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Scenes from Faculty Senate

Application For Course Approval

for General Education Program

Course Number: SOC 242
Course Title: Sex and Gender

Check the general education core area for this course:*
__ English Communication
__ Fine Arts & Literature
__ Foreign Language/Cross-cultural Competence
__ Letters
__ Natural Sciences
X Social Sciences
__ Mathematical & Quantitative Reasoning

*Note: courses can qualify in more than one area but a separate form is required for each request. Students may use a course for general education credit in one area.

Department(s) in which course will be taught: Sociology and Anthropology

Faculty member(s) responsible for course: Barbara Costello, Mary Ellen Reilly
Office: Library 330
Office phone: 874-2877

Will non-tenure track faculty teach this course?
_X_ Yes    ___ No

If yes, approximately what percentage of sections will be taught by non tenure-track faculty?
One-fifth to one-quarter

The integrated skills** that this course will focus on are:
X Examine human differences
X Read complex texts
X Speak effectively
__ Use of artistic activity
X Use of qualitative data
__ Use of quantitative data
__ Use of information technology
X Write effectively

*Note: At least three integrated skills are required.

Course description (as would be found in catalog):
Sociology 242 Sex and Gender (3)
Current research exploring issues of sex and gender. Socialization, gender role playing, and personal relationships. Institutional costs of sexism. Prospects for human liberation. (Lec 3) (S)

The purpose of this application is to assure that the proposed course meets explicit goals established for the general education program. These are: the ability to think critically in order to solve problems and question the nature and sources of authority; the ability to use the methods and materials characteristic of each knowledge area with an understanding of the interrelationship among and the interconnectedness of the core areas; a commitment to intellectual curiosity and lifelong learning; an openness to new ideas with the social skills necessary for both teamwork and leadership; the ability to think independently and be self-directed; to make informed choices and take initiative.


Part I

This part consists of six questions designed to highlight fundamental aspects of the general education program. Only answer question 5 if it is relevant to your course.

1. If not stated in your syllabus, please indicate the primary learning objective(s) of your course.

See Syllabus

2. How does the proposed course meet the goals established for the general education program?

This course is focused on critical thinking in that it requires students to consider the causes and consequences of a fundamental basis of social organization, gender stratification. It challenges students to question the legitimacy and utility of taken-for-granted aspects of gender inequality. It promotes students' awareness of the interrelationships between the core areas by requiring them to conduct theoretical and empirical analyses of men's and women's roles in the economy as both consumers and workers, their representations in music and mass media, and their historical treatment in medical and other physical sciences. It also promotes lifelong learning and independent thinking through its emphasis on analysis of "everyday" examples of the far- reaching effects of gender on our lives. The course helps students develop social skills through the group research paper assignment and presentation of this research in class.

3. How is the course suitable for the general education area you have requested it be classified? Please refer to the criteria for the relevant division as described in Appendix A as well as to your course materials appended to this form.

1) The course advances the understanding of human behavior in that it is designed to help students understand the causes and consequences of gender inequality. See syllabus and final examination.

2) The course requires students to explain contemporary social issues using theoretical perspectives discussed in the course. In particular, the course helps students understand how gender inequality is maintained on the individual, interactional, and social structural levels. See paper assignment pages 6-7, examples of in-class assignments, and final examination.

3) The course includes assignments to interpret qualitative data using sociological theory as an analytic framework. See paper assignment guidelines, examples of in-class assignments, and final examination.

4. Explain how this course provide opportunities for practice in each of the integrated skills you have listed on the cover sheet.

Examine Human Differences

The course's focus is on the causes and consequences of gender stratification. See syllabus.

Read Complex Texts

I use a series of readings for the course, rather than a textbook. The major theoretical perspective around which the course organized is outlined in Gender Vertigo, by Barbara Risman. Students read two chapters from this work, which is geared toward a professional academic audience. Most of the other readings for the course are abridged versions of books and journal articles written for a professional academic audience rather than undergraduate students. See pages 5-8 of the syllabus.

Speak Effectively

The course requires students to complete an original group research project, and to deliver two presentations based on this research to their classmates. I also require small group problem- solving assignments during many class meetings. See paper assignment guidelines, and page 2 of the syllabus.

Use of Qualitative Data

The group research project requires students to conduct a content analysis of some form of media, which requires systematic analysis of qualitative data. Many of the in-class assignments also require qualitative data analysis, as do my examinations. See paper assignment guidelines, examples of in-class assignments, and final examination.

Write Effectively

Students' research papers are completed in stages, which allows them to revise earlier stages of the paper as they progress through their project. See paper assignment guidelines. I also provide students the opportunity to practice making effective written arguments through their in-class assignments (which always involve a written component), and their essay examinations. See pages 2-3 of the syllabus, examples of in-class assignments, and final examination.

5. Will your course sometimes be taught to groups of students larger than 60? If so, please explain what you will do to insure that each of the integrative skills will be achieved. Please explain how each integrative skill will be achieved.

6. If other instructors (including per course faculty or teaching assistants) teach the course, what will be done to ensure that the proposed content and skills will be maintained across sections and instructors?

Professor Helen Mederer, Chair of Sociology and Anthropology, has agreed to make instructors of other sections of the course aware of the requirement that these skill areas are incorporated into their courses.


Part II

Please provide documentation of the means by which your course attempts to reach the goals of the general education program courses described above. Please attach a syllabus(mandatory) and all relevant course materials (e.g., exams, homework and laboratory assignments, classroom exercises) that will demonstrate how your course does this. In addition, please feel free to include any explanation(s) necessary showing how the course materials are linked to both the goals of general education program and specifically to the integrated skills.

Attached Materials
Syllabus
Paper assignment
Two examples of in-class, small group assignments
Final examination

Sociology 242, Sex and Gender

Fall 2001 syllabus

Professor Barbara Costello Email: Costello@uri.edu
Library 330 Office Hours MW 3-4 and by appointment
874-2877

Course Description and Goals

Virtually every aspect of our lives is in some way affected by our sex, or more specifically, by the cultural expectations that correspond to our sex, our gender. The focus of this class is on how and why this is. We will address questions such as the following: Why are there persistent gender differences in income in the United States and other societies, with women earning less than men doing comparable work? Why are married women largely responsible for child rearing and housework, even when they are employed full-time outside of the home? Why would a boy who claimed he wanted to grow up to be a husband, father, and homemaker be ridiculed by other children, and very likely by adults as well? Why should our lives be so profoundly influenced, and in many ways limited, by our gender?

Sociologists approach these kinds of questions by studying how social influences shape men's and women's behavior, preferences, and opportunities in life. We also view with skepticism biological and other purely individual explanations for behavior. For example, sociologists are skeptical of the claim that the vast majority of nurses are women because they are more nurturant by nature and therefore better suited to the profession than men are. (After all, shouldn't doctors be nurturant, too?) Similarly, sociologists question the simple explanation that many more women than men "freely choose" to interrupt their careers to care for children, arguing instead that this begs the question - why do women make this choice in far greater numbers than men? If it's because of a biologically-based maternal instinct, why do some women choose not to have children, or continue working and pay others to care for their children?

In this course, we will address these and similar questions by asking what it is about the organization of our society that creates and maintains gender difference and inequality. When the course is completed, you will have a much broader understanding of the many manifestations of gender inequality and the social arenas in which it is played out. You will also understand how the organization or structure of our society influences individual behavior, limits and directs the choices we make as individual men and women, and influences our interactions with others as men and women in a variety of settings. Finally, you will have a better sense of steps we can take to work toward true gender equality, as individuals and as members of various social groups to which we belong.

It is important to recognize that although we will spend a great deal of time discussing men's advantages over women, men's subordination of women, men's control over women, etc., that this course is not about placing blame for inequality on individual men (or women, for that matter.) Rather, because this is a sociology course, we will point more to characteristics of our society as awhole to explain gender difference and inequality. To blame men, either as individuals or as a group, for women's position in society is as naive as blaming women's "inferiority" or "individual preferences" for their subordination in society.

Readings and CLass Meetings

Your readings for the course are drawn from a number of different sources, and they are on reserve in the library. The full set of readings is also available to borrow from me for 48-hour periods. I recommend that you make photocopies of each of the readings so you'll have them for reference and so you can highlight, makes notes, etc.

I will spend some of our class time lecturing, but I will not spend a great deal of time reiterating material that is covered in depth in your readings. I will spend more class time asking you to analyze and talk about the material. It is therefore crucial that you complete the assigned reading before every class meeting, and that you read carefully enough to gain a basic understanding of the material. You will likely find some of our readings difficult. Plan on reading some of them two or even three times if necessary, and plan to read with a dictionary nearby so you can look up words that are unfamiliar to you. If you take the time to work through the readings, you'll surely benefit from it. You will enhance your understanding of the material, you will be better prepared to contribute to our class meetings, you will improve your study skills, and you will earn a better grade in the course.

In-Class Assignments

I've planned a variety of in-class activities designed to help you improve your ability to analyze gender issues from a sociological perspective. In many classes, I will ask you to discuss a particular issue or question in small groups, then present your analysis or answer to the rest of the class. In other classes, I will ask you to write individual answers to questions similar to those you are likely to see on examinations. We will also spend some class time discussing your major paper for the class, and you will have the opportunity to get feedback and suggestions on your paper from other students in the class. These activities will generally require you to turn in some written work for a grade, and 15% of your grade for the course will be dependent upon your participation in these activities One grade for in-class activities will be dropped, and your grade will be based on the remaining in-class assignments. Because these assignments are designed to be completed in class, no make-ups are possible. Note that these assignments comprise a substantial proportion of your grade, and missing classes will therefore substantially reduce your grade. Of course, you are also unlikely to do well on exams if you miss a lot of classes, so do your best to attend every class.

Quizzes

To ensure that you are keeping up with the readings, and that you are thinking about the readings before class, we will have at least eight unannounced quizzes, administered at the beginning of class, covering your reading assignments. The quizzes will be brief (usually just one short essay question) and questions will be drawn from the reading assigned for the class period in which the quiz is given. Quiz questions may also require you to draw upon material previously covered. Some of the quizzes will be simple "reading checks" - that is, if you have done the reading you will surely get the correct answer. Other quizzes, later in the semester, will require you to critically analyze the reading rather than to simply recall what you've read. The lowest quiz grade will be dropped, and the average score on the remaining quizzes will count for 20% of your final grade for the course.

Because I don't think it's useful to emphasize memorization in my courses, I will allow you to use notes for these quizzes, provided they are your own notes. No printed or photocopied materials are allowed for the quizzes. In addition to helping you a great deal on the quizzes, having notes from your readings will also help you prepare for exams and to participate in class discussions and exercises. Since taking notes from readings is time consuming, I have provided some suggestions on the last page of this syllabus which should help you use your time more efficiently.

Examinations

There will be two exams during the semester and a comprehensive final exam, consisting mostly or entirely of essay questions. In addition to testing your knowledge of basic facts and concepts, the exams will require that you demonstrate the ability to think sociologically about gender. For example, I may give you a short reading on a gender-related issue that we have not discussed in class and ask you how one or more of the authors we have read would analyze it. This type of question obviously requires that you go beyond memorization and learn how to conduct sociological analysis. You will have the opportunity to practice this new way of thinking by participating in class discussions and other in-class activities described above.

Content Analysis Paper

For your major paper for the course, you will be investigating the way that some form of media portrays gender roles, and thinking about what that tells us about how our society views gender. The paper assignments will be completed in small groups, so that each group of 4-5 students will conduct one research project and produce one final paper. Each group will also prepare two short presentations of the research to be delivered in class, one of these at about mid-semester and the other after your papers are completed. Detailed guidelines for the written and oral components of the assignment will be provided in a separate handout.

You might choose to address questions such as the following: In articles about politicians, do newspapers devote more attention to discussing the physical appearance or family status of women than men? On television, are there more sexist jokes targeting women than men? Do magazine advertisements for various products portray women in sexual poses more than men? What kinds of words to male rap musicians use to describe women, and what kinds of words to women rappers use to describe men? These are just a few examples of the kinds of topics you could select for your papers, and I encourage each group to develop its own research question about a topic that is really interesting to the group.

One important aspect of this assignment is its completion in four stages, which will allow you to receive feedback on your project and address any weaknesses in it prior to completing the final paper. This will undoubtedly help you to complete a better project than if only the final paper were submitted for a grade. Each component of the paper will be graded at the time of its initial submission, and grades will be assigned to individual students so that 50% of your grade is based on the group product and 50% of the grade is based on your individual contribution to the project.

Calculation of Grades Final Grade Scale

First Exam: 10%
Second Exam: 15%
Final Exam: 20%
Reading Quizzes: 20%
In-Class Assignments: 15%
Paper: 20%

A = 93-100
A- = 90-92
B+ = 87-89
B = 83-86
B- = 80-82
C+ = 77-79
C- = 73-76

Policies and Miscellaneous Information

If you have a documented disability and need any special accommodations for classes, testing, etc., please let me know as soon as possible.

If you miss an exam, you will be allowed to take a make-up provided you have informed me before the exam that you will not be there, and you can provide a valid, documented excuse for missing the exam. Make-up exams may differ in content from the original exam. Because quiz questions will be discussed during the class in which the quiz is given, they cannot be made up. If you miss a quiz and have a valid, documented excuse and you have informed me ahead of time that you will not be able to attend class, I will omit that quiz from calculation of your final grade. The same policy holds for missed in-class assignments. Note that quizzes will be administered at the beginning of class, so be sure not to be late! Also note that under no circumstances will a student be allowed to come to class to take the quiz and then leave class early - if you do this, you will receive a zero for the quiz.

A note on "valid" excuses for missing classes or exams: In general, the only excuses I consider to be valid are when there are circumstances beyond your control preventing you from attending class or completing an assignment. So, for example, you should not schedule routine doctor's appointments during class time, nor should you tell your employer that you are available to work during that time. In short, I expect you to make this class your top priority during scheduled class time.

Make sure you save all exams and written assignments that are returned to you in case there is an error in your grade, and so you know where you stand in the course. Keep a copy of all written assignments you hand in, and back up computer files regularly. For each component of your content analysis papers, each group member should be sure to keep a copy of the work submitted, and you should also make copies of my comments on earlier phases of the assignment.

Finally, do not hesitate to see me if you're not doing as well as you'd like to in the course, or if you have questions about anything. If you wait until the end of the semester to see me, I won't be able to help you improve your grade. Remember, it is your responsibility to come to me for help! Also remember that I am available outside of regularly scheduled office hours - you can make an appointment to see me, or you can just stop by anytime.

Schedule of Classes

I like to maintain some flexibility in my course schedule, because this allows us to spend more time on topics you find particularly interesting. This also provides the opportunity for us to address current events relevant to the course that may not appear on the syllabus. For these reasons, the following schedule of classes is only a tentative outline, and may be revised throughout the semester (but I will not change due dates or exams to be any earlier than they are on the syllabus.) All reading assignments will be announced in class, and you should be sure you have the reading assignment for each class even if you have missed the previous class. You can always call or email me to be sure you have the correct assignment.

September

5 Introduction to the course
Studying sex and Gender

7 Caplan, Paula J. and Jeremy B. Caplan. 1999. Thinking Critically About Research on Sex and Gender. New York: Longman. Chapter 1, "Introduction." (You do not need to read the section titled "Outline of the Text" on pages 6-8.)

10 Babbie, Earl. 1999. The Basics of Social Research. Belmont CA: Wadsworth. Chapter

12, "Unobtrusive Research," p. 285-296.

Groups for content analysis papers will be assigned today, and some class time will be provided for you to get to know your group members.

12 Reading assignment: Read the handout on guidelines for the content analysis papers.

Film, Killing Us Softly III

Gender Role Socialization

14 Lips, Hilary M. 1995. "Gender-Role Socialization: Lessons in Femininity." Pp. 128-148 in J. Freeman (Ed.), Women: A Feminist Perspective. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing.

Gender and Social Structure

17 Mills, C. Wright. 1959. "The Sociological Imagination." Pp. 2-12 in A. Inkeles (Ed.), Readings on Modern Sociology. 1966. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

19 Risman, Barbara J. 1998. Gender Vertigo: American Families in Transition. New Haven: Yale University Press. Chapter 2, "Gender as Structure," p. 13-19.

Content Analysis problem statement due.

21 Risman, 1998. Chapter 2, p. 35-44.

24 Risman, 1998. Chapter 2, p. 19-35.

26 Continue discussion of Risman, and question and answer session for exam.

28 First Exam

October

1 Exams returned and class discussion of content analysis papers.

Gender, Work, and Family

3 Thornborrow, Nancy M. and Marianne B. Sheldon. 1995. "Women in the Labor Force." Pp. 197-219 in J. Freeman (Ed.), Women: A Feminist Perspective. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing.

5 Thornborrow and Sheldon continued.

8 No classes - Columbus Day!!

10 Revised problem statements and data collection/coding plans due.
Presentations of problem statements and data collection plans.

12 Presentations of problem statements and data collection plans, continued.

15 Reskin, Barbara and Irene Padavic. 2001. "Sex Differences in Moving Up and Taking Charge." Pp. 253-262 in L. Richardson, V. Taylor, and N. Whittier (Eds.), Feminist Frontiers, Fifth Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill.

17 Hochschild, Arlie and Anne Machung. 2000. "The Second Shift." Pp. 463-470 in A. Minas (Ed.), Gender Basics, Second Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

19 Stone, Linda and Nancy P. McKee. 1999. Gender & Culture in America. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall. Chapter 6, "Gender on the College Campus."

22 Stone and McKee continued.

The Media and Communication

24 Faludi, Susan. 1991. Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women. New York: Crown Publishers. Chapter 6: "Teen Angels and Unwed Witches: The Backlash on TV."

26 Morrison, Toni. 1998. "The Coming of Maureen Peal." Pp. 115-119 in G. Kirk and M. Okazawa-Rey (Eds.), Women's Lives: Multicultural Perspectives. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield.

Content analysis preliminary data analysis due.

29 Henley, Nancy and Jo Freeman. 1995. "The Sexual Politics of Interpersonal Behavior." Pp. 79-91 in J. Freeman (Ed.), Women: A Feminist Perspective. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing.

31 Steinem, Gloria. 2000. "Men and Women Talking." Pp. 333-346 in E. Ashton-Jones, G.A. Olson, and M.G. Perry (Eds.), The Gender Reader, Second Edition. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

November

2 Question and answer session for second exam.

5 Second exam!

7 Instructor out of town - class time for research group meetings.

9 Instructor out of town - class time for research group meetings.

12 No classes - Veteran's Day!!

14 Exams returned and class discussion of content analysis papers.

Relationships and Sexuality

16 Baker, Robert. 2000. "The Language of Sex: Our Conception of Sexual Intercourse." Pp. 277-281 in A. Minas (Ed.), Gender Basics, Second Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

19 Staples, Robert. 2000. "Black Men/Black Women: Changing Roles and Relationships." Pp. 238-248 in A. Minas (Ed.), Gender Basics, Second Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

21 Final papers due today!

23 No classes - Thanksgiving!!

Gender, Violence, and Sexual Harassment

26 Benard, Cheryl and Edit Schlaffer. 2001. "The Man in the Street: Why He Harasses."

Pp. 441-444 in L. Richardson, V. Taylor, and N. Whittier (Eds.), Feminist Frontiers, Fifth Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill.

28 Scully, Diana and Joseph Marolla. 1996. "Convicted Rapists' Vocabulary of Motive: Excuses and Justifications." Pp. 107-116 in P. Cromwell (Ed.), In Their Own Words: Criminals on Crime. Los Angeles, CA: Roxbury.

Toward Gender Equality

30 Risman, Barbara J. 1998. Gender Vertigo: American Families in Transition. New Haven: Yale University Press. Chapter 7: Toward a Dizzy But Liberating Future.

December

3, 5, and 7 Final paper presentations.

10 Question and answer session for final exam.

Final Examinations - At the time I completed your syllabus, the final exam schedule was not yet determined. When the schedule is available, please note the time of your section's final exam, and plan your holiday travels accordingly. You must take the exam in the period scheduled for your section of the course.

Section 1 (meets MWF at 10:00) -
Section 2 (meets MWF at 1:00) -

Tips for Taking Notes from Readings

1. Don't take any notes until you've finished the entire reading assignment.

2. Take notes in your own words, except for important terms. This is important for three reasons: first, it will ensure that you are actually thinking about the material rather than simply copying words from the text. Second, quiz questions must be answered in your own words, or your quiz grades will be substantially reduced. Third, you will end up with fewer notes, which will help you when answering quiz questions and in studying for exams.

3. You should try to limit your notes to about 2 pages of notes for each 10 pages of reading. You should try to reduce this even further for longer readings. For example, for a 30 page reading, try to limit your notes to no more than four pages. Remember that the idea is not to rewrite the entire reading, but to capture the main ideas of a reading in a succinct way that will jog your memory when you review for exams.

4. When you've finished, write a paragraph summarizing the reading without referring back to the text. Try to write this paragraph as if you are summarizing the reading for a friend of yours who did not read it him- or herself. Always be prepared for a quiz question such as, "Briefly summarize the main point (or two or three main points) of this reading in your own words."

5. Go back through the text (this is easier if you've highlighted the important points), and write down important terms, facts, and theoretical explanations, explaining them in your own words. Pay attention to the headings and subheadings authors often include in their writings - they're there to help the reader organize the material and distinguish major points from supporting information.

6. Think about what you've read. For example, think about how the information relates to other information we've covered in the course (similarities, differences, etc.), how it relates to facts and explanations you've heard elsewhere (other classes, popular media, etc.), and so on.

7. If something is not clear to you or if you have any questions about the material or related material, write them down and be sure to ask them in class.

8. I'll be happy to look over your notes if you think you're taking too many or you're missing important information. If you are taking notes but are not doing well on the quizzes, you should definitely come and see me immediately.

Sociology 242, Sex and Gender

Fall 2001 Paper Assignment
Media Immages of Sex and Gender

For this assignment, you will be investigating the way that some form of media portrays gender roles. The assignment requires you, in collaboration with several of your classmates, to conduct a research project using a method called content analysis, which involves the in-depth, systematic examination of some form of media, such as written documents (newspapers, magazines, etc.), televised or filmed images, song lyrics, information from the internet, and so on. The final products of your research will be a paper describing your group's project in detail, and a presentation that you will develop as a group and that will be delivered by one or two of the members of your group.

By completing this assignment, you will achieve several goals. You will learn how to critically analyze the images and ideas about gender that are portrayed in the media, from a sociological perspective. You will learn one method of research that sociologists and other social scientists use, and you'll come to understand how systematic research is different from casual observation. You'll also improve your ability to work effectively with colleagues, to solve problems that may arise when working in groups, and to delegate and accept responsibility for specific pieces of a larger project. Perhaps most importantly, you'll provide an answer to a specific research question that you find interesting, and you'll have the opportunity to share your new knowledge with your classmates.

Procedures

1. Read the chapter on content analysis from Earl Babbie's book, and attend class the day that chapter is discussed.
This chapter provides a good overview of the method and gives some good examples of content analysis. We will also be watching a film in class on September 12, about images of women in advertising, that will provide further examples of analyzing visual images.

2. Get to know your group members and develop a meeting schedule.
I will assign each of you to a research team of four students, and I will provide some class time for you to get to know each other, work out a meeting schedule, and exchange phone numbers and email addresses. You should plan to meet face-to-face at least twice for each phase of the project outlined below, and to supplement these meetings with phone and email conversations. For each of your face-to-face meetings, you are required to take minutes that list present and absent members, summarize the content of the meeting, and include any important information such as how tasks will be divided among group members. Minutes of your meetings must be submitted with each part of the paper assignment as described below.

3. Develop a research question and choose an appropriate form of media from which to collect data.
In collaboration with your research team, you will need to develop a research question. Your general research question is, "What is the predominant image of gender in modern media?" Your group will need to develop its own specific research question to narrow the assignment down a bit. To get ideas, you might want to watch t.v., flip through a few magazines, etc., with an eye toward gender, and you should do this prior to your first formal group meeting so you have some ideas to share with your group.

Some examples of specific topics are:

How do movies (or sitcoms, dramatic television shows, etc.) portray romantic relationships between men and women (or men and other men, etc.)? Who initiates the relationship, and is one person pursuing the other?

How frequently do situation comedies portray problems or disagreements between men and women, compared to the frequency of disagreements between men and other men, or women and other women? Does the nature of the disagreements vary depending on the gender of the characters? How?

What proportion of stories in men's magazines versus women's magazines focus on improving marriages or relationships? (Alternatively, you might focus on what kinds of advice they offer men and women.)

What qualities are those who place personal ads looking for in a date/mate? Does this differ by the gender of the person placing the ad, and/or by the gender of the person they are seeking?

Are gender roles among African Americans on television shows different from those of Whites? In what ways?

What proportion of late-night talk show hosts' monologue jokes are gender related? What proportion of jokes are made at women's expense and what proportion are made at men's expense?

With respect to gender roles, are lyrics in popular music different now compared to lyrics from songs produced 20 years ago? In what ways?

I strongly encourage you to think of your own research question. You will be devoting a substantial amount of time to this project, and if you devise your own question, you will be more interested in it, and it will be a lot more fun for you to determine the answer. Some of the examples above are stated in a fairly general way, so if you choose to use one of these, you should try to develop your own "take" on it. For example, you might choose to analyze some specific aspect of song lyrics, as "gender roles in song lyrics" is a pretty broad category.

4. Select an appropriate sample.
Before you begin data collection, you need to think about how much data you'll need to make a convincing case that your research documents general trends. Even more important, you should try to select a sample that is as unbiased as possible. It is very important in conducting any type of research to be as objective and fair as possible, and you should not set out in your research to prove a particular point that you want to prove. It would be easy enough to find examples of TV shows, for example, that portray women in a very negative light (or in contrast, to find shows that portray women positively and men negatively.) Your goal should be to choose a sample of your selected form of media that is typical for that form of media.

One strategy commonly employed by sociologists to select samples is to sample randomly. This means that each "thing" being selected for study (like each TV show, each newspaper, etc.) has an equal chance of being selected, and the sample will not be biased by things like the researcher's values, the days of the week the researcher likes to watch TV, and so on. One way to do this with television sitcoms, for example, would be to make a list of each sitcom currently being shown on the major networks and choose every fifth show to study.

An alternative strategy would be to use some index of the relative popularity of specific examples of your selected form of media. If you want to compare old movies to new movies, for example, you could get listings of Oscar-winning movies from 1950 and compare them to Oscar winners from 2000. Similarly, you could get circulation statistics from newspapers or magazines, and choose to study the most popular ones. You can also use best-seller lists to select books to analyze. The most important thing to keep in mind in these examples is that the sample is not being selected due to some idiosyncracy of the researcher (you do not have control over what movies win Oscars, for example). Rather, the researcher has made an attempt to select the sample in an objective way, and s/he is able to justify that method of sample selection.

The next sample-related issue to consider is how large your sample should be. It is difficult for me to provide firm guidelines for sample size because your individual projects will vary a great deal. For example, if you were analyzing movies, it would be reasonable to select five or six movies for analysis (10 to 12 hours of viewing time.) However, it would not be reasonable to try to analyze 10 hours of nothing but TV commercials (you'd have hundreds of commercials to analyze, which is much harder than analyzing six movies.) Your sample size will also vary depending on what kind of analysis you're doing - if you're simply recording the products advertised in commercials (like the example Babbie uses in his chapter), you might be able to analyze 100 commercials. However, if you're doing an analysis of dialogue in commercials, this is a much more in-depth study of the medium and will take more work per commercial. Sample size issues are further complicated by the fact that some groups may choose to compare two different forms of media, for example, self-help books and self-help magazine articles.

For these reasons, I am not providing firm sample size guidelines, but rather I'll ask your group to propose what you consider to be a reasonable sample and defend your choice to me. This part of the project will be completed early in the semester, so I will be able to provide feedback to you on your proposed sample.

Another sample-related concern involves the types of comparisons you make in your study. In the social sciences, we generally make comparisons between groups of people to draw conclusions. For example, knowing women's average income is not particularly informative if we do not have men's average income to which to compare it. Similarly, knowing that 42 commercials shown on TV Sunday night depicted beauty products for women doesn't tell us much. We also need to know how many commercials depicted "beauty" products for men in the same time period. If we want to compare men's and women's magazines, we wouldn't want to compare Sports Illustrated to Cosmo, or Gentlemen's Quarterly to Seventeen, because the topics covered and readership of these magazines differ quite a bit. In this example, one way to determine when two magazines are roughly equivalent in readership is to try to find circulation data on the magazine - magazines keep good statistics on readership, because they need this information to sell space to advertisers. With a little research, you can probably find this information for just about any magazine. Each of your research projects will have different kinds of sampling concerns, and I encourage you to spend a good bit of time thinking about sampling before you begin collecting data.

A final point related to both sampling and data analysis is that it is important in this kind of research to think about proportions in addition to raw numbers when making conclusions. For example, if we find that Al Gore spent three minutes discussing gender inequality in his nomination acceptance speech compared to Bush's two minutes, we might conclude that Gore is more concerned with women's issues (or getting women's votes) than Bush is. However, given the same numbers, if we found that Gore's speech was three times longer than Bush's, we might make the opposite conclusion - that Bush actually spent proportionally more time discussing gender issues. A general rule of thumb is to state your results in both numbers and percentages, being careful to calculate appropriate and meaningful percentages.

5. Devise specific measures of your concepts.

In order to collect data systematically, it is necessary to develop very specific measures of your concepts (sociologists call this operationalization.) For example, if you wanted to analyze gender differences in toy advertisements, you should develop a classification scheme for types of toys. For example:

1. Dolls
2. Games
3. Sports
4. Other
mechanical computer games team sports vehicles
non-mechanical noncomputer games individual crafts (model
infant dolls competitive sports building,
juvenile dolls noncompetitive sewing, etc.)
adult dolls
(GI Joe, etc.)

You might want to just use the general classification scheme in recording gender differences, or you could take one subcategory and look for differences within-category. For example, how many boys vs. girls are depicted in ads for infant dolls compared to adult dolls? The specific data you select to analyze will be driven by your research question.

To get started operationalizing your concepts, you should look at some examples of the type of media you select to analyze, and do some brainstorming. I strongly recommend that you do this in collaboration with the other members of your group rather than individually. Because the quality of your data is dependent on the quality of your operationalization, it is crucial that the research team is working with the exact same operationalization. You'll need to ask questions about apparently obvious things (to draw on an example discussed in the Babbie chapter, how do we know when a product is geared toward men rather than women? Can you provide convincing evidence that this is a men's product rather than a women's product?)

In writing this part of your paper, be sure to make it clear what your group's decision rules are for classifying things the way you do, do not just provide examples of things that you've coded one way or another. To draw on the above example, you should not just say "examples of men's products include shaving cream," but you need to explain how you decide that shaving cream is a man's product. In this example, you might base your conclusion on the fact that there is a photo of a man shaving on the front of the can. In this case, you've created a decision rule - any product featuring a man's photo on the label is a man's product. As you can see, the decision rule is more general than an example, and it can therefore be applied to a variety of products including those you have not yet encountered in your data collection efforts. Of course, this rule alone is not sufficient to classify all products as men's or women's, so you will need a whole series of rules that can encompass the range of products you might come across.

6. Collect your data.
Once you have a clear idea of the data you need to collect, you'll need to develop an appropriate means of recording your data. The examples of classification tables in Babbie's chapter will be helpful here. The main thing is that you collect data in an organized, systematic way, and that you can explain your data to me and to other students in the class. As your project progresses, you may decide that you need to revise your data collection scheme (for example, if you notice categories of your variables of interest that you hadn't thought of previously.) This is fine, especially since you'll be completing this project in stages, which allows you to revise and refine your project as you go along.

For those of you doing in-depth analysis of any televised or recorded medium (like song lyrics), I strongly recommend that you record the medium you are analyzing. This is especially important if you're analyzing dialogue, body language, or other information that passes by quickly in "real" time. This will be less important if you are doing a more quantitative analysis (like counting the number of commercials with female "voice-overs") and less qualitative analysis.

7. Analyze your data.
In this stage of your research the main thing to keep in mind is your research question - you're simply looking for the answer to the question. For example, if you were asking whether men placing personal ads were more likely than women to ask for a physically attractive partner, what do your numbers show? What percent of men-seeking-women ads mentioned the appearance of the desired partner, and what percent of women-seeking-men ads mention this?

It is very important to maintain objectivity in this stage of the research - do not only attend to evidence that supports your expectations, and do not make large differences out of small ones. If you found that 70% of men placing ads mention attractiveness compared to 65% of women placing ads, you should probably conclude that there is little to no difference between men and women in this regard. Remember that you do not need to find clear evidence for your expectations in order to do a good project - not finding what you expected to find is just as interesting as finding it, and just as informative.

Most of you will be presenting your findings in numeric form (counting instances of one or more things), so you should include a summary table in your paper. I'm not too concerned with the format of this table, but you should be sure to make it clear and understandable. While your papers must be typed, typing tables can be a pain so I will not require that your tables are typed, provided they are very neatly written.

8. Write about the sociological relevance of your research and findings.
I've listed this last because this part of your final paper will be the last section of the paper. However, you should be thinking sociologically about your research from the beginning, when you are formulating your research question. The general rule of thumb for this part of your project is that you can show me that your project relates to material we have covered in the course. Obviously, this will be easier for you once we have gotten through the material, but I've included below some examples of questions you should start thinking about from the beginning stages of your projects. Keep in mind that not all of the empirical issues will be relevant to all of your projects, but you should all address the theoretical questions listed below. This section of your paper is very important, because in it you will demonstrate what you've learned both in class and in conducting your research. Do not treat this section merely as a brief summary of what you found - I'll be looking for some real sociological analysis here. Of course, you are in no way limited to the questions listed below. Feel free to be creative in this section, and be sure to address issues that are important to your specific research question.

Empirical Issues:
What can this project/my findings tell us about U.S. culture's views on men and women? What are their positive and negative qualities? What kinds of work are men and women best and least suited for? Are men and women admired for different traits, abilities, and behavior, or are some traits/behaviors admired in men but not women, and vice versa?

Theoretical Issues:
What are the consequences of the media's portrayal of gender, if any? Does the media really have a socializing influence on children and/or adults in our society? If so, how do we know this? How does your form of media fit into Barbara Risman's scheme of gender as structure? Does the media influence our social institutions or interactional expectations in any way? Does the media influence our social structure, does it merely reflect it, or both? Whether or not you believe that the media has an influence on our society, do you think we should make efforts to change the media's images of gender and/or sexuality? Why or why not?

Schedule of Assignments and Grading Breakdown
Your individual final grades for each phase of the project (including presentations) will come 50% from the group grade on that section of the project and 50% from your individual contribution to that section of the project. I will assess your individual contribution using the minutes of group meetings and my own observations (including, for example, which members deliver the presentations in class.) I expect in most cases that your individual grade will be the same as the group grade.

September 19 - Problem Statement Due (10% of final paper grade.)
This is where you will first describe your research question, discuss the form of media you will analyze, propose an appropriate sample for study, and explain what you expect to find in your research (this is your hypothesis.) See numbers 3 and 4 above for additional details. As you prepare your problem statement, try to think of it as "selling" me on your project - why is this a useful or important question to address? What is its sociological relevance? Why is your sample an adequate one? Why do you think you'll find what you expect to find?

Throughout the project, you should try to write "scientifically" - be straightforward, to the point, and very clear. For this part of the assignment, I'd recommend that you begin your paper with the following phrase: "Our research question is..." This should be about one to two pages, typed and double-spaced. Remember to submit the minutes of your group's meetings with your papers.

Remember that the main reason for doing your project in stages is to get feedback on earlier stages to improve the final product. Thus, the more you submit for grading, the more feedback you can get, and the better your final paper will be.

October 10 - Revised Problem Statements and Data Collection/Coding Plans Due (10% of final paper grade.)
In this stage of your project, you should address any weaknesses in your initial problem statement and provide a rewritten problem statement section. You should also now have a plan for operationalizing your variables and collecting data. See numbers 5 and 6 above for further guidelines. It is important that you be very specific in your papers regarding operationalization - again, remember that the more information you give me, the more I can help you with your projects. You must also submit whatever "instrument" you have created to record your data (see Babbie, page 289, Figure 12-1 for an example.) Papers that lack sufficient detail at this stage will not receive a very good grade for this part of the project, and I may ask you to rewrite this section of the paper before you begin collecting data.

This section should be about two pages, typed and double-spaced, not including your data recording sheet or the rewritten problem statement sections. The recording sheet need not be typed, provided it is neatly written.

October 10-12 - Presentation of Data Collection Plans (5% of final paper grade.)
In addition to preparing the written data collection and coding plan described above, each group should prepare a short, 4 to 5 minute presentation of their research question and plans for collecting data. Each group will need to select one presenter, but the presentation notes must be developed by the research team as a whole. Each presentation will be evaluated by the other students in the class, and the class will provide feedback and suggestions on both the presentation and the quality of the research design. This will give you the opportunity to practice developing and giving a presentation that should help you in preparing your final presentation. Your research will also undoubtedly benefit by the suggestions made by other students in the class. I will distribute a detailed list of criteria that I will use to grade your presentations that will help you develop a clear, interesting, effective presentation.

October 26 - Revised Data Collection/Coding Plans and Preliminary Data Analysis Due (10% of final paper grade.)
As you work on this part of the assignment, you will be refining your data collection plan and means of recording data. See numbers 6 and 7 above for details. You should think of your initial data collection as kind of a "pretest" of your plan to collect data. It is likely that you'll find collecting and coding data to be harder than you previously thought. Often, we find that it's not that easy to classify things as falling into one category versus another, and despite a lot of planning, we have to go back and revise our coding strategy. What I want to see in this part of your paper assignment is the actual data recording instrument with the data you have collected thus far as well as a summary table of the data (these are equivalent to Babbie's Figures 12-1 and 12-2). It is important that you not try to get too much of a jump on your final project in terms of data collection before getting feedback on your preliminary data, so resist the temptation to get this part of the final paper done early.

In addition to the data and summary table, you should write a description of your data collection procedures, including any difficulties you've come across during the data collection (about one page, but this will vary by the project.) You should also conduct a preliminary analysis of your data - thus far, are you finding what you expected to find? Are there clear patterns at this point, and if so, what are they? Be sure to support your statements with specific evidence from your data, whether or not you have found clear patterns in your data. This data analysis section for this part of the paper should be about one or two pages (not including the page in which you describe your procedures.)

November 21 - Final Papers Due (50% of total final paper grade), Group Evaluation Forms Due
This is where you bring all of the pieces together, addressing any weaknesses in your previous work, presenting your complete data in an organized table, and completing the analysis section of the paper. See numbers 7 and 8 above. You should probably have about 2 pages describing your results, and another 2 pages or so analyzing your results sociologically.

December 3, 5, and 7 - Final Presentations (15% of final paper grade.)
Each group should prepare a 10-minute presentation of the completed research project. Each component of the research should be explained, from the initial idea for the project and its sociological relevance through the final data analysis and conclusions. You must use at least one visual aid to present the numeric results of your study to the class. Your group should designate one or two speakers for the group (no more than two), but the presentation must be prepared by the group as a whole. As with the initial presentation, these will be evaluated by the class as a whole and I will distribute a list of criteria that I will use to grade the presentations.

Important Notes:

I am willing to read drafts of final papers, as well as earlier phases of your project, provided you give me enough time before the due date to read them and get back to you with feedback.

I am also willing to meet with you at any time during the semester if you have questions or problems with the paper, or if you just want to "kick around" ideas you have for the paper.

Although not a requirement for the paper, you might want to find examples of content analyses published in sociological journals to give you some ideas on various parts of your project. If you do draw on ideas published by others, you MUST CITE YOUR SOURCES in your papers or it is considered plagiarism, a violation of academic honesty standards. Please see me for instructions on how to cite sources.

You must submit all previous work on your paper with your final papers! If you are in the habit of losing things, I will be glad to keep your drafts in my office if you provide me with copies of them.

Format for the Final Paper

1. Papers must be typed and double-spaced (with the exception of the presentation of your results, which may be neatly handwritten.)

2. Papers must include all of the parts of the paper listed above, including a table presenting your results.

3. You must include a title page with the names of all of your group members, the course number and section, and the title of your project (you should include this for all parts of the paper that you submit for a grade.) Papers must be stapled.

4. Minutes of each group meeting must be submitted with each section of the paper you submit for grading. You must also submit an evaluation form for each of your fellow group members on the due date for the final paper.

5. Papers should be well-written, free of excessive grammatical errors, and free of excessive typographical errors. Use the spell checker in your word processing program, they really do catch most spelling errors.

6. I generally accept late papers, but I grade down at the rate of one letter grade per day late. Papers are due at the beginning of class - papers submitted later in the day on the due date are considered late, and will be graded down by one-half letter grade. If you are unable to complete your paper by the due date due to circumstances beyond your control, please call or email me.

7. I am not setting any firm length guidelines, but final papers should be around 10 pages long, not including earlier drafts or your table(s).

Guidelines for Working Effectively in Small Groups
Part of the purpose of this assignment is to help you improve your ability to work on group projects. Many of you will have occupations that require effective teamwork, and effective teamwork includes dealing with problems that are sure to arise in group settings. When you have a career later in life, you will be working with the following types of people:

1) The anal retentive go-getter - this person gets everything done early, is always 5 minutes early for meetings, and gets frustrated when someone else is just on time. She is a valuable addition to any group project because she gets her work done. However, she sometimes tends not to take criticism of her work or her ideas well, and may try to "take over" a project that is supposed to be a joint effort.

2) The lazy procrastinator - this person is not very highly motivated to get work done, and may not be very interested in the project. He resents having to have meetings, and he may not show up for meetings at all, usually offering a lame excuse for missing them. He may complete sections of the project that are assigned to him, but it will often be work of fairly low quality, reflecting minimal time and effort expended to get the work done. This is unfortunate, because the lazy procrastinator could make a real contribution to the group if he put a little effort into it.

3) The self-important overcommitter - this person has much more important things to do than work on your group project. Anyone who has any brains could see that she is a very "in-demand" person, between work, her other classes, etc. She may get the work done, but she will complain bitterly about having to spend the time on such a trivial matter. She makes scheduling meetings very difficult because of all of her other, more important responsibilities (or because she doesn't want to have to drive back to campus to meet when everyone else is available.) She is the most likely candidate to be taking calls on her cell phone during group meetings.

4) The absent-minded professor - this guy means well, and is interested in the project, but he's really flaky. He will forget what he's agreed to do, may forget meetings, and may hold up the group's project as a result. Taking minutes of meetings is very important when you have an absent- minded professor in the group, to remind him of what he's supposed to do. (But don't let him record and keep the minutes, because he'll probably lose them.)

5) The social butterfly - this person is firmly convinced that socializing with friends is more important than work. He does his work, but only if his social calendar has an opening. He will sometimes take up the first half-hour of a group meeting talking about what he did last night or what he's going to do this weekend. This person is sometimes a candidate for "name dropping," wanting to be sure that everyone knows how popular he is. He makes it important that there is someone responsible for getting the official business of meetings started, and for getting the group back on track when the conversation wanders to matters that are not related to the project.

6) The person with issues - she is preoccupied with problems and other things going on in her life, and has a hard time focusing on the work at hand. She threatens to turn group discussions into therapy sessions by relating everything the group brings up to issues going on in her own life. She's another good reason to have someone responsible for keeping meetings focused on the task at hand.

7) The wallflower - she's the shy type, and will rarely offer an opinion about anything during group meetings. She prefers to stay quiet and go along with the group's ideas, even if she knows they're bad ideas. The problem is that she has really good ideas and suggestions, she's just too shy to share them with the group.

8) The ideal colleague - this person is the most valuable group member to have. He is willing to be flexible in scheduling meetings, and never misses one (but if some emergency arises, he calls the other group members to let them know that he can't be there.) He keeps up with his own responsibilities in the project, and he's also very good about checking in with other group members between meetings to see how everyone is making out (and to remind the absent-minded professor of what he is supposed to do.) He enjoys chatting with his research team before meetings, but doesn't tolerate excessive chit-chat before or during the meeting. He also doesn't like to sit around and complain about having to do the project, realizing that complaining doesn't do anything except set a negative tone for the meeting. He does good work, but he can handle criticism of his work or ideas well, realizing that not everyone sees things the same way he does. He is good at offering constructive criticism of others' work, and treats other group members with respect at all times. He is also very focused on the overall goal of the group, and keeps up with requirements of projects and their due dates. Everybody likes him!

You should recognize that each of us at times resembles each of these "types" of people, so don't be too quick to pass judgement on the other members of your research team. It's also better to think about how you'll handle potential problems with your group members before they arise, and to develop a set of group norms along with sanctions that might be imposed if the norms are violated.

I encourage you to work out any problems that may arise in your group among yourselves as much as possible. You should see me, however, if repeated attempts to work out problems have failed. In extreme situations, you do have the option to expel a member of your group. However, if you are considering doing this, your group must give the member in question a warning, and I must be informed if any such warning is given. In the unlikely event that your group expels you, you will be responsible for completing a paper and presentations individually.

You should be sure to keep copies of important documents that are produced by the group or its members. This is essential to be sure that everyone is "on the same page" with the project and in the event that one group member loses something important (in particular, your earlier sections of papers that have my comments on them.)

As I note previously, I recommend that you schedule at least two face-to-face group meetings for each phase of the project. It would also be a good idea for each group to set up an email mailing list, so that communication between any two group members will be forwarded to all members of the group. This can also come in handy if you have a question about your part of the project and want to post a question for the group as a whole. If you send email to me with a question about the project, it is a good idea to copy the question to the whole group, then I can respond to the whole group at the same time. My email address is Costello@uri.edu, and I check email several times a day and usually over the weekend as well. Remember that email is also useful for exchanging documents - group members should be checking each other's work, and emailing documents as attachments is a useful way to do this (but be sure you all have compatible word processing programs first.)






Sociology 242, Sex and Gender

Fall 2001

In-Class Assignment, October 26

Read the attached article titled "Women finally proving tough enough for television," and in collaboration with your group members, write a response to the article from Susan Faludi's perspective. You should draw not only on the article, but also on any knowledge of these shows you may have from watching them.

To what extent are the article's claims accurate, that women are being portrayed as powerful characters more often? Are there still elements of stereotypical portrayal in the characters mentioned in the article? How well does the article argue against Faludi's view that women who are "too masculine" are not portrayed on television? How well does the article argue against the claim that single and career women are at the bottom of the female hierarchy on television? Does the article address Faludi's claim that working mothers are presented as "incompetent, miserable, or neglectful"?

Some additional issues to think about with regard to your papers for this class are the claims made in the article and in Faludi's book about why Hollywood producers create the kinds of shows they do, what advertising has to do with this, and what influence viewers have over the kinds of shows produced.

Women finally proving tough enough for television

By Joanne Ostrow

Denver Post TV/Radio Critic

Sunday, September 02, 2001 - They are gorgeous kung fu masters, kick boxing and firing semi-automatics without breaking a nail. This fall on the major networks, a squadron of sexy, brawny female TV protagonists will use their fists to vanquish their mostly male antagonists.

So much for past seasons' "Providence" and "Judging Amy"-type midlife career women moving home to explore family roots. These women would rather fight than switch. Consider these examples:

Sydney's boyfriend can't understand why she has a secretive side. After disclosing she is not only a grad student but an undercover CIA agent, Sydney (Jennifer Garner) in ABC's "Alias" returns from an overseas assignment to find he has been "neutralized," butchered in a bathtub. She's alone, a reluctant agent between classes.

On ABC's "Thieves," a pair of professional crooks (Melissa George, John Stamos) end up in bed as flirting rivals. Once they are pressed into service for the U.S. government, they are forced to be a team, arguing all the way.

Then there's Alex (Vera Farmiga), on NBC's "UC: Undercover," typically seen diving sideways across the screen in slow motion while firing a gun, wearing a black leather jacket and micro-miniskirt. The idea is, she's one of the boys, and some.

Jill Hennessy ("Law & Order") gets her own series this year, NBC's "Crossing Jordan," as a medical examiner with a penchant for solving cases. Jordan (Hennessy) is a woman of science who's not afraid to get physical. After flirting with the male guest star through the first half of the pilot, she slaps a pair of handcuffs on the bum as he lies on his back at the height of a romantic scene.

These newcomers join primetime martial-arts veterans "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" on UPN and Max, the genetically altered "Dark Angel" on Fox, bringing some equality to TV's violent tendencies.

What do women want? Apparently, a piece of the action. It all adds up to a new wave of kung-fu keister-kicking women on the small screen. Part of the reason for the spate of shows is TV serving its role as fantasy machine, said Meg Moritz, associate dean of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Colorado-Boulder. "TV is not the world as it is, but the world as we would like it to be," she said. "Instead of being on the Slim-Fast diet, you're a lean, mean fighting machine like this woman you see on television," said

Of course, the presence of lethally powerful women on TV is nothing new. All of this fall's characters can trace their lineage to Emma Peel, Xena, even Charlie's Angels. But why are so many tough-and-sexy women - several with traditionally male names like Sydney, Jordan, Alex and Max - showing up now? "My guess is there are a lot of cues in the larger culture," Moritz added. From "Annie Get Your Gun" in revival on Broadway to "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" on the big screen; from the Powerpuff Girls in animation to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in Congress; from Brandi Chastain, Mia Hamm and Lisa Leslie to the anonymous women in sneaker ads - the cultural cues point to strong women.

"There's an anxiety building over women and their power. These shows may be reflecting that anxiety," said Sheila Schroeder, a lecturer in mass communications and journalism at the University of Denver whose specialty is women in sports. "Any time a group starts to garner power, we see it come out in anxious ways on TV."

Hollywood traditionally mirrors what's going on within the culture, sometimes unconsciously. But nothing motivates the industry like the bottom line. Television programmers know women make the vast majority of the household buying decisions. As Nike ads attest, sex sells and sexy female heroes sell, too.

Maybe TV's new women warriors represent a cultural reverberation tracing to the instant soccer's Chastain ripped off her shirt after winning the World Cup. Was that the moment that made the power of women's bodies ripe for drama?

More likely, TV is just cashing in on the box-office success of "Crouching Tiger" and taking "Buffy" to an older demo. Even Madonna, more accustomed to starting than following a trend, couldn't resist paying homage to the martial arts boom with a dancing-fighting bit of choreography that had her on a wire harness during her recent concert tour.

In purest TV terms, eye candy explains a lot. As UPN's Dean Valentine observed in reference to "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," men and women alike enjoy the sight of beautiful babes acting tough in dramatic smackdowns.

Whatever the causes, television has embraced the notion and concocted a new batch of TV heroines to pummel their mostly male antagonists. A month from now, viewers will be oversaturated with prime-time heroines who launch themselves in the air, twirl at the speed of light, lash out with a boot and bring oversized opponents to the ground. True to a long line of TV action heroines, Wonder Woman through "La Femme Nikita," the new fatal femmes don't take flak from anyone. Performing airborne 360s, they defy gravity - and authority. But unlike the earlier cartoonish super-powered women or teenage witches, the new crop is down-to-earth, trained in martial arts, confident with explosives, techno-savvy and willing to step outside the law. They're deadly serious, closer cousins to Nikita than to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

For the performers, all this action is a welcome departure. Vera Farmiga, who plays Alex Cross, the federal undercover agent on NBC's "UC: Undercover," told critics she feels empowered. "It's my turn to play Donnie Brasco instead of Donnie Brasco's wife," Farmiga said, referring to the 1997 mob film. "It's a chance for me as a woman to play the undercover agent."

Television always has excelled at wish fulfillment: The tube is where we go to escape the mundane reality of our lives. The industry strives to deliver a fantasy that works for marketing purposes. So, at least part of this trend has to be attributed to the networks' goal of attracting female viewers. "Women have a long history of wanting to see women who are empowered, in contemporary terms, women who are in control," said CU's Moritz. "So much of contemporary life makes us aware how little control we do have." Like Ginger Rogers, these women do everything their heroic male counterparts do, only backward and in high heels.

But wait. Who's in charge here? A disturbing aspect of this trend is the fact these TV women warriors all work for men. Moreover, they were created by male writer-producers.

TV women are racing sports cars, dodging bullets and knocking off adversaries, but men are still pulling the strings. Female creator-producers have been more likely to come up with the "Gilmore Girls" nonaction dramas. How much of the trend can be attributed to male fantasies?

The most improbable tough female on the lineup is the grad student who happens to be a top-secret CIA agent on ABC's "Alias." Sydney Bristow seems to drop into foreign embassies between classes, costumed to draw maximum attention. She is the creation of J.J. Abrams, whose previous college girl, "Felicity," actually was rooted on campus. Abrams said he got the idea "in the "Felicity' writers' room. I thought, what if Felicity were recruited by the CIA and she couldn't tell Noel? ... It wouldn't leave me alone." He knew the concept was far-fetched, but so what?

As always, TV's inventions bubble up - perhaps unconsciously - from the broader culture. In that sense, Abrams' invention probably was inevitable. From the academic viewpoint, the idea of a CIA agent-grad student, a woman trained by the government to perform as a killer, resonates with current events. CU's Moritz finds it "a great way to rewrite the history of Monica Lewinsky and Chandra Levy." In the dramatic TV retelling of those recent cultural landmarks, Moritz added, "the interns actually are winning."

Ultimately, most of these shows will fail while a few find a niche, as "Dark Angel" has on Fox. TV's proto-Catwoman, Max (Jessica Alba), will see more bio- and genetic science-fiction this season. Max is "genetically enhanced" with feline DNA that makes her super strong, with soaring, death-defying abilities. "Dark Angel" director James Cameron ("Titanic") acknowledges that action isn't enough to carry the series; the story has to progress beyond admiring the female lead's physical toughness. Outlining upcoming changes, he noted Max's journey in the first season was toward finding her own moral compass. Next, Cameron said, she will become part of a persecuted minority. "It's not just about, is she going to run up against somebody whose butt she can't kick? I mean, we like to see Max in action," Cameron said. "But there's a whole other set of conflicts going on on another level. The writing team is always looking for ways to push those buttons."






Sociology 242, Sex and Gender

Fall 2000

In-Class Assignment, The Interactional Level of Analysis

Read the attached article, from the URI Pacer, and answer the questions below. Your group should write one set of answers and you should include each group member's name on your paper.

1. What are some of the differences in the way each Excellence Award winner is characterized, in terms of their job performance, personality, etc.? Be sure to list some of the exact terms used in the article to support your answer.

2. How is the description of each award winner gendered?

3. What would Barbara Risman's perspective be on each of these descriptions? How do these descriptions exemplify Risman's interactional level of analysis, and what are the consequences of these gendered descriptions for our expectations of men and women at work? How do they maintain gender inequality?

4. To what extent do you think these descriptions differ because of the gender of the award winners, and to what extent do they differ because of the different nature of the position each person occupies at work?

URI Foundation Excellence Award Winners

Administrative Excellence

Jonathan Blaney is a man who wears many hats. In a typical day, he takes on the role of business manager of the College of Arts and Sciences, computer technician, building manager, systems manager and many more. As the "go-to" guy for the largest college in the University, Jon always finds innovative solutions for a wide variety of problems.

It is not unusual to see him rescuing a computer that was deemed irreparable or helping any of the 25 department chairs with his extensive knowledge of budget accounting, purchasing, and personnel procedures.

Examples of his ingenuity are everywhere, from the dressmaker patterns he located for URI's Commercial Pattern Archive to the entire Psychology Department's computer network. As one of his grateful colleagues said, "He is a team player who is always ready to go the extra yard to make us and the University look great."

Staff Excellence

Within the bustling community of URI's Honors Program, secretary Deborah Gardiner is an island of calm. With efficiency and a bright smile, she tackles a variety of activities from helping to plan large-scale events like the Honors Colloquium to coordinating the schedules of the 33 faculty members and more than 400 students in the program, to the simple things, like making sure her trademark candy dish is always full. Balancing a workload that has more than tripled in the past three years has only made Deborah shine brighter. There is never a problem she can't fix or a deadline she can't meet. As one honors student said, "Not only is Debbie the cornerstone of the Honors Center, she is also responsible for the thriving life of the Honors Program, devoting her time, effort, support, kindness and generosity to those who spend years or even just a few hours on the second floor of Lippitt Hall."






Sociology 242, Sex and Gender

Fall 2001, Final Examination

Answer each of the following questions in your blue books. For question 3, please label each part of your answer (a and b), and be sure to answer all parts of each question.

Question 1 - 40 points

Read the article titled, "Moms need dads to halve it all." Comment on the article from Risman's perspective. Your answer should incorporate a discussion of Risman's three levels of analysis, and it should demonstrate that you understand why Risman uses these levels of analysis. Your answer should also include a discussion of what Risman would say about the solutions proposed to this "supermom's" problems - would she think that they are useful? That they are sufficient? Finally, your answer should demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the "work and family" section of the course in addition to Risman's particular perspective.

Question 2 - 20 points

Read the article titled, "Women 'hear' with whole brain, study says." Name and describe at least three concepts in the article that were discussed in this course, and clearly explain how each concept is exemplified by using evidence from the article to support your arguments.

Question 3 - 30 points

On the first day of class, I read some "blonde jokes" to you and asked you why these jokes are acceptable in our society when jokes about racial/ethnic/religious minority groups are not. Now that you've completed the course, you're in a much better position to answer this question. Drawing explicitly on material we have covered in this course, provide an answer to these questions. I've included some examples of these jokes below, which I retrieved from a website, and which I reproduced verbatim for the exam.

a) What are the cultural images of women that are invoked in these jokes? What concepts that we've covered in the course can be used to describe the image of or attitudes toward women in our society?

b) Why is it more acceptable to make jokes about women than it is to make jokes about other kinds of minority groups? Note that it is not acceptable to answer this question by "passing the buck" to the media for causing these kinds of attitudes towards women, because the question remains as to why we find that sort of image in the media to be acceptable.

Sorry about these jokes, some of them are pretty bad!






Sociology 242, Sex and Gender

Fall 2001, Final Examination

Answer each of the following questions in your blue books. For question 3, please label each part of your answer (a and b), and be sure to answer all parts of each question.

Question 1 - 40 points

Read the article titled, "Moms need dads to halve it all." Comment on the article from Risman's perspective. Your answer should incorporate a discussion of Risman's three levels of analysis, and it should demonstrate that you understand why Risman uses these levels of analysis. Your answer should also include a discussion of what Risman would say about the solutions proposed to this "supermom's" problems - would she think that they are useful? That they are sufficient? Finally, your answer should demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the "work and family" section of the course in addition to Risman's particular perspective.

Question 2 - 20 points

Read the article titled, "Women 'hear' with whole brain, study says." Name and describe at least three concepts in the article that were discussed in this course, and clearly explain how each concept is exemplified by using evidence from the article to support your arguments.

Question 3 - 30 points

On the first day of class, I read some "blonde jokes" to you and asked you why these jokes are acceptable in our society when jokes about racial/ethnic/religious minority groups are not. Now that you've completed the course, you're in a much better position to answer this question. Drawing explicitly on material we have covered in this course, provide an answer to these questions. I've included some examples of these jokes below, which I retrieved from a website, and which I reproduced verbatim for the exam.

a) What are the cultural images of women that are invoked in these jokes? What concepts that we've covered in the course can be used to describe the image of or attitudes toward women in our society?

b) Why is it more acceptable to make jokes about women than it is to make jokes about other kinds of minority groups? Note that it is not acceptable to answer this question by "passing the buck" to the media for causing these kinds of attitudes towards women, because the question remains as to why we find that sort of image in the media to be acceptable.

Sorry about these jokes, some of them are pretty bad!

How is a blonde like peanut-butter? They spread for the bread.

What do you call a blond mother-in-law? An air bag.

What's the mating call of the blonde? "I'm *sooo* drunk!"

What is the mating call of the ugly blonde? (Screaming) "I said: I'm drunk!"

What's the mating call of the brunette? "All the blondes have gone home!"

What's the mating call of the redhead? "Next!"

What is the difference between a dead blonde in the road, and a dead skunk in the road? There are skid marks in front of the skunk.

What's the difference between a blonde and a brick? When you lay a brick it doesn't follow you around for two weeks whining.

How do you plant dope? Bury a blonde.

How do you tell when a blonde reaches orgasm? Who cares?

How do you drown a blond? Put a mirror at the bottom of the pool.

How do you describe a blonde, surrounded by drooling idiots? Flattered.

Why do blondes have vaginas? So guys will talk to them at parties.

What do you call a brunette and three blondes on a corner? You don't, you see if you've got 3 condoms.

Did you hear about the new epidemic among blondes? It's called MAIDS - if they don't get one, they die.

Did you hear about the blond with a Masters degree in Psychology? She'll blow your mind, too.

What's the difference between a blonde and your job? Your job still sucks after 6 months.

When does a brunette have 1/2 of a brain? After a dye job.



Question 4 - 10 points

It is less common for women than men to go out to dinner at a nice restaurant, or to go out for a drink, or even to a movie, by themselves (without a date or friends with them.) Why is this? You should be able to give three reasons, and each of these should draw on material we have covered in this course.

Moms Need Dads to 'Halve It All'

Providence Journal, November 26, 2000, "Parenting" Column

By Beverly Mills and Betsy Flagler

Question from "A grandmother in Wake Forest, N.C."

"My grandchildren are 9, 5, and 2. After my daughter-in-law picks them up from daycare and after-school care, the younger two are whiny and demanding. The 9-year-old escapes outside and forgets his homework unless his mom stays after him. She's trying to make dinner, sign off on homework and keep the children happy. Often my son isn't yet home from work to help. Any tips to reduce the stress?"

Supermom needs a new job description. "Why wouldn't be stressed trying to deal with three tired children while making dinner at the same time?," says Francine M. Deutsch, author of Halving it All: How Equally Shared Parenting Works (Harvard University Press.)

A new Census Bureau report shows that U.S. families in which both parents work at least part time have become the majority - 51 percent - among married couples with children. "In these days of dual-earner working couples, it is essential that dad play a bigger role at home," Deutsch says. "Children benefit a lot more from two involved parents than from one overworked supermom."

Mom's solo juggling act after work gets out of hand partly because kids tend to store up their intense feelings and fall apart when a parent shows up. "Lucky me," one mother quips. A Middletown, N.J. mother of two is one of several readers who have found ways to ease the transition each evening. "My 7-year-old and 4-year-old are always needy after child care. As much as they like school or daycare, it's stressful," she says. "When they come home, they need attention. I never try to do anything productive like cook dinner right away. I sit down, hug them and ask them about their day."

Other tips from parents:

- Double-cook recipes and freeze half, and plan meals or cook ahead on weekends.

- Give the kids a healthy snack on the drive home to curb whining.

- Arrange for the 9-year-old to do homework at after-school care.

Or how about staying home while the kids are young or working part time, suggest some readers, including Lisa Black of Allen, Texas. "Before she says she can't afford it, have her add up all her work-related expenses, including child care, clothing, gas and lunches," Black says. "Then have her look at her paycheck and see if she's really earning enough to justify everything she deals with at the end of a workday."

Other ideas from experts: Look into flexible hours, suggests Nancy Collamer, a career counselor for women. "In today's tight job market, more employers are offering on-the-job flexibility," says Collamer, whose Web site is www.jobsandmoms.com. "Perhaps she could start 30 minutes earlier and leave 30 minutes earlier to take the edge off the end-of-the-day rush. Or she might be able to leave a full hour earlier three days a week and do work from home."

One mom found that cutting her workweek to 32 hours enabled her to avoid rush-hour traffic and to pick up her 10-year-old earlier.

If you want to reduce your hours or seek a flex-time schedule, present a thorough, written proposal to your boss, suggests consultant Pat Katepoo. Emphasize the business benefits, not family needs, says Katepoo, who offers more tips at www.workoptions.com.

Both mom and dad need to make adjustments to reduce the stress, says Deutsch, who interviewed 150 couples for Halving It All. "Many of the men I interviewed negotiated with their employers so they could get home from work earlier so dinner and child care could be a joint enterprise," says Deutsch, a professor of psychology and education at Mount Holyoke College. "If that's not possible, some nights dad could make dinner in advance for the next day. Takeout food also is a great stress relief."

*************

Women 'Hear' with Whole Brain, Study Says:
Blood flow research designed to help surgeons shows yet another difference in the way the genders process information.

By Robert Lee Hotz, Los Angeles Times

Providence Journal, November 29, 2000

Confirming what many women have long suspected, new brain research released yesterday shows that men give only half a mind to what they hear, listening with just one side of their brains while women use both. This latest insight into the oldest of humanity's differences - gender - doesn't say who is a better listener. But, using a brain-scanning technique called functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), the word does highlight the difference in neural activity between men and women listening to someone read aloud.

Conducted by researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine, the new study is the latest addition to a growing catalog of research suggesting that the mental divide between the sexes is more complex and more rooted in the fundamental biology of the brain than many scientists had once suspected. "As scientists, we're figuring out what normal is, and more and more often it seems that normal for men may be different than normal for women," said Indiana radiologist Dr. Michael Phillips, co-author of the study.The findings were presented yesterday at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago. The research also has been submitted to the journal Radiology.

Understanding whether or not differences in mental capacity or intellectual ability can be attributed to gender has long confounded scientists, parents, educators and equal-rights activists. Men's and women's brains are more alike than not, but they are definitely not the same - in size, sense, or sensibilities.

Now reliable studies of metabolic and structural brain organization are offering scientists evidence of how men and women may differ mentally, often in ways that buck prejudices. A growing library of medical scans captures the signs of mental activity in living brains. Men and women show significant differences in certain brain areas that are linked to how people think and experience emotions, mathematical reasoning, spatial relations, perceptual speed and even sense of color and sound. Whatever they are doing, women seem to activate more neurons than men.

Some of those differences appear to evolve throughout a lifetime. The brains of aging men and women have significant structural and functional differences, recent research reveals. Men's brains are larger but are more damaged by the aging process; women's brains seem to work more efficiently and appear to age more successfully.

In the new Indiana study, researchers used the brain scanner to study 10 men and 10 women - all healthy - as they listened to a John Grisham novel read aloud. The fMRI scanner highlights activity in the brain by measuring high-speed changes in neural blood flow. The radiologists were hoping to develop a simple test to identify critical language areas in those about to undergo brain surgery, to help surgeons avoid damaging certain areas. Instead, they found what appears to be another difference in neural activity between women and men.

As they listened, a majority of the men showed exclusive activity in the temporal lobe on the left side of the brain, which is associated with listening and speech. The majority of women showed activity in the temporal lobe on both sides of the brain, although predominantly on the left.

"Our research suggests language processing is different between men and women, but it doesn't necessarily mean performance is going to be different," said Indiana radiologist and co- author Dr. Joseph T. Lurito. "We don't know if the difference is because of the way we're raised, or if it's hard-wired in the brain."

The Indiana finding follows a 1995 study by Yale University researchers Sally and Bennett Shaywitz, who discovered that females appear to draw on both sides of their brains when they read, rhyme or engage in other verbal tasks. In contrast, males draw only on brain regions in the left hemisphere.

Whatever the biological reason for this difference, it may account for the fact that girls usually speak sooner than boys, learn to read more easily and have fewer learning disorders, several experts suggest. Women often also recover their speech abilities more quickly than men after strokes that damage language areas in the left hemisphere of the brain, suggesting they can more readily draw on other portions of their brains to compensate.

Some of these gender differences in adults may be no more than the physical end result of social conditioning about sexual roles that begins in infancy. Throughout development, the neurons that make up the brain are remarkably sensitive to such outside influences, some researchers suggest. At the same time, the biochemistry of gender itself also influences how many genes are activated or are regulated, altering the course of neural development.

NEWS FROM FACULTY SENATE

EVALUATION REPORT PROVOST DEHAYES posted 9/18/14

 

Michael W. Honhart, Professor of History 2014 Recipient of the Sheila Black Grubman Faculty Outstanding Service Award

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