Much Ado About Nothing?: The Story of an Erratum that Barely Was

By Tristan Bridges and Kristen Barber

Originally posted at Feminist Reflections.

Scholarly publications are not necessarily free from error. Researchers like Mark Regnerus have operational problems that skew their claims. Others publish with typos. And still others make mistakes in translating data to graphs, tables, or other infographics. Peer review can only catch so much, because reviewers don’t often have access to the full data set, at least not when dealing with qualitative data. Or, in the case of Regnerus’ Social Science Research publication, blinded reviewers overlook egregious errors in conceptualization and conflicts of interest in project funding (see here for a nuanced critique).

About a year ago, we both discovered an error in a 1976 research note published in the American Journal of Sociology that resulted in an Erratum in the journal’s May 2018 issue. The error appears in a really interesting article by Sociologist Dwight E. Robinson on shifts in men’s facial hair fashions over the course of 130 years in London. Robinson tracked representations of facial hair as a case study of fashion trends as measurable bits of culture. Comparing shifts in men’s facial hair to shifts in women’s skirt lengths, for example, he made claims that “men are just as subject to fashion’s influence as women” (here: 1133).

In the research note, Robinson calculated the relative frequencies of five different styles of men’s facial hair (clean shaven, moustaches, sideburns, moustache & sideburns, and full beards), and different combinations of these styles, from images published in the Illustrated London News between 1842 and 1972. This project shows dramatic shifts in configurations of men’s facial hair over the period studied, with a spike in different styles at different times but an overall decline in facial hair since the late 1800s. Robinson also reported on this shift in Harvard Business Review a year prior, in an article comparing this trend to still more cultural shifts in fashions.

Plotting his findings allowed Robinson to visualize this shift over time, and visualizations help to more readily appreciate the cyclical nature of cultural shifts in fashion (like changes in the popularity of baby names, for instance). They help make discernible something that might be otherwise difficult to appreciate. Below, we’ve stacked all the relative frequencies in a chart to display this shift (also in Sociology NOW, 3e, Chapter 4). It’s really an incredible change, and such a neat way to talk about shifts in fashion. Some fashions have short cycles (like styles of clothing, for instance), while fashions associated with other things (like popular baby names) have longer cycles. Facial hair fashions, according to Robinson’s research, appear to follow a fashion cycle more similar to baby names than to styles of clothing.

But… in the American Journal of Sociology article, there are a collection of errors in the Appendix table from which we collected these relative frequencies. These errors are reproduced in both the  AJS and Harvard Business Review. Robinson may not have realized these mistakes because he plotted shifts in facial hair styles on separate graphs both publications (see images below).

The graphs are produced from relative frequencies of a raw count of men’s facial hair styles in each year of published issues of the Illustrated London News. When we requested Robinson’s submission files from the American Journal of Sociology to consult when assessing the error, they no longer had them. This would have been in hard copy and that filling system, we were told, did not include his submission materials. We also tried to collect submission files from Harvard Business Review, which no longer has the files. Because of this, the Editorial Board at AJS decided they were unable to correct the errors in an erratum; they did agree to at least publish something stating that errors were indeed made. After all that investigation, we ended up with this Erratum:

This erratum is a bit non-committal. But it was what the journal was willing to print. Don’t get us wrong, these errors don’t have the same policy implications as the egregious Regnerus study that suggests children of gay parents don’t meet markers of success similar to kids’ of straight parents. We do feel, however, that the errors can and should be corrected with the available information.

Robinson’s errors appear to most likely be the result of mistakes make in calculating something simple: relative frequency. Because Robinson included all of the figures in the appendix, he allowed us to calculate these frequencies ourselves for verification. Journals should do this when they can, to make scholarly claims more transparent and to offer other scholars data that could be used in different ways, to perhaps answer different questions. Indeed, more journals are including data files as a part of the available materials for download, now that things are online. Below is the Appendix from the article published in the American Journal of Sociology.

The errors in the table (reproduced in the figures in both publications) are associated with the years: 1844, 1860, 1904, 1916, and 1959. In each case, the relative frequencies are miscalculated in the table.

  • 1844: The relative frequency of clean shaven should be 30%, not 47%.
  • 1860: The relative frequency of beards should be 40%, not 39%.
  • 1904: The relative frequencies of moustaches and beards should both be 34%, not 37% and 32% (respectively).
  • 1916: The relative frequencies of clean shaven and moustaches should be 34% and 65%, not 33% and 64% (respectively).
  • 1959: The relative frequencies of clean shaven and moustaches should be 78% and 22%, not 74% and 21% (respectively).

These errors do affect what the graphs look like. If they were corrected, we would see a slight rise in the popularity of representations of men with mustaches in the late 1950s. Now, is that a significant difference? Not really. Clearly, we went to more trouble here than necessary. But identifying (and correcting) research errors is as important to maintaining scholarly integrity as is conducting meticulous reviews of research before it’s published. Accountability is key to making sure we, as scholars, continue to understand research as a communal process that takes seriously the integrity of research, from the smallest details to the biggest biases.

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2018 Update: Shifts in the U.S. LGBT Population

Gallup has been collecting data on LGBT identities since 2012. Each year a new wave comes out, I like to visualize it, because I think the figures tell a story more challenging to tell with words alone. Actually “measuring” someone’s sexuality is more challenging than you might think. And one of reasons different surveys produce different estimates of the gender and sexual minority population in any society is that they ask about sexuality differently. I’ve written before on just how challenging sexuality is to measure (and why). A great deal of survey research on the topic has sought to engage these challenges by analytically separating three separate dimensions of sexuality (sexual behaviors, sexual desires, and sexual identities). It’s popularly assumed that the various dimensions all line up in some neat and tidy way. But the fact of the matter is, for many people, they don’t. Indeed, recent work by Laurel Westbrook and Aliya Saperstein show that measuring sex and gender on surveys is not necessarily any easier. All of this has combined to make it challenging to make estimates about the size of any gender or sexual minority population. I was happy to see that Gallup’s report actually addressed this in 2018.

“Self-identification as LGBT is only one of a number of ways of measuring sexual and gender orientation. The general grouping of these four orientations (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) into one question involves significant simplification, and other measurement techniques which ask about each of these categories individually yield different estimates. Additionally, self-identification of sexual orientation can be distinct from other measures which tap into sexual behavior or attraction.” (here)

Gallup’s new report, by Frank Newport was just recently released, and update their estimates of the size of the LGBT population in the U.S. through 2017. This recent publication charts change in LGBT identification in the U.S. over 6 years (2012-2017). And, they rely on what previous research has shown to be a variable that produces the most conservative numbers of LGBT–gender and sexual identity.

The shifts themselves may appear to be small. But, within a population of over 300,000,000 people, these shifts involve huge numbers of actual people. As I have in previous years, in this post, I’ve graphed a collection of findings from Gallup’s report. I use these to talk with students, but I also think graphs offer a powerful illustration of the shifts.

NOTE: It’s worth noting that I truncate the y axes on the figures. Sometimes this is done to exaggerate discoveries. In this case, I truncate the axes because I think it helps more clearly illustrate the shifts I’ll address below.

Over the short period of 6 years Gallup has collected data, the LGBT population has grown substantially. The size of the population has increased from 8.3 to over 11 million people who identify as LGBT in the U.S. The proportion of LGBT Americans jumped a full percentage point between 2012 and 2017–from 3.5% to 4.5% of the U.S. population.

LGBT 1.png

Mignon Moore and I recently published on some of the shifts in the LGB population using data from the General Social Survey. We found a great deal of growth among younger Americans, women, and Black women in particular. Gallup’s new data support these shifts as well with a much larger representative sample of Americans (340,000 interviews in the 2017 sample).

In fact, when we look at shifts in the U.S. LGBT population by age, almost all of the growth in the population has been among the young. (Generations are slippery sorts of  categories as suggesting someone born in 1979 vs. 1980  has a completely different experience and identity, unique from one another is sort of arbitrary. Yet, these data support research like Barbara Risman‘s new book, Where The Millennials Will Take Us: A New Generation Wrestles with the Gender Structure, showing that young people are more open with respect to gender and sexuality.)

LGBT 2.png

But these shifts also are gendered, racialized, and classed. One of the most consistent shifts has been the growing gap between the numbers of women and men who identify as LGBT in the U.S. Since Gallup started collecting data in 2012, this gap has simply continued to grow. More women identify as LGBT than men, and just how much more continues to change each year.

LGBT 3.png

Those identifying as LGBT in the U.S. today are also becoming more racially diverse. While less than 4% of non-Hispanic white Americans identified as LGBT in 2017, more than 4.5% of Black Americans and Asians did, and more than 6% of Hispanic Americans as well as the racial categories Gallup collapses as “Others” (the “other” category was not included in the 2018 update).

LGBT 4.png

The other changes reported note shifts relative to income and education among LGBT-identifying Americans. With respect to education, Gallup’s data do not show meaningful differences among those with more or less education. Those differences that existed in 2012 seem to have largely eroded with growth in the LGBT population occurring among people with very different educational backgrounds.

LGBT 5.png

Despite this, LGBT population growth does continue to be stratified by class, according to Gallup’s report. Rates of LGBT identification among the class-advantaged have been stagnant over the 6 years of data collection, while rates among middle-income and lower-income LGBT identifying folks in the U.S. are growing.

LGBT 6.png

This is sad and likely to do with a combination of factors that perpetuate gender and sexual inequality. Part of it may be to do with the higher rates of homelessness among gender and sexual minorities as Brandon Andrew Robinson‘s research on LGBTQ homeless youth carefully documents. Some of it must also have to do with sexual discrimination on the job market as work like Emma Mishel‘s audit study showing the resumes with a small signification of possible lesbian identity were significantly less likely to be called for an interview. And likely it is all of this and more.

This is really an incredible amount of change in a very short period of time. The LGBT population is, quite literally, on the move. Tracking the needs of this population is and must be a goal that is continually revisited as the very composition of the population continues to shift.

Gender Gap in Top Ten Baby Names: 2017 Update

I’ve been tracking the proportion of baby girls and boys given top ten names in the U.S. for the past few years. It’s a remarkable shift. You can see the figure below through 2016 in the first chapter of Sociology NOW, 3e. We have an entire section of the introductory chapter that uses baby name trends to teach students how to think sociologically – and this is among my favorite examples from that section. Simply put, popular names used to be a whole lot more popular than they are today. It’s not just which names were popular that change, but how popular they were that has changed as well.

More than 1 in 20 boys born in the U.S. in 1880 were given the name John. The same was true of Mary for girls. And while the most popular names in 2017 are different (Liam and Emma), it’s their frequency that has interested me so much. While Liam was the most popular boy’s name in 2017, it was only given to 0.9539% of all boys born. So, fewer than 1 in 100 baby boys born in 2017 were given the most popular name. Similarly, the top name for girls last year (Emma) accounted for 1.0528% of all baby girls born. It’s just nowhere near the level of popularity.

Rather than tracking the frequency of the top boy and girl name, I’ve been tracking the proportion of boys and girls given top ten names each year. And the change is really amazing (see below). In blue, you can see the proportion of boys given a top ten boys’ name each year (since 1880), and in pink, you can see similar frequencies for top ten girls’ names.

Figure 1.png

I’ve always been struck by the erosion of the gender gap. The most popular boys’ names used to be almost twice as popular (among boys) as the most popular girls’ names were among girls. Boys given top ten names in 1880 accounted for 41.26% of all boys born that year. Girls given top ten names in 1880 accounted for only 22.98% of all girls born that year. I’ve written before explaining why the gap used to be so large and how sociologists explain why the gap shrunk.

Ever since I started tracking this, I’ve been interested in collect the data each year they’re released to see just how close the remaining gap is. I updated the figure last year and noted that top ten boys’ names were still more popular than top ten girls’ names – but the gap had shrunk to 0.01% (top ten boy names accounted for 7.63% of all boys born; top ten girl names accounted for 7.62% of all girls born). So, I was really interested to see whether the lines finally crossed in 2017. They did. Below, I’ve zoomed in on the figure above between 2000 and 2017 and truncated the y axis a bit so it is easier to visualize.

Figure 2.png

It’s a big deal. Since 1880, top ten names have never before accounted for a larger share of births among girls than among boys in any single year. Never. It’s just never happened. But in 2017, it happened. Top ten names were given to 7.48% of boys born in 2017 and 7.66% of girls born.

It’s sort of amazing. What’s also interesting is that the two lines are starting to appear as though they might be on different trajectories moving forward. And it’s interesting to consider what this might mean and what it tells us about gender and gender inequality in the U.S. I’ll continue to follow this. And I may attempt to use a different number of names (like top 20 names, for instance) to see if there’s something funky about 10 that produces the appearance of a change that doesn’t show up when I change the size of the popular names tracked.

Review Symposium on Mark Regnerus’s “Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage, and Monogamy”

As book review editor with Men and Masculinities, I’m often having books reviewed outside my area of expertise. My goal has always been to make sure I’m reviewing books that represent the field, incorporating work by a diverse group of scholars, making sure to review the work done by women in the field, and including reviews from graduate students and faculty both in the U.S. and abroad. This year, the sociologist Mark Regnerus published a new book on masculinity and sexualityCheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage, and Monogamy. It received a great deal of publicity, and quickly.

Just to consider the scale of publicity of the book, it was covered in New York Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post (twice, once an op-ed by Regnerus himself), The Atlantic, Harper’s Bazaar, The Globe and Mail, the Chicago Sun-Times, in addition to more conservative venues like Fox News and the National Review (again, twice, and once by Regnerus himself). This is, quite literally, just a very few of the public venues that reported on this research. As a public sociologist interested in more sociological research reaching public audiences, I was completely blown away. It’s rare to receive a single story in some of these outlets reporting on important sociological work, let alone this kind of massive national attention and sustained dialogue. Even more interesting because, while the book includes a massive collection of new data and analysis, the argument he’s pursuing in the book has been pursued before (more on this in a bit).

The reviews of the book are mixed in the public outlets. Some simply summarize his argument and suggest that he proved it while others are critical of the argument and study to varying degrees. Either way, very quickly, the book became a piece of a national conversation about men, masculinity, and sex. Those blurbing the work were all celebratory in their comments (as book blurbs often are). Perhaps most impressive were social theorist Anthony Giddens‘ comments, who referred to the book as “a magisterial study of the changing sexual landscape today,” and predicted that it would “become a standard work of reference in the field.” High praise!

I decided the book merited a conversation in the field. So, with the editor’s blessings, I invited a collection of scholars to review different elements of the book as a part of a review symposium at Men and Masculinities. I’ve read just about every issue of the journal and I think we’ve done something novel here. Distinct from some symposiums like this at other journals, this one ended up being less congratulatory. In some ways, it’s an odd thing to publish. But, in other ways, I felt the book was part of a larger issue in the field. It pursues an argument we’ve encountered before–leaning on a biologically deterministic position regarding men’s alleged insatiable desire for sex, albeit with new data and a new take.

Regnerus’s argument is that women have started to demand less from men in exchange for sex and this has produced a world historical shift and crisis for gender, sexuality, monogamy, and marriage more generally. He borrows an economic theory (“exchange theory”) to propose this, and leans on a variety of claims from biologically deterministic positions and evolutionary psychology to support his position as well. And he also marshals an incredible amount of evidence from nationally representative surveys and a sample of interviews he collected. There’s a lot to this book. So, I wanted a collection of people capable of reading it from these different perspectives to help readers of Men and Masculinities make sense of the argument.

I’m sharing it here because i hope people read and share the reviews. Sociologist Paula England (a supporter of exchange theory within sociology) assesses his use of this framework and reviews the applicability of exchange theory to his discussion of sex. I invited the anthropologist and NPR blogger Barbara J. King to evaluate his use of biological and evolutionary theories and frameworks that he relies on to support some of the larger claims in the book. And I asked the sociologist Philip N. Cohen to review the data and analysis critically. All three are public scholars par excellence. And I hope they produced a symposium that can be a touchstone as we encounter work subject to some of the critiques of this book.

We’ve published it ahead of print and online at SocArXiv here: https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/tqrwu/ (for those of you outside of academia, this means it’s not yet published, but will be in a forthcoming issue). I hope you will read it and share it with friends and colleagues. When arguments like this reach outside of academia, critiques from their peers should follow that reach and be a part of that conversation as well. That’s how we use science to make the world a better place. It’s part of the process and project.

Confederate Monuments in the U.S. and Cultural Inequality

Monuments are the sort of thing that don’t always demand our attention. Sometimes, they fade away and become part of the scenery. But at one point, someone or some group of people spent a lot of time thinking about what to put there, what it said about “us”, and more. Sometimes, people vote on them and occasionally there’s a controversy surrounding them after they’re officially unveiled or when they’re being proposed. But after they’re all set up, most of what they do is just sit there. Monuments are, most days, most of the time, sort of mundane objects in our lives–symbols of who we are (or who we were) the litter our paths through parks and on city sidewalks. And while we sometimes walk by them without taking notice, they are not symbols devoid of meaning, or power.

the lion of atlantaImagine a young black child in elementary school living in Atlanta, GA driving to school down Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr., past Oakland cemetery.  There’s a beautiful statue in the cemetery of a lion sprawled atop a stone clutching a confederate flag. The lion was originally commissioned by the Ladies Memorial Association (groups of, predominantly, wealthy white women than popped up throughout the South after the Civil War to commemorate Confederate soldiers and produce monuments honoring them). The lion of Atlanta was commemorated on April 26, 1894, dedicated to “UNKNOWN CONFEDERATE DEAD.” And there he sits today.  There’s a monument to a Confederate general in that cemetery as well. And it’s not all that far from Joseph E. Brown middle school–a school named for the governor of Georgia from 1857-1865 (eventually a U.S. senator as well), a leading secessionist in his day among those leading the state of Georgia to join the Confederacy. Today, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Joseph E. Brown middle school educates a student body that is more than 98 percent black!

It is unconscionably ignorant to suspect that these symbols that litter our environments have no appreciable impact on people–particularly those of us to whom these symbols do violence. Slavery may be abolished by the law of the land, but young black children can still walk by monuments presenting those who fought for slavery as heroes, mighty beasts mourning those who died to keep others enslaved.

I’m not teaching the introductory class in sociology this semester.  But when I do teach intro and I’m explaining what culture and cultural inequality are to students, I like to rely on concrete examples to illustrate the issues.  The Confederate flag is an important cultural symbol to be discussed right now with this lens, as are Confederate monuments.

Michael Kimmel, Amy Aronson, and I collected the data from the Southern Poverty Law Center on Confederate sites in the U.S. for an interactive visualization. It’s in the Culture chapter as a way for students to consider the relationship between culture and inequality. Below, you can see a map of Confederate monuments still standing in the U.S.

And below here, you can see schools still standing named for Confederate leaders. It’s not the only way racial inequality continues to persist. But it’s an important way this happens, and it’s one that seems an obvious choice if we want to think about what we can do to challenge racial inequality.

Lots of visualizations have been circulating relying on data from the Southern Poverty Law Center to visualize Confederate monuments, hate groups and more. It’s an important issue. And I hope we continue to challenge this legacy.

What Can Baby Names Tell us about #MeToo?

By: Tristan Bridges and Philip N. Cohen

As the list of “great” men revealed as having committed serial acts of sexual harassment and assault continues to grow, the conversation about the collusion, complicity, and tolerance necessary for each of them to have avoided consequence for so long is important. Many of these men occupied roles as gatekeepers in their various careers—indeed, men are disproportionately in gatekeeping roles. And people in these roles sometimes enjoy power with little oversight. So, institutions are set up in ways that may not feel like they actively promote sexual harassment and assault, but do little to stop it.

Another way of looking at this problem, though, is to consider the role we all play in systems of social inequality that give rise to abuses of power. Like mass shooters and people who commit “stick-ups”, sexual harassers in the workplace are almost all men. But they’re not just any men; these are powerful men, men whose faces we recognize, who we might feel like we “know” because of their popularity, and, importantly, they’re men whose names we all know: Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey, Bill Clinton, Louis C.K., Matt Lauer, George H.W. Bush, Roy Moore…

One way of thinking about how societies feel on a collective level is to look at aggregate behaviors. How do we act collectively and what can we learn about “us” and our society from collective action? Consider baby names. In sociologist Stanley Lieberson’s book, A Matter of Taste: How Names, Fashions, and Culture Change, he was interested in the social forces and factors that help certain names become more or less popular.

Consider the name Harvey. Harvey might strike you as a dated name. And it is. Its popularity as a name for boys in the U.S. peaked in the first half of the 20th century. Then the name fell out of favor. A gradual decline in popularity is typical for names. Over the course of about 50 years, the name stopped being popular. Perhaps as those early Harveys started to grow up, the name acquired the cultural patina of the elderly (like Mildred or Herman today) and felt less like a name people ought to give to babies. Harvey ceased to even be among the top 1,000 names selected for baby boys in the U.S. in the late 1990s and early 2000s. But then, from 2011-2016, “Harvey” enjoyed a second surge in popularity. It jumped from the 857th most popular boys’ name to the 412th in just 6 years. As name popularity goes, this is steep rise.Harvey 1.pngMeasured another way, we can look at the number of boys given the name “Harvey” per 1,000 boys born in the U.S., as popular names are a whole lot less popular today than they were a century ago. Still here, however, we see a very recent surge in popularity for Harvey as a name given to boys in the U.S.Harvey2.pngThe play Harvey, about a man who claims to have an invisible friend who is an anthropomorphized version of a rabbit more than 6 feet tall (“Harvey” is the invisible rabbit friend) hit Broadway in 1944, written by Mary Chase. This is a plausible partial explanation for the beginning of the decline in popularity for Harvey. Who wants to name their child after a six-foot-tall invisible rabbit, right? The name may have been “contaminated” as a boy’s name. But the second surge in popularity presents us with a sort of natural experiment about the American public. The name Harvey appears to be on the way to becoming more popular. Will the Harvey’s of 2017 contaminate this name for the American public? Between Harvey Weinstein and Hurricane Harvey, the name’s had an awful year. But will people continue to give the name Harvey to their children? (Too bad, from the point of view of a clean experiment, that the scandal and the hurricane happened in the same year.)

This question got us thinking about what happens to the names of people implicated in or associated with high profile sex scandals or cases of sexual harassment and/or assault. It might be a really small indication of how invested we are, as a society, in not holding men accountable for sexual indiscretions, harassment, and assault. It’s one small way that we are all actually invested (and investing) in some of the very same forms of social inequality that helped give rise to the Harvey Weinsteins of the world in the first place.

Philip posted a few years ago on a collection of names that illustrate contamination. He used Ellen (following DeGeneres’s coming out), Forrest (following the release of Forrest Gump in theatres) and Monica (following the sex scandal involving Lewinsky and President Bill Clinton). The name “Monica” was contaminated after her involvement with the president. She didn’t claim to have been sexually assaulted, but her participation in this high-profile scandal appears to have played a role in contaminating the name—people stopped naming their daughters “Monica” in as great of numbers following the event (see below). Bill Clinton had a more popular name (“William”) among boys than Monica did among girls. But, we wondered, was his name contaminated too? Not many parents name their children “Bill” alone. Since 1994, “Bill” hasn’t been among the top 1,000 names given to boys in the U.S. William, however, has been a top 20 name for over 100 years in the U.S.Bill and Monica1.pngThe popularity of the name “Monica” among girls dropped immediately following the news of the scandal in January of 1998. While only subtly, the name William moved up the rankings of names given to boys. Many president’s first names influence the popularity of a name. In fact, it’s arguably a small measure of what the public thinks of the president. Was he a man worthy of emulating with a name? Bill Clinton appears to have passed the test. So, the sex scandal involving Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton contaminated her name, but not his. This is an important way we (at least collectively) are all implicated here. Below, you can see a more fine-grained way to measure shifts in name popularity. Rather than visualizing names by rank, this measure attaches names to population denominators so that name popularity is expressed in births per thousand boys and girls and scaled such that 100=the scandal year (of comparison). Again, the name “Monica” appears seriously contaminated following the scandal, while William does not.Bill and Monica2.pngConsider another example from a bit earlier—Anita Hill’s testimony against Clarence Thomas during his confirmation hearings for The Supreme Court. Hill described being consistently subjected to sexual harassment by Thomas in a supervisory role over her at both the Department of Education and the EEOC. Hill testified in 1991. At that time, the baby names “Anita” and “Clarence” were both declining in popularity (so, the names present a different scenario). But right around 1991, Anita started to drop in the rankings faster than Clarence. It appears that having been sexually harassed may have contaminated the name “Anita” among parents, but sexually harassing did not have the same contaminating effect on “Clarence.”Anita and Clarence1.pngOnce again, women’s involvement in a high-profile heterosexual sex scandal may have contaminated her name, but seems to have failed to meaningfully impact his. Yet, when we measure name popularity by births per thousand boys and girls, scaling them to the year Hill testified against Thomas, the allegations don’t appear to have a noticeable impact on either “Anita” (for girls) or “Clarence” (for boys). So this case is not as clear.Anita and Clarence2.pngWhat we can look at is the effect of high-profile sex scandals and cases of sexual harassment and assault to see if they ever affect name popularity for boys’ names. Stanley Lieberson, Susan Dumais, and Shyon Baumann looked at something similar in their article on the “instability of androgynous names.” They were interested in what happens to androgynous names (names given to roughly equal numbers of boys and girls—like Taylor, Jesse, Hayden, Charlie, or Emerson) over time. Androgynous names are, they discovered, unstable. They rarely persist and remain androgynous and they follow a social pattern. Androgynous names that become popular become girl names—we stop giving the names to boys when they become popular. The association with femininity (for boys) is more stigmatizing (or “contaminating” in name lingo) than the association with masculinity (for girls). We’re all implicated in that finding in one way or another.

The two scandals discussed above, though, are distinct in that they have one man and one woman associated with them. So, we can look at how the same event shaped subsequent fashions in baby names for boys and girls in different ways. In both scandals, the effect was the same. But many of the sex scandals in the news today have large collections of women harassed and abused by one man (like Harvey Weinstein). So, for many of these cases, we lack the gendered comparison visible on the previous two figures. What we can look at is the effect of high-profile sex scandals to see if they ever effect name popularity for boys’ names. Clearly, they do sometimes for girls’ names. In this way, what happens to the popularity of the name “Harvey” might tell us something important about us.

 

 

A Year in Review and Best of 2017 – Inequality by (Interior) Design Edition

Well, Inequality by (Interior) Design turns six this year. Like 2016, I haven’t been as regular of a blogger as I’d like to be. But I was able to write more than 2016. And I’m happy with that. Each year, I like to take stock. Initially, I started taking stock of the blog posts. But a couple years ago, I used it as an opportunity to take stock of research and writing too. The big news is that I’m now at a new institution. I moved to the sociology department at the University of California, Santa Barbara. It’s been a big change, but it’s a wonderful and supportive department that specializes in gender and sexualities (among other things).

This has been a bit of a whirlwind of a year. It started with me agreeing to take over as editor of one of my favorite sociology blogs of all time – Sociological Images. The now former editor, Lisa Wade, was touring around the U.S. giving talks on her new book (American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus) and asked if I’d manage the site for a few months. So, I did that January – March 2017. And it was intense. I only had to write one post a week, collect a guest post or cross-post from someone else on the web and share an old post on Fridays. But it was enough of a taste to realize that I am not cut out for that work in the long run and for me to truly appreciate just how amazing of a sociologist, blogger, writer, and person Lisa Wade is. I can’t believe she did that (alongside so much else) for over a decade! Three months, and I was exhausted. But I learned a lot about blogging and trusting myself to come up with ideas.

cover.jpgLike last year, many of the posts I wrote were associated with the introductory textbook in sociology that I was writing with Michael Kimmel and Amy Aronson. And the really big news this year is that that book will be out soon – Sociology NOW, third edition by Michael Kimmel, Amy Aronson, and Tristan Bridges. I’m really so thrilled to have been a part of this project and still sort of can’t believe my name’s on the cover. And I learned more about the field than I ever thought I would (particularly for chapters that were farther outside my areas of expertise). And it was a LOT more work than I could have ever imagined. But it was really rewarding and I was excited to help us highlight the work of the next generation of sociologists in this edition, highlighting loads of cutting edge work by scholars who represent some of the diversity that make up our field. The book comes out digitally and in print – and the digital version is where a lot of the really fun stuff is. We made a host of interactive maps, graphs, and figures throughout the book to give students the ability to play with figures. My hope is that students gain a bit of data and visualization literacy through interacting with the text.

And new to this edition is a new framework for teaching the field that we call “iSoc.” So many textbooks continue to teach sociology with the “3 frames” approach (functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interaction). These theoretical paradigms are important and we still include them in the text. But they don’t organize the field, and I’m not completely sure they ever did. iSoc replaces this narrative about what the field is, what sociologists actually do, and what makes the sociological perspective so unique.

Michael recorded introductory videos for each of the chapters. And Amy and I recorded audio for a series of animation videos in each chapter too. Those were a lot of fun and I’m hoping they’ll be fun for students learning about sociology for the first time. In the Sex and Gender chapter, we produced a short animation about Agnes, a transgender woman who met with the sociologist Harold Garfinkel and helped him change the way we thought about and studied gender. Here’s a screen shot from that video (thanks to Kristen Schilt and Chase Joynt for feedback on the appearance of Agnes and for information about how to represent the recording device Garfinkel used). I recorded this one and I’m so excited for students to hear a message thanking Agnes for how sociologists think about gender.

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Another I really liked was in the research methods chapter. We produced a short animation of Janice McCabe’s research on college student friendship networks in Connecting in College: How Friendship Networks Matter for Academic and Social Success to talk about network analysis as a research method. Amy recorded this animation and it’s a great one (screenshot of McCabe talking with a college student about his friendship network below). It’s a fascinating book if you haven’t read it, and a really wonderful illustration of research of what social networks can tell us that people can’t. That chapter in the textbook has not only summaries of each research method, but short examples of really interesting research like McCabe’s that show students what the methods are capable of doing and discovering!

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The posts I wrote at Sociological Images often drew from materials I’d been putting together for bits of the textbook, like my post on the curious alignment and stall associated with gender gaps across a variety of different measures, my post visualizing new data on shifts in the size and composition of the LGBT population in the U.S., or my post visualizing how racial and educational segregation overlap in the U.S.

The other fun thing that happened while blogging this year is that a few of my posts turned into publications. I was really honored to have the tribute post I wrote with James Messerschmidt about Joan Acker’s work and theory included in a forthcoming symposium on her work and influence in Gender, Work, and Organization (here). James and I also wrote a short post on President Trump fluid performances of masculinity and how they contribute to the kinds of inequalities he has upheld at Democratic Socialists for America (here). And that piece will be a part of the next edition of Michael Kimmel and Michael Messner’s wonderful anthology, Men’s Lives (about to be in its 10th!!!!! edition if you can believe that). C.J. Pascoe and I wrote a short post on Trump and gender inequality in a symposium of sociologists responding to his election in our association newsletter (here). Tara Tober and I were invited to write a short piece at Quartz.com on mass shootings and masculinity. Quartz_shooting (1)And part of that work involved getting to work with their data visualization team a bit to develop a figure. They ended up wanting more bells and whistles than we had in our figure. But I always learn something new when I get to interact with people who think outside of the box when if comes to graphs. And, finally, I’m really excited about a short post I wrote on the racial and gender dynamics associated with shifts in the LGB population once the new 2016 GSS data became available this past year. Mignon Moore and I collaborated on a trends essay that will be coming out in the next issue of Contexts.

I published a few other things you can read about on my website if you’re interested. On to the top posts of 2017. All of the blogs I follow have a post (or collection of posts) at the end of each year celebrating some of their biggest and best posts of the year. And I’ve done it each year. I still write for different sites, but I continue to share all of that work here as a sort of central hub for anyone interested (okay… mostly this is for my parents).  Below are my top five most popular posts of the year along with an assortment of my personal favorites.

Top 5 Most Popular Posts from 2017

  1. Why People Are So Averse to Facts
  2. Possibly the Most Exhaustive Study of “Manspreading” Ever Conducted
  3. Just How Big Was the 2017 Women’s March? (with Tara Leigh Tober)
  4. Shifts in the U.S. LGBT Population
  5. Visualizing Gender Inequality in a Feminist Bookstore

My Personal Favorites from 2017

Some of these posts didn’t generate much interest at all. But they all helped me think through something, prepare for a course, summarize an idea for the textbook, research, or just something I felt compelled or excited to share.

I’ll conclude with the words I wrote last year at this time: Blogging is one way that we can reach audiences not possible with scholarly writing – attempting to have an impact on the forms of inequality we study and to help other people connect with sociological knowledge, research, and theory. Increasing the number of feminist sociological imaginations in the world can only make for a better place. Looking forward to 2018. As always, thanks for reading!