Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Sociological Image (Flower Shop Edition)

I'm always showing pictures I take to my students in Sociology classes. Of course, the Sociological Images blog has had a great run and has definitely influenced me. There's a recent article in Teaching Sociology "Using Sociological Images to Develop the Sociological Imagination" that shows us the value of analyzing sociological images. My students in Introduction to Sociology will be presenting sociological images as an assignment this semester. I'll give them plenty of my own examples to help prepare them. Here's my latest image, taken yesterday outside a flower shop.

I have a story about this flower shop. They pretty regularly update the sign outside their store. Once, when grabbing flowers there, I was over excited to share my idea for the sign with the person who was working that day. My sign idea was "Men Like Flowers Too." My recollection is the person was not impressed. This was many years ago and I can tell you my sign idea never saw the light of day. But I still embrace the idea. Why cut out half the market for flowers? Why do we cling to the socially constructed idea that women receive flowers, but men don't? Here's my simple test to whether a person should be eligible to get flowers for a gift, or for no reason at all: Does the person like flowers? If the answer is yes, the person can get flowers. Speaking for myself, I like pretty colors and the smell of flowers, so I'm eligible to receive flowers. But stupid norms means I don't get flowers. You know the song "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" as in "You don't bring me flowers anymore...." How about a song called "Can You Bring Me Flowers for the First Time?" Okay, this post is getting away from me. I can buy myself flowers and in fact I do grab grocery store flowers quite often. Point is, it'd be cool if we could rethink this gender norm. Fellas, you ever get flowers? Please report back if you can. Meanwhile, I'll also take your thoughts on the socially constructed expression "Happy wife, happy life." Thanks everybody, and have a good fall semester. Flowers improve office hours! 

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Sociology of The Rehearsal

I watched all episodes of The Rehearsal. I was quickly drawn into the premise of practicing for uncomfortable interactions. The first episode centered on a person who had told a lie, and held to it for many years, and then decided he wanted to tell the truth to a friend. So he rehearsed the situation with actors. Being made for television, they built a replication of a bar where the interaction would take place. It was ridiculous, but this is television. Most of the subsequent episodes had to do with anticipating what parenthood might be like. There was a woman who wanted to see what it would be like to have a baby who grew up into childhood. And eventually Nathan Fielder inserted himself into the situation to see what it might be like to be a parent. So I watched it as a blend of "practicing for interaction" and "anticipatory socialization." Again, it was ridiculous at times. You can't replicate the emotions you'll feel as a new parent. You can't substitute actors for the children you'd parent. And it was loaded up with unethical elements (I won't spoil the last episode). I don't recall the word "unethical" being used, but the last episode gestured toward the very obvious point that so much of the show was unethical. But we may overlook such things when it's for television.

For much of the show, I wondered what an ethical version of The Rehearsal might be like. That is to say, we do practice for interaction all of the time. Just in a more normal way. It's often backstage, as Goffman would say. We think about what we might say. We anticipate how the interaction might go. We think about how people might respond to what we say, and, in turn, how we might react. I started imagining something like "The Center for Social Interaction" where people would come to talk about uncomfortable interactions that they wanted to practice. But we wouldn't build a set. We would just talk. It wouldn't be therapy, mind you. It would be practicing for interaction in an ethical way. What are the things you are worried about? What are the words you want to use? How might you say it better, or different? How do you think people will respond? How does this all make you feel? Let's talk this through! 

If you need a few different takes on the show, here's one from The New Yorker, and one from The Cut. I haven't read a lot about the show, these were just a few articles I've read while searching for what people had to say. I see the show has been renewed for season two. I'm curious if they'll stick to the formula that gathered viewers and got people talking in the first season. 

Meanwhile, and off screen, people will rehearse for interactions and life situations in their own ways. If you watched The Rehearsal, what did you think? And in what ways do you notice that you practice, or imagine, various kinds of interactions and life situations? 

Puking is Bad (Masculinity File)

I went for a jog this morning. 30+ years ago I ran on the cross country team in high school. Now, on the edge of age 50, I struggle to run a few miles. I currently harbor a delusion that I might play in a age 50+ rugby tournament in Summer 2023. So I'm using that as motivation to exercise. After I jogged today, I started doing "sprints" (whatever constitutes a sprint for a middle-aged plus person) and pushed myself, talking to myself in the process about how I hadn't eaten breakfast and wondered if I might yack while running. I didn't. But during my inner dialogue I recalled a report from a few days ago about Nebraska football players puking during practice. Head coach Scott Frost is quoted as saying: "It’s not because they’re not in shape—he’s just working them hard...I think they love it." My take on the matter is that puking is bad and something to be avoided. I feel bad for athletes of any age who are pushed to the point of throwing up. And, with regard to male athletes, I hope puking isn't worn as a badge of masculinity.

ESPN reporter Kevin Seifert, making a reference to Korey Stringer, covered the matter with good perspective: 

I'm saving this in my masculinity file and also as example of the sociology of sports.