Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies

Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies
School of Sociology and Social Policy
Social Sciences Building
Leeds, LS2 9JT
UK

Tel: +44 (0) 113 343 3770
Fax: +44 (0) 113 343 4415
gender-studies@leeds.ac.uk

News

#Metoo and the task of coalition building to combat violence against women

by Jessica Wild, PhD candidate, School of Sociology & Social Policy

The recent social media campaign  #metoo transpired following numerous public disclosures of sexual violence, initially by women in show business. This prompted a renewed focus on the widespread perpetration of (sexual) violence against women across all facets of society. Arguably, the campaign gained such significant traction because of the high profiles of the women who spoke out, however its reach has now facilitated a broader public articulation of narratives of the sexism and misogyny women experience daily. For many victim-survivors, it is often only when their experiences are reflected in public discourse that they identify and name their own experience. This has functioned in some ways to galvanise victim-survivors and collectivise their experiences, while sending out a message that they are not alone, pointing to a broader social problem, rather than an individual phenomenon.

The #metoo campaign has also simultaneously sparked a counter discourse from some men, prompting them to speak out and publicly take a stand against violence against women through an acknowledgement of their complicity in this issue. In this, they have highlighted that (men’s) silence indeed equates to collusion when it comes to violence against women. Campaigns such as these therefore plausibly challenge all men’s silence and their collective complicity in a problem which is rooted in social norms and a patriarchal system from which the majority of men routinely benefit. However, at a time when one of the most powerful men in the world has had his own sexually abusive behaviour exposed, and yet remains in office, the extent to which this deeply rooted problem can be challenged through campaigns such as this, is less discernible. It also becomes glaringly obvious that the lived experiences of some women and girls often cannot compete with the privilege and power of some men. Indeed, are we to applaud the men that come out and acknowledge their collusion in this issue, not only via their silence but also often through subtle engagement with violence supportive norms and behaviours that are considered common place and an aspect of mere ‘banter’?

The most recent UK domestic abuse statistics indicate that 8.2% of women and 4.0 % of men reported any form of domestic abuse in the year ending March 2015. This is equivalent to 1.3 million female victim-survivors, and 600 000 male victim-survivors (ONS, 2016), with overall statistics indicating that on average one in four women will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime, and two women killed every week by a current or former partner (Women’s Aid, 2016). Sexual violence is just one form of a range of abuses women and girls experience daily, indicative of the widespread normalisation of violence against women. Despite this, the public narrative and the stories that we tell about women’s experiences of abuse typically remain stubbornly fixed on victims rather than perpetrators, and there has been limited recognition until more recently, that this is an issue which is not the sole prerogative of women to address.  The UK government’s violence against women and girls strategy (2016-2020) outlines an approach which coheres with this assertion, operating on the basic notion that violence against women is “everybody’s business”, with a strategic focus on the engagement of “men, boys and bystanders” to challenge violence against women and “further social change”(Home Office, 2016, p. 52).  Policies implemented under welfare reform are however severely at odds with the Government’s strategy, because while it seemingly recognises the scale of the problem, it has not allocated funds or resources sufficient for the intervention and prevention work required to address this issue in the longer term (Towers and Walby, 2012). This makes for treacherous terrain when seeking to explore new prevention approaches not least because service providers as well as victim-survivors themselves, are often faced with severe funding and provision uncertainty (Robson, 2016).

Given the persistent “everydayness” (Kelly and Westmarland, 2016) and pervasive nature of this issue, we need to begin reworking the normative discourses that inform approaches to prevention, which should strive to go beyond social media campaigns.  This entails resituating the attribution of responsibility and accountability within the public story of sexual and domestic abuse. In practice, this equates to a shifting of responsibility from women and those that experience violence and abuse, to all actors in society, including (non-perpetrating) men. Dismantling the dominant social order which precipitates this violence entails in part, engaging men as social justice ‘allies’, tasked with making it more socially acceptable to resist sexism and misogyny, and call out those who engage with harmful social norms. My research explores these ideas of coalition or alliance building between women and men to prevent domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women. In this, I examine the participation of men in prevention efforts as part of the wider (feminist) social justice movement to address this issue.  This is predicated on the notion that until those that are powerful take an active role in seeking to end discrimination, discrimination and oppression will persist (Casey, 2010). Failure to recognise the role of men in this context can also be construed as the product of a persistent prejudice within a patriarchal system that systematically benefits those in power, and which is indicative of a reluctance to dismantle the dominant social order.

The task of including men as social justice allies in this type of work is not however without significant challenges and risks, which include concerns regarding the co-optation of the women’s anti-violence movement and the obfuscation of women’s voices, particularly when set against the backdrop of the current socio-political climate of austerity.  The political ideology that first underpinned early feminist anti-violence work is also increasingly challenged by the ever more popular discourse of post-feminism. While the definitional boundaries of the term are often quite blurry or overly generalised, in its most common form, post-feminism draws upon the tenets of individual choice, entitlement and (female) empowerment (Gill and Scharff, 2011). Crucially, it espouses the notion that early feminist battles have now been fought and won. In this, post-feminism is positioned as a rejection of the second-wave’s so-called victim-centred feminism and instead offers up women’s (perceived) individual choices and self-determination as an alternative to more radical feminist or political activism (Butler, 2013; Walby, 2011). Informed by neoliberal ideals regarding women’s social positioning and sexuality, postfeminist thought according to this reading, is potentially very damaging for work aimed at addressing men’s violence towards women because it risks positioning women as responsible for their own victimisation, and shifts focus away from the structural conditions and systems of power that precipitate this social problem. It also enables domestic abuse and violence against women to be reconstituted as the problem of individual women and aberrant men (Stanko, 1990).

When situated within this framework, and current socio-political climate, a shift in focus from structural conditions and systems of power, to the individual agency of citizens, functions as Walby (2011) argues, to resituate the gaze onto those that are relatively powerless. This in turn, can lead to victim blaming, while those in power escape public scrutiny. It also risks a potential regression to the early stages of the anti-violence against women movement of the 1980s, which fervently fought to move the issue of domestic abuse out of the private domain of the home, and into the public realm (Dobash and Dobash, 1992). Meaningful and sustainable responses to domestic and sexual abuse require that gender inequality is addressed in a way that acknowledges the role that men play in this, as well as a critical examination of the structural conditions that enable it. This requires the unified strength of collective feminist activism and political action. The notion that feminism has now achieved everything it set out to achieve, or that the most important battles have been won, is incredibly damaging for work to address deep rooted gendered social problems such as domestic abuse. And, in the shadow of campaigns such as #metoo, and current domestic abuse statistics, it is hard to believe that indeed the most important battles have been won.

 

References

Butler, J. 2013. For White Girls Only?: Postfeminism and the Politics of Inclusion. Feminist Formations. 25(1), pp.35-58.

Casey, E. 2010. Strategies for Engaging Men as Anti-Violence Allies: Implications for Ally Movements. Advances in Social Work 11(2), pp.267-282.

Dobash, R.E. and Dobash, R.P. 1992. Women, violence and social change. London: Routledge.

Gill, R. and Scharff, C. 2011. New femininities: postfeminism, neoliberalism and subjectivity. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Home Office. 2016. Violence against Women and Girls Strategy 2016 – 2020. London: HM Government.

Kelly, L. and Westmarland, N. 2016. Naming and defining ‘domestic violence’: Lessons from research with violent men. Feminist Review. 112(1), pp.113-127.

ONS. 2016. Chapter 4: Intimate personal violence and partner abuse. [Online]. [Accessed 08/08/2016]. Available from: http://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/compendium/focusonviolentcrimeandsexualoffences/yearendingmarch2015/chapter4intimatepersonalviolenceandpartnerabuse.

Robson, S. 2016. Challenging Austerity: The impact of austerity measures on women’s voluntary community organisations and the response of the women’s sector. [Online]. London: Women’s Resource Centre. Available from: https://thewomensresourcecentre.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/State-of-the-womens-sector-survey-reportMay2016-FINAL.pdf.

Stanko, E.A. 1990. Intimate intrusions: women’s experience of male violence. London: Unwin Hyman.

Towers, J. and Walby, S. 2012. Measuring the impact of cuts in public expenditure on the provision of services to prevent violence against women and girls Lancaster University, Northern Rock Foundation, and Trust for London.

Walby, S. 2011. The future of feminism. Cambridge: Polity.

Women’s Aid. 2016. Women’s Aid Annual Survey 2015: the findings London: Women’s Aid.

 

This entry was posted in Blog, News.

Thanksgiving: the relationship between sport, society and oppression. Introduction.

For Thanksgiving this year, Greg Hollin and 5 colleagues compiled a collection of posts on the theme of “Thanksgiving: the relationship between sport, society and oppression”. You can download the collection in pdf form here, but CIGS is also proud to be able to host the series as individual posts here on the blog. There are 6 posts in all, beginning with Greg’s introduction below. Enjoy!

***

Members of the San Francisco 49ers kneel for the national anthem.

By Greg Hollin

Today, the forth Thursday in November, millions of North Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving. Like many others around the world my thoughts and actions today are shaped by two spheres of American life. First, and as fans pour into stadiums in Dallas, Detroit, and Washington, I will be meeting with friends and watching a lot of American Football. Thanksgiving and American Football are inextricably entangled. Much like Association Football and Boxing Day (December 26th) in the UK, playing football on Thanksgiving is a tradition which extends back into the 19th century and the National Football League (NFL) has hosted games on Thanksgiving every year since the league was founded in 1920. Even as someone who supports the side that, last year, suffered ‘the worst defeat in the history of sport’ I find myself drawn back to this tradition.

Second, I will be thinking about colonialism. As Ashley Niccole McCray and Lawrence Ware say in their article for CounterPunch:

‘Let’s be honest. On the last [sic] Thursday of November, every year, we celebrate the beginning of an European invasion that ends with the death or relocation of millions of native people.’

McCray and Ware’s piece is just one of many arguing that Thanksgiving needs to be radically rethought and decolonized. An acknowledgement that Thanksgiving is bound up with colonialism and genocide is not enough; the matter needs to be front and centre for, as Howard Zinn notes in his famed book A People’s History of the United States:

‘To emphasize the heroism of Columbus and his successors as navigators and discoverers, and to deemphasize their genocide, is not a technical necessity but an ideological choice. It serves – unwittingly – to justify what is done.’ (Zinn 1980: 9)

***

Under normal circumstances, colonialism and football would occupy different spaces in my mind. This year, however, things are quite different. In part, this is due to the fact that the Washington Redskins – the most brazen of all racist American team names – are playing this Thanksgiving. This coming together of sport, racism, and colonialism is also apparent, however, because of ongoing protests against police brutality made mainly, although not exclusively, by African-American athletes playing in the NFL.

As Rembert Browne writes for Bleacher Report these protests over police brutality came to international attention in August 2016 when it was noticed that then San Francisco 49ers (and now unemployed) quarterback Colin Kaepernick was sitting through the national anthem. (Kaepernick subsequently starting kneeling following conversations with ex-NFL player and military veteran Nate Boyer who suggested that kneeling was more respectful than sitting in a military context.) Over a year later, Kaepernick’s protest continues to generate front page news, not least because of numerous and notable provocations and incidents. First, Donald Trump’s repeated pronouncements on the protests. Second, star Seattle player Michael Bennett’s apparent arrest and mistreatment by the Las Vegas Police Department. Third, mind blowingly offensive statements from NFL owners. And forth, Kaepernick’s ongoing lawsuit which claims that owners of NFL teams have colluded to keep him out of the league. All this, of course, has occurred against ongoing acts of violence which were the cause of protests in the first place. For the first time in a long time, those of us who watch the NFL are being forced to consider matters of race at the exact same moment that we are watching the sport.

***

The links in the text above provide a good summary of the particularities of the Kaepernick case. The purpose of this blog, however, is to ask a slightly broader question into which the current case clearly fits: what is the relationship between oppression and sport? It seems to me that there are three answers generally proffered in relation to this question.

The first is to suggest that we need to keep politics out of sport. Like church and state, politics and sport need to be kept apart for the good of us all. Recent polls (discussed in the above link) suggest that the majority of Americans feel this way. The problem, of course, is that this is impossible. As the recent Oscar winning documentary OJ: Made in America made clear, politics and sport are absolutely intertwined. How could it be otherwise when there is an Alternative Soccer World Cup for peoples whose nations are not recognised by Soccer’s world governing body, FIFA?

The second option is to consider sport as a mirror of society or broader social patterns. Perhaps the fact that female tennis players and academics are paid less than their male peers should be understood as part of the same patriarchal culture? Examples of this argument are widespread and well-founded. In his biography of Muhammed Ali, for example, David Remnick argues that ‘Ali may not have read W.E.B. Du Bois, but he was a living example of the “two-ness,” the “double-consciousness,” described in The Souls of Black Folk’ (Remnick 1999: 278). The implication here is that Ali, his views, and his treatment can be understood with reference to pre-existing social theories which are not concerned with the particularities of sport.

The third (and final?) option is that sport somehow shapes or modifies oppressions and plays a constitutive role in society. Sport here does not reflect society but, as Jelani Cobb puts it, ‘refracts’ (that is, modifies) national anxieties. This view is well articulated by the historian, journalist, and socialist CLR James. In Beyond a Boundary, often claimed to be the greatest sports book ever written, James discusses liberal and socialist histories of Victorian England. James is aghast that these histories do not include mention of W.G. Grace, one of cricket’s most enduring icons and important players:

‘I can no longer accept the system of values which could not find in these books a place for W.G. Grace… Between those who, writing about social life in Britain, can leave him out, and myself, there yawns a gulf deep and wide.’ (James 1963/2005: 208)

For James, understanding society necessitates an understanding of sport – not as an epiphenomenon but as a constitutive element.

***

For me, understanding the relationship between sport, society, and oppression is a fascinating and important area of sociological inquiry; albeit an area I am not qualified to contribute to. Fortunately, here at Leeds there are a number of scholars whose work entails a detailed understanding of the relationship between sport and society. This Thanksgiving, at a time when colonialism and sport are to the front of so many minds, I asked scholars in our school a question which speaks to this matter:

“How should we understand the role of sport within society, with particular reference to various oppressions?”

In answering this question there is first is a contribution by Sonja Erikainen. Sonja (@SonjaErikainen on twitter) is a research fellow at The University of Edinburgh but, until recently, was a research student in the school. Sonja’s PhD involved a genealogy of the female category in Olympic sport. The current piece engages extensively with Colin Kaepernick and the ‘take a knee’ movement.

Second, work from Hizer Mir. Hizer (@hizzy20) is a PhD researcher in the school. Hizer’s work concerns matters of Islam, secularization, and understandings of the public sphere and last year Hizer discussed some of these issues in relation to ‘Steph Curry’s game winning shot’ making his work particularly applicable to the current context.

Third, Kay Phoenix Nacto. Phoenix is a PhD student in the school whose work engages with feminism, race, and popular culture. In this piece, Pheonix addresses another facet of the debate surrounding race and the NFL: the decision to invite Justin Timberlake to the superbowl in 2017 while ignoring Janet Jackson.

Fourth, a piece from Karen Throsby. Karen (@thelongswim) is Associate Professor within the school and has written extensively on gender and long distance swimming. It is from within this sporting arena that Karen situates her piece here.

Finally, the thoughts of Rodanthi Tzanelli, Associate Professor of Cultural Psychology. Rodanthi (@RodanthiPu) has written extensively on media, tourism, and globalization and this includes work examining recent Olympic ceremonies. The current piece, which Rodanthi has entitled ‘football mobilities’ examines oppression with a global focus very much in mind.

The answers below, ordered alphabetically, are thoughtful and diverse and I hope they make us all think about this matter a little more closely.

References 

James, C., 2005. Beyond a Boundary, London: Yellow Jersey Press.

Remnick, D., 1999. King of the World: Muhammed Ali and the Rise of an American Hero, New York: Picador.

Zinn, H., 1980. A People’s History of the United States, New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

This entry was posted in Blog, News.

The unseen hazards of researching sugar

by Karen Throsby

A few weeks ago, as part of my ongoing research on the social life of sugar, I set myself the task of watching a series of anti-sugar, and by extension, anti-obesity, documentary films. How do they tell the story of sugar in contemporary society? What evidence do they draw on? What imagery do they use? Who are the authoritative voices of anti-sugar? How do gender, race and class figure in those narratives?

Over just a few days, I watched Cereal Killers, Run on Fat, The Big Fat Fix, What the Health, Fed Up and Carb-Loaded. I watched each one twice; the first viewing was to get a general sense of the film, and during the second, I took detailed notes. It sounds leisurely and entertaining to watch films for research, but by the time I got to What the Health – an anti-sugar, anti-dairy documentary promoting a whole-food, plant-based (WFPB) diet – I started to feel inescapably sad at the overwhelming fat-hatred that runs through the films. I took stock and revisited my notes. They recorded over and over again the use of what fat activist, Charlotte Cooper calls the ‘headless fatty’ images – fat, headless torsos, thighs or backsides, often with hands clutching packages of fast food, from which we are supposed to deduce a lifetime of poor choices and devastatingly expensive health problems. A parade of ‘experts’ – predominantly white, male, middle class professionals – proclaim the catastrophe of the fat body, and especially in the case of children. In Fed Up, we meet 12 year old Maggie, who cries in despair and shame because she hasn’t lost any weight. Only her body size matters to the filmmakers, and the commentary ignores how articulate she is, how insightful, or how much fun we see her having in clips of her swimming and kayaking with her friends. These ‘failed’ bodies are contrasted with the ‘good’ bodies of predominantly male athletes whose lean, able-bodied physicality signal the normative self-control of the disciplined subject. None of the films talk about the constraining effects and pressing demands of poverty, or the gendered labour of shopping for and preparing the fresh, whole food they recommended.

The fat-phobia of the films started to weigh heavily on me. The films are hate narratives parading as entertainment and they are stained with contempt for the fat body. I felt poisoned by them, and in spite of my very critical understanding of fatness, I had inadvertently made myself a target of their fat hatred simply by virtue of watching the films. It was dispiriting; a concentrated encounter with the hatred that the visibly fat encounter every day, and one that brought my enthusiasm for my new project temporarily to a grinding halt.

So what’s a researcher to do? Clearly, leaving the films unwatched and unexamined is not an option, so instead, I instigated an anti-sugar film self-care regime. The first step was to abandon my binge-watching strategy and pack away the films; I took a whole week off from watching and instead burrowed my way through a pile of feminist technoscience studies gems that restored my faith in the world and in my research. The second step was to move to a schedule of no more than one film per week; and then finally, to follow each film immediately with a book of such incisive and feminist potency that the fat-phobic stain simply couldn’t withstand its force. The take away lessons from this experience are: (1) pace yourself, especially with potentially upsetting material; and (2) never underestimate the restorative power of feminist literature.

Karen Throsby is researching the sociology of sugar. Read more about the project here:

 

 

 

 

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My Degree Explained: Gender Studies MA

By Olivia Morris

@Oliviamorris14

When I tell people that I’m studying an MA in Gender Studies, I’m typically faced with some pretty poor and misinformed reactions including: “Eh? Gender Studies? Is that just a bunch of women sat around complaining about men?” “Are you going to be able to get a job with that?” “There can’t be that many people on your course…” “Are there any boys who do it?” and so on…

The amount of students on the course offered at the University of Leeds almost doubled from 2015 to 2016 with an additional 12 students taking the MA. There are a variety of people on the course who represent various gender identities, come from all kinds of different backgrounds and cultures, and between us there are more than 19 different languages spoken, including a student who can sign-language.

Students with a masters in gender studies go on to do a wide range of careers including: teaching, working for NGOs, campaigning and activism, further study, journalism, law and many more.

The research, analysis and communication skills that the course provides you with means there are plenty of options for students to go on to do. The course in general provides us with an overview of the gendered inequalities that we face in society both in the past and now, and what we can do to tackle these issues.

So what exactly is a MA in Gender Studies, and why is it becoming more popular? With the help of some fellow students and lecturers, I want to bust a few myths about Gender Studies at Master’s level, explaining what it’s really about and why it’s so important, from those who actually do the course.

Francesca Taylor, Student

“In September 2015 I began volunteering for a local women’s charity Support After Rape and Sexual Violence Leeds. It was through delivering frontline women’s services as a helpline volunteer, supporting survivors of sexual violence, that I fully realised the extent of gender discrimination and the necessity for more conversations and studies about gender inequality.

“Flash-forward a year on and I’m studying for my M.A in Gender Studies at Leeds with a view to work for a gender based charity in the future.

“The course offers an in-depth insight into feminist, queer and postcolonial theories (among many others); ways that we might research gender in a sensitive, effective way; and discussions revolve around important relevant examples relating to gender in the changing, technological world in which we live.

“If you are interested in how gender is experienced differently and want to learn from other’s experiences by having important conversations, then I would wholeheartedly recommend studying gender at master’s level.”

Karen Throsby, Associate Professor

“An understanding of gender relations in society has never been more important, locally, nationally and globally. Courses like those at CIGS (Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies), and those run by other feminists across the country, enable students to think critically and reflexively about gender relations in all their complexity, and in ways that enable them to engage politically with the social world.

“These programmes also enable students to form alliances with feminists from around the world that will endure well beyond the degree programme itself.

“In a moment when the future president of the United States can talk unashamedly about sexually assaulting women and still be elected, I can’t think of anything more important than trying to understand gendered power relations and our own complicated relations to them, as well as seeking out points of intervention and resistance.”

Georgie Oi, Student

“I applied to do an MA in Gender Studies because I had been working in the public sector for sometime and wanted to specialise in sectors where a knowledge of gender issues would be useful. For example, working with survivors of domestic violence.

“On a personal note, I have experienced sexism all throughout my life and I wanted to empower myself to challenge this.”

Joyce Yi, Student

“The reason why I choose gender studies is because I’ve seen loads of gender inequality issues in our everyday lives. Some women are suffering from the ideal female gender roles.

“The most horrible thing is that they blame themselves if they do not fit the ideal image of women. Men can also be victims under the typical gender stereotypes. So I’m really curious how those roles and ‘truth’ are established in the society; what things we can do to help ourselves and others to live more freely.”

Current students on the course at Leeds took a wide range of undergraduate courses including English, Theatre, Music, Sociology, History, Psychology, Politics, International Relations and many more.

In a world that is becoming ever more uncertain, it is imperative that the students of today equip themselves with the tools and knowledge to challenge what faces us.

 

This article first appeared on Kettle on 2nd April 2017.

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Sugar Rush: Science, Obesity and the Social Life of Sugar

by Karen Throsby

@thelongswim

After decades of warnings about the perils of dietary fat, in recent years, sugar has stepped into the limelight as the public health bête noir. You can barely open a magazine, newspaper or social media feed these days without encountering dire warnings about the threat to health posed by sugar, or the proffering of programmes to help you quit the white stuff. It’s a concern that resonates at the global level. In 2015, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended that we limit free (or added) sugars to 10% of our daily intake – less that the amount contained in a single can of Coke. And in 2016, the WHO called for the global taxation of sugary drinks to tackle obesity and type II diabetes, particularly in relation to children. Health entrepreneurs have hopped on board, and there is a proliferation of anti-sugar popular science texts, low carbohydrate dietary plans and first person and how-to guides to giving up sugar, available for purchase or via subscription access. Giving up sugar has also become a site of charitable fund-raising. For example, in February 2017, the Cancer Research Fund launched “Sugar Free February”, and in March 2017, the British Heart Foundation recruited over 16,000 participants for its sponsored “Dechox” fund-raising initiative.

With the exception of those commercially invested in the sugar industry, there is widespread agreement that the high consumption of sugar, and its almost universal presence in processed and packaged foods (approximately 75% of supermarket stock has added sugar), constitutes a public health issue. However, debates rumble on among scientists, clinicians and policy makers about what counts as sugar (all carbohydrates? Added sugars?), on the feasibility of sugar consumption in moderation (an argument favoured by the sugar industry, perhaps not surprisingly), and the relation of sugar to the familiar dietary enemy, fat. These contestations sit at the intersection of anti-obesity ideology, professional status and the authority of science, and the vested and commercial interests of ‘big sugar’ and its allies, and are central to the ways in which sugar is understood and made meaningful in contemporary society. They are also inextricable from generational, gendered, raced and classed assumptions about who the primary consumers of sugar are, how food habits and tastes are produced and sustained, the meanings of food across different contexts and how changes in food behaviour occur.

The current rush to position sugar as what anti-sugar researcher and popular nutritional science writer, Robert Lustig, describes as the “Darth Vader of the Empire” is the focus of my new project, entitled “Sugar Rush: Science, Obesity and the Social Life of Sugar”. The research, which is supported by a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship, will begin from the question: “What are the social meanings and practices of sugar in the context of the ‘war on obesity’? I plan to explore this by gathering together an assemblage of discourses and materialities through which sugar is made meaningful, and through which the social life of sugar is enacted. This accumulated archive will include: policy documents, parliamentary statements; professional medical association statements; published scientific research; popular texts; websites; media reports and other sources that both reflect and produce the contemporary social meanings of, attachments to, and repudiations of sugar. I hope that the subsequent analysis will facilitate a greater understanding of the ways in which sugar is operating as node through which our anxieties about food, health and bodies are made meaningful.

My interest here is not to determine the ‘truths’ of sugar or to dictate what people should or should not eat. Instead, I want to use the rush to sugar to explore the intersection of key sites of social inquiry including: scientific knowledge production, validation and popular appropriation; the role of generation, gender, race an class in the production of embodied citizenship; the politics of food, particularly in the context of austerity; and the contemporary panics around health and body size.

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Two new books by CIGS members

Immersion by Karen Throsby

Immersion by Karen Throsby

Karen Throsby‘s Immersion is about the extreme sport of marathon swimming. Drawing on extensive (auto)ethnographic data, Immersion explores the embodied and social processes of becoming a marathon swimmer and investigates how social belonging is produced and policed. Using marathon swimming as a lens, this foundation provides the basis for an exploration of what constitutes the ‘good’ body in contemporary neoliberal society across a range of sites including charitable swimming, fatness, gender and health. The book argues that the self-representations of marathon swimming are at odds with its lived realities, and that this reflects the entrenched and limited discursive resources available for thinking about the sporting body in the wider social and cultural context.

The book is aimed primarily at readers at undergraduate level and upwards with an interest in sociology, the sociology of the body, the sociology of sport, gender and the sociology of health and illness.

 

Gender, Metal and the Media by Rosemary Lucy Hill

Gender, Metal and the Media by Rosemary Lucy Hill

Rosemary Lucy Hill‘s Gender, Metal and the Media examines the tension between being a rock music fan and being a woman. From the media representation of women rock fans as groupies to the widely held belief that hard rock and metal is masculine music, being a music fan is an experience shaped by gender. Through a lively discussion of the idealised imaginary community created in the media and interviews with women fans in the UK, Rosemary Lucy Hill grapples with the controversial topics of groupies, sexism and male dominance in metal. She challenges the claim that the genre is inherently masculine, arguing that musical pleasure is much more sophisticated than simplistic enjoyments of aggression, violence and virtuosity. Listening to women’s experiences, she maintains, enables new thinking about hard rock and metal music, and about what it is like to be a women fan in a sexist environment.

 

You can read her blog about the book here: http://gender-studies.leeds.ac.uk/category/blog/

 

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CIGS Reverse Advent

This year, SSP’s Emma Nelson (Student Experience Manager) is organising a Reverse Advent – so rather than opening a window each day in the run-up to Christmas and getting treat, you use the opportunity to set aside an item that could be donated to a food bank. CIGS would like to make a contribution to this fantastic project and we are inviting everyone to join in.

Having recently seen the film, “I, Daniel Blake”, I have become aware recently of the lack of sanitary towels and tampons available to women who are experiencing poverty and using food banks. There’s a very disturbing article about it here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/women-are-using-newspapers-because-they-cannot-afford-tampons-warns-salvation-army-food-bank-a6932111.html

So this year, we are asking CIGS members to contribute packets of sanitary towels or boxes of tampons, which will be donated to women experiencing poverty and using food banks. If you would like to make a donation (and you feel that you can afford to do so), please send your donations to me – you can bring them to my office (Social Sciences Building, 11.25), or to the CIGS Christmas Celebration on 13th December, send them via internal mail, or drop them off at the SSP reception, either for me or directly to Emma. Alternatively, if you are on campus, if you email Karen Throsby (k.throsby@leeds.ac.uk) I can come and collect donations.

Thank you in advance for your contributions.

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New CIGS blog post – gender and sport reporting

Visit here to read a report by CIGS MA student, Olivia Morris, about the problems of gender balance in sport reporting.

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CIGS Christmas Celebration (Tuesday 13th Dec)

Tuesday 13th December, 4-6pm, Social Sciences Building 12.21 / 25

Come along to the CIGS Christmas Celebration – a chance to hear about exciting publications, research projects and other 2016 successes, and to celebrate the achievements of last year’s MA students who will be graduating the following day.

Speakers will include:

  • Rosey Hill talking about her new book, Gender, Metal and the Media: Women Fans and the Gendered Experience of Music (Palgrave, 2016)
  • Karen Throsby discussing her book, Immersion: Marathon Swimming, Embodiment and Identity (Manchester University Press, 2016)
  • Sally Hines introducing her new, ESRC-funded project on pregnant men.
  • The event is free – all you have to do is register at the address below so that we can make sure we have enough mince pies. We’re looking forward to seeing you there.

There will be lots of time to chat and catch up with staff and present and former students over drinks and nibbles, and all are welcome.

it’s free to attend and all are welcome – please register at the address below so that we have an idea of numbers.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/cigs-christmas-celebration-tickets-29650502451

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CIGS seminar: Dr Karen Throsby

Wednesday 7th December 2016
12:00-13:30
Social Sciences Building 12.21/25

All welcome

Real meals: radical diets, science and the masculinisation of weight loss

In recent year, anxieties around obesity have shifted away from the familiar bête noir of fat towards sugar. Sugar – or what paediatric endocrinologist and anti-sugar popular science writer, Robert Lustig, calls the “Voldemort of the diet hit list” – is now widely treated as a primary cause of obesity, and it has also been closely linked to diabetes, heart disease, cancer and tooth decay, prompting the declaration at the level of international health policy of a ‘war on sugar’. The rush to denounce sugar has facilitated a flourishing array of radical exclusionary diets to which the elimination of sugar (variously conceived) is central. This includes both a variety of low-carbohydrate diets, which are heavily reliant on animal protein and fat, and plant-based diets that shun animal products. However, in spite of their divergent philosophies and practices, these plans share considerable common ground, particularly in their antipathy to mainstream dietary advice and in relation to the ways in which they mobilise nutritional science to support their positions. Furthermore, both dietary approaches make strategic use of similarly normative models of athletic masculinity as a primary means of recruitment and justification, to the exclusion (and sometimes derision) of the women who are the primary targets and users of the weight loss industry. Using the low-carbohydrate plan, The Real Meal Revolution, and the vegan weight loss plan, Forks Over Knives, as examples, this paper explores the ways in which the rush to sugar as the primary enemy in the ‘war on obesity’ impacts upon our understandings of the fat body, and investigates the ways in which these apparently irreconcilable dietary prescriptions find common ground in their appeals to ‘heretic’ science and to athletic masculinity. I argue that this analysis positions the rise of anti-sugar policy and practice not simply as a new departure, but also as a retrenchment of highly individualised gendered (and racialised) understandings about what constitutes the good body in contemporary society.

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