So technically, I’m a sociologist.
That’s what my PhD is in, and a broad sociological perspective and the sociological imagination (in conjunction with feminisms and social justice) inform everything I do.
I have spent the better part of my adult life doing sociological things – exploring and researching social-type happenings I find compelling and trying to figure out how those puzzles interconnect with and inform the wider social world. I have published in academic journals, have taught hundreds of undergraduates to actually do sociology, and have contributed directly and significantly to our understanding of a hugely significant and widely misunderstood dimension of US culture. So yeah – I’m a sociologist.
Sociologists, at their most basic, are compelled by human social interaction. And because each person or group of persons helps make up the vast composite that is society (“society”), every individual has some impact on the wider social world. Thus, regardless of whether or not one likes or is familiar or comfortable with something, every social thing is worthy of sociological study.
Like many professions out there, sociologists have their very own professional organization – the American Sociological Association (ASA). And every year, usually during the later half of summer, sociologists from all over the place “go to ASA,” the socio-euphamism for attending the organization’s annual meeting.
This year, ASA was in Las Vegas.
Post-ASA and to my absolute horror, the kinda big deal higher education trade publication (sort of?) Inside Higher Ed published a wrap up and reflection piece called “Sociologists in Sin City.” I say “to my absolute horror” because… well, here’s an example of some comments from “sociologists:”
“Oh god, I hate this city,” said Kathleen Lowney, professor of sociology at Valdosta State University. “For me it’s a constant barrage of noise that’s just overwhelming.”
And many aspects of it are “creepy,” she said – such as the throngs of aggressive young men along the Strip wearing t-shirts and distributing photographically informative fliers that advertise “girls in your room in 20 minutes.”
Sara Goldrick-Rab, associate professor of educational policy studies and sociology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, emphatically agreed. “I found it hard to believe we sociologists would come to a place that clearly thrives on the exploitation of people’s financial and emotional insecurities,” she wrote in an e-mail. “The grotesque treatment of young women was visible and jarring.” (entire Inside Higher Ed article here)
Ummm… men wearing t-shirts? wtf!!?
And this gem – an embarrassing and pedestrian tirade from an epitomization of more stereotypes than I care to unpack – was embedded near the top of the piece. Given what I know about this whole trend of folks loving video over text, this positioning was a poor layout/editorial choice.
Now I know that these are just a handful of haters spouting absolute embarrassment, and I know all sociologists aren’t like this… but given some of my own experiences negotiating one particular area of sociological investigation, I can’t say that these statements surprise me. I also can’t say that I think these cited few were/are the only folks sharing these sentiments.
If you can make it past this god awful video, there is a measure of nuance in the Insider Higher Ed piece. And some of the sociology professors at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) really called their socio-hater counterparts to task.
I thought about ripping the hater/amateur portions of these “sociologists'” positions to shreds, but then I read the comments and… well, pretty much everything that can be said already has. (you really must read the comments – some are absolutely priceless!!)
And the Las Vegas community even had something to say about this Insider Higher Ed piece. The Las Vegas Sun published an article called “To the sociologists: If you don’t like Vegas, don’t come back” (here) that sums it up nicely.
So really, the only thing new I can share is how this piece made me feel: mortified and angry in many respects… and more invigorated than I usually am. There’s a reason I do what I do (well actually, there are several…). There’s a reason I write this blog and research what I do and try to speak up when there’s a need for someone like me: a highly trained academic firmly grounded in the sociology of gender and sexualities and work, feminisms, and social justice. A sociologist who paid attention in that Intro class I took a hundred years ago.
Some of these other characters best take a refresher.
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This post marks the 200th installment of PVV – 200!! Thanks to those who helped and continue to help make PVV possible, and thank you everyone for reading. PVV loves you!!
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