From the Editors
Gender is both explicitly and implicitly expressed in the groups that we interact with, and in the social institutions where we find ourselves. Every society develops rules and ways of talking about gender. Often, they can be innocuous; however, many times, words and categories become the basis for creating and enforcing boundaries. In some communities, gender divisions become the basis for an incredibly rigid line of demarcation and, in other communities, violence. It’s safe to say that most communities have a long way to go toward true gender equity.
The 19th Amendment of the United States Constitution —giving women the right to vote—was officially adopted on August 26, 1920. Over the past century, the United States and other parts of the world have seen much progress concerning attitudes related to women’s work, political participation, and influence as women’s role in politics is at its highest to date. More women serve in elected offices, and more women have competed for the office of President of the United States than ever before. Women have entered professions like medicine and law, which were once the province of men. The Women’s Rights Movement, however, is yet to be fulfilled as the gender gap in pay still exists, and domestic and sexual violence is yet to be criminalized to the degree that it should.
The Spring 2020 issue explores modern life from the perspective of gender and sexuality. We would like to start with the cover image, which is part of an image series featured in the magazine. Jeff T. Sheng spent time with communities of queer individuals within the U.S. armed services. The stunning image encapsulates the torn position of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people in the Army. An institution valorized by the public, often facing challenges when incorporating their LGBTQ members. The image, and the accompanying photo essay, show that sociologists not only study inequality but also document social change in ways that provide empathy and insight.
Our feature section has a number of articles that delve into gender and sexuality in unexpected ways. #MeToo in the Kitchen by Deborah A. Harris and Patti Giuffre focuses on the issue of workplace harassment in the food service industry. We believe this is very important as much of the attention generated by the #metoo movement primarily focuses on highly visible elites in politics and entertainment. We must always remember that people from all walks of life deserve a safe working environment, and other forms of marginalization related to income and race further expose people to sexual violence. On a very different note, Kyle Green and Clifton Evers’ article astutely analyzes masculinity in intimate athletic settings such as surfing and wrestling. Also, Sarah Ashwin and Jennifer Utrata have a fascinating article on gender in modern Russia. Their analysis draws attention to how elections and popularity depend on ideas about masculinity.
Then, we have three feature articles that explore inequality in innovative ways. Jennifer Stuber guides us through Aspen, Colorado—a well-known resort town in Colorado where the hyper-wealthy rub elbows with people of more modest means. Jessie Streib uses interview data to explore an aspect of inequality that is often overlooked: when the children in high income families experience downward mobility. Likewise, Sarah Halpern-Meekin tells us about a form of inequality that is clearly important but is also overlooked—relational inequality.
As usual, our other sections bring you more outstanding material. Rarkimm Fields has a provocative policy proposal. Should we make police officers buy liability insurance? This striking recommendation has gained currency in some quarters as traditional methods for addressing police misconduct have been sorely lacking.
Jodi Skipper and James M. Thomas have a piece in the culture section about plantations and the role they play in today’s world, as relics of a past economy and culture. Patricia Drentea, Heith Copes, and Jessica Valles also have a piece in our culture section, which focuses on the stigma of oral health in relation to women in recovery.
Our trends section, which focuses on the presentation of data, will be satisfying for fans of politics. Mike Bader, co-editor with Todd Beer of the trends section, contributes a piece about the link between diversity and contestable elections. Also, in our trends section, Maria Charles and Jason Budge provide some very interesting data on how the public thinks about stay-at home mothering.
At the time of this publication, our nation is fighting the COVID-19 epidemic. We urge all readers to practice hand cleaning and social distancing. Also, don’t forget to wear a mask in public and avoid public places. In the longer term, Contexts will provide much needed social science analysis about how the coronavirus has impacted our communities and how we succeeded and failed in fighting this disease. In the meantime, check out Contexts.org to see a series of cutting-edge op-eds about COVID-19.
Rashawn Ray and Fabio Rojas