are evil, I suspect. They're just too clever to get caught.)

Oh, but at this point an astute reader might say, "But doesn't Ron say, in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, that there's not an evil witch or wizard who didn't come from Slytherin House?" Indeed. Bearing in mind that Ron may, in fact, be operating under some prejudices of his own, let's assume for a moment that he is right. This is model 3 (yes, I still have 5% evil Ravenclaws--the crafty buggers, I have their numbers!!! Oh, yes, I know they're just slipping under the radar!) Here we can see a more reasonable assessment of the percentage of evil students at Hogwarts. All KNOWN evil stems from that shady Slytherin house. But look again--even though, as Ron says, all the evil seems to stem from Slytherin, not all Slytherins are evil. And we find support for this in the novels, as well. As a matter of fact, the majority of Slytherins are (gasp!) GOOD. Finally, we can drive the point home with a simple 4x4 table (N=100):Take-home point: just because the majority of evil people are Slytherin, that doesn't mean that the majority of Slytherins are evil. They just get a bad rap.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

5th Annual ASA Blog Party

Be there or be square!

Johnny Foley’s Irish House
243 O’Farrell Street, San Francisco, CA
Sunday, August 9

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Tales from the Dissertationside

They say everyone lives their last year of grad school on perpetual edge, precariously balanced between triumph and blubbering insanity.

Today I got my first taste of the darker side of this liminal state.

It all started when I began doing the recodes for Wave 2 of my dissertation data. I had finally finished merging the two waves--this is harder than it sounds, I might add. Sure, there is a fancy tool in the software that allows you to merge datasets. All you have to do is give it a variable that will be the same in both datasets, then the computer does the rest.


The variables I had in common were respondent's first name, last name, and email. Email seemed the best option. So, I merged. But only about 3/4 of the cases merged this way. The rest the computer couldn't match. Some students mistyped their email address (name@school.ed - WHERE'S THE U?!?). Some inexplicably decided to capitalize their address. Some gave me a different address each time. I had to go through manually and match those up.

I still have three respondents for Wave 2 that I can't match to anyone in Wave 1. Which is weird, since the survey request only went out to those who had taken Wave 1. Haven't decided what to do with them.

So, once merged, I went to do the recodes for Wave 2. A lot of it is exactly the same as Wave 1 was, since most of the questions are repeated. So, I brought up my Wave 1 syntax file (SPSS, all I got at home). And I'm going through the file just tweaking the variable names to work for my Wave 2 variable names, and lo - there's a repeated line. An entire set of variables recoded twice! Ack!

So, I had to go back to the raw data for Wave 1 and compare/contrast, see if my variables were actually coded, then coded back again. And they were. So, fixed that. Luckily, I haven't used Wave 1 for much of anything yet.

Finished recoding Wave 2. Ran descriptives. Noticed something funky with the international students. My old descriptives report said I had 73 international students. My newly minted run says I have 83. I am still not sure what happened there. At this point, I am chalking it up to an initial mistype. I mean, the second digit is still the same, right? Still, it's disconcerting.

Other than that, my descriptives look great. I am feeling good. I want to hold my descriptives in my hand, walk around with them, look lovingly at them, and maybe sleep with them under my pillow for good measure. So, I go to print them out.

The. Printer. Is. Out. Of. Ink.

I go to get some ink.

But it's Sunday, and it is after 8pm.

After trying two of my preferred places, I end up at a Big Box Store. Those things are always open. I find ink. I wander around the aisles a bit, in something of a daze.

Pretty towels. Shiny camera. Oooooo.

I pay for my ink. The cashier gives me my receipt, AND a coupon for Starbucks. There's a Starbucks in the store. I think, "OOOooo a fancy caffeinated beverage is EXACTLY what I need to put the mess that was this day behind me!"

The store was closed.

I almost cried then.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A Sociological Film Rating System

Have you ever pondered our society's choices in what to censor and what to warn us about in film ratings? Like, why are we generally more concerned with sex in films rather than violence? And there are other problems that don't get censored or rated at all. What about those?

The Motion Picture Association of America provides us with our standardized rating system, giving films a G, PG, PG-13, R, or NC-17, depending on how they measure up to certain criteria. These include, but are not limited to, language (i.e. use of profanity), nudity, sex, violence, drug abuse, sensuality, "adult activities and other elements," and--in the case of NC-17 films--"abborrational behavior."

The overarching themes are language, sexuality, and violence. This is the Triad of Evils; the three things we most need to shelter our kids from. Or are they?

What if the triad were sexism, racism, and heteronormativity? What would the ratings system look like then? And how would the movies get recategorized to fit these new criteria? Based on research by Emily Kazyak and Karin Martin at the University of Michigan, we might hypothesize that Disney would end up with the R rating in this new scheme.

And then I thought further: this would form an excellent basis for an introductory sociology class project. I am SO planning on doing this with my class this fall. It is certainly preferable to grading a bunch of term papers.

Option 1: The project is to put together and try out a new rating system. Their assignment would be to review the Motion Picture Association of America's descriptions for each level. Each student would work individually to come up with a new system based on sociological concepts. They would have to include 5 concepts from the readings in their new rating system. They would devise a way to break down each concept into G, PG, R, and NC-17 levels. What would be R-level racism?

Turn in: (1) A worksheet raters can use to rate a movie, filled out using their all-time favorite movie (so they already know it well and can really focus on the rating criteria when they watch it) (2) A page or so describing their rating system, and (3) one page or so in which they describe what rating they gave their movie and why.

Option 2: I put together a worksheet for them to use and give them a description of the rating system. I pick the criterion, etc. Then, they have to select a movie that's come out in the last five years and rate it.

Turn in: (1) A completed worksheet, (2) a paragraph synopsis of the rating and why, like you would give the press to publish, and (3) a 3-page description of details from the movie supporting their decision. I would then compile everyone's synopses and post them as a group.

Thoughts? Option 1 is more work for them, option 2 is more work for me. But with Option 2, I can build on it year after year since the ratings are standardized. However, they might learn more with option 1, and they'd have more freedom to pick their own criteria....

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Old People Food

I recently tried out a new restaurant, only to discover it served old people. The restaurant was full of them. Even the young people look old. Heck, even the the teenagers looked elderly! Like they were just waiting to grey.

And the food was old people food.

Has anyone else noticed the phenomenon that is old people food? And does the cuisine of the American elderly cross racial and geographic boundaries?

When I think of old people food, what comes to mind is the kind of food they serve at cafeteria-style restaurants: baked cod (sprinkled with paprika, of course!), salisbury steak, meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, green beans, mashed potatoes, applesauce, grapefruit, etc. But it's not just these dishes. It's something about the way they're prepared. I got steamed veggies as a side- something I'd find anywhere- but the way these steamed veggies tasted gave them the flavor of old people steamed veggies.

I can't even describe it.

But it got me to wondering - if there is a phenomenon of old people food, is it a cohort effect or an age effect? Will I slowly begin to develop a taste for cafeteria food? Start craving mushy green beans cooked in animal fat? Sprinkle paprika on my cod? Will I start eating cod???

Or will the foods of my generation, whatever they may be, become the old people food of tomorrow?