manterruptionThere is plenty of scholarly and anecdotal evidence that men chronically interrupt women. They interrupt women at home, at work, and at social events. When women protest being interrupted, they are accused of being bossy, bitchy, and emotional. In the small group setting, such as meetings, the more men are present, the more likely it is that the women in the group will be interrupted.

I have experienced this first hand, and I have studied the phenomenon. In the 1980s, while I was a student at University of North Carolina Greensboro, I was super lucky to be awarded an undergraduate research assistantship to work with sociologist Dr. David Pratto (1938-2002). Dr. Pratto had access to videotapes of thousands of hours of small group diagnostic meetings of medical students. As part of our study, I chose a stratified random sample of the recordings, and watched them, coding for any recognizable patterns. At the time, we did not know what we were looking for, so we went mining for data. Almost immediately, I recognized a few things. First, there were relatively few women in the groups. Back in those days, only a few women went to medical school. Second, the men in the groups talked more than the women. And third, the men frequently interrupted women and talked over them. The men often scoffed at women’s ideas and were openly scornful.

I noted these phenomenon to Dr. Pratto, and he was intrigued. So were the other (nearly all male) sociologists in the department. My next task was to read the existing literature on gender in small group discussions. There was not much to find in the early 1980s, but Deborah Tannen’s work stood out. Tannen is a linguist who identified the interruption patterns, and has since branched out to study other gendered aspects of oral communication.

Fast forward to 2018 and the phenomenon now has a popular name: manterruption, defined as a social phenomenon present in small group conversations (including dyads) when men chronically and intrusively interrupt women when they are speaking. Fast forward to today, and the phenomenon is written about in social media, scholarly work, and news papers. And fast forward to now, and women can affirm that manterruption continues to negatively affect them in meetings, social conversations, and at home.

Many of the meetings I attend as a faculty member at the University of Alaska Fairbanks are gender balanced. However, some meetings are skewed towards women, and some skewed towards men. In the past couple of weeks, I have been a participant in meetings where there were more men than women. When emotions run high–as they often do in meetings tied to budget cuts, program discontinuations, fiscal crisis–manterruption became a significant problem that spilled over into email conversations.

And so, a sociological cartoon was born.


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White Male Fragility

white male privilegeRecently, there has been a lot of attention paid to white fragility, a term coined by Robin DiAngelo (2011) to explain how white people are triggered to hyper-react to even low levels of racial stress. DiAngelo notes that white people typically are protected from situations of racial difference, and usually have little opportunities for meaningful interaction within racially diverse social spaces. They hold racist views and racist assumptions, and generally do not recognize their beliefs as racist because they have been insulated. The protections for whites from uncomfortable racial situations renders white people incapable of tolerating racial stress, even when the racial stress level is quite low.  In short, when insulated white people are confronted with situations in which race is an issue, they become triggered and react defensively with anger, silence, or by walking out of the situation. Lopez (2017) analyzed the recent protests, riots, and violence in Charlottesville as an example of white fragility, noting that the pro-white marchers are angry and upset because their racial privilege is being challenged by the Black Lives Movement and other recent events.

Media images of the Charlottesville incidents demonstrate that the vast majority of the white nationalists are men, many of them quite young. So what happens to white fragility when race–whiteness–intersects with sex and gender?

One of the earliest masculinities studies scholar was R. W. Connell, now Raewyn Connell. Connell developed the concept of the patriarchal dividend, defined as the set of privileges and advantages that accrue to men over their lifetimes (Connell 1996). On average, and apparently throughout history, men as a social group are wealthier than women, have more social power, have higher status, and have more control over resources both material and human. Men rarely recognize the existence of the patriarchal dividend, understanding their situation as being “natural” and “just the way things are.” In other words, men who benefit from the patriarchal social system are generally not aware that they are accruing a lifetime of dividends. Like white people who are insulated from issues of race, men from dominant groups are often insulated from issues of sex and gender.

So if we take the two concepts–white fragility and the patriarchal dividend–we can create another concept: white male fragility. When white men who are privileged and advantaged by their race and sex status are called out by others on their racism and sexism, white male fragility causes them to hyper-react. The incident with police captains Carri Weber and Scott Arndt of the Plainfield, Indiana police department provides an apt illustration.

The incident took place in early November, 2017. The Plainfield police department held a training workshop on trans issues and violence. Members of the police were there, as were some local town and school district officials. As one of the trainers was describing the statistics about anti-trans violence, a white male police officer–Arndt–interrupted to challenge the trainer. He denied the relevance of the statistics that show that trans people are over three times as likely to be victims of violence than non-trans people. Weber, a white woman who is a prominent LGBT activist as well as a police officer, told him that the reason he did not realize the reality faced by trans people is because of his “white male privilege.” Within moments, Arndt was shouting at Weber, the trainers, and the head of the police department. The trainer and others urged him to calm down, but he continued to shout, then angrily marched to the front of the room to shout some more, and finally walked out of the room. Clearly, his behavior demonstrates that he was triggered by Weber’s pointing out that it was his white male privilege that obscured his understanding.

The next day, police captain Carri Weber was put on paid administrative leave and put under investigation. Arndt filed a discrimination complaint against Weber. Then today, December 7, Weber went before the ethics board for her city. She was reinstated to her job, but was reprimanded for speaking out. For his part, Arndt was suspended without pay for two days.

Is this justice? Was Arndt truly victimized by Weber’s remark that he could not see the reality of anti-trans violence because of his white male privilege? Was Weber out of line to point out white male privilege? Arndt claimed in his complaint that Weber discriminated against him because of his race and his sex. What do you think?

You can view the video of the incident here:


R. W. Connell/Raewyn Connell. 1996. “Politics of Changing Men.” Australian Humanities Reivew

Robin DiAngelo. 2011. “White Fragility.” International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, 3(3): 54-70.

German Lopez. 2017. “The Charlottesville Protests Are White Fragility in Action.” Vox August 12, 2017.

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Wrong Thinkers Anonymous

After Charlottesville, I was one of the few people in my circle of acquaintances who refused calls to “punch Nazis.” I do not believe that meeting violence with violence will stop further violence. Instead, I try to understand why people are violent. Not by using individualist explanations, like mental illness, but by using sociological tools. One of sociology’s greatest gifts is the understanding that people are social creatures, and that our behavior, our ideas, our belief systems, our actions, our emotions, etc. are shaped by society. So I have tried to understand hate groups and ideologies of those groups and the movement(s) they spawn. Hating the individuals in the movements, and calling for violence against them, only makes them defensive and more dangerous. It was this realization that prompted the cartoon, Wrong Thinkers Anonymous in the days after Charlottesville.wrong_thinkers_anonymous

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The execution of Sociology

The University of Alaska Fairbanks has hit hard times due to the state’s budget crisis. Academic programs are being slashed across the state, and dozens of faculty jobs have been eliminated. Across Alaska, nearly 1000 people have lost their university jobs. We protested on the street corner, wrote resolutions to Faculty Senates, wrote letters to professional organizations, testified to the Board of Regents, begged and pleaded with administrators, but the UAF Department of Sociology was deleted in June 2017. Both the BA and BS in Sociology are on the chopping block. I cannot even begin to describe how heartbreaking this is for me. I went through all of the stages of grief–denial, anger, sadness, back into anger, then sadness again, all the time literally bargaining with other departments and administrators. Perhaps you can tell by my latest cartoon that I am back in the anger stage again. The execution of sociology

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Busted: How Your Professor Caught You Plagiarizing


Students: do you ever wonder how professors catch plagiarism? Following are some tips to avoid getting caught:


  1. when you copy something from Wikipedia, make sure you delete hyperlinks after pasting into your document;
  2. avoid copying online material that uses words you do not understand and that may be inapplicable for the discipline in which you are writing, e.g. “synoptic meta-scale dynamics” are not sociological terms;
  3. watch for tags at the end of phrases that may tip off your professor, e.g. “click here for more reviews of this book”;
  4. make sure you do not copy the formatting of the online source; a sudden switch from 12 pt. Times Roman to 18 pt. Cooper Black in the middle of a term paper is a dead giveaway;
  5. remember that professors read the course textbook, and so we will likely recognize text that is plagiarized from the book;
  6. know that we read other textbooks as well; copying text from a research methods text in Criminology instead of Sociology will probably backfire;
  7. note that people in the UK or Canada spell certain words differently than Americans; if you are a US student and you spell behavior with a “u”, as in behaviour, Word will put a squiggly red line underneath it, emphasizing its wrongness, and prompting your professor to google the entire sentence to find its online source;
  8. possibly my favorite: understand that professors will recognize text that is plagiarized from their own research articles (yes, I am THAT Sine Anahita)

Every single one of these tips come from my own experience with students. The very worst case I ever had was when a student told me that he didn’t know that the person he paid to write the essay was going to plagiarize it. Seriously?? I didn’t know whether to sob or to laugh hysterically. Maybe a little of both, eh?

Here are some sites that suggest hacks and other strategies to avoid being caught in an act of plagiarism. Of course, now that I know these exist, I will add these to my list of ways to catch plagiarism.

You can even purchase services that will hack your plagiarized work so that TurnItIn and SafeAssign do not work, e.g. Do me a favor; when you purchase this service, tell them who referred you. I might get a commission.

The cartoon above is from this site:

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Lady Athletes


You never know when a bar conversation will wind up being some sociologist’s blog post. Earlier this week, I was hanging out at the Golden Eagle Saloon, a favorite local bar in Ester, AK. There were footballs games playing silently on the TV. At some point, I mused that I had seen college women volleyball teams on TV who wore makeup while playing and I found that simply astounding, given that women sweat as mightily as men when they compete. My conversation partner noted that women athletes wear eye makeup for the same reason that (men) football players wear black grease under their eyes: to reduce glare. After my initial guffaw, I realized my friend was serious, so like the professional sociologist that I am, I decided to google it.

palomarAs it turns out, women college athletes do indeed wear tons of makeup, and also wear their hair long, shave their legs and armpits, and are otherwise required to look pretty and feminine. But it’s not because lipstick or eye makeup reduce glare and improve performance. It’s because of social expectation that women always look attractive for the male gaze.

Consider the 2016 brouhaha over women athletes at the Olympics when Fox News asked two male commentators about whether women should be wearing makeup while competing: ““I think when you see an athlete, why should I have to look at some chick’s zits? Why not a little blush on her lips and cover those zits?” Click here for more insights from this pair:


While googling “women athletes and makeup” I stumbled upon another insight. Team photos of women’s college teams differ sharply from team photos of men’s college teams. Men stand or sit casually together, their arms often folded over their chests or their hands clasped either behind or in front. Men’s knees and feet are spread in a natural fashion. But women’s teams usually sit in ladylike fashion, their knees together, hands clasped demurely on their laps. They often cross their legs, or cross their ankles. When women’s teams stand for the photograph, often they pose with their hands on the knees in the stereotypical sorority girl pose, or they put one hand on their hip and throw it out, like a fashion model.

The differences in the way that men and women college athletes appear in photographs is most stark in co-ed swim teams. Men stand shoulder to shoulder, hands relaxing at their sides, clasped behind or in front, in natural, comfortable, relaxed ways. But women on the team sit with their knees tightly locked together, hands uniformly clasped in their lap.

This all feels like some kind of bizarre time warp to me.

I could go on and on, but I will leave you with just this video of a college volleyball player demonstrating how to put on her game face.


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No More Duct Tape Bandaids

duct tapeThere is no question that the University of Alaska (UA) is facing a massive budget crisis. What we have been doing–tinkering with the structure, adding more layers of bureaucracy, reducing programs through faculty attrition, instituting horizontal cuts that create frustrating bottlenecks but don’t lower costs–these have not been working. It’s time for UA to stop applying duct tape bandages in futile attempts to cure the budget crisis. I agree with President James Johnsen that UA needs to make some bold changes.

When I look at Strategic Pathways with an open mind, I recognize some good principles. For example, the idea of reducing redundant programs and integrating physical departments by using distance teaching technologies–this idea I like a lot. The university will have to invest in infrastructure to achieve this, however, and so will the state of Alaska. Our state’s internet system, quite frankly, sucks. We have too few internet providers for them to be competitive with each other, so they just offer the bare minimum and charge way too much money. So along with reducing duplicate programs and replacing them with a single strong, collaboratively-offered program, we will have to work with communication corporations, the state, maybe the feds to improve Alaska’s communication systems. And the UA will have to invest in smarter classrooms, web-conferencing systems, and in resources that will teach us teachers how to best use these resources.

I also agree with Johnsen’s plan to move to a single accreditation model. Today’s students are more mobile, technologically at least, than previous generations. They need to be able to access a cafeteria model of courses and programs, and not have to feel as if their coursework at UAS will not integrate with their coursework at UAF. UA Statewide will need to figure out how to fairly allocate tuition dollars and other resources among the various units, but the idea of a single university spread among multiple physical locations really appeals to the “we don’t give a damn how they do it Outside” Alaskan in me. Additionally, I think the idea of a single accreditation model will strengthen faculty tenure. And if faculty senates and staff councils and other governance organizations are combined, or at least if they collaborate more and better, then faculty and staff will become more empowered. Or, maybe I should say we would become re-empowered.

Our administrative structure is definitely too top-heavy. There are many people, mostly men, who seem to have just floated up to the top of the heap without making any really valuable contributions along the way. But the reduction of the number of administrators by eliminating the chancellor positions—this idea I’m still mulling over. I would have preferred that secondary level chancellor positions be targeted instead. Currently, vice chancellors’ shops, at UAF at least, seem to act as fiefdoms. I worry that there will be a proliferation of these VC-type shops if chancellors go away. On the other hand, I have supreme confidence in UAF’s current Provost, Susan Henrichs. If Provosts were to become the highest level administrators at each campus, I think UAF would be in good shape. I don’t know enough about the Provosts at UAA or UAS.

The idea of concentrating power up at UA Statewide… this I do not like, at least not in the long-term. I have much confidence in our current President, Jim Johnsen. I think I trust him. But some of our past presidents, well, the thought of them having even more power just makes me shiver. In a bad way. Think #bonusgate. Perhaps if we could ensure that there is a balance of power–Faculty Senates having a right of veto on major initiatives, for example, or the opportunity for faculty and staff to annually evaluate the president and Statewide, maybe this would keep Statewide accountable and prevent too much concentration of power in the wrong hands. And we definitely have to increase transparency at Statewide and prevent them from sneaking in policy changes without sufficient governance participation!

I think I like the selection method Johnsen suggested for the next interim chancellor for UAF. If the process works as he outlined, then faculty and staff will actually have MORE input than we have had in the past. Everyone will be able to have input on all of the applicants. Search committees at UAF have become way too political. The old system has not been working for us. Why not try something different? Especially since the next interim chancellor will be very short term. I definitely like the idea that applicants must have worked for UAF in the past. We will already know the warts and beauty of every candidate, with no surprises a few months from now. There is also a measure of safety here in appointing an interim who has the right of return to her/his former position: the interim chancellor won’t be as likely to make bad decisions that piss off colleagues, because s/he will have to go back and work among them after the interim chancellor gig is done.

The crisis calls for bold changes. I don’t like all of the ideas being presented by the BoR and President Johnsen, but I do know that what we have been doing is not working. My main criticism of the University of Alaska, at the system level on down to what’s going on in my college, is a continual sense of being STUCK with no active, collaborative decision-making happening. Administrators just seem to get stuck on one particular issue, e.g. “Title IX” and “safety culture,” when pieces of the sky are falling around us. We can no longer use duct tape to fix things. One of President Johnsen’s strongest leadership qualities is that he will make decisions. He has a vision, he consults with multiple constituencies while not listening to whisperers, and he has bold plans. I appreciate the sense of forward movement that he has started, even when I may not agree with the details.

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