Reflection on the Blogs for the Semester

I was hesitant about writing a blog at first because I have no experience with it prior to this semester. I didn’t really understand it and had never really read blogs before. In the end I am glad we had to blog instead of a final research paper. I am horrible about keeping things until the last minute and blogging forced me to write a couple paragraphs every so often. I know if I had to write a 10 page paper by the end of the semester it would all be written at the last minute and keeping up with the blog led to me to budget my time better throughout the semester. 

I also think blogging about the articles we discussed in class right after we discussed them helped me understand them better. While the information was fresh in my mind I would revisit the articles and write about them, making the topics clear in my mind. It also definitely helped me on the tests because relating the articles to other topics and having to go back and read them again made me know the information better.

Overall I think it was a good experience because blogging was a way to write about the articles as we talked about them instead of waiting until the end of the semester to try to piece the whole class back together. I had to think more critically about the articles as we went over them and  the assignment made me keep on top of my reading. I can honestly say blogging helped me understand the information better and help explore the topics covered in the articles more.

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Rituals, Beliefs, and Religion

 On Sunday’s, a lot of people go to church. They perform rituals that no one questions, they just do them. Daniel B. Lee’s article “Ritual and the Social Meaning and Meaningless of Religion” was a very interesting article describing how sociologists see beliefs and rituals are the two main components of religion. Lee even goes on to say that “it is impossible for participants in ritual to share common beliefs or intersubjectivity.” This was a bold statement because I never really thought about it, but every person is an individual and there is no way anyone can think exactly the same thing about everything, whether a religious belief or not. I agree with that statement though, because sometimes people go along with things they don’t believe in because they are worried about the consequences or don’t want the social alienation if they don’t comply.

I thought it was interesting that with Lee’s case studies of rituals, most of the member’s of the groups didn’t even know why they did things certain ways. A really interesting point “without a common understanding of what the rituals are supposed to signify or why they are meaningful.” If no one is in agreement on what a ritual actually means, how is it supposed to be meaningful. I think there are actually a lot of traditions we perform that we aren’t exactly sure why we do it. For example, I say “bless you” when people sneeze. I do it to be courteous, but I don’t even know the reasons behind it. I think that example is a kind of ritual many people do that they don’t really know why.

Everyone has different motives behind going to church. One of my friends truly desires to go every Sunday and goes to other church events, while another just goes to please her parents. Even though they are there for different reasons, when reciting a prayer, there is no way to tell what it means to them. As long as they act the part, their true feelings are not discovered, no matter what they are. Rituals are used as a way to make the church one and show your faith. Reading Lee’s article made me question though, if the rituals actually mean something. If people perform a ritual for a particular purpose and they don’t even know the purpose, aren’t they just doing some silly performance for the people around them? If there is no true test of your faith other than knowing how to do the ritual, there is no way to show that all people of the church believe the same and follow the same lifestyles. It is just assumed that everyone believes the same and perform the rituals to show their beliefs, not just to conform.

Article Source:

Lee, Daniel B. 2005. “Ritual and the Social Meaning and Meaninglessness of Religion.” Soziale Welt. 56:7-18.

Plastic Surgery

I used to watch the show “The Hills” that Heidi Montag was on. She was a sweet, pretty girl from a small town and was friends with Lauren Conrad, the star of the show. Hollywood has some crazy standards for what stars should look like and Heidi obviously got the idea in her head that she had to be “perfect” to be accepted in that world.

The picture on the left was how she looked when she was first on TV. In the middle, she had her first plastic surgery. The last on the right is after her 10+ surgeries to get the “perfect body/face.” Honestly, I think she was pretty from the beginning. Even after the first surgery she still looked fine, but I think she went WAY too far with the final procedures she had done. She looks plastic and alien-like. I remember the episode where her mom saw Heidi for the first time since the surgery. She cried and said she didn’t even recognize her own daughter and she didn’t know the extent to how much Heidi hated her old appearance.

I remember when I saw the magazine article with the pictures above I was shocked. Heidi was pretty and the girl-next-door kind of look, but it is obvious she wanted to be more of  a sex symbol.

In the video above, Heidi is interviewed and the host asks her why she did it and she explains what the surgery was like. This interview actually saddened me because a girl who from appearance looked pretty and happy, but on the inside was so insecure with herself. She describes the struggles of the surgery but says it was worth it because she is happy with the look now. She said she read blogs about people trashing her appearance and she definitely took it to heart because she went through such a dramatic change that was brought on by the critics of Hollywood.

I also found a website called: http://www.celebcosmeticsurgery.com/ where a doctor who specializes in plastic surgery posts blogs about celebrities and critiques their surgery. It was an interesting website because he has a lot of pictures and also describes the different procedures. He even has Heidi on the list of worst plastic surgeries done in 2010 saying she had too much done and she is too young, which I agree with.

In our society, we seem to put celebrities on a pedestal, that they are not normal or just another human-being. There is a section in a tabloid magazine called “stars, they’re just like us” where they have pictures of celebrities getting groceries and other “normal” things because we have the idea that celebrities are so distant they couldn’t possibly do things “regular” people do. These pressures for our celebrities to be perfect definitely had an effect on Heidi’s self-esteem and the way she perceived people watching the show to feel about her. Learning more about Heidi’s surgery reminded me a show that used to be on MTV called “I Want a Famous Face.” In the show, young people would document their transformation to look like a celebrity through plastic surgery. In the video below, another girl who seems pretty and in good shape wants plastic surgery to be thinner and have bigger boobs. After the surgery, she complains that she doesn’t like the way people perceive her now with the new huge breasts. This ideal of what a beautiful person should look like and how Hollywood makes all the celebrities look flawless at all times makes people looking up to them feel not good enough. Some go to the extent of surgery, where you are not even guaranteed to feel satisfied with yourself, but there is no turning back. I think it is crazy to think that in the video, the girl spent $15,ooo to make a completely unnecessary and irreversible change to her body.

I am not against plastic surgery completely, but when people like Heidi and the girl from the clip below make changes that are unnecessary and risk their lives for beauty, I think it is extreme. I think the way our society has made the cookie cutter form of beauty, it excludes a lot of people and some go far lengths to try to fit that ideal. These videos show that both Hollywood and real life people both feel the pressure from society to be “perfect.” 

 I read an article by Elizabeth Haiken where she describes how plastic surgery has evolved in American society. It was a very interesting article because she talks about how in the twentieth century we became a more “visual” culture where aging and imperfections were less accepted. We are taught that beauty is a certain way and cosmetic surgery is a rapidly growing industry as people try to fit in with those ideals. A very interesting point she brought up is that the face shapes our individual identity, and plastic surgery destroy that. I never really thought about it that way because basically everyone has different facial features and surgery changes that uniqueness. In advertisements it is usually the same kind of people who are in good shape and good-looking. When the media keeps showing us the same ideals, it is easy to get caught up in what you “should” look like.

I think Heidi’s story should be a good example to why our society should stop glorifying the stick-thin “perfect” Hollywood glamour because the steps it takes them to look that way are extremely unrealistic for the regular person. Of course I have things I would like to change like everyone else, but I have accepted that this is the way I am and I have no reason to waste my money and risk my health to look more “beautiful” to the Hollywood standard. I wish more people would think about what they are doing to themselves before going under the knife and forever changing their lives.

Article Source:

Haiken, E. (2000). The Making of the Modern Face: Cosmetic Surgery. Social Research, 67(1), 81-97. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

 

Study of Suicide

Suicide is a very touchy subject for many and I feel like it isn’t discussed often because of the taboo view of even talking about it. I am in no way trying to lessen the seriousness of the matter or say I think suicide is alright, but I want to address the lack of discussion about it. When I was in elementary school I remember hearing about a local high schooler in my town who committed suicide. I was young and didn’t really understand, but I knew it was a huge shock for my small town. It was a really sad time, but I remember when people talked about it they didn’t really say the word “suicide” almost as if it was a swear word. I think the lack of discussion in our society is why the topic continues to be hidden and people thinking about committing suicide don’t feel like they can discuss it with people. I found a really good website http://www.suicide.org/  and their mission is to help people who may be struggling and feel they have no one to turn to. They also post the statistics of suicide rates http://www.suicide.org/suicide-statistics.html which relates to the study by Emile Durkheim that we discussed in class. In his study he looked at the rates of suicide, but it may not be completely accurate because when he wrote about it in 1951, I’m sure it was even less discussed than it is now because families would try to hide the cause of death if their family member actually did commit suicide. Durkheim’s study investigated social factors that may affect the overall suicide rate. He looked at variation of rates by marital status, religion, military status, and economic condition.

Another factor which Durkheim didn’t study but I thought would be interesting is age, which I found an article about by G. Sullivan and H. Glichrist. Their article discussed gender and  sexual identity that are developed at a young age with suicide rates. They discuss in Australia suicide is the most common cause of death for young people with higher rates for young men. (197) They found a correlation with social factors like struggles with sexuality to be related to higher probability of suicide. For the study they interviewed people of young age and also adults involved in the lives of young people. Their study found some interesting things like how sexual identity issues can have a huge impact on a young person’s self-identity construction. This was a very interesting study to read about and I think their approach was similar to that of Durkheim’s.

The next issue with suicide I wanted to discuss in this blog relates to the article by Jane Brody. This article was about assisted suicides, or specifically when the elderly feel like they have lived life to the fullest and they do not want to prolong their lives any longer. I had never really heard much about this issue in a while so I thought it was a very interesting topic because I know their was debate about the legality of assisted suicide. One of the people she interviewed said they felt like “their lives have lost all meaning” and they did not want to be a burden to their loved ones. (2) I don’t know how I feel about this issue because I believe that in cases of other suicide, there should be a way to help people so they feel like their lives have meaning and they should continue living. With the elderly, they have lived a long life and if they are barely being kept alive and have a deadly illness, the debate is if they should relieve their pain and stop their lives. This is not considered a typical suicide, because the elderly need help in stopping any treatment and letting themselves die. I found an article by Stephen Sullivan and in it he discusses assisted suicide and people who are chronically ill and/or with terminal illnesses and want to end their lives. He brings up the issue of “rational suicide” meaning the person must be in a “hopeless” condition like terminal illness, severe physical and/or psychological pain, physically or mentally debilitating and/or deteriorating conditions, or quality of life that
is no longer acceptable to the individual. (33) I had never heard of the debate of rational suicide where some argue there is no such thing as a “rational” decision for suicide.  This definitely relates to Brody’s article about suicide because Sullivan’s study is also focusing on the argument whether it should be up to the person wanting to commit suicide or if we have the right to make a law against it. I found a website http://www.assistedsuicide.org/ that has all the rights of assisted suicide and also provides a way for people to discuss the issue. The websites has articles about the debates and also ways to find more information. It is a very informative site about the issue of assisted suicide and provides information from their research and guidance  on the issue.

These articles on suicide were very interesting and I couldn’t really make a decision how I felt about assisted suicide. I don’t think suicide is the answer, but in terms of the elderly who want to end their suffering, it is a debatable subject. In any case, I think the issue of suicide needs to be less taboo of a subject because I think it would help people who are struggling and don’t get help because of the fear of being judged. I found an interesting video about the debate of assisted suicide and if it is a crime.

References:  

Brody, Jane. A Heartfelt Appeal for a Graceful Exit. New York Times, 2008, February 5. p D6.

Durkheim, Emile. Translated by John A. Spaulding and George Simpson. Edited with an Introduction by George Simpson. Glencoe, Illinois: The Free Press, 1951. 405 pp

Gilchrist, H., & Sullivan, G. (2006). The role of gender and sexual relations for young people in identity construction and youth suicide. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 8(3), 195-209. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

News, CBS. (2007, June 1) Eye to Eye: Assisted Suicide. [Video File] Retrieved From: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O6EAMD6NS9U

Selvin, H.C. 1965. “Durkheim’s Suicide:Further Thoughts on a Methodological Classic”, in R. A. Nisbet (ed.) Émile Durkheim pp. 113-136

Sullivan, S. (2011). The right to die: a discussion of ‘rational suicide’. Mental Health Practice, 14(6), 32-34. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

5 Other Blogs I Enjoy

I honestly don’t read many blogs, and if I do they aren’t really related to education at all, so I used this blog project as an experience to look into more blogs I might enjoy. I like music blogs because they introduce me to new music I most likely wouldn’t hear on the radio or iTunes. In this post I will list and briefly describe five blogs that I enjoy that somehow relate to education:

1. The first blog that caught my interest was one called  “Journalist on the Run” and it is written by a woman who travels around. I am very interested in travelling and from some of the posts I read, she is very adventurous and likes to go to many places around the world. I think this blog can be related to sociology because she is experiencing new cultures and writing about it so she definitely sees many different types of people and societies. http://janetnewenham.wordpress.com/

2. Another blog I found that was interesting is called “Everyday Sociology.” This features many different writers and they cover a wide range of topics in the sociology field that relate to relevant news. I really like the site and the format because it presents the information in really reader-friendly ways that make me interested in their topics. They have a lot of information about sociology as a subject and topics that sociologists cover. It is a really good site for information about a wide range of topics. http://nortonbooks.typepad.com/everydaysociology/

3. The next blog I found that I enjoy is called “Sociological Images.” This blog has an image and then the blog writer discusses information behind the image. I thought this was a really cool site because I am a visual learner and seeing the pictures made it more interesting for me to read the information written about it. They also have many video posts and they relate to important studies in sociology. The site is written by two women who have their PhD’s and their goal is to encourage people to develop their sociological imagination and their format with images definitely makes me want to explore their site more. http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/

4. Another good blog I found is called “Racialicious.” This blog is very interesting because it compares the issue of race with our pop culture and how the affect each other. The authors are interested in race and social media, so this blog covers some interesting topics that also relate to pop culture. They use news stories to relate it to race and although the blogs are mainly by the people who run the site, they also review guest writers and you are allowed to comment on their posts. This site is really cool and has a good format to start discussions and explore the topic of race. http://www.racialicious.com/

5. The fifth blog that also interested me is “Threadbared.” This blog is written by two women, one who is a professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and the other writes about political and cultural economies. They are both very interested in fashion and this blog discusses the politics, aesthetics, histories, theories, and cultures that make up “fashion” and “beauty.” Their blog is really interesting especially because I love clothes and they write how clothes are important to the world around us. They definitely have a sociological perspective in their writing  http://iheartthreadbared.wordpress.com/

Is race just a theory?

There have been many arguments about the theory of race and why we even have the label. I remember reading an article in my anthropology class stating that to an anthropologist, there is no race, we are all biologically the same. In Howard Winant’s article he discusses how race became more central when dealing with social problems like crime, poverty, and disease and it would be brought back to race. (171) Later he talks about important movements in history that affect how race is viewed in public and challenged the concept. There are ethnicity, class and nation based theories that suggest different things about race. (179) For example class ethnicity oriented theories suggest suppression of prejudiced attitude could be achieved through contact, integration, and assimilation; and that discrimination can be ended by laws and regulations for equality.

I found a website http://www.aclu.org/ and their goal is to make sure everyone has their individual rights and liberties. They want everyone to be guaranteed these rights and they obviously don’t see race as a factor that should change how you are treated. I was raised in a world where I don’t see race as something that changes how I feel about a person. I think we are such a diverse country and if people are still holding hatred towards a certain group based on race, they are going to have a hard time living anywhere. Many websites I looked at had opinions on if race is actually real or if it is just socially constructed. It is not biologically defined and there is human variation but race is constructed by political processes throughout history and I think I would agree with this theory.

I found an interesting video on YouTube summarizing some major events in history that have separated people and also some attempts to make it equal. I really like a statement in the video saying that just making a law making people equal is going to make it happen. It’s true because even if the government passes laws like the Civil Rights Act (1964) there is not much they can do to make people truly change their behaviors. The picture I have included shows people marching for equal protection under the laws in an effort to change the division by race. Although I know there are still instances of racism nowadays, we have definitely come a long way and still have to work to make people more accepting of others. I am from the Bay Area and we have such a wide variety of races and it is so cool that every place you go you see people of all backgrounds intermingling and that’s something we would not have seen in the past. We are definitely more accepting as a whole, but of course there are still those groups of people who still can’t accept our differences.

Another thing I found that was an article By Jason Eden called “Who Developed Race?” and it was a very interesting article. He talks about how humans have formed the race ideology. He brings up examples of whites fighting and some even dying just to defend the system of racial hierarchy. (171) Eden does says that race has been culturally constructed and is an ongoing progress. His article discussed ways he teaches the idea of race to classes and he makes sure to have them identify specific people and events so there is no blame game among the students. (175) I think it is very important to discuss these issues and this article was very informative. I learned a lot from researching all the race issues in the world. I had heard of the debate “if race really exists” before and there are a lot of conflicting sides. I think race is socially constructed and I think some of the people I have cited and read about would agree.

 Sources:

Eden, Jason. (2011). Answers to the Question: “Who Developed Race?”. History Teacher, 44(2), 169-177. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Winant, Howard. (2000) Race and Race Theory. Annual Reviews Sociology, 26, 169-85.

Wong, Shelley. (2010, March 15)  Critical Race Theory: Understanding the Nature of Race and America. [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CB27vqknETk&playnext=1&list=PL4E6231005D202852

Bohemian Grove

I decided to focus my next blog about the “Bohemian Grove” because I had never heard of this exclusive club before we discussed it in sociology. As I began to research it, I found there was much controversy about what actually goes on at the grove. I found a website: http://www.sonomacountyfreepress.com/bohos/bohofact.html that seemed to stick to strictly factual information about the grove. It is a redwood forest area in Monte Rio, California with accommodation for 2000 to “camp,” but more of a luxurious camping than I would do. It is an all men club formed in 1872 that is basically filled with elite white men over the age of 50. I also found it interesting that many large corporations are represented at the grove from oil companies to banks. The most powerful men do their networking here because the only people invited are elites so together they can be even more powerful with their connections.

I can’t believe I had never heard about this place before, especially because I live really close to San Francisco and I have been further North in that area before. There are a lot of conspiracy theories about what goes on at the grove. Another website I found: http://cremationofcare.com/illu_bohemian_grove.htm had a lot of speculation about what goes on there, including comparing them to the KKK and cult activities. The photo I attached below is where the activities supposedly take place. The stone is supposed to be the Owl symbol and is apparently 40 feet tall. I read more about the “Owl God’ and from what I found it symbolizes knowledge and is where the “Cremation of Care” ceremony takes place which I am still not sure what exactly that is- rumored to be a religious ceremony, but some websites say it is a dramatic play at the beginning of camp. An owl also is on the logo of the club and there are many conspiracy theories regarding the owl and the white house.

Basically my research led me to a LOT of random websites that either seemed to be informative or very fabricated or dramatized. I think the Bohemian Grove was interesting to look into though because it is another example of class tension and separation because it is a club only elites can be a part of. Many people are upset with the mystery involved with the grove because it is so secretive people wonder what they could be hiding. I agree that it is a concern how hidden all their activities are and although the grove has a motto “weaving spiders come not here” meaning it is not a place for business, I think that a majority of the people talk business and make connections, which is only natural when you are always craving more power. It was interesting studying the grove although it was really hard to find information I could take as factual because there are so many controversial sites about it. It definitely is an example of elites trying to keep their affairs private and that scares “regular” people because we don’t know if their discussions are working for the benefit of everyone or just to make the rich richer.   

This is the famous owl statue where apparently a lot of activites of the grove are centered around.

This is the logo for the grove also with an image of the owl.

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