Introduction to Sociology

In / Out Groups: Nationalism

More on ‘in’ and ‘out’ groups.  Cartoon by Tom Gauld.


Image from Drawn and Quarterly


Gender Identity

We commonly differentiate ‘sex’ as biological identity, from ‘gender,’ which is the cultural, social, and psychological differences between males and females.  Gender then refers to the patterns we associate with men and women in a cultural context.  The relationship between sex and gender often seen as direct or compulsory, but is socially constructed.  As I’ve previously posted, the Gender Unicorn illustrates the difference between gender identity, gender expression, sex assigned at birth, physical attraction, and emotional attraction. 

Some other cultures have historically included gender identities outside of the male / female binary.  This recognition of identity does not necessarily mean that they do not face discrimination

Recently, Germany has recognized a third gender for intersex people.  As I’ve previously posted, intersex people “do not fit the typical definition of male or female… biological characteristics.”  Theorist Judith Butler argues gender is performative in that it “produces a series of effects” that “consolidate an impression of being a man or being a woman.”  We are not born as men and women, but that it is in social interaction that gender identities are reproduced.

Other terms that have entered the general vernacular around gender include ‘cisgender’ and ‘transgender’ people.  Cisgender people are those whose sex assigned at birth does correspond with their gender identity.  Transgender people are those whose sex assigned at birth does not correspond with their gender identity.  Because transgender people encounter intolerance and violence, gender performance can be complex.

It is becoming more common for young people to identify as gender ‘non binary,’ meaning they do not identify as male or female, or ‘non conforming,’ meaning their gender expression does not correspond with the cultural expectations of their respective gender.  A study recently found that 27% of teenagers in California are gender nonconforming.  In Oregon and California, residents can legally identify as non binary on drivers licenses and state documents.  In 2017, a baby in Canada became the first to have the gender status of ‘unassigned’ or ‘undetermined’ on their health records.  Some celebrities, such as musician Sam Smith and actress Amandla Stenberg, have also come out as gender non binary.    

Structure v. Agency and Aboriginal People

One of the core questions raised in sociology is are we determined by society or do we determine society?  Comedian Tom Ballard interviewed journalist Stan Grant on his podcast Like I’m A Six-Year-Old.  In the second half of this episode (122) arguments of structure and agency arise around Aboriginal people’s rights and treatment in Australia.  Within the interview the two also discuss assimilation, defining a nation’s history, and the role of media in politics.

like i'm aimage from Tom Ballard’s website

The episode can be found at the above link or here: 122 – Stan Grant (Live At Yack Festival) Pt. 1

The Gender Unicorn

“The Gender Unicorn” is a visual depiction that clarifies and distinguishes various aspects of individuals’ gender and sexual identity.  Its predecessor “The Genderbread Person” is considered by some to be inaccurate and possibly plagiarized.  

gender unicorn.jpgimage from

Norms: Ikea in Different Cultures

The Ikea chain of stores is a “world-wide wonder” with locations in 49 different countries.  Marketing, and more specifically the annual catalogue, are adapted to their respective countries.  Quartz has an interesting article about some of these variations and resulting controversiespussy riot ikeaImage from The Moscow Times

Whitewashing in Movies

Whitewashing in film is when either 1) white actors play characters of color and pretend to be of the character’s racial / ethnic heritage or 2) the story itself is changed and characters of color are made white.  This has long been a problem, but has reignited recently with casting of films such as Aloha, Ghost in the Shell, and Doctor Strange.

In the case of the film Hell Boy, actor Ed Skrein decided to back out of his portrayal of Major Ben Daimio.  He released the following on twitter concerning his decision:


Casting characters of color with actors of color can also be contentious.  In the case of The Hunger Games, the casting of Amandla Stenberg and Lenny Kravitz, casted as Rue and Cinna respectively, resulted in a racist twitter backlash.  Readers of the book assumed these characters were white, despite descriptions to the contrary.  Similarly, the casting of black actress Noma Dumezweni as adult Hermione in the Harry Potter play was met with racist reactions.