Friday, July 30, 2010

Mixed Martial Arts: Evolution Of The Sport and Its Fans

Sporting traditionalists frequently grumble when chief administrators alter sporting structures as they cater to new fans' demands. Traditionalists tend to argue that when sporting rules are changed or athletic skills are abandoned, we are witnessing a commodification of sport that values theater and spectacle over virtuous athleticism (Sewart, 1987).

In the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA), the debate is a bit more convoluted, calling for a somewhat technical and academic examination.

Despite MMA's mere 17 year history, supporters and critics have quarreled extensively over the sport's trajectory and the way MMA may symbolize a moral threshold for societal violence. However, in MMA we have seen a public effort to formalize rule structure and secure governmental regulation since the sport's 1993 inception, both before and after Zuffa, LLC took over the UFC in 2001.

Sports theorists (van Bottenburg & Heilbron, 2006) have suggested that as MMA continues to grow (or stagnate), it can follow four overarching pathways, which are not necessarily mutually exclusive:
  1. Abolition and demise: states or countries may pass or maintain legislation that bans MMA (e.g., the push back seen in New York State, Vancouver, and Germany). Demise may also include the folding of MMA organizations due to financial concerns (e.g., EliteXC).
  2. Underground: abolition and demise may contribute to illegal, unregulated MMA competitions hidden from state officials (though underground competitions can also take place in regions where MMA is legal).
  3. Re-sportization: increased state regulation with stricter rule sets that would focus not only on in-ring/cage competition, but also on refereeing, athlete health prior to and after competition, and fighter-manager-promoter relationships. In contrast with many other sports, MMA (in particular the UFC) has overtly pushed for state regulation in recent years (Smith, 2010).
  4. Spectacularization: "...a shift of attention away from fighting skills to the show and spectacle surrounding the events" (p. 277). The recent match between Cris Santos and Jan Finney stands as an example here. The match was so uneven, some argue it never should have been allowed in the first place, but was scheduled nonetheless so fans could watch Santos' compete at all.

While all four pathways are occurring simultaneously across different MMA organizations and in different regions of the world, the modest academic literature published to date on MMA argues re-sportization is the more common trajectory being followed thus far.

Garcia and Malcolm (2010) argue in their essay, "Decivilizing, civilizing or informalizing: The international development of Mixed Martial Arts," that although MMA promoters tend to publicly advertise MMA competitions as dangerous and appear excessively violent in order to draw in more fans, sporting violence in MMA has actually decreased. They suggest that while MMA, like all combat sports, is inherently violent and can be dangerous, the violence now manifests in a highly controlled environment (when properly regulated).

The staunchest defense of MMA, however, has come from Maher's (2010) work, which meticulously details how regulation of MMA has sought to improve athlete safety through improved rules, oversight of performance enhancing drugs, and medical safeguards. Maher also argues MMA organizations have improved in promoting fair contests (as opposed to unfair matches booked to promote a more likely winner), and in restricting conflicts of interest between promoters, managers, and fighters.

Maher's very thorough work, however, focuses too heavily on the UFC. As noted previously, spectacularization still transpires in MMA, which does little to promote fighter safety. The most interesting questions Maher raises are whether or not (1) MMA can secure federalized, standardized regulation across the United States; and (2) fighters can coalesce to form a union that effectively advocates for their rights (questions I will be addressing in my next piece, and related to my last piece, "Marxist Mixed Martial Arts?").

Notably, all the above referenced work is theoretical or historical. Very little scholarly research has been conducted that relies on empirical research. In fact, the only empirical research conducted thus far relevant to the issue of spectacularization and fan desire has found that invested MMA fans do not want to see lopsided matches.

Kim, Andrew, and Greenwell (2009) surveyed MMA fans attending an amateur card in the American Midwest (N = 208) and an event held in South Korea (N = 229). In both sites, research subjects indicated that their primary motive for attending the event was their interest in the sport (i.e., they are an MMA fan and care about MMA). "Drama" ranked #2 among South Korean fans and #3 among American fans, meaning fans desired close competitions, not unfair, lopsided fights.

Among the 12 possible motives for attending the event, "violence" ranked #5 for Americans and #11 for South Koreans. These findings are especially important because they tell MMA promoters that fans want to see fights exemplifying high-level MMA skills between evenly matched, prepared opponents, not promotional "freakshows" that decrease fighter safety.

Let's give the fans what they want.


Garcia, R. S., & Malcolm, D. (2010). Decivilizing, civilizing or informalizing: The international development of Mixed Martial Arts. International Review of the Sociology of Sport, 45 (1), 39-58.

Maher, B. S. (2010). Understanding and regulating the sport of mixed martial arts. Hastings Communication and Entertainment Law Journal, Winter.

Sewart, J. J. (1987). The commodification of sport. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 22 (3), 171-191.

Smith, J. T. (2010). Fighting for regulation: mixed martial arts legislation in the United States. Drake Law Review, Winter.

van Bottenburg, M., & Heilbron, J. (2006). De-sportization of fighting contests: the origins and dynamics of no hold barred events and the theory of sportization. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 41 (3/4), 259-281.

Academics Blogs
Blog search

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How Does Society Define "Sport?": Cheerleading

Over on NPR, Frank Deford asks if cheerleading is a sport. I must admit, in high school I absolutely despised cheerleading, precisely because so many cheerleaders considered themselves athletes. At least at my high school, the cheerleaders did not compete against other squads as is more common today.

I suppose we first have to ask what goes into being a "sport," and I'm not sure that there is a cut and dry answer. The two conditions I value the most are (1) a sport must involve formal competition; and (2) a sport must require competitors to utilize their bodies as the primary medium through which the competition takes place, in such a way that physical conditioning is central to the competition.

Although a courtroom legal battle is clearly competitive and relies on body parts to some degree, physical conditioning is not central to the competition. To me, horse racing and auto racing are not sports, and their participants are not athletes. I'm sure there is some heavy disagreement on that last statement, but the way I see it, the horse/car is doing the bulk of the work in those events, not the person (or athlete).

So what is the controversy surrounding cheerleading? In competitive cheerleading, the participants are engaged in highly physical training, and notably with regard to physical dangers, the risk of catastrophic injury is very high,
especially for females. And as the name indicates, in competitive cheerleading, there is formal competition against other teams.

Part of the controversy might be that unlike other N.C.A.A. sports, cheerleading teams do not compete very often. Where I teach, the cheerleading team has won
eight consecutive national championships, most recently at the Division II level. Unfortunately, the team only gets to compete once per year (technically, they get to compete a few times, but they only make one annual trip for competition). The rest of their activities involve practice for their national competition, and practice for their performances at university sporting events. And this is where I think the implicit controversy truly lies, though it will never be explicitly stated.

Cheerleading is traditionally gendered as a highly feminine performance-based activity that supports athletics. Under popular belief, femininized cheerleaders exist to support the "true," masculine athletes. Go to any high school, college, or pro basketball or football game, and what is the cheerleaders' primary function? To compete against the opposing team's cheerleaders? No, the cheerleaders' primary function is to support the athletes (male or female), who are considered more masculine and the central focus of the event, engaged in the central competition. The cheerleaders are peripheral.

Additionally, because cheerleading is based so heavily on being pretty, it is further marginalized from the so-called real, masculine sports. This is precisely why sports like synchronized swimming and ice skating are so often femininzed and ridiculed as sports even though those sports always involve competition (and from what I've heard, the training for synchronized swimming is among the most difficult in the sporting world).

All sports are spectacle. But the more a sport's performance-based attributes require looking pretty (e.g., smiling, wearing gaudy attire), the less it will be considered a sport by mainstream fans because being pretty is feminine, and sports are supposed to be tough masculine turf. Thus, cheerleading has key elements going against it when trying to be defined as a sport -- the competitions are few and far between (actually, many cheerleading teams never compete), and more importantly, society defines cheerleading as a highly feminine activity.

This shows us how sport is a microcosom of society. That which is peripheral, supportive, and pretty is deemed feminine. That which is central, served by others, and physically tough is deemed masculine.

Academics Blogs
Blog search

Monday, July 26, 2010

Marxist Mixed Martial Arts?

Before jumping into a Marxist analysis of MMA, I wanted to follow up on my previous opinion piece posted here a few days ago, titled “Theorizing Violence in Sport: The Case of Mixed Martial Arts (July 23, 2010).” The essay gained a little bit of traction across the MMA blogosphere discussed on BloodyElbow, Sherdog, and the UG. Not a terribly big deal, but I believe responses were a bit unfair to Zuffa, LLC and the UFC specifically, both in the receptive headlines and general discourse. My original article did not mention the UFC too much more than Strikeforce. However, it seemed the UFC was presented as the sole MMA organization to be held responsible, as opposed to an example of a profitable organization that may want to foster safety measures beyond its current organization.

Additionally, I was careful not to explicitly state that any MMA organization (UFC, Strikeforce, whichever) should be responsible for investing in a kind of minor league, MMA farm system. From the final paragraph in my original piece: “Perhaps this means larger MMA organizations like the UFC and Strikeforce need to consider investing their profits in smaller organizations to help improve an infrastructure that bolsters safety precautions…” Considering broader investment in safety-based infrastrcutre across smaller organizations is not radical by any means.

A good example of a model would be the WEC before the folks at Zuffa decided to cut the heavier weight classes. Under the Zuffa umbrella, the WEC ostensibly served as a farm system for fighters in multiple weight classes (155lbs – LHW) who could matriculate into the UFC when their talents warranted promotion. And with the WEC under the Zuffa banner, it was (and still is for the WEC fighters in lighter weight classes) understood the strictest, most thorough safety precautions would be taken, in large part because the parent company (Zuffa) could afford them.

If we are going to focus on Zuffa, this could mean the Fertitta brothers, Dana White, and company identifying smaller, regional MMA organizations with whom they would like to forge formal partnerships and investing in their organizational development (e.g., promotional strategies, fighter recruitment). This would also mean enforcing the most thorough medical/safety precautions that may frequently exceed state regulations. In return, hopefully the best fighters would gravitate towards those farm organizations and safely progress to the UFC.

No model is perfect. Tensions could emerge between whatever parent MMA organization is running the show and the smaller feeder organizations over any number of issues. Mapping out and implementing such a plan would take years, but prominent, successful organizations have vision and make long-term organizational plans. One central focus (and the one with which I am obviously most concerned) is broad-based prevention. This was never and is not now an alarmist response to two deaths in sanctioned MMA. This is a public health-type prevention response, arguing those tragedies are important, and long-term, it would benefit the industry if wide-spread measures were taken to prevent/minimize future deaths and major injuries.

If we can agree that Zuffa provides the best medical precautions, why not work to expand that infrastructure? Then the issue of cost comes up, and presumably, Zuffa shrunk the WEC at least in part because having so many weight classes was not fiscally profitable, leading me to my next point…

A Marxist Interpretation of MMA

In a developed society like the United States that leans heavily towards capitalism and the free market, a highly successful private enterprise is obviously not responsible for ensuring other, smaller companies are implementing any level of worker safety. As noted in the original essay, although the bigger MMA organizations rely on the smaller ones for worker development/recruitment, there is to my knowledge no formal relationship between them. On the contrary, MMA organizations big and small may even identify one another as competition and have antagonistic relationships. And that is part of the crux in this discussion (sorry, what follows is gonna get a bit lengthy and lecture-ish).

If applying a very Marxist viewpoint, in a for-profit company, those at the top will never pay its workers their full value, let alone workers outside of their organization. In fact, capitalist companies world-wide know that the best way to maximize profit is not via sales (though sales are necessary), but via under-paying labor. Hence, within a capitalist system, the proletariat (fighters) will always be at odds with the bourgeoisie (promoters/owners), as maximizing worker cost minimizes profit margin. Thus, it is not in any company’s best interests financially to support workers, especially workers industry-wide.

Sticking with the Marxist lens, the difficult part for fighters is so many have what Marx called “false consciousness” – they genuinely believe that to a large degree they benefit from more than they are harmed by the bourgeoisie, industry, and social structure. Not only does the promoter pay the fighter, but through the industry, fighters report learning positive values (e.g., discipline) and attain a certain status (e.g., celebrity, alpha male). This status coupled with financial compensation helps fighters cope with a sense of alienation from their own bodies. Their own bodies become defined as tools for the MMA industry, in this case tools valued for their ability to destruct other fighters and absorb pain in the short-term, rather than healthy bodies over time.

And while previous research shows that fighters are keenly aware of their own exploitation (see Loic Wacqunt’s qualitative work with boxers), fighters will inevitably invest their efforts in fighting each other rather than the power structure. Supporting the company line and defeating a fellow fighter yields far more social rewards now than working with fellow workers to secure worker rights years from now (never mind trying to do so individually). And management knows this. Keeping workers invested in the company and divided among themselves means there is no collective working-class resistance to conquer.

Hence, even when the most socially powerful fighters like Randy Couture challenge management, the collective silence of all other fighters vastly outweighs Couture’s protest, and eventually he is compelled to return if he wants to continue practicing his craft at the highest level. And high-level, well-compensated fighters, like Couture, Brock Lesner, and Chuck Liddell, are portrayed almost as a norm, even though they are outlying exceptions with regard to worker compensation across the MMA landscape.

The other issue at hand for Marx is the broader public, or in this case, MMA fans. Capitalism functions more efficiently when workers as a whole have leisure time to re-charge (hence, we have weekends, holidays, vacation). Sport functions in society for workers as a site where one can have a reprieve from work, only to go back to work without complaining about it. The MMA industry is built largely from the reality that much of our society values and has commodified violence as a form of entertainment.

Thus as capitalist enterprises, MMA organizations know they can increase profits not only by increased gate and pay-per-view sales, but also through advertising deals, DVD sales, clothing sales, and so on. And as long as enough of the larger society values violence as a form of entertainment, the broader public will support the industry that creates this manifestation of violence, but not the workers that enable the industry to run.

If workers outside the MMA industry value quality MMA fights but don’t want to pay unreasonable costs to watch them, they are not going to seriously advocate for the fighters’ rights. Doing so would increase MMA company costs and in turn costs of MMA pay-per-views, tickets, and merchandising. Consequently, those who utilize their bodies as labor are resigned to (in this case literally) fight for themselves and against one another. They don’t get broad-based, radical support from the bourgeoisie, each other, or the broader public.

One could reasonably argue, fighters engage in fight sport as a personal choice, and that is ultimately true, but it is true to different degrees for different people. People are born with vastly different life chances. It is no coincidence that such a high proportion of boxers from different ethnic demographics have come from very working-class backgrounds over the decades.

And while MMA currently has a larger proportion of fighters from middle-class backgrounds, one can go back to the way our society values masculine violence as a form of entertainment. This will inevitably influence heavy numbers of males to pursue a pro MMA career, often at the expense of other, more likely and lengthy vocational paths. And back to the issue at hand, sacrificing the more likely career path means not crossing the boss once in the MMA industry.

With all this in mind, who is going to support the fighters, and not just the ones that already make six figures?

Academics Blogs

Saturday, July 24, 2010

When Whiteness Matters in Sport

This is not a major social issue, and I am not going to make it one. Rather, I think the way this story is being presented in the media effectively illustrates how race matters and is constructed in particular social contexts. Among track and field (“athletics”) aficionados, the 100 meters is frequently considered the premier event. At the elite level, the 100 meters is a power sprint, measuring fast twitch, explosive, kinetic energy manifested through meticulously honed technique.

For males, breaking the 10-second mark is still a colossal accomplishment. One might not think so since track and field doesn’t get much media attention in general (at least not in the United States), and when it does, we’re now more accustomed to watching Usain Bolt blast away his competitors, seemingly cruising to numerous sub-10-second performances (his world record currently stands at 9.58). A few weeks ago sprinter Christophe Lemaitre won France’s national competition with a time of 9.98 seconds, squeaking below that 10-second mark. A typical headline of Lemaitre’s accomplishment (from, July 9, 2010):

Lemaitre first white man to run 100m in under 10 seconds

And from the article:

PARIS (Reuters) - France's Christophe Lemaitre became the first white man to run the 100 meters in under 10 seconds when he clocked 9.98 on Friday, the French athletics federation said.

Lemaitre, 20, set his time during the French championships in Valence, southern France.

"He is the first white man to run the 100 meters in less than 10 seconds," Jean-Philippe Manzelle, French athletics Federation press officer, told Reuters.

There have been other white sprinters who have excelled at the world level in recent years. Lolo Jones comes to mind in the 100m hurdles; Jeremy Wariner dominated the open 400m in recent years. And if we’re talking sprinters of “outlier” ethnicities in general, Liu Xiang of China recently held the world record in the 110m hurdles. But the early discourse around Lemaitre could be a bit more pointed in the way he is being constructed through the media as a great white hope.

When should race matter in sport, and when it does, how should it be discussed? In this case, at the very least, Lemaitre’s race is framed such that his being “white” is of greater importance than his win. As the track and field season moves on and should Lemaitre continue to run sub-10-second times, I expect to see increased media coverage about his whiteness. He is not going to beat Usain Bolt or America’s top sprinters at international competitions. But on the European circuit, I expect he will make waves. Mainstream media discussion of his success or failure should be interesting to follow.

Update (7/28/10): This post was re-posted over on Sociological Images, and in the comments section of that post, commenters have noted that Lolo Jones is multi-racial and identifies as such. My bad!

Academics Blogs

Friday, July 23, 2010

Theorizing Violence in Sport: The Case of Mixed Martial Arts

In late June of this year, mixed martial arts (MMA) experienced its second death due to competition from a regulated event. Tragedies in sport and society are distressing enough for those directly involved. Added media attention does not always help, and in some cases can contribute to families’ and friends’ grief for their deceased loved ones. For this reason, I will not go into detail about the particular event noted (responsible writing on this and a previous death linked to sanctioned MMA can be found here, here, and here). Rather, this tragedy reminded me of the intrinsic competitive nature of sport, MMA’s evolving structure, and how society regulates violence in sport.

First, however, it is important that violence is properly understood and defined. Depending on an individual’s personal background, his or her threshold for violence can vary immensely, to the degree that an event may be considered violent for one individual and not another. A few years ago, for example, dog fighting received extensive media attention as a highly violent, brutal, and cruel practice following the Michael Vick controversy. In Afghanistan, however,
dog fighting as a social institution has risen in popularity since the Taliban’s ousting in 2001. While not all in Afghanistan support the practice, it should not be surprising that violence like this is celebrated among a significant proportion of males, given the country’s war-torn history and lack of entertainment outlets. In short, context is critical to one’s threshold for violence.

World Health Organization defines violence as such:

The intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation. (p. 6).

If applying this definition to sport, and to MMA specifically, MMA is at its core, violent. Injuries, even death, are a risk in all sports. Even in non-contact sports, such as long distance running, deaths occur on occasion (though the absolute number of long distance runners is massive in comparison to MMA). However, in most sports, there is not intent to harm. In combat sports, "the intentional use of physical force…against…another person" is required and formally sanctioned.

Furthermore, MMA competitions have a high likelihood of injury.
Research published in peer-review academic journals has noted that MMA competitions yield injuries similar in prevalence to other combat sports, typically facial lacerations, contusions, and joint injuries. This of course, does not automatically mean MMA is the most violent or dangerous sporting practice, but to deny its potential for brutality would be remiss.

The danger in MMA’s structure lies in its under-funded feeding grounds. Within the United States, prominent MMA organizations such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and Strikeforce have the resources and existing infrastructure to prevent, or at least minimize, the most serious, tragic levels of violence. Earlier this year UFC welterweight contender, Thiago Alves, was
forced to withdraw from competition because of a discovered brain irregularity. These and other medical procedures (e.g., thorough blood work) cost money that smaller, regional organizations and local fighters may not be able to afford on a consistent basis.

The conundrum for the UFC and other established MMA organizations is that they need these smaller "minor league" organizations to nurture future competitors who can one day reach the highest level of competition (currently the UFC). Yet, the major and minor MMA organizations lack a formal relationship. None of the major MMA organizations provide smaller, regional ones with the financial backing that would allow for a more robust medical infrastructure and help prevent the most serious ramifications of sporting violence. Thus, up and coming fighters must gain experience in smaller organizations, where the risky consequences of more serious violence and injury rise.

In other sports, even violent, collision-sports, such as football, an infrastructure exists that at least in theory is there to help prevent tragedy at all levels, from the NFL, down through the collegiate, high school, and even Pop Warner levels (true, serious injuries, even deaths, still occur on occasion). Granted, MMA has only been formally institutionalized in the United States now for 17 years. Still, we as a society know the immediate and long-term risks of collision and combat sports (
football induced head trauma is now well documented).

Professional and semi-pro mixed martial artists – frequently seduced by the financial gains and popularity that the sport’s biggest stars enjoy – should be treated as human beings, not as collateral damage dismissed in the wake of the sport’s growth. Neither
society’s thirst for violence nor a sport’s increasing popularity should be cited to justify or excuse athlete safety.

Perhaps this means larger MMA organizations like the UFC and Strikeforce need to consider investing their profits in smaller organizations to help improve an infrastructure that bolsters safety precautions – obviously a major financial undertaking and one unlikely to transpire. However, this would be an investment in the fighters, who at the lower levels receive less reward for more risk. Bottom line – until some structural change is made, sporting violence will continue to harm MMA athletes at the lower levels to a disproportionately large degree.

Academics Blogs

Thursday, July 22, 2010

America’s Favorite Athletes: Results Reflect Societal Values

A recent Harris Poll tells us some interesting, perhaps predictable, things about sports, sports fans, and ongoing societal values in America. The online poll surveyed 2,227 adults between June 14 – 21, 2010 (a relatively small sample, but one which accounts for population size across regions). First, let’s look at the results:

Favorite Male Athletes:
  1. Kobe Bryant/Tiger Woods (tie)
  2. Derek Jeter
  3. Brett Favre
  4. Peyton Manning
  5. LeBron James
  6. Michael Jordan
  7. Tom Brady
  8. Drew Brees
  9. Dale Earnhardt
Favorite Female Athletes:
  1. Serena Williams
  2. Venus Williams
  3. Danica Patrick
  4. Mia Hamm
  5. Maria Sharapova
  6. Anna Kournikova
  7. Misty May/Shawn Johnson (tie)
  8. Lisa Leslie
  9. Billie Jean King/Martina Navratalova (tie)
Among the male athletes, the first somewhat surprising result is that Bryant and Woods stood atop the list despite run-ins with serious marital concerns, both of which were made very public, and for Woods was very recent. Of course these results are only somewhat surprising, as professional male athletes typically find it easier to transgress social boundaries with regard to promiscuity. Thus, perhaps it should not be terribly surprising for Tiger and Kobe to still be widely popular among the American public. What is remarkable is that Bryant was the most popular athlete among females polled.

The list of favorite female athletes is far more interesting. Notably, Serena and Venus Williams repeated as the two most popular female athletes (also holding the 1-2 honors last year). As with Woods, this shows a growing acceptance of African American athletes excelling in a historically Caucasian sport. With regard to the sports athletes represent, however, there is a glaring pattern. Eight out of the eleven women (11 due to two ties) come from sports that historically have been considered “acceptably female” sports: the Williams sisters, Sharapova, Kournikova, King, and Navratalova (tennis); May (volleyball); and Johnson (gymnastics). Over half of the women on the list play(ed) tennis.

May represents soccer, historically defined as a more masculine sport. As for Patrick and Leslie, they also represent historically defined male sports (auto racing and basketball, respectively). Still, both of these athletes, Patrick in particular, have gained celebrity as part of American popular culture via mainstream modeling opportunities, as have the more contemporary tennis stars on the list (both Williams sisters, Sharapova, and Kournikova). Although Kournikova was a very successful doubles player, she was never an elite singles player on the women’s tennis circuit and is certainly not in the mix of elite players now. For athletes such as King and Navratalova, though retired, at least they can claim astounding athletic and political accomplishments that explain their ongoing popularity.

Notably missing from the list is Maya Moore, the outstanding player from the UConn Huskies women’s basketball team that just won back-to-back NCAA Division I National Championships and continued a 78-game winning streak. Diana Taurasi, who currently plays for the Phoenix Mercury, was the 2009 WNBA Most Valuable Player for the season and finals. Likewise, she was absent from the list.

Via the list of most popular female athletes we see an ongoing trend in American values that reward women not only for occupational success, but in some cases, more so for physical appearances. And of course, popularity trends tie in with individual and sporting sponsorships, which makes it all the more difficult for female athletes who don’t conform to gender norms to continue making a living in their sport of choice.

Recommended reading -- Coming on Strong: Gender and Sexuality in Twentieth Century Women's Sport by Susan K Cahn

Academics Blogs
Blog catalog

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Interpreting the "Old Spice Guy": Diverse Masculinities Rolled Into One

When I first saw the Old Spice commercial with the "Old Spice Guy," I immediately considered it good blogging material. What markers of masculinity are portrayed throughout the commercial? Though the commercial cannot be embedded here, it can be seen over on YouTube.

Let's see: the commercial parodies a rugged, chivalrous masculinity, where the character (actor, Isaiah Mustafa) embodies some of the typically desired masculine traits for those women who emphasize femininity -- sensitivity towards his romantic partner (cake baking), woodworking skills, striated musculature, a proclivity for the outdoors, deep voice, clean, and generally speaking, confident.

I didn't realize until yesterday how wildly popular this commercial has become. The Old Spice producers and actor have even made a bunch of attendant YouTube videos for fans (celebrities and non-celebrities),
including one for NPR:

And I thought the one responding to Alyssa Milano was pretty funny, referencing her previous "home" on the 1980's sitcom, "Who's the Boss."

The commercial's idiosyncratic, humorous nature definitely helps, but I'd bet this commercial's popularity is traced more to society's current conception of hegemonic masculinity, combining diverse power-based traits that resonate with viewers from a wide array of demographics. Let's break down the traits a little more.

The outdoorsy guy with carpentry, bike riding, and log-rolling skills taps into the rural, rugged demographic. Yet, he's also metrosexual -- well groomed, clean, boasts of smelling good (it is an Old Spice commercial). Physically, he's athletic (former pro football player in real life at some level) and muscular. Then ethnically, he taps into the African American viewing demographic. Again, the way actor exudes confidence ties in neatly with a hegemonic masculine ideal. He's a provider ("dream kitchen he built you with his own hands"). And finally, heterosexuality is blatantly expressed. The commercial begins with the line, "Hello ladies. How are you? Fantastic. Does your man look like me? No. Can he smell like me? Yes..." [emphasis added].

That opening line is key. The average, everyday male cannot be entirely like the "Old Spice Guy." Heck, the "Old Spice Guy" says so himself. However, the "average Joe" can take baby steps to work towards that masculine ideal by buying Old Spice bodywash (
body wash containers, by the way, are bad for the environment) and trying to conform to some of the other hegemonic masculine traits.

A gender-based hierarchy is clearly defined ["Old Spice Guy" at the top in this example, male viewers below in pursuit, and domesticated women below (perhaps this last point can be teased out more)]. Just as commercials that emphasize femininity rely on women's gender-based insecurities, so does this commercial for males. It just does so in a way that reaches numerous demographics, while laced (i.e., masked) with humor.

Updated 7/21/10 with an even more overt example:

Academics Blogs
Blog Directory

Monday, July 19, 2010

A More Serious Example of Deviance: Abortion in Mexico

Al Jazeera has a useful YouTube video up that nicely illustrates the concept of deviance: "Criminalising abortions in Mexico." The video illustrates what happens to women when the church is able to leverage its power over the state. As the video shows, outside of Mexico City, where there are more liberal abortion laws, women cannot safely get an abortion even if the pregnancy comes as a result of sexual assault. In cases where a woman wants an abortion and claims her pregnancy is due to rape, the city's bureaucracy will not allow her to get through the paperwork (in fact, the necessary paperwork doesn't even exist). Moreover, medical doctors frequently will not perform abortions since their religious beliefs interfere with the practice.

So what's the result? Abortion is heavily criminalised, to the extent that women who have had an abortion have been incarcerated. This inconsistent response to a particular behavior cuts across different countries, or as this example illustrates, within a country. A social response to the behavior depends on the society's social values and norms, and in this case, the church's ability to enforce those values and norms through formal (i.e., state) institutions (e.g., hospitals/medical clinics, criminal justice system, government).

The other point is the gender piece. It takes two to tango, and as this piece states, the tango is not always consensual. Presumably perpetrators of sexual assault, if caught and deemed guilty, will be punished appropriately (okay, we know that shouldn't be assumed, but let's just do so for now). On the other hand, what if it was consensual? What happens to the male party if a woman goes through an abortion and is punished? What if part of the reason she wants an abortion is because he refuses to support her and her child? What if they're in agreement that it's just not the right time to have a child, why is she the only party punished?

Again, because society deems her deviant, not him. Check out the 3-minute video:

Academics Blogs
Blog Directory

More using mobile phones to teach sociology - Deviance

This past spring semester I was trying to use my smart phone to teach rational choice theory, which suggests potential criminals are rational -- they, like any other rational person -- will weigh the pros and cons of a potential situation, and then carry out the crime if the pros sufficiently outweigh the cons.

So I blantaly left my T-Mobile Dash on a student's desk in the front row and said, "Now if rational choice theory holds true, 'Joe-Shmo' would weigh the pros and cons of stealing my phone, such as the chances of getting caught, how much my phone is worth, if he has a phone, blah blah blah." That whole "worth" thing played into my example. The student pulled out his iPhone, chuckled and asked, "Why would I steal a T-mobile Dash when I have an iPhone?" The smaller value of my phone didn't make the benefits of committing the theft very high for this student.

A few weeks later the battery in my smart phone was incessantly dying so I had to buy the newer version of the T-mobile Dash. During the time I had to wait for my new phone to arrive, I started using my old mobile phones (whose batteries still kicked ass) largely to see how people would react to them (see pictures above and below). Not surprisingly, I was ridiculed by friends, not maliciously, but ridiculed nonetheless (these are people, by the way, in their mid-20s to late-30s).

In short, I was made deviant because I was openly using an "old school" phone without a keyboard, internet access, in one case, no camera, etc. Best Buy currently has a few commercials out better illustrating this point -- that if you don't have some kind of fancy smart phone, you are rendered deviant in one way or another. Notably, one of my best friends made fun of my old school phone by saying how embarrassing it would be to bust out that phone in the presence of a woman. On to the commercial:

So, as a male, if you don't have the financial capital to possess a kick ass phone, you are a deviant male, with a low-end job (sharing a cubicle), without technical prowess (can't stay on top of your e-mail or access the net), and bottom line, you aren't an attractive mate. I still remember the college days when nobody had cell phones.

Today, popular culture infiltrates our identities such that we are encouraged to spend, spend, spend on technologies that make us more desirable in various ways. And if you don't purchase the latest high tech gadgets, you are defined as deviant by society (even if the metals in those high-tech gadgets contribute to horrific mineral wars in central Africa).

Eventually, I got my upgraded smart phone that I now wear proudly on my hip.

Academics Blogs
Blog Directory

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Youth Substance Use and Indigenous Peoples

More from the 2009 YRBSS survey, taken among 9th-12th graders in the United States (see also previous post). The youth violence rates among "American Indians and Alaskan Natives" (AI/AN) and "Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders" (NHOPI) were so high compared to the other constructed "race" groups that I decided to check out how they compared for some of the more serious substance use items (there are also more minor forms of substance use, such as "ever used alcohol" and "ever used marijuana," for which the epidemiological literature generally shows Caucasian youth tend to have higher rates). "Top two" groups bolded again (males and females combined).

1. Tried Marijuana For The First Time Before Age 13 Years
  • Total (7.5%; N=16,134); females (5.0%; N=8,183); males (9.7%; N=7,888)
  • AI/AN total (18.1%; N=137); females (N/A; N=55); males (N/A; N=80)
  • Asian total (2.5%; N=741); females (1.1%; N=399); males (3.9%; N=342)
  • Black total (10.2%; N=2,741); females (4.1%; N=1,1413); males (16.1%; N=1,322)
  • Hispanic (10.3%; N=4,676); females (7.8%; N=2,412); males (12.9%; N=2,251)
  • NHOPI (15.0%; N=173); females (N/A; N=83); males (N/A; N=89)
  • White (5.7%; N=6,828); females (4.0%; N=3,403); males (7.1%; N=3,418)
  • Multiple race (9.1%; N=547); females (9.2%; N=307); males (8.9%; N=240)

2. Drank Alcohol For The First Time Before Age 13 Years (more than just a few sips)
  • Total (21.1%; N=16,207); females (18.1%; N=8,194); males (23.7%; N=7,949)
  • AI/AN total (36.0%; N=136); females (N/A; N=54); males (N/A; N=80)
  • Asian total (14.8%; N=734); females (12.4%; N=392); males (17.2%; N=342)
  • Black total (24.9%; N=2,773); females (21.9%; N=1,429); males (27.6%; N=1,338)
  • Hispanic (27.1%; N=4,692); females (23.2%; N=2,408); males (31.0%; N=2,271)
  • NHOPI (23.9%; N=176); females (N/A; N=83); males (N/A; N=92)
  • White (18.1%; N=6,854); females (15.5%; N=3,411); males (20.3%; N=3,436)
  • Multiple race (22.7%; N=552); females (20.0%; N=308); males (26.0%; N=244)

3. Ever Used Any Form Of Cocaine One Or More Times (for example, powder, crack, or freebase, during their life)
  • Total (6.4%; N=16,204); females (5.3%; N=8,214); males (7.3%; N=7,927)
  • AI/AN total (10.9%; N=135); females (N/A; N=53); males (N/A; N=80)
  • Asian total (3.9%; N=744); females (2.7%; N=402); males (5.2%; N=342)
  • Black total (2.9%; N=2,769); females (1.5%; N=1,431); males (4.3%; N=1,332)
  • Hispanic (9.4%; N=4,692); females (8.7%; N=2,415); males (10.1%; N=2,265)
  • NHOPI (8.5%; N=174); females (N/A; N=82); males (N/A; N=91)
  • White (6.3%; N=6,846); females (5.4%; N=3,410); males (7.1%; N=3,429)
  • Multiple race (3.8%; N=492); females (2.3%; N=274); males (5.5%; N=218)

4. Ever Used Heroin One Or More Times (also called "smack", "junk", or "China white", during their life)
  • Total (2.5%; N=15,731); females (1.7%; N=7,923); males (3.2%; N=7,750)
  • AI/AN total (3.1%; N=134); females (N/A; N=53); males (N/A; N=79)
  • Asian total (2.4%; N=662); females (1.3%; N=348); males (3.5%; N=314)
  • Black total (2.2%; N=2,757); females (0.7%; N=1,418); males (3.6%; N=1,333)
  • Hispanic (3.3%; N=4,450); females (2.9%; N=2,270); males (3.6%; N=2,171)
  • NHOPI (6.1%; N=144); females (N/A; N=67); males (N/A; N=76)
  • White (2.2%; N=6,798); females (1.6%; N=3,381); males (2.7%; N=3,411)
  • Multiple race (3.3%; N=501); females (1.9%; N=278); males (4.9%; N=223)

5. Ever Used Methamphetamines One Or More Times (also called "speed", "crystal", "crank", or "ice", during their life)
  • Total (4.1%; N=16,289); females (3.3%; N=8,244); males (4.7%; N=7,982)
  • AI/AN total (11.0%; N=137); females (N/A; N=54); males (N/A; N=81)
  • Asian total (3.1%; N=745); females (3.0%; N=401); males (3.2%; N=344)
  • Black total (2.7%; N=2,790); females (1.0%; N=1,437); males (4.5%; N=1,347)
  • Hispanic (5.7%; N=4,728); females (5.2%; N=2,430); males (6.1%; N=2,286)
  • NHOPI (7.7%; N=175); females (N/A; N=83); males (N/A; N=91)
  • White (3.7%; N=6,868); females (3.2%; N=3,419); males (4.2%; N=3,442)
  • Multiple race (4.6%; N=550); females (4.0%; N=307); males (5.3%; N=243)

6. Ever Used Ecstasy One Or More Times (also called "MDMA", during their life)
  • Total (6.7%; N=15,887); females (5.5%; N=8,016); males (7.6%; N=7,811)
  • AI/AN total (13.3%; N=134); females (N/A; N=53); males (N/A; N=79)
  • Asian total (4.3%; N=713); females (3.2%; N=383); males (5.3%; N=330)
  • Black total (5.1%; N=2,758); females (3.8%; N=1,420); males (6.5%; N=1,332)
  • Hispanic (8.2%; N=4,485); females (7.5%; N=2,287); males (8.9%; N=2,187)
  • NHOPI (12.0%; N=161); females (N/A; N=78); males (N/A; N=82)
  • White (6.4%; N=6,814); females (5.3%; N=3,388); males (7.4%; N=3,420)
  • Multiple race (8.0%; N=536); females (6.6%; N=298); males (9.8%; N=238)

7. Ever Took Steroid Pills Or Shots Without A Doctor's Prescription One Or More Times (during their life)
  • Total (3.3%; N=16,320); females (2.2%; N=8,256); males (4.3%; N=8,001)
  • AI/AN total (7.6%; N=139); females (N/A; N=55); males (N/A; N=82)
  • Asian total (3.1%; N=747); females (2.4%; N=403); males (3.8%; N=344)
  • Black total (2.8%; N=2,803); females (0.9%; N=1,441); males (4.6%; N=1,356)
  • Hispanic (3.9%; N=4,734); females (3.2%; N=2,433); males (4.6%; N=2,289)
  • NHOPI (5.3%; N=175); females (N/A; N=83); males (N/A; N=91)
  • White (3.1%; N=6,873); females (2.1%; N=3,419); males (3.9%; N=3,447)
  • Multiple race (3.4%; N=552); females (1.9%; N=309); males (5.2%; N=243)

8. Offered, Sold, Or Given An Illegal Drug By Someone On School Property (during the 12 months before the survey)
  • Total (22.7%; N=16,261); females (19.3%; N=8,238); males (25.9%; N=7,962)
  • AI/AN total (34.0%; N=139); females (N/A; N=55); males (N/A; N=82)
  • Asian total (18.3%; N=748); females (15.1%; N=402); males (21.5%; N=346)
  • Black total (22.2%; N=2,782); females (18.8%; N=1,435); males (25.7%; N=1,341)
  • Hispanic (31.2%; N=4,721); females (27.1%; N=2,429); males (35.1%; N=2,280)
  • NHOPI (27.6%; N=174); females (N/A; N=83); males (N/A; N=90)
  • White (19.8%; N=6,855); females (16.5%; N=3,412); males (22.7%; N=3,436)
  • Multiple race (26.9%; N=550); females (23.0%; N=308); males (31.6%; N=242)

Although I didn't show the results for every survey item listed under the substance use construct, it's still worth noting that AI/AN's had the highest prevalence rates for 7/8 survey items listed above. NHOPI's were in the "top two" for 5/7 survey items. Again, the small sample sizes for the two indigenous groups (counting "NHOPI" here since Hawaiians are included) are unfortunate. However, the high prevalence rates for these two indigenous "umbrella" ethnic groups cannot be ignored. More research and resources are, no doubt, needed in these communities.

Academics Blogs
Blog Directory

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Youth Violence and Indigenous Peoples

The Centers for Disease Control has their Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) that provides rates of different types of risk for 9th-12th graders across the United States. The 2009 data are out, and there's some extremely interesting findings.

To begin with, those going to the site can break down the data by grade, state, "race," and sex, and even test for statistical significance when making comparative requests. It's quite impressive, so that's what I did.

First, with regard to "race," there are the typical concerns. The sample size is just over 16,000, so its representativeness is suspect, especially when considering certain groups. The "Asian" group for instance, has just under 750 subjects, and the rates of risk tend to be low when compared to other groups. Of course, "Asians" are comprised of Japanese, Chinese, Laotians, Filipinos, Cambodians, etc.
Southeast Asians typically have much higher risk rates than East Asians, so it's a problematic and small "umbrella" category, but one that would become even smaller if broken down by all the ethnic groups that comprise the "Asian" rubric. Same concern for "Hispanics" -- how do specific Latino groups differ?

Okay, now that that's out of the way, let's look at the rates of different types of violence, compared by "race" and sex. I've bolded the two groups (males and females combined) with the highest prevalence rates for each type of violence, also providing percentages ("yes" respondents) and sample sizes for each group.


1. Carried a weapon on school property on at least 1 day (for example, a gun, knife, or club during the 30 days before survey)
  • Total 5.6% (N=16,256) females 2.9% (N=8,239) males 8.0% (N=7,958)
  • American Indian or Alaskan Native (AI/AN) total 4.2% (N=138) females N/A (N=55) males N/A (N=81)
  • Asian total 3.6% (N=746) females 0.9% (N=402) males 6.3% (N=344)
  • Black total 5.3% (N=2,795) females 4.0% (N=1,437) males 6.6% (N=1,351)
  • Hispanic total 5.8% (N=4,712) females 3.7% (N=2,424) males 7.9% (N=2,277)
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander (NHOPI) total 9.8% (N=177) females N/A (N=85) males N/A (N=91)
  • White total 5.6% (N=6,848) females 2.4% (N=3,415) males 8.3% (N=3,426)
  • Multiple race total 5.8% (N=552) females 4.7% (N=309) males 7.3% (N=243)

2. Did not go to school because they felt unsafe at school or on their way to or from school on at least 1 day (during the 30 days before survey)

  • Total 5.0% (N=16,371) females 5.3% (N=8,268) males 4.6% (N=8,040)
  • AI/AN total 8.7% (N=139) females N/A (N=55) males N/A (N=82)
  • Asian total 2.9% (N=749) females 3.4% (N=403) males 2.3% (N=346)
  • Black total 6.3% (N=2,817) females 6.6% (N=1,445) males 5.9% (N=1,365)
  • Hispanic total 8.1% (N=4,750) females 8.3% (N=2,432) males 7.9% (N=2,305)
  • NHOPI total 10.6% (N=179) females N/A (N=85) males N/A (N=94)
  • White total 3.5% (N=6,886) females 3.8% (N=3,424) males 3.3% (N=3,455)
  • Multiple race total 5.5% (N=558) females 5.4% (N=311) males 5.6% (N=247)

3. Threatened or injured with a weapon on school property one or more times (for example, a gun, knife, or club during the 12 months before survey)

  • Total 7.7% (N=16,367) females 5.5% (N=8,264) males 9.6% (N=8,041)
  • AI/AN total 16.5% (N=139) females N/A (N=55) males N/A (N=82)
  • Asian total 5.5% (N=750) females 1.6% (N=403) males 9.4% (N=347)
  • Black total 9.4% (N=2,828) females 7.4% (N=1,448) males 11.2% (N=1,373)
  • Hispanic total 9.1% (N=4,742) females 6.3% (N=2,429) males 12.0% (N=2,301)
  • NHOPI total 12.5% (N=179) females N/A (N=84) males N/A (N=94)
  • White total 6.4% (N=6,883) females 4.9% (N=3,423) males 7.8% (N=3,453)
  • Multiple race total 9.2% (N=557) females 5.2% (N=311) males 14.0% (N=246)

4. In a physical fight on school property one or more times (during 12 months before survey)

  • Total 11.1% (N=16,089) females 6.7% (N=8,150) males 15.1% (N=7,879)
  • AI/AN total 20.7% (N=135) females N/A (N=53) males N/A (N=80)
  • Asian total 7.7% (N=732) females 4.1% (N=397) males 11.4% (N=335)
  • Black total 17.4% (N=2,769) females 12.5% (N=1,430) males 22.2% (N=1,332)
  • Hispanic total 13.5% (N=4,676) females 9.3% (N=2,400) males 17.7% (N=2,263)
  • NHOPI total 14.8% (N=175) females N/A (N=83) males N/A (N=91)
  • White total 8.6% (N=6,771) females 4.3% (N=3,371) males 12.4% (N=3,394)
  • Multiple race total 12.4% (N=541) females 7.5% (N=302) males 18.3% (N=239)

5. Bullied on school property (during 12 months before survey)

  • Total 19.9% (N=15,633) females 21.2% (N=7,838) males 18.7% (N=7,734)
  • AI/AN total 33.8% (N=133) females N/A (N=52) males N/A (N=79)
  • Asian total 17.5% (N=650) females 13.9% (N=344) males 21.0% (N=306)
  • Black total 13.7% (N=2,728) females 15.5% (N=1,399) males 11.9% (N=1,322)
  • Hispanic total 18.5% (N=4,440) females 18.9% (N=2,254) males 18.0% (N=2,175)
  • NHOPI total 20.4% (N=146) females N/A (N=68) males N/A (N=77
  • White total 21.6% (N=6,756) females 23.5% (N=3,341) males 19.9% (N=3,409)
  • Multiple race total 23.9% (N=497) females 22.8% (N=273) males 25.1% (N=224)


6. Carried a weapon on at least 1 day (for example, a gun, knife, or a club during the 30 days before survey)

  • Total 17.5% (N=16,110) females 7.1% (N=8,203) males 27.1% (N=7,848)
  • AI/AN total 20.7% (N=137) females N/A (N=55) males N/A (N=80)
  • Asian total 8.4% (N=745) females 3.8% (N=401) males 13.0% (N=344)
  • Black total 14.4% (N=2,746) females 7.8% (N=1,427) males 21.0% (N=1,312)
  • Hispanic total 17.2% (N=4,667) females 7.9% (N=2,412) males 26.5% (N=2,244)
  • NHOPI total 20.3% (N=175) females N/A (N=84) males N/A (N=90)
  • White total 18.6% (N=6,807) females 6.5% (N=3,405) males 29.3% (N=3,395)
  • Multiple race total 17.9% (N=550) females 10.9% (N=308) males 26.2% (N=242)

7. Carried a gun on at least 1 day (during the 30 days before survey)

  • Total 5.9% (N=15,664) females 1.7% (N=7,916) males 9.8% (N=7,690)
  • AI/AN total 7.6% (N=135) females N/A (N=54) males N/A (N=79)
  • Asian total 3.4% (N=662) females 0.8% (N=347) males 5.7% (N=315)
  • Black total 7.6% (N=2,736) females 1.8% (N=1,417) males 13.2% (N=1,312)
  • Hispanic total 5.1% (N=4,430) females 1.9% (N=2,266) males 8.2% (N=2,154)
  • NHOPI total 10.4% (N=145) females N/A (N=69) males N/A (N=75)
  • White total 5.8% (N=6,778) females 1.5% (N=3,377) males 9.5% (N=3,395)
  • Multiple race total 7.2% (N=502) females 3.3% (N=279) males 11.7% (N=223)

8. In a physical fight 1 or more times (during the 12 months before survey)

  • Total 31.5% (N=16,130) females 22.9% (N=8,183) males 39.3% (N=7,890)
  • AI/AN total 42.4% (N=135) females N/A (N=53) males N/A (N=80)
  • Asian total 18.9% (N=737) females 13.2% (N=399) males 24.9% (N=338)
  • Black total 41.1% (N=2,759) females 33.9% (N=1,426) males 48.3% (N=1,326)
  • Hispanic total 36.2% (N=4,672) females 28.5% (N=2,404) males 43.8% (N=2,255)
  • NHOPI total 32.6% (N=174) females N/A (N=83) males N/A (N=90)
  • White total 27.8% (N=6,825) females 18.2% (N=3,402) males 36.0% (N=3,417)
  • Multiple race total 34.2% (N=549) females 26.7% (N=306) males 42.9% (N=243)

9. Injured in a physical fight one or more times (injuries had to be treated by a doctor or nurse, during 12 months before survey)

  • Total 3.8% (N=15,749) females 2.2% (N=7,938) males 5.1% (N=7,752)
  • AI/AN total 7.9% (N=134) females N/A (N=53) males N/A (N=79)
  • Asian total 2.9% (N=702) females 1.7% (N=378) males 4.1% (N=324)
  • Black total 5.7% (N=2,748) females 4.4% (N=1,414) males 7.0% (N=1,327)
  • Hispanic total 4.7% (N=4,462) females 3.3% (N=2,270) males 6.0% (N=2,181)
  • NHOPI total 7.3% (N=164) females N/A (N=79) males N/A (N=84)
  • White total 2.9% (N=6,732) females 1.3% (N=3,343) males 4.2% (N=3,383)
  • Multiple race total 3.9% (N=528) females 1.9% (N=294) males 6.2% (N=234)

10. Hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend (during the 12 months before the survey)

  • Total 9.8% (N=16,217) females 9.3% (N=8,196) males 10.3% (N=7,957)
  • AI/AN total 13.4% (N=139) females N/A (N=55) males N/A (N=82)
  • Asian total 5.5% (N=740) females 5.3% (N=399) males 5.8% (N=341)
  • Black total 14.3% (N=2,803) females 14.8% (N=1,443) males 13.8% (N=1,353)
  • Hispanic total 11.5% (N=4,713) females 11.4% (N=2,414) males 11.7% (N=2,286)
  • NHOPI total 13.1% (N=177) females N/A (N=84) males N/A (N=92)
  • White total 8.0% (N=6,803) females 7.2% (N=3,380) males 8.8% (N=3,416)
  • Multiple race total 12.2% (N=548) females 11.2% (N=307) males 13.4% (N=241)

11. Every physically forced to have sexual intercourse (when they did not want to)

  • Total 7.4% (N=15,735) females 10.5% (N=7,926) males 4.5% (N=7,748)
  • AI/AN total 13.1% (N=135) females N/A (N=52) males N/A (N=81)
  • Asian total 5.7% (N=733) females 6.4% (N=396) males 4.9% (N=337)
  • Black total 10.0% (N=2,492) females 12.0% (N=1,286) males 7.9% (N=1,201)
  • Hispanic total 8.4% (N=4,680) females 11.2% (N=2,391) males 5.7% (N=2,276)
  • NHOPI total 11.9% (N=175) females N/A (N=83) males N/A (N=91)
  • White total 6.3% (N=6,696) females 10.0% (N=3,309) males 3.2% (N=3,380)
  • Multiple race total 9.3% (N=540) females 11.2% (N=301) males 6.9% (N=239)


12. Felt sad or hopeless (almost every day for 2 or more weeks in a row so that they stopped doing some usual activities during the 12 months before survey)

  • Total 26.1% (N=16,232) females 33.9% (N=8,199) males 19.1% (N=7,969)
  • AI/AN total 30.8% (N=139) females N/A (N=55) males N/A (N=82)
  • Asian total 23.5% (N=741) females 26.4% (N=399) males 20.5% (N=342)
  • Black total 27.7% (N=2,811) females 37.5% (N=1,444) males 17.9% (N=1,360)
  • Hispanic total 31.6% (N=4,723) females 39.7% (N=2,420) males 23.6% (N=2,290)
  • NHOPI total 33.4% (N=177) females N/A (N=83) males N/A (N=93)
  • White total 23.7% (N=6,801) females 31.1% (N=3,381) males 17.2% (N=3,413)
  • Multiple race total 31.1% (N=544) females 35.8% (N=304) males 25.4% (N=240)

13. Seriously considered attempting suicide (during 12 months before the survey)

  • Total 13.8% (N=16,200) females 17.4% (N=8,189) males 10.5% (N=7,966)
  • AI/AN total 19.0% (N=139) females N/A (N=55) males N/A (N=82)
  • Asian total 14.9% (N=740) females 16.9% (N=399) males 12.9% (N=341)
  • Black total 13.0% (N=2,805) females 18.1% (N=1,438) males 7.8% (N=1,360)
  • Hispanic total 15.4% (N=4,722) females 20.2% (N=2,417) males 10.7% (N=2,292)
  • NHOPI total 19.2% (N=179) females N/A (N=84) males N/A (N=94)
  • White total 13.1% (N=6,792) females 16.1% (N=3,377) males 10.5% (N=3,408)
  • Multiple race total 18.0% (N=545) females 21.2% (N=306) males 14.3% (N=239)

14. Made a plan about how they would attempt suicide (during the 12 months before survey)

  • Total 10.9% (N=16,213) females 13.2% (N=8,183) males 8.6% (N=7,965)
  • AI/AN total 17.0% (N=139) females N/A (N=55) males N/A (N=82)
  • Asian total 12.6% (N=740) females 14.7% (N=398) males 10.4% (N=342)
  • Black total 9.8% (N=2,798) females 13.3% (N=1,433) males 6.2% (N=1,358)
  • Hispanic total 12.2% (N=4,720) females 15.4% (N=2,418) males 9.0% (N=2,289)
  • NHOPI total 13.2% (N=177) females N/A (N=84) males N/A (N=92)
  • White total 10.3% (N=6,796) females 12.3% (N=3,376) males 8.5% (N=3,413)
  • Multiple race total 13.2% (N=545) females 14.4% (N=306) males 11.8% (N=239)

15. Attempted suicide 1 or more times (during the 12 months before survey)

  • Total 6.3% (N=14,609) females 8.1% (N=7,475) males 4.6% (N=7,082)
  • AI/AN total 10.0% (N=122) females N/A (N=51) males N/A (N=69)
  • Asian total 4.0% (N=681) females 3.7% (N=367) males 4.3% (N=314)
  • Black total 7.9% (N=2,308) females 10.4% (N=1,206) males 5.4% (N=1,096)
  • Hispanic total 8.1% (N=4,132) females 11.1% (N=2,151) males 5.1% (N=1,972)
  • NHOPI total 11.9% (N=155) females N/A (N=73) males N/A (N=81)
  • White total 5.0% (N=6,459) females 6.5% (N=3,237) males 3.8% (N=3,215)
  • Multiple race total 12.4% (N=509) females 13.7% (N=289) males 10.8% (N=220)

Okay, that's a lot to unpack. To begin with, there are some prevalence rates that merit discussions in their totality. The last survey item on suicide attempt(s) surprised me a bit. Over 1 in every 20 youths reports a suicide attempt within the last year. Survey item #11 on sexual assault also surprised me, with about 1 in 10 girls reporting forced sexual intercourse. These are American high school students. I knew these rates were high for young adults, but not this high for high schoolers.

Now onto the prevalence rates by "race." For 12/15 survey items displayed here, "American Indian or Alaskan Native" youth had either the highest or second highest prevalence rates. They had the highest rates for 8/15 survey items. "Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander" youth were in the "top two" for 11/15 survey items. None of the other construted "race" groups ranked among the "top two" slots nearly as much.

One could easily aruge the sample sizes for these groups are too small to make generalizations, and thus, they are not representative. That's a valid concern. At the same time, one cannot help but notice that these groups are also the colonized groups in the United States (well, for the NHOPI group, Hawaiians are). True, their proportion of the total U.S. teen population is small, but that is largely because of their colonial history.

These consistently high rates across numerous youth violence constructs demand further research with those communities and further illustrate colonialism's deleterious impacts on indigenous peoples. Without strong data, these communities have a more difficult time advocating for services and policy change. The feds need to get the concentrated research with indigenous communities conducted, and start providing these communities with more robust youth, family, and occupational resources, now!

Academics Blogs
Top Sites

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Jim Valvano: Don't Ever Give Up...

ESPY's on tonight. I remember watching this back in the college days, not knowing who Jim Valvano was. His speech inspried me nonetheless. Nothing academic here, which is okay for now.

Winner tonight, Nugets coach, George Karl.

Academics Blogs
Top Sites

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Male Objectification and Occupational Anxieties, the Body Panic Continues

It's pretty funny, the commercials you'll catch when you watch ESPN. What's new? -- the slimming garment, designed for men! The most interesting part of the commercial, seen in the video below at 1:25, is how they tie in occupational anxieties to one's physicality.

Hey, if ya look good and feel good, better chance of getting the job! I suppose there's some truth to confidence and employment. Still, the way these folks play off the economic recession and its tie to male "
body panic" is highly problematic. This is a good example of how men's bodies are increasingly becoming objectified, especially their upper bodies.