Remembering My Hat

24th April 2014

BSA 2014, Leeds (Part 4): Baby boomers + ‘quick and dirty’ research

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Jennie Bristow, Kent

The Baby Boomer generation and the problem of knowledge

How has the baby boomer generation come to be constructed as a social problem in Britain today?

3 books came out in 2010 doing this, most influential David Willets’ The Pinch’, right wing perspective. Francis Beccket ‘What did the babyboomers ever do for us. ‘Jilted Generation’

Babyboomers hed responsible for a wide range of social problems – economic crisis (demographic size + bad political decision = Tony Blair), housing shortage, pensions and healthcare, lifestyles, values and cultural change, and young people’s inablity to grow up (including because they can’t afford to buy houses).

Boomer-blaming transcends left-right divisions and also generational differences (baby boomers themselves and younger people [what about those older than the baby boomers?]

Did media analysis of 4 national newspapers in 6 date periods, mid 80s – present day, using term ‘baby’ and ‘boomer’. Analysed 200+ articles in depth.

Increased mention over time (also on Google Ngram)

Not always negative discussion – often quite positive, especially around time of election of Bill Clinton.

How boomers were defined varied depending on the problem that was being articulated. – one bulge or two. If talking about demographic problems, tend to define widely as born 1945-65. But if talking about cultural change, really mean people graduating from university in about 1969.

Used Qualitative Media Analysis – aiming to take acount of social contexts in which texts are created (e.g. election of Bill Clinton)

Mannheim 1922/28 on sociology of generations

Cultural problem – failure to preserve welfare state (left wing) or self-indulgent individualism like Tony Blair (right wing)

By 2006 beginning of hardening of narraive of baby boomers as a problem (n.b. before the financial crisis). Prompted by retirement of the first baby boomers. ‘Boomergeddon’. Demographic problems, but culturally morally loaded through talk of 60s barminess.

Can’t win – if look after your health, you’ll live longer, which makes you even more of a problem!

A new generationalism? Trying to create generationally based social divisions?

Historically, younger generations have criticised older generations for being set in their ways. But here we see baby boomers saying that they went too far, shouldn’t have changed things so much. [Very interesting!]

Idea of babyboomers originally came from US, which is why it doesn’t actually map very well on to UK demographics.

This is an elite idea that has become popular through the media, not a grassroots one. Thinks most people’s actual experience is not of intergenerational conflict but of mutual support with significant transfers of wealth down the generations.


Hannah Jones, Warwick

Urgent! Reflections on doing ‘quick-and-dirty’ research, and on sociology and social action.

Danger of it just being descriptive, but that’s also a danger with slow research. Difficulty of taking historical and wider perspective – only if you don’t already know the literature.

Back and Puwar (2012) A manifesto for live methods.

Can use quick sociological methods to have political effects – quick survey they did in response to ‘Go Home’ immigration vans. But harder to have sociological effects with quick research? She thinks not.

Amphibious sociology – Lury 2013





BSA 2014, Leeds (Part 3): Sexuality

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You know the form


Katy Pilcher, Aston

Subverting heteronormativity in a lesbian erotic dance venue?

Erotic dance is v contested area in feminist debate – classic sex positive v. sex negative case. But this binary is itself problematic

Can the heteronormative gaze be subverted?

Power is always still operating

Using Jackson and Scott’s defn that ‘what makes an act, a desire or a relationship sexual is a matter of social definition: the meanings invested in it’ (2010:84) so erotic dance is not inherently erotic, it’s the meanings people ascribe to it that make it so.

Club she studied (‘Lippy’) was a product of 1980s lesbian sex wars – predecesor version ‘The Cage’ was SM and seen by some participants as more radical and more queer than Lippy.

Founder of Lippy felt that The Cage had paved the way for the more moderate Lippy [classic discursive relationship between the more extreme and the more moderate]

Dancers dressed in quite traditional normative gendered ways, including one as 1950s housewife – the archetpe of trad gender!

But could say that they are displaying the performativity of gender (vide Butler) and making femme queer identities visible independently, not just when in contrast with a butch partner.

In one act, one dancer dresses as a man but with trad female lingerie underneath – not a drag king, something more complex than that.

Valued as a women’s space. But this is policed – fat and hairy/trans women not acceptable to all.

Massey – spaces as made and remade – so not inherently inclusive space because women-only, made so (or not).

One dancer couldn’t get work in straight clubs because too heavily tatood – suggests Lippy was a queerer space, because was acceptable here.

But women punters not taken seriously as customers by club employees, seen as sexually fairly passive and less sexual than men.

Dancers go up to punters and touch them, unlike in male strip clubs. Hugging – quite a reciprocal gesture.

Some evidence of punters taking up more hegemonic masculine subject-positions, like approaching dancers outside the club and asking for a kiss.


Stevi Jackson, York (and Sue Scott)

Towards a practice theoretic approach to sexuality

They have previously used sexual scripts theory. Gagnon and Simon’s levels of scripting – cultural scenarios (like discourses), interpersonal scripting (through interactions with others, sexual partners and also other) and intrapsychic scripting (reflexive stuff, conversations with yourself). All three inter-relate. Not deterministic. You improvise around the scripts.

But this can be seen as too cognitive. Based on active meaning making and reflexive practice. Jackson and Scott 2007 and 2010 trying to move beyond this by looking at embodied sexual conduct e.g. orgasm  – not just a physiological process but a social one

Drawing on Becker 1963 on learning to feel appropriately (becoming a marijuana user). Useful to think about in relation to sex – becoming a competent sexual actor. But doesn’t explain variety and complexity of sexual practices well [why not?]. Scripting solves this in part, because of way it look at agentic individuals, interactional situation and surrounding socioculral context. But not well theorised how this turns in to practices.

Turn to practice in Sociology since about 2000. Especially strong in sociology of consumption, building on Bordieu. Not much theorisation of practice in sexuality. Idea is used in sociology of families (Morgan, Finch, Jamieson) i.e. displaying family through practices.

Is sex a practice? It has defining features, although historically and culturally variable and although could be more than currently is. It is generally recognizable as an event – period of activity, involving sexual arousal [does this apply to all BDSM activities? I’m not sure it does. Although it could get quite circular about what you define as sexual arousal]. There are shared understandings, standards, advice on how to do it better.

Danger of defining sex as a practice could be that it seems to move away from the sociological, to focusing more on habits and routines. But these are rooted in biography and social context, so this isn’t really a problem.


BSA 2014, Leeds (Part 2): Veganism + teaching LGBT+ in HSC

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More erratic and partial notes from a conference. Part 1 here. My own thoughts in square brackets. No pretty pictures, I’m afraid, due to aforementioned technical problems.


Symposium on Veganism

Kate Stewart, Nottingham

Health benefits of eating more fruit and veg seem clear. 5-a-day and so on campaigns (now 8-a-day)

But doesn’t necessarily follow that vegans are healthier. Study of German vegans showed participants ate equivalent of 18 a day! And better health.

Analysis of four prominent health-advice websites (NHS choices, Change for Life etc.) and what they said about veganism.

Focus on health risks of plant-based diets. Don’t report benefits. Focus on adding fruit and veg to existing diet, not radically changing diet or basing dishes on vegetables.

Plant-based diets are constructed as marginal in advice literature


Richard Twine, IoE

Negotating relationships in transition to veganism

Practice Theory [looks v interesting] about not overstating the rational and intentional, looking at what people do and ways to change what people do.

Changes through recrafting practicing, substituting practices

[A really interesting paper – too tired at this stage to make proper notes except to remind myself to follow this one up]


All the presenters in this symposium had lots of experiences of very hostile responses to doing research on veganism – accusations of being partial, unobjective, unbalanced, including difficulty getting through ethics committees on these grounds [I never get any trouble with  this in relation to doing research on LGBT issues, including LGBT ageing. Is this because these days it’s perfectly respectable to research LGBT stuff, but that’s not (yet?) the case for veganism? It would be really interesting to do a sort of historical analysis of what ethics cttees reject (although they haven’t existed for that long). What is seen as risky / problematic / dangerous research  over time]


Zowie Davy, Lincoln

Freire’s pedagogy – 2 way, problem-focused, master / slave relationships (pedagogue /student). Need to co-create knowledge.

‘Limit situations’

Looking at teaching of LGBTQI issues to medial, health and social care students  in 5 universities in one are of UK

When there is teaching on LGBTQI issues, it’s not integrated into general topics, but ‘special topics’.

[I want to think about this properly in relation to K118, where we have got some bits of teaching on LGBT issues, I’m very pleased to say]



23rd April 2014

British Sociological Association 2014 – Leeds, UK (Part 1)

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Briefer than usual erratic and partial notes from a conference, because I am having an amazing multi-coloured array of technological problems. As ever, my own thoughts are in square brackets [like this]

Ester McGeeney, Sussex

Reanimating data from her PhD study by making films co-created by young people.

Boundaries, similarities and differences between participatory research, knowledge exchange, knowledge interaction, impact and so on?

Importance of sex-positive approaches to sex ed (what you usually get is all about risks and unwanted outcomes – medicalised, sex-negative). Practitioners Ester interviewed were supportive of this idea but didn’t feel knew how to go about it – worried about boundaries, about reaction of parents and the Daily Mail.

What matters, the process of knowledge exchange or the product?

Group of 7 young people, not research participants,designed the reanimations with help from film maker and Ester.

‘Good sex is’ and ‘bad sex is’ reanimations are finished and available on YouTube. Judged by the group to be successful.

BUT while YP have clear ideas about what constitutes good and bad sex, in interviews it’s clear that actual experiences are much more mixed and complicated.

So trying to use reanimations of interview data to get at this.

But what they initially did ‘didn’t work’. Tried other techniques. But what YP wanted was talking heads to camera – seen as authentic YouTube style? Professionals involved didn’t want talking heads, film-maker had said didn’t want to use them at beginning because leads to inauthentic, ‘Eastenders style bad acting’. But that’s what they seem to have ended up with. [Really interesting stuff about perceptions of authenticity / what genres read as authentic in what contexts and by whom]

The process has been great [But a great product gives you much wider but less deep impact].


Giovanna Fassetta, Strathclyde

Photography in research with young people

Lots of literature on poly-vocal nature of photographs people take as research participants – trying to please the researcher, other family members and friends influencing images taken, etc.

Also need to think about limits to choice of children [and other people] when they are taking photographs:

  • fear of attracting attention
  • lack of independent mobility and freedom of choice of where to go
  • ethical issues (lack of consent of family members photographed)

Need to think carefully about what conclusions can draw from participant-created data

Audience discussion: collective methods sometimes more enjoyable for participants and productive of richer data than one-to-one methods. But creates ethical issues about privacy of data.

Audience discussion: ways some methods become almost obligatory for work with some categories of people – photography for work with young people, one-to-one interviews with older people. Starts with really good work, but then gets fossilised into a normative expectation. People don’t publish when methods didn’t really work. So you only hear about the ways methods really worked.



10th April 2014

Quick wins for bisexual inclusion

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Bisexuality is often erased as a legitimate sexual identity. There’s an example of that happening here, when I last felt moved to blog about this. This time, I thought I’d try to do something more positive in response.
I’m going to assume here that people do want to include bisexual people when they are talking about ‘LGB people’ or ‘LGB&T people’. I’m going to assume that when they fail to do so, it’s a slip-of-the-tongue, a habit that they want to change. So here are some suggestions for rewordings for common slips-of-the-tongue and the pen.

Although I’m focussing specifically on bi inclusion here, I’ve tried to be trans*-inclusive within this focus, but would especially welcome corrections or additions to this. I’m not trying to cover ‘quick wins for trans* inclusion’ here, but I am trying to ensure that what I am suggesting about bi inclusion is not trans*-exclusive. And of course other suggestions and comments on anything here are very welcome. What have I missed? Do you agree? What other quick wins might there be?

Don’t describe someone as ‘gay’ just because they have a same-sex partner

… because many bisexual people have same-sex partners and don’t describe themselves as ‘gay’. Use the words people use to describe themselves.

This applies to public figures too – Oscar Wilde, Lord Byron, Tom Daley and whoever the latest male politician or sportsman is to have hit the media for having a male lover. Obviously, if they do now describe themselves as gay, then so should you. But if they don’t, then don’t. You could describe them as bisexual or as being attracted to more than one gender or just talk about what has happened without using sexual identity labels. But, best of all, use whatever words they use to describe themselves.

Don’t say ‘gay and straight relationships’ or ‘same-sex and heterosexual relationships’

… because that excludes people in bisexual relationships. Depending on what you actually mean, try ‘all types of relationships’  or ‘LGB and heterosexual’ or, to some audiences, ‘queer and straight’. You might try ‘same-sex and different-sex relationships’, if that’s the distinction you’re really interested in, but that isn’t very trans*-inclusive, because it implies that two people are either the same or different sexes, and sex can be more complicated than that.

Bisexual people in different-sex relationships are not ‘in a heterosexual relationship’ because they are not heterosexual. A heterosexual relationship is something that heterosexual people have. Well, subject to the point above about using people’s own terminology – if bisexual people in a different-sex relationship do want to describe their relationship as heterosexual, then of course they can, but don’t impose that label on them.

Don’t use ‘gay’ as a shorthand for LGB or LGB&T

… because most bisexual people don’t think of themselves as gay – if you say ‘gay’ they feel excluded. ‘Gay’ as a shorthand to include trans* people really doesn’t work well. And some lesbians really don’t like it either. In more formal writing, such as policy reports and research findings, it’s easy enough to avoid using ‘gay’ in this way  – just use LGB or LGB&T or LGBTIQQA or any other such acronym that is appropriate to your context. In speech and some types of media it can be harder to find replacements for ‘gay’ as a shorthand. ‘Queer’ works in some contexts. ‘Non-heterosexual’ works in others.

Don’t forget biphobia (and transphobia)

… because while bisexual people may experience homophobia, they also experience biphobia too. Try ‘homophobia and biphobia’ or ‘homophobia, biphobia and transphobia’. Or, depending on the context, ‘hate crimes against LGBT people’.

There’s more discussion of biphobia and how it differs from homophobia here.

Don’t say you talked to ‘LGB&T people’ if you only talked to lesbians and gay men

… because that suggests that LGB&T people really means lesbians and gay men. Say ‘lesbians and gay men’ if that is who you talked to.

If you had hoped to talk to B and T people as well, but not managed to do so in the end, you could say that. But the fact that you know that there is more to LGB&T than L and G doesn’t make it legitimate to generalise from L and G to LGB&T.

Don’t always subdivide your group of LGB people by gender (e.g. ‘lesbians and bisexual women’ versus ‘gay and bisexual men’)

… because that erases bisexuality by making it sound as if gender is always the most the important difference between LG and B people. Try looking at the bisexual women and bisexual men together as one category. Or see whether some other subdivision, such as race/ethnicity, age or social class is more important.


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