Saturday, September 14, 2019

What is Southern Culture?

 This week will have guest bloggers from my Sociology Senior Seminar on Public Sociology.

            I remember the first week of my college like it was yesterday. I drove eight and a half hours from Pennsylvania with my mother. We are from a bigger city than where we were headed. Driving into Danville, at first, I immediately second guessed my decision because of the demographics and pure relative size of Danville. I had stepped into a town that, normally, at home we would consider to be “country” and “redneck” because of its small town, antique feeling it emitted.  I did not realize that to the citizens of Danville, and even Louisville and Lexington natives considered to be more refined than an actual country town, especially due to the prestigious nature of the college. My whole definition of southern towns was altered, and thus gave me hope for the next four years.
            The second week of freshman year was when everyone started to meet and co-mingle. During a conversation with a Kentucky Native they noticed that I had an accent and therefore, was not. This was news to me. I typically thought of an accent to be a country accent or an English accent. When prompted, I told them that I was from Pennsylvania. To this, they responded, “Oh you’re a Yankee!” This was the moment that I knew southern culture was real.
            I spent the rest of my three years here noticing what made me different from other people, specifically people from Kentucky (as they are pretty dominant on campus).  My natural route to graduation was to study this in any way shape or form I could. That form just so happened to be in the disciplines of Anthropology and Sociology.
            I had always compared my town to others, thinking that this is exemplary of what it means to grow up as a “Yankee”.  I had a narrow-minded view of my own culture. Harrisburg Pennsylvania was one of thousands of cities in the north, each with its own identity and culture. In the south, the major cities are far and few between. To me, cities are the hub of the surrounding groups of people. It is way easier to get information from a centralized source, than to get information from small local sources.
            When one thinks of the north and the south, one immediately begins with southern culture. This is always what I leaned on in conversations and comparisons, especially when I was explaining my school to people back home. They even aided in the fact that they would share similar experiences or thoughts that they had accumulated on southern culture. Typical things such as food, hospitality, specific dialogue, and customs, were front runners in our word-of-mouth data accumulation. If these things make up a southern culture, what makes up a northern culture?
            When one categorizes, like many do with southern culture, it does not work simply because northern food, hospitality, dialogue, and customs vary so much from each northern region. It is impossible to make assertions about what it means to have northern culture until northern culture is distinctly defined. I plan on doing this.
            My goals are to map out cultural boundaries. In order to do this, I need to look at both “concepts” in a historical lens, because this is what initially created these boundaries. Then, I plan on defining each culture in their own terms. I want to answer why these are separate boundaries, what made them separate, and what effect do they have now on American culture and life in general.
            I think the hardest part about all of this is to be able to set apart my preconceived bias and prejudice. It’s hard to do that when I’ve spent the last three years noticing what made me different. I have struggled a lot here at college, especially socially. I have always seen things differently, acted differently, and spoke different ways. It has been frustrating and frankly demeaning of my character because of how often I question if what I’m doing is wrong, or just wrong in southern culture aspects. I want to explore this, and ultimately find some peace of mind for myself and for anyone else who notices what I notice.

 Demi Kennedy

A Liberal Birth Order?

This week we will have guest bloggers from my Sociology Senior Seminar on Public Sociology.

Recently, I have been interested in thinking more critically about birth order, especially within my own family. Particularly, I have been wondering if there could be a connection between the rigidness of birth order expressed in children and the political ideologies of the family, mainly the parents. I know that it is nearly impossible to compare specific families, especially combine with their political views. For this reason, I will be focusing on my own family and personal experiences. I want to explore the idea that dynamic choices for children are not invalidated by parents, a child in a liberal family will likely feel comfortable choosing different paths. But, those paths might likely relate to the parents and those family ideologies.
A little background- I am the third of four sisters. My eldest sister, Nettie, is 25, living in New York city working for a publishing company. The second born, Maggie, is 23, currently applying to medical school, working at a veterinary office in my hometown. I am 21, currently attending Centre College. Finally, my little sister, Ellie, is 19, and attends the University of Louisville.
            To examine my own families birth order, I will discuss the education and career paths of my family in relation to our order, focusing mainly on Nettie and Maggie. My parents both attended Centre College, post-graduation my father continued his education at University of Louisville Medical School.  My sister Nettie, the eldest, decided to attend DePauw University in Indiana and is now working at a publishing company in New York City. My sister Maggie followed the path of my father, she attended Centre College and is planning to continue on to medical school (most likely at UofL). I decided to follow both my parent’s paths as well as my older sisters path of attending Centre College. My little sister, Ellie, decided to attend University of Louisville Speed School to focus on engineering.
            As you can see, there are definitely major trends in where my family decided to attend school – Go Colonels and Cards! However, I think the most interesting thing we gain from my personal case, is the fact that the one person who decided to not attend a basic family school is the first-born, Nettie. In research about birth-order that I have seen, it is usually the first-borns who follow one of the parent’s paths closely, to, essentially, do the comfortable thing, make the parents proud, and get attention from them. Could the reason that my eldest sister felt so comfortable asserting her own path and not following the usual first-born tendencies be that my parents were liberal enough to be open and express to her that they were open to her doing her own thing? Maybe Nettie did not take the road already traveled because she knew that my parents would support her. They would give her attention no matter what she did and they would be proud of her for that.
            When it was Maggie’s turn to decided where to go to school, she decided to take that well-traveled path because, well, no one had yet. It was a spot that was open and that she could fill to get attention from my parents.
            I could continue to explore my whole family’s choices, but I don’t want to go on and on, and I think that Nettie and Maggie get the point across. They exemplify children who made choices to gain attention from the parents. In the case of my liberal family, the eldest child felt comfortable and supported enough to not take the most common path. Maybe my parents, both youngest children, even pushed her to do her own thing (a common youngest child choice) and to not be a classic first born.

 Sally Ann Finn

Dear Jonathan Franzen, Giving Up is a Position of Privilege

This week will have guest bloggers from my Sociology Senior Seminar on Public Sociology.

            While falling down the rabbit hole of Twitter the other day, a Tweet popped up that caught my eye. “I would vote for this as the worst piece on climate change yet published this decade-” Alex Steffen begins, “flawed in both concept and execution, morally cowardly, and lavishly self-indulgent.” With gorgeous words such as those, I felt personally compelled to take a peek at the New Yorker article attached, and it continued to compel/frustrate me so much after reading it to the point of having to making this post. Mr. Jonathan Franzen, a famous (or rather infamous) essayist and novelist known for taking extreme positions on topics he feels compelled to discuss, as well as a self-declared “non-scientist” has spurred many to challenge his opinions due to his vocal take that keeping the world from succumbing substantially to climate change, and the hope contained within that, should be at this point considered fictitious. While Franzen does take on the issue of hope and its use in certain dialogues around climate change in a way that I believe is beneficial – that is, only using hope as an anchor for stopping climate change (because at this point the climate will change, we cannot reverse this nor fully prevent it)– he fails to come around to the reality that the main use of hope, amongst those like Greta Thunberg and supporters of the Green New Deal, is to prevent pure, unfettered disaster. It inspires and motivates individuals to take action, to be concerned for future generations, and to not become disengaged and let the world go to complete and utter shit, trading concern for others for interior decoration ideas for their underground bunkers. Not only that, but only a select few get to even have that privilege of abandoning active hope and even thinking said thoughts. Jonathan Franzen is clearly part of that.

Franzen is seemingly dropping the torch because he can; unlike many others he does not feel the immediate life-threatening effects of climate change such as climate displacement, inadequate access to food, public health issues, among many others. An award-winning author can afford to relocate, continue to maintain good health, and stray as far away as possible from any type of environmental bad – that is until disastrous, worldwide benchmarks are hit – which of course is guaranteed if we follow in Franzen’s do little or nothing footsteps. But this “climate apocalypse” is already happening for oppressed individuals trapped under combinations of income, citizenship, race, etc. To say that we should go ahead and stop pretending like we can enact any sort of monumental change is ignorant. No, we cannot prevent all of the major realities of climate change, such as temperature increase, infrastructure damage, or rising sea levels- but we can help those already being put in life and death situations to find significant amounts of relief, big and small, all while advocating and pressuring our government to decrease the severity of results with adequate top-down processes. There is a duty to be had among those with more say in the political realm and freer from certain bounds of climate injustice. Privileged folk such as Franzen are ignoring this, and with essays like these, seem to aim at and conjure up those who are on the fence about what to do (and are quite comfortable with their status in life), to abandon hope, abandon that drive to make lives better for others, and just accept that what whatever happens will happen.

   A lot of discourse around climate change stems from this internal reflection of how to feel – should we continue to hold onto hope and actively push for major reform, or prepare for the absolute worse and abandon all notions that any sort of reform will prevent a “climate apocalypse”? I think it’s appalling to give in to the latter, and I will do what I can to call out those who think it’s okay to quit. I believe, much like Eve Andrews, that “giving up is a bullshit move”, and rather unnatural. There’s still time to lessen the blow. There’s still time to make immediate improvements both big and small for those that need it most. Doing otherwise is simply a move driven by privilege, and should be judged and critiqued as such, as we continue the dialogue around our role in the climate movement. 

Salem Menze

Perpetuation of Inequality in Sports

This week will have guest bloggers from my Sociology Senior Seminar on Public Sociology. 
            On Saturday, September 7th of 2019, it was once again reinforced that women’s sports are less important than men’s sports, and in this particular instance, the dogma that football reigns over everything. University of Maine and Temple University traveled close to a combined 1,300 miles to play a neutral division one field hockey game at Kent State University beginning at 9 a.m. On this same day, the Kent State football team had a game scheduled for 12:00 p.m., with fireworks set to go off just before the start time. The field hockey game was a very competitive one, resulting in overtime play. However, due to the firework safety policy, Kent State administrators came onto the field at 10:30 a.m. to end the match due to the safety code of the fireworks. While both teams were told in May that the game would have to conclude at 10:30 a.m., neither teams thought the game would have to come to an immediate close, causing the game to be eliminated from their records due to an inconclusive score. Although Kent State offered to allow them to finish the game later that evening and pay for the extra costs of accommodation, there is a significant underlying issue this example has further perpetuated.
Women have had to fight for their rights and to be viewed as equal for a very long time. Every time I begin to think women have made strides in their fight for equality, stories like these remind me of the lengths still to come. When considering athletics, this is one sector in which women have had to fight hard to be viewed as worthy of competition like their male counterparts. Some may argue that this is because women sports were introduced later than men sports, however, that should not be an excuse for the time period in which we are currently in.
Title IX was created in 1972, prohibiting “sex discrimination in any educational program or activity receiving any type of federal financial aid” (“Title IX Legislative Chronology”). While some, particularly men, do not believe there are any injustices against women, whether that be from lack of education or arrogance, this federal law specifically indicates that injustices against women are absolutely real and recognizable in so many different ways. If it were not present, there wouldn’t be a need for this type of law.
When thinking personally about how issues of sports and gender have been present in my life, I can’t help but think about my high school experience. I attended an all-girls high school, so I was never introduced to the neglect of female sports, but instead female sports meant everything. Because of this, I can recognize how some individuals might not understand why there is a need to correct how male and female sports are viewed, discussed, and acted upon in society due to the lack of exposure they have had with the topic. However, it is 2019 and unfortunate incidents like this are still occurring and it greatly affects the way women think about their respective sports, and if their efforts are even worth all of the criticism and lack of importance they receive. I can confidently say my fellow field hockey teammates at Centre College felt disrespected and discouraged from what took place at Kent State just last week.
To conclude, there is one thought I myself and others have reflected upon from this incident. Would this have occurred if it were the men’s soccer team playing? This is a question that I’m confident would receive varying answers. However, I myself cannot help but believe the answer is no. No, the men’s soccer game would have been allowed to continue their play without any repercussions. My framework for answering this question is based off of the many situations currently in 2019, within sports, but also in other sectors, where women have been viewed as less than men and unimportant. Men’s sports have always been more appreciated, especially at the division one level, and this dogma is exactly what Kent State exemplified to women last week. What do you think?

Caroline Brotzge

Demanding a New Supply: The Market Fight for “Greener” Options

This week will have guest bloggers from my Sociology Senior Seminar on Public Sociology. 

As I waited for my large iced coffee, an essential luxury for “long” days of class, I made my way to the extras table so that I could grab a little green straw before stopping short, remembering at once that I had a stash of environmentally friendly, rainbow stainless steel straws in my backpack. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to display to my peers that I was making a conscious decision to save the planet, if I could do it, why weren’t they? The irony of this situation, however, did not escape me - I was willing to give myself a pat on the back for replacing the straw while still using a plastic cup and lid that, while “recyclable”, were still designed as single-use. 

            Even more, I had a healthy collection of various drinks in aluminum cans in my fridge that were, like my coffee cup, single-use products. As a college student, I consume reams of paper on my own each academic year, but rarely save articles and papers in their physical forms. When I buy groceries I justify using plastic bags because I “reuse” them when I’m cleaning the litter box. As I made a mental list of all of the things I had thrown away over the past few days, I felt a sudden sense of guilt overtake me; sure, I had some fancy reusable straw, but there were still plenty of other things I was consuming that ultimately ended up in a bigger plastic bag destined for a landfill. Even so, considering the future of my recyclables would probably end up being the same as non-recyclables, the result of recent Chinese cut backs on the purchase of international recyclables, it felt like nothing that I did would really matter. I was, after all, a consumer in an economy that had prioritized convenience and immediacy far more than it did the concerns of “future” consumers. 

            Therein, it seems to me, lies the root of the problem. Although there has been a rise in lifestyle influencers promoting “no waste” lifestyles, those in which the individual consumer creates little to no tangible waste in their acquisition and use of goods, the economy hasn’t seen a large enough shift in demand to make this kind of lifestyle accessible, affordable, or even generally feasible for most consumers; for starters, a bulk grocer that allows customers to bring their own food containers is generally a prerequisite for participation in no-waste consumerism. While that certainly isn’t the only issue individuals face in pursuing a lifestyle with little, or no waste, it’s enough to bring the larger problem into focus; there isn’t enough infrastructural support for everyone in America to make these kinds of lifestyle changes. Here, in rural Kentucky, having two grocery stores seems like you’re living in a metropole, and the local market likely isn’t large enough to support the introduction of more competition into the market. 

            So, what does this mean for the Earth? Are we all doomed to live or die by the will of corporations to adopt more sustainable practices starting from the top so that the goods and services that we purchase will in turn, be more sustainable? While yes, or even maybe, would be the easy answers, it’s times like these in which it’s important that each consumer remember the power of each dollar put into the economy. As individual players participating in the economic system (aka, as people with cash who are looking for things to spend it on), we vote for what we like and don’t like, what we want and don’t, with our purchases.

Hannah Reis