Sociology on TV – Women, the BBC Documentary

This BBC documentary is in three episodes – the first charts the rise of the Feminist movement in  the 1970s ,and includes interviews with radical Feminists such as Susan Brownmiller, Kate Millet and Germain Greeer. The second episode focusses on interviews with families and looks at the variety of domestic roles today while the final episode looks at the views and activities of the London Feminist Network, which provides an interesting insight into the issues that concern contemporary Feminists (mainly the objectification of women’s bodies, and its relationship to violence against women being indicative of gender inequality. )

All documentaries are available to college students on estream – just type in ‘women’ to the search engine

Web site of the Week – RSA videos


I just wanted to flag up these RSA videos as an excellent way of introducing some very complex ideas – the ideas covered in these videos go beyond sociology – there are typically about theories that draw on many different academic disciplines, but for those of you that like thinking about sociology/ politics/ philosophy and want to push your understanding beyond the A level syllabus these are excellent. The link below is to many of the videos they’ve done and they’re also on youtube –

As to the The RSA web sit e it says  “For over 250 years the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) has been a cradle of enlightenment thinking and a force for social progress.  Our approach is multi-disciplinary, politically independent and combines cutting edge research and policy development with practical action.”

The RSA offer a number of pamphlets and a good events (mainly lectures) series that focus on a wide range of political issues – althogether very interesting stuff – OK this is way beyond A level stuff but this is a good example of how Sociology can be relevant to real life.

So here we have it – 300 years after the Enlightenment spawned Sociology – so the Enlightenment tradition continues – Note that all decent sociologists and all decent academics draw on material from many disciplines and this is something I would encourage you do do as you develope – BUT – when it comes to the exam, narrow you foucs and try not to be too clever – or you may fail! When you finish the exams you can get back to being properly clever again!

Tory cuts – Britain’s Shock Doctrine

Hey kiddos – my predictions about the toryscum shafting people and planet for the sake of corporate profits have come true –

Check out this item  in which George Monbiot outlines how Giddeon’s cuts benefit his corporate chums.

A brief extract – ‘Public bodies whose purpose is to hold corporations to account are being swept away. Public bodies whose purpose is to help boost corporate profits, regardless of the consequences for people and the environment, have sailed through unharmed. The government’s programme of cuts looks like a classic example of disaster capitalism: using a crisis to re-shape the economy in the interests of business.’

Interestingly Monbit draws on Naomic Klein’s shock doctrine – one of the most important leftist books of this century – read it!

So if you think Marxism (well OK left-libertarianism) isn’t relevant – think again!

Web site of the Week – The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies

The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies is an excellent site for keeping up to date with Criminological research – They say of themselves ‘Our mission is to promote just and effective responses to crime and related harms by informing and educating through critical analysis, research and public debate.’

You can subscribe to a monthly bulletin and they do a number of critical reseach papers.

To give you an idea of their kind of approach a few years back they ran a photography competition – exploring the question ‘what is crime’ through photography. The results can be viewed by clicking here

My particular favourite is the entry below – which struck a chord because I’ve been reading a lot about gang crime and media coverage of gang crime recently.

1193_181503s‘gemma’ – By Laura Pannack. ‘Society has a tendency to enforce blame on the younger generation for crime and violence. These negative stereo-types encourage further rebellion and prevent young people from gaining self confidence and aspiration; they fuel a lack of self worth and anger. I have intentionally left it unclear whether my subjects are offenders on probation, pupils with special needs, private school attendants or other young people I have encountered. Titled with the forename of each young person, gives the viewer a hint as to their identity without attaching stigma ? and emphasising the fact that each of my subjects is unique.’

Toxic Childhood

I’ve moved this essay plan to my new site – – It you’re here for A level resources, you’ll probably find that whole site more relevant, this one’s more eclectic.


You may remember watching this video in class – with that psychopathic woman with the disturbing resemblence to Bruce Forsythe –

I used this to illustrate the Marxist view that ‘the family is a unit of consumption’ – What I didn’t mention is that it also serves as a good example of the ‘Toxic Childhood’ arguement – the idea that modern social changes are harmful to children.

Along the same lines, but in much more depth this is an interesting video from the institute of ideas that is relevant to the ‘toxic childhood’ debate.

The format is basically this – 2 people argue that we live in an age of ‘Toxic Childhood’ and secondly two people, one of whom is Niel Davenport, who writes for spiked (the same place I got that Frank Furedi article on ‘adultesence’ from) criticise thier points of view and ask them questions…

sleepykinsThe general gist seems to be that the first two have done lots of research into toxic childhood and make informed points backed up with evidence while the later two critics wave wafty overly intellectual and largely insubstantial statements at them to criticise them.

The Toxic Childhood camp wins the day in my view!

The video is divided into chapters and the best sections are the first few –

In the first section Agnes Nairn points out that whether we think advertising to children is acceptable depends on the way we view children – if you think children are in the process of becoming adults you will probably think they need protecting from advertising; if you think children are ‘beings who are already like adults’ then you will think advertising to them is fine.

In the second section she argues that children, and even teenagers (even 15 year olds) are emotionally immature, suffer higher levels of insecurity and lack the cognitive ability to realise they are being manipulated – and on this level advertising is wrong.

The next few sections talk about the reach of internet advertising – very much building on what the corporation DVD at the top of this post is talking about.

It goes on from there – with questions at the end!

The best books I ever read…..

Books – Ah books – If only students would read them!

My top five books with sociological content

At some point I will do a detailed analysis of why these books are in my top five – but for the most part it’s because they are typically based on rigorous research and move theoretical debates forward.   At some later point in time I will sort these by topic and add more in.

  1. Klein, N. (2008) The Shock Doctrine. London: Penguin (reprint edition).  
  2. Harvey D. (1991) The Condition of Postmodernity: An enquiry into the conditions of social change. Wiley- Blackwell.  
  3. Collier, P. (2007) The Bottom Billion – Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  4. Chomsky, N. (2004) Hegemony or Survival: America’s quest for global dominance. London: Penguin Books.  
  5. Wilkinson, R and Pickett, K. (2009) The spirit level – Why more equal societies almost always do better. London: Penguin books.   

 And some other good ones I’ve read over the years… in alphabetical order by author….

Banyard, K. (2010) The equality illusion : The truth about men and women today. London: Faber and Faber.

Bauman, Z. (2000) Liquid Modernity. London: Polity Press.

Dowden, R. (2008) Africa: Altered states, ordinary miracles. London: Portobello books.  

Furedi, F. (2005) Culture of Fear. Continuum international publishing group Ltd (Revised edition).

Giddens, G. (1999) Runaway World: How globalisation is reshaping our lives. London: Profile books.  

Goldacre, B. (2008) Bad Science. London: Harper Collins.

Harvey D. (2004) The New Imperialism. Oxford: Oxford university press.  

Heale, J. (2008) One Blood: Inside Britain’s new street gangs. Simon & Schuster Ltd; First edition First Printing edition.

Levitt, S and Dubner, S. (2005)  Freakonomics: A rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything. London: London: Penguin books.

Monbiot, G. (2000) Captive State: The corporate takeover of Britain. London: Macmillan.

Stiglitz, J. (2002) Globalisation and its discontents. London: Penguin

Toynbee, P and Walker D. (2008) Unjust Rewards: Exposing greed and inequality in Britain today. London: Granta Publications.

Venkatesh, S. (2008) Gang leader for a day: A rouge sociologist crosses the line. London: Penguin books.

Sociopops – Fortress Europe – Asian Dub Foundation

Clearly reflexive! –

Basically commenting on the hypocrisy of the west’s role in instigating wars abroad, adding to the problems of refugees and the amount of people in need of asylum, and then tightening boarder controls to prevent people getting into Britain – the song is a clear statement that asylum is a right – and comes from the perspective of those who identify with ‘global civil society’ rather than the British nation state.

A sample of some of the lyrics – check the full lyrics out on one of those free lyrics sites

“We’re the children of globalisation
No borders only true connection
Light the fuse of the insurrection
This generation has no nation

Break out of the detention centres
Cut the wires and tear up the vouchers
People get ready it’s time to wake up
Tear down the walls of Fortress Europe”

Kat Banyard – Violence against women

book-equality-illusionA few quotes adapated from Banyard’s ‘The equality illussion’

Amnesty International has declared violence against women as the gratest human rights scandal of our times.

One in four women in the UK will experience violence at the hand of a current or former partner

One in three women in the world has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused at some point in her life.

Domestic Violence causes more death and disability among women aged between 16-44 than than cancer or traffic accidents.

Pepertrators of domestic violence are portrayed as monsters, as abnormal. This is a lie.

Women are expected to take precautions against male violence and attempts to rape them (rape alarms, covering drinks in bars, getting taxis, always going out in twos, restricting their movements)

100 00 women are raped each year – 2000 every week – and yet only 6.5% are reported to the police.

If a rapist comes to trial, the vicitm is often viewed as partly sharing the blame for the rape.

Two women are murdered each week as a direct result of Intimate Partner Violence (100 a year, roughly 1/7 of all murders)

IPV has the highest rate of repeat victimisation of any crime

40-50% of female accident and emergency visits in the US are due to violence done by intimate partners.

The total cost of DV for the state, victims and employers is £23 billion a year.

Only 17 percent of rapes take place by strangers and only 13% in a public place, but analysis of newspaper reports show that 55% of them are about stranger rapes – Domestic rapes by partners (the overwhelming norm) is not seen as newsworthy.

60% of women who have had an experience that fits the legal definition of rape don’t define the act as rape because it doesn’t fit the ‘typical stranger scenario’ that they are taught is the norm.

It is estimated that between 100 and 140 million women in the world have undergone female genital mutilation – 66000 in the uk.

It is estimated that 5000 women are murdered each year in ‘honour killings’ – honour killings can take place because the woman has brought shame on the family – through wearing make up, losing her virginity outside of marriage or having an unapproved of boyfriend. Banyard sees this as an organised crime.

Banyard also tries to argue that plastic surgery etc. should be seen as a ‘harmful cultural practise stemming from gender equality.’

In western culture – millions have their flesh sucked, foreign bodies inserted under their skin and, increasingly, parts of their labia minora cut off for non medical purposes. We don’t name this a harmful cultural practise stemming from gender inequality, we call it plastic surgery.