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Sociological Images 2014

White Trash

The above poster was on a bridge pylon in Flinders St in 2012. It’s interesting to see what the Fringe Festival people consider to be associated with “white trash”. They claim homophobia is a “white trash” thing however lower class people have little political power and the fact that we still don’t have marriage equality in Australia is clear evidence that homophobia is prevalent among powerful people.

Toys vs Fairies

Fairies look pretty while boys toys do things

I took the above photo at Costco in 2012. I think it’s worth noting the way that the Disney Fairies (all female and marketed to a female audience) are standing around looking pretty while the Toy Story characters (mostly male and marketed to a male audience) are running out to do things. Having those items side by side on the shelf was a clear example of a trend in toys towards girls being encouraged to be passive while boys are doing things. The Toy Story pack has one female character, so it could be interpreted as being aimed at both boys and girls. But even that interpretation doesn’t remove the clear gender difference.

It seems ironic to me that the descriptions on the boxes are “Read, Play, and Listen” for the Toy Story pack and “Read, Play, and Colour” on the Fairies pack. Colouring is more active than listening so the pictures don’t match the contents.

Make Up vs Tools

Girls chocolate is make-up and boys chocolate is tools

I took the above photo in an Aldi store in early 2013, today I was in Aldi and noticed that the same chocolate is still on sale. A clear and pointless gender difference. Rumor has it that some of the gender difference in kids clothing is so that a child can’t wear the clothes of an older sibling of different gender, but chocolate only gets eaten once so there is no reason for this.

Oath

The above poster was inside the male toilet at Melbourne University in 2013. It would probably be good to have something like that on display all the time instead of just for one event.

Locks

Locks with inscriptions on a bridge on the Yarra River in Melbourne

I took the above picture early this year, it shows hundreds of padlocks attached to a bridge across the Yarra River in Melbourne. Each padlock has a message written or inscribed in it, mostly declarations of love. I first noticed this last year, I’m not sure how long it’s been up. There was nothing formal about this (no signs about it), people just see it and decide that they want to add to it. I guess that the council cuts some of them off periodically as the number of locks doesn’t seem to be increasing much in recent times.

It would be interesting to do some research into how many locks are needed to start one of these. It would also be interesting to discover whether the nature of the inscriptions determines the speed at which it takes off, would a bunch of padlocks with messages like “I Love Linux” inspire others as well as messages declaring love for random people? All that is required is some old locks and an engraving tool.

I wonder what the social norm might be regarding messing with those locks. If I was to use those padlocks to practice the sport of lock-picking (which I learned when in Amsterdam) I wonder whether random bystanders would try to discourage me. It seems likely that picking the locks and taking them away would get a negative reaction but I wonder whether picking them one at a time and replacing them (or maybe moving them to another wire) would get a reaction.

Blackface for Schoolkids

teachers choice blackface and yellowface masks

A craft shop at the Highpoint shopping center in Melbourne is selling “Teacher’s Choice” brand “Multicultural Face Masks”. “Multicultural” is a well regarded term in education, teaching children about other cultures is a good concept but can be implemented really badly. When I was in high school the subject “Social Studies” seemed to have an approach of “look how weird people are in other places” instead of teaching the kids anything useful.

Sociological Images has an informative article on the Australian Hey Hey it’s Saturday blackface incident in 2009 [1].

The idea of these masks seems to involve students dressing up as caricatures of other races. The mask which looks like someone’s idea of a Geisha is an even bigger WTF, mixing what the package calls “culture” (really race) with sex work. When I visited Tokyo I got the impression that “French maids” fill a similar niche to Geisha for younger Japanese men and the “maid cafe” thing is really popular there. I think it’s interesting to consider the way that a French maid costume is regarded differently to a Geisha costume. I expect that “Teacher’s Choice” doesn’t sell French maid costumes.

Delicious Cow

picture of a bovine named Delicious

Usually meat is advertised in a way that minimises the connection to living animals. Often adverts just show cuts of meat and don’t make any mention of animals and when animals are shown they are in the distance. The above picture was on the wall at a Grill’d burger restaurant in Point Cook. It shows a bovine (looks like a bull even though I believe that cows are the ones that are usually eaten) with a name-tag identifying it as “Delicious”. The name tag personalises the animal which is an uncommon thing to do when parts of an animal are going to be eaten.

Of the animals that are commonly eaten it seems that the general trend is to only show fish as complete live animals, presumably because people can identify with mammals such as cattle in a way that they can’t identify with fish. Fish are also the only complete animals that are shown dead, adverts for fish that are sold as parts (EG salmon and tuna) often show complete dead fish. But I’ve never seen a meat advert that shows a complete dead cow or sheep.

5 comments to Sociological Images 2014

  • Elena

    I don’t think that powerful people are homophobic: another explanation is that they don’t care (just like they don’t care e.g. about starving children), but politically it pays to cater to the homophobic masses (who probably have a strong intersection with the easily-to-manipulate masses).

  • etbe

    There are usually many different factors determining political decisions. It seems most likely that homophobia is a factor in Tony Abbot’s choices, he’s one of the most misogynistic politicians in Australia and homophobia and misogyny tend to go together. For other politicians there would be some degree of not caring, some degree of catering to various demographics, and some personal choice.

    But my main point here is that if homophobia was strictly a “white trash” thing then it wouldn’t have any traction in mainstream politics in Australia. We don’t even have a “Tea Party” type organisation to rally lower class people to vote for the interests of the rich.

    I’ve read some research suggesting that while lower class people are more likely to identify with discriminatory attitudes (IE stating a dislike for a minority group) there is little class difference in terms of actions (EG being willing to work with or hire people from minority groups). I get the impression that higher class people are more capable of masking their discriminatory attitudes.

  • etbe

    Kevin: Thanks for the URL. I think it’s a bad idea to pick the locks before finding a new place for them. The apparent lack of interest by bystanders in the picking is interesting.

    It’s also interesting to know that such “love locks” are being used around the world.

  • White trash?
    All I got is some references…USA-centric but you might see some commonality

    What happened to the tribes of Europe?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbCar3aGadc

    Amazing insights on ‘redneck’ ethnicity (get the book!):
    Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9J-Dy0OcKw

    Some profound research into what makes the authoritarian mind tick. Not the tyrants but the minions who so willingly bow to authority and give their power over to those who will dominate them:
    Free ebook: The Authoritarians by Dr. Robert Altemeyer
    http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/

    With an addendum on the the Tea Party also on his web page.