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Posts Tagged ‘sociology’

NY Mag has a really great article on young woman and alcohol. Apparently we (the ladies) are have taken to imbibing–with coworks, friends, alone–in more copious amounts.

A couple of disjointed things that struck me about the article:

-Third Wave Feminism is painted as being the spoiled, bratty daughter of the last two waves, doing little more than empowering women to thoughtlessly booz and fuck just like the guys. To this I respond: Yes and no. Thirdwavers are not a cohesive group, and for all the thoughtlessness of the louder popcultury types (I’m looking at you, Jezebel) the strides women of color have made are probably the hallmark of this wave. Not that has anything to do with the article really, but I like to throw it out there whenever I can.

-Speaking of boozin’ and fucking just like the guys,  lets talk about the gender assimilation. As women enter highly competitive male-dominated spheres such as high education and certain sectors of the work force, they adopt (consciously and unconsciously) the attitudes and behaviors of their male counterparts to survive. Its a kind of acculturation, adopting the values and norms of the dominant group in order to be allowed to particpicate.  This is not necessarily a good thing, espeically when the norms adopted are as highly dysfunctional and predispossed to perpetuating inequality as those of professional middle class white men (remember, just because they’re the most powerful and pervasive does not make them right–or even rational).  In the article, one of the women interviewed said something akin to ‘I had to be seen as a bitch to get things done, but the drinking made me appear more personable, less lame than the other women unwilling to party and more appealing to work with’.To get ahead professionally, she had to overcome the gender sterotype of ‘the bitch’ by proving she could be as rowdy and drunk as the next guy.

-The author asserts that the sexual component comes in only so much as it is another aspect of choice. Drinking is an expression of control, because women now have the power to choose when and where they allow themselves the loss of control. Sounds sort of convoluted, but its a sentiment not foreign to me. The author downplays the idea that some women drink so that they may allow themselves sexual dalliances they would otherwise think themselves too shy or morally upstanding to engage in. It is my nonobjective and unscientific observation that this behavior is actually rather typical, even if unintentional. I never thought of myself as the kind of person who got especially trigger happy when intoxicated because I’m generally the very forward go-get-’em sort to begin with. When I stopped to recall how many times I engaged in sexual contact with a new partner during or after consuming alcohol, however, I was totally shocked (but not embarrassed–in fact, I laughed myself to sleep). That isn’t to say that these were isolated incidents, the majority of my sexual relationships are relatively longterm, its just they were helped along initially by alcohol. Stop for a second and think about how many times you were drunk the first time you had sex with someone, not just one night stands but with a significant others or long term hookup–you might just find a curious pattern of behavior.

-Oh, and lets also discuss the place of higher education: the more prolonged the period of education, the more deeply ingrained the questionable drinking habits become. Now, why do we hardly talk about the alcoholism of the well educated? Because, as members of the cultural elite, we have the cultural clot to normalize our habits, no matter disruptive to ourselves/our social group they might become. We can stigmatize the poor and less educated’s alcoholism/drug use as deviant because clearly is perpetuates their cycles of economic deprivation, but let ours slide as simply the youthful antics of undergrads, grads, young professionals harmlessly cavorting because we perceive they have no larger social consequences.

As someone who planed on spending her winter break in a state of near-constant intoxication, I must admit this article made me reevaluate my drinking habits in terms of ideology, biology and interpersonal consequences. Some of the best advice I every got was from a Scotsman on a cruise ship: Be good. And if you can’t be good, be safe.

Paternalism asside, they’re words to live by.

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The other day, Mireille introduced the weird philo-semitism of Ajax Football Club.  Ajax fans, however, are not alone in appropriating Jewishness.  A number of teams worldwide identify with Judaism.  Among them are M.T.K. Hungaria and England’s Tottenham Hotspur.

There are multiple reasons a club gets tagged as “Jewish.”  MTK was founded in 1888 by Jewish businessmen.  Through the end of World War I, this held little stigma.  However, post-war nationalist politicians explicitly attacked MTK in the press, and the team was shut down in the 1940s.  Although the Communists revived the club under a series of political patrons, it still remains identified as the “Jewish” team; which may explain their poor attendance despite an impressive league record.

Rival club Ferencvaros is considered the “authentic” Hungarian side.  It’s a pretty explicit link, framed openly in the political discourse by right-wing MPs:

“Those who consider themselves proper, working-class Hungarians oppose the spirit of business conduct practised by upper-class Hungarians with foreign roots.  The upper- class supports MTK, and Fradi [Ferencvaros] supporters have always felt that they are the oppressed, ordinary children of the nation, while the Jews have secured their place in high society.”

Ferencvaros fans chant “the trains are leaving for Auschwitz,” among other things, and through the 1990s celebrated goals with Nazi salutes.  These days the club has bigger problems, having been demoted to the Hungarian second division due to financial mismanagement.  Predictably, supporters blamed the “red media” and the Jews.

Tottenham is a different animal.  The club has no particularly Jewish roots in its founding.  It earned the badge of Zion either because of the large number of Jews in the White Hart Lane neighborhood; or because of a 1970s television show.  Whichever the cause, opposing fans have long targeted Spurs supporters with chants about Hitler and gas chambers.  Obviously, the great majority of Tottenham fans are gentiles.  They have met these taunts by building the “Yid Army” identity, a strange co-optation of Jewishness if there ever was one.  Franklin Foer, whose book is the source for much of this post, relates the story of Manchester City fans chanting the following during a game against Tottenham in the 1980s:

“We’ll be running around Tottenham with our pricks hanging out tonight,

We’ll be running around Tottenham with our pricks hanging out tonight,

Singing I’ve got a foreskin, I’ve got a foreskin, I’ve got a foreskin and you ain’t

We’ve got foreskins, we’ve got foreskins, you ain’t.”

How did Spurs fans reply?  A handful went around their group identifying Jewish supporters, and then brought them together to simultaneously drop their pants and wave their dicks at the Manchester City crowd.  Statement made.

What does it mean when a largely gentile group decides to identify as Jewish?  Michael Brenner, author of Emancipation Through Muscles: Jews and Sports in Europe, notes that Spurs fans also began flying Argentine flags during and after the Falklands War.  The co-optation of Jewish identity is an attempt to build solidarity and kinship through victimhood.  Marginalization, real or perceived, adds depths to the supporters’ emotional ties to their club.  Unlike MTK, there is no historical Jewish context for Tottenham supporters to draw on.  Simply, as Brenner cites one fan saying, “Spurs supporters…really like putting two fingers up to the rest of the world.”

Judaism is useful shorthand for any number of things: defiance, group unity, or even hipness.  Witness the counterculture philo-semitism of Holland’s greatest club.  During the 1960s, it was Johann Cruyff and Ajax whose “total football” trashed traditional formations and forced players, coaches, and fans to rethink the game.  Cruyff, who was not Jewish, had a pregame ritual of eating Kosher salami and decorating his pep talks with Yiddish phrases.  The club’s Jewish physiotherapist recalled, “the players liked to be Jewish even though they weren’t,” and Cruyff himself has been spotted wearing a yarmulke in Israel.  Foer suggests a link between the cultural radicalism of Amsterdam in the 60s and the faux-Jewishness of the Ajax clubhouse.  While it is obviously impossible to prove directly, it can’t be a coincidence that the one club revolutionizing football was the one trying hardest to look like outsiders.

It’s strange watching non-Jews revel in Jewishness, probably not unlike how Chuck D must feel knowing that rap is mostly consumed by suburban white teenagers.  Fake Jewish identity gives the gentile fan something to cling to, a sense of victimhood and authenticity without the historical baggage that would actually justify those feelings.  (All the sympathy, half the Holocaust!)  There’s an old saying that a philo-semite is simply “an anti-semite who loves Jews.”  That may be a little unfair, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find some of those gentile Spurs fans voting BNP before donning their Yid Army gear for match day.

Go out and get Foer’s book for more on this and other random social insights drawn from the beautiful game.

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I would imagine by now most people are aware of my aversion to using ethnic groups as sports mascots and how deeply bewildered I am by the fact that my home town’s football team happens to be the Redskins. I’m not even going to entertain the idea that the name isn’t racist– the very fact there is a debate over if ‘it is or isn’t’ shows the invisibility and disenfranchisement of Native peoples in the United States.

Often I illustrate how offensive this name is by saying something like: “Could you imagine if it were any other minority group? People would be up-in-arms over the San Fran Chinks or the Tri-State Area Jews.”

Tickle me surprised when I find out that there is in fact a Dutch football club nicknamed the Jews. According to Ye Olde Wikipedia:

This nickname for Ajax fans dates back to before World War II, when Amsterdam was home to most of the Netherlands’ 140,000 Jews and the Ajax stadium itself was located near a Jewish neighbourhood. Most Dutch Jews were killed by the Nazis during the occupation, and today very little remains of Amsterdam’s old Jewish quarter. But the tradition at Ajax survived.

The truth of this account is still up for debate.

Sociological Images has an interesting dissection of the appropriation of Israeli political symbols by Ajax fans and this NYT article spotlights some of the more sinister anti-Semitic antics of both rivals and fans. This includes Nazi salutes, people shouting “Hamas! Hamas!” and hissing to imitate the sound of gas entering a death chamber. Let me be the first to say: Keep it classy, European futball fans.

And what of the Ajax fans who are actually Jewish? Well, many of them reportedly find the atmosphere so hostile they are unable to attend matches. Quoth a former member of the board of directors: “A lot of Jews all over the world believe that Ajax fans are proud to call themselves Jews, but it’s a kind of hooliganism.”

The outsider status fans feel by labeling themselves Jews has become a badge of honor, they think of themselves as being part of a distinctly oppressed subculture and gain a sense of group cohesion from that. The only problem is that they aren’t actually members of this oppressed ethnic group and appropriating the symbols and rhetoric of that struggle for the sake of sport is totally . Despite Ajax’s best efforts to nip this thing in the bud (spurned not by the rampant antisemitism, but by a chant calling a star player’s girlfriend a whore), decades of identification can’t be stopped–I mean, honestly, do you expect all those gentiles with the Star of David tattooed on their shoulder to just drop it?

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Rampaging Japanese seniors

There have been a number of stories lately about the criminal proclivities of Japan’s senior citizens.  On the northern island of Hokkaido, arrests of seniors actually outnumbered arrests of teenagers in 2006.  Since then, the number of elder arrests has risen to three for every two bookings of teens.  Nationally, crimes by seniors have risen fivefold over a 20-year period.  This has occurred concurrent to an overall drop in the crime rate: In 2007, elderly crimes rose 4.2 percent while the overall arrest rate dropped almost 5 percent.

Most of this is petty crime, primarily theft of food and non-alcoholic drinks.  Violent crime remains rare, although it has increased.  Shoplifting accounts for more than half of theft arrests of men and 90 percent of thefts by women.

Increased poverty somewhat explains the trend, as the Washington Post reports:

“A government survey of 137 elderly shoplifters in Tokyo found that a desire to “cut back on spending” was a primary motivation of 59 percent of the women arrested. Two-thirds of men said they stole because of their tough financial situation.”

However, Justice Ministry officials report that only 7 percent of the thieves qualified for state welfare payments.  Most received varying levels of pensions.  Fear of poverty appears to be a stronger motive than any actual need to steal for subsistence.  Many seniors are worried following a spectacular scandal in which the government lost over 50 million peoples’ pension files.  This grand-scale fuck-up, combined with the overall declining economy, has many seniors worried about their long-term financial health.

There are cultural and sociological causes as well.  Japanese society’s traditional reverence for the elderly has faded with modernity.  Seniors increasingly live alone, rather than with their children or grandchildren.  One Hokkaido police official summarizes:

“They are not in touch with their children and have no connection with their brothers and sisters,” Shibata said. “These are people who worked so hard for so many years for their companies and for their country. All of a sudden, all their work has come to nothing. They have empty time on their hands.”

Many are driven by a desire for human contact or excitement, and those caught are often eager and happy to talk to police.  Dislocation from society, as well as simple boredom, are as powerful causes as economic need:

“Here in Sapporo, police in September arrested a 71-year-old retired man in a grocery store after he tried to steal 14 items, including ice cream, worth $27. He told police that he often shoplifts.

The man receives a social welfare check for about $1,600 a month and lives with his wife, who is ill and unable to do housework. He told police that his wife’s illness caused him stress but that when he steals, he feels “refreshed.”

At the time of his arrest, he had $7,500 in cash in his pocket.”

Very few of these elder criminals receive prison sentences. However, the Japanese government is currently spending approximately $60 million to construct three new prison wards specialized to house senior citizens.  Unfortunately, Japan lacks an infrastructure of organizations capable of coping with the psychological needs of its aging population.  Public awareness campaigns about shoplifting have met resistance from store owners, who hesitate to put up anti-shoplifting posters for fear of offending loyal customers.  The long-term solution, for a population that is only getting older, will have to include improved socialization programs for seniors without children or grandchildren.  Whether community centers, counceling programs, or manga Marxism, Japan needs to find something more than robots to keep its seniors off the streets.

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pomo

Think Culture has a brief yet thoughtful explanation of our contemporary post-racial climate.

Postmodernity has become an horror show of lazy irony. I indulge in the aethetic because of my place and time; education economics but find the stagnant nihilism and laissez faire just-for-lols approach to things that are worth earnestness overwhelmingly problematic. That isn’t to say there aren’t thinks about the pomo that I don’t adore–the playfulness with narrative structure in literature, the damn-near anarchical splintering of personal taste spurn on by consumerism. The common people seek the refuge of solid things, nationalism, patriarchy and racial superiority, built on a false notion of tradition to escape the overarching anomie that has plagued the western world since the epoch of modernity began. As individuals, we must competantly navigate between absurdity ad nauseum and, yea fuck it, the straight up fucking fascist. It is your responsibility not because of it was ordain from on high but because it can foster a more cohesive, well ordered system of thought and living–a romantic dream in a world of ambiguity and chaos that is perhaps impossible but worth striving for. That is my concept of the progressive, my reason for caring about politics.

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Fail’s epic win

Back in my day, “fail” was a verb.  We also had to walk to school in the snow, uphill both ways.  Oh, and the snow leopards…

But these are better times.  “Fail” is now a noun, and a ubiquitous one at thatSlate magazine’s Christopher Beam traces its entry into the online zeitgeist back to a Japanese video game:

“…online commenters suggest it started with a 1998 Neo Geo arcade game called Blazing Star. (References to the fail meme go as far back as 2003.) Of all the game’s obvious draws—among them fast-paced action, disco music, and anime-style cut scenes—its staying power comes from its wonderfully terrible Japanese-to-English translations. If you beat a level, the screen flashes with the words: “You beat it! Your skill is great!” If you lose, you are mocked: “You fail it! Your skill is not enough! See you next time! Bye bye!”

(Anyone whose seen the “All your base” video knows how these memes work.)  The May 2008 launch of Failblog brought the word to new heights — and world events drove it from there.  As Beam explains, web searches for “fail” surged in corrolation with the mortgage collapse and financial crisis.

Beam’s linguistic analysis is here.  One thing he misses though, another element that may help explain the rise of “fail,” is the American taste for degradation.  Look at our culture.  Much of the often-decried sex in the media really isn’t really about the sex itself; same goes for the violence. What is consistent, in reality television, “bum fights“, and the disgusting success of straight-up torture porn at the box office, is the public’s desire to see people in their most pitiful, destitute, “fail”-ish states.  Obviously this is all just conjecture, but I do wonder whether something like “Failblog” would do so well in any another culture.  (Oh and let me add that I enjoy a good “Blind Date” train-wreck as much as the next guy, so I’m not casting stones here…)

And so we leave the summary to Dylan:

“She knows there’s no success like failure; and that failure’s no success at all.”

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Here’s a few things to keep you entertained while I try to get through The Division of Labor in Society and conjugate regular -ir verbs.

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