On Becoming a Public Sociologist: Amplifying Women’s Voices in the Quest for Environmental Justice

60853_9781452242026I received my free copy of the recently published Sociologists in Action on Inequalities: Race, Class and Gender in the mail this week, and turned immediately to the short essay I contributed. My piece, “On Becoming a Public Sociologist: Amplifying Women’s Voices in the Quest for Environmental Justice” describes my process of becoming a public sociologist through the Voices from the Valley multi-media project on environmental justice activism in California’s agricultural San Joaquin Valley. The chapter is meant to show undergrads some of where sociology might take them. It was a fun project, and I’m looking forward to reading the other contributions in the book.

 

 

Here’s the full citation for my piece:

  • Perkins, Tracy. 2015. “On Becoming a Public Sociologist: Amplifying Women’s Voices in the Quest for Environmental Justice.” Pp. 88-92 in Sociologists in Action on Inequalities: Race, Class and Gender edited by S. K. White, J. M. White and K. O. Korgen. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications.

 

And here’s a citation to the scholarly article that grew out of the same set of interviews that formed the basis of Voices from the Valley:

  • Perkins, Tracy. 2012. “Women’s Pathways Into Activism: Rethinking the Women’s Environmental Justice Narrative in California’s San Joaquin Valley.” Organization & Environment, 25(1):76-94.

 

 

Teaching “Women and Work” – Music Videos

When I taught “Women and Work” this winter, I had a great time experimenting with regular use of music videos. I played one just before class as students were coming in each day. I selected some of the songs myself (with help from the Sociologists for Women in Society listserve – thanks!), and others were suggested by students as part of an extra credit assignment (see more on the logic of incorporating student-generated content into the classroom in my post on the subject here). After the song finished, the person who proposed using it said a few words about why s/he chose it. Then, we might have a brief class discussion about the song and/or refer back to it for more analysis later in the class. Some of the songs expressed feminist ideals, some the opposite of that, and many were in ambiguous middle ground.

I found that playing songs as students are coming in had a number of benefits. First, it made it easier to start class on time with little disruption from late or chatty students. As they arrive they focus on watching the video and by the time  it ends they are quiet and ready to start class. For the first half of the quarter or so, students also seemed to be arriving earlier than usual so as not to miss the song. Second, it gave us a fun way to expand the reach of our reading beyond the classroom and out into the pop culture in which they are immersed in day-to-day life.

See the complete syllabus, including the extra-credit assignment, here.

Here’s what we listened to, listed with my reading assignments so you can see how the songs relate to the class content.

 

UNIT 1: INTRODUCTION

January 7th                        

  • SONG: 9 to 5 by Dolly Parton
  • Corbett, Christianne & Catherine Hill. 2012. “Graduating to a Pay Gap: The Earnings of Women and Men One Year After College Graduation.” Washington, D.C.: AAUW.

January 9th               

  • SONG: Gonna Be an Engineer by Peggy Seeger
  • Amott, Teresa and Julie Matthaei. 2001. “Race, Class, Gender, and Women’s Works.” Pp. 234-242 in Race, Class, and Gender: An Anthology, 4th ed., edited by M. L. Andersen and P. H. Collins. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.
  • Padavic, Irene & Barbara Reskin. 2002. Women and Men at Work. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press. Ch. 3: “An Overview of Sex Inequality at Work”

 

UNIT 2: KEY CONCEPTS

January 14th                     Progress and Virtue

  • SONG: If You See(k) Amy by Brittany Spears
  • Faludi, Susan. 1991. Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women. New York: Crown Publishers.  Ch. 3: Backlashes Then and Now.
  • Boryczka, Jocelyn M. 2012. Suspect Citizens: Women, Virtue and Vice in Backlash Politics. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. Introduction: Moral Guardians but Suspect Citizens: Women, Virtue and Vice in the Western Political Imaginary

January 16th                     Wages and Work

  • SONG: She Works Hard for the Money by Donna Summers
  • Kessler-Harris, Alice. 2001. “The Wage Conceived: Value and Need as Measures of a Woman’s Worth.” Pp. 239-252 in Feminist Frontiers, 5th ed., edited by L. Richardson, V. Taylor and N. Whittier. New York: McGraw Hill.
  • Sacks, N. E. and C. Marrone. 2004. Gender and Work in Today’s World: A Reader. Cambridge: Westview Press. Ehrenreich: “Nickel and Dimed: Selling in Minnesota”

January 21st                     Gendered Organizations

  • ADVERTISEMENT: Virgin Atlantic – 25 Years, Still Red Hot (thanks Meeno Kohli!)
  • Acker, Joan. 1990. “Hierarchies, Jobs, Bodies: A Theory of Gendered Organizations,” Gender & Society 4(2):139-158.
  • Schilt, Kristen. 2006. “Just One of the Guys? How Transmen Make Gender Visible at Work.” Gender & Society 20(4):465-490.

January 23rd                     Structure and Choice

  • TRAILER: The Wolf of Wall Street
  • England, Paula. 2010. “The Gender Revolution: Uneven and Stalled.” Gender & Society 24:149-166.
  • Reskin, Barbara F., & Michelle L. Maroto. 2011. “What Trends? Whose Choices?: Comment on England.” Gender & Society 25:81-87.

 

UNIT 3: WOMEN’S WORK THROUGHOUT US HISTORY

January 28th                     Historical Overview

  • SONG: Rosie the Riveter by The Four Vagabonds
  • Coleman, Margaret S. 2000. “Undercounted and Underpaid Heroines: The Path to Equal Opportunity in Employment During the Twentieth Century.” WorkingUSA 3(5):37-65.
  • Padavic, Irene & Barbara Reskin. 2002. Women and Men at Work. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press. Ch. 2: Gendered Work in Time and Place

January 30th                     Racialized Experiences over Time

  • SONG: Strange Fruit by Billy Holiday
  • Ammott, Teresa & Julie Matthaei. 1996. Race, Gender and Work: A Multicultural Economic History of Women in the United States. Boston, MA: South End Press. “Climbing Gold Mountain: Asian American Women” and “We Specialize in the Wholly Impossible: African-American Women”

 

UNIT 4: THE DAILY EXPERIENCE OF WORK

February 4th                      Race, Class and Gender at Work

  • SONG: El Picket Sign by El Teatro Campesino (on the Rolas de Aztlan: Songs of the Chicano Movement cd)
  • García-Lopez, Gladys & Denise A. Segura. 2008. “’They are testing you all the time’: Negotiating Dual Femininities among Chicana Attorneys.” Feminist Studies 34(1/2):229-258.
  • Castaneda, Xochitl & Patricia Zavella. 2003. “Changing Constructions of Sexuality and Risk: Migrant Mexican Women Farmworkers in California.” The Journal of Latin American Anthropology 8(2):126-151.

February 6th                                  Sexualized Workplaces

  • SONG: I’m ‘n Luv Wit A Stripper by T-Pain
  • Jefreys, Sheila. 2009. Keeping Women Down and Out: The Strip Club Boom and the Reinforcement of Male Dominance. Signs 34(1):151-173.
  • Zinn, Maxin Baca, Pierette Hondagneu-Sotelo and Michael A. Messner, eds. 2011. Gender Through the Prism of Difference. New York: Oxford University Press. Patti A. Guiffre and Christine L. Williams: “Boundary Lines: Labeling Sexual Harassment in Restaurants”

February 11th                                  Emotional Labor

  • SONG: Run the World (Girls) by Beyoncé
  • Wharton, Amy S. 2009. “The Sociology of Emotional Labor.” Annual Review of Sociology. 35:147-165.
  • Lois: “Peaks and Valleys: The Gendered Emotional Culture of Rescue Workers”

 

UNIT 5: FAMILY LIFE AND WORK

February 13th                                  Parenting and Work

 

February 18th                                  Outsourcing Family Work

  • SONG: Sadie’s Servant Room Blues by Hattie Burleson
  • Duffy, Mignon. 2007. “Doing the Dirty Work: Gender, Race, and Reproductive Labor in Historical Perspective.” Gender and Society 21:313-336.
  • Sacks, N. E. and C. Marrone. 2004. Gender and Work in Today’s World: A Reader. Cambridge: Westview Press. Hondagneu-Sotelo: “Domestica: Maid in L.A.”

 

UNIT 6:  WOMEN MAKING CHANGE 

February 20th                                  Women and Activism

  • SONG: Girls Lie Too by Terri Clark
  • Wallace, Aubrey. 1993. Eco-Heroes: Twelve Tales of Environmental Victory. San Francisco, CA: Mercury House. “Mrs. Gibbs Goes to Washington.”
  • Perkins, Tracy. 2012. “Women’s Pathways Into Activism: Rethinking the Women’s Environmental Justice Narrative in California’s San Joaquin Valley.” Organization & Environment 25(1):76-94.

February 25th                                  Women and the Labor Movement

  • SONG: We Were There by Bev Grant and the Brooklyn Women’s Chorus
  • Boris, Eileen and Annelise Orleck. 2011. “Feminism and the Labor Movement: A Century of Collaboration and Conflict.” New Labor Forum 20(1):33-41.

March 4th                                              Case Study: Facebook’s Cheryl Sandberg

  • Sandberg, Cheryl. 2013. Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. Chapters 1-6

March 6th                                              Case Study: Facebook’s Cheryl Sandberg

 

UNIT 7: STUDENT-LED LEARNING 

March 11th                                              Student Presentations

March 13th                                               Student Presentations

March 19th                                              Student Presentations

Teaching “Women and Work” – Syllabus

Now that summer is here, I’m hoping to post some of the things I did in my “Women and Work” class from January – March. I had a great time with the class and tried out a bunch of new activities with my students. To get started, here’s a copy of the syllabus I created. I drew inspiration in shaping it from Rachel Bryant-Anderson, the last instructor to teach the class in my department. I also selected readings from the many syllabi kindly shared with me by the users of the Sociologists for Women in Society list-serve.

Visual Activism Symposium organized by SF Museum of Modern Art and IAVC

This morning I finished putting together slides of some of my photography, uploaded a short bio to a shared dropbox folder and timed myself while going through my talking points. I’m ready for my eight minutes of fame!

I’m pleased to be participating in the Visual Activism symposium organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the International Association for Visual Culture this Friday and Saturday. Because the museum is closed for renovations for several years, the MOMA is organizing off-site events under the label of “SF MOMA On the Go.” This event will be held at the Brava Theater in San Francisco’s Mission District. I’ve been told it is an “antique” theater originally designed for Vaudeville performances, so I’m looking forward to checking it out.

I’ll be on the first panel, “Environment, Justice, Inequity.” Come say hello if you see me there! I’ll show a few photos and talk about how I engage the following themes in the Voices from the Valley project about environmental justice activism in California’s San Joaquin Valley:

  • Making the invisible visible
  • Rethinking the rural pastoral
  • Everyday life, everyday politics
  • Tragedy and hope
  • Beauty
  • Recognition

Student-generated classroom content

This year I’m participating in the HASTAC Scholars program organized by Duke University and UC Irvine. It is an online forum for scholars to discuss ideas and share resources related to the intersection of the humanities, arts, sciences and technology. We are organized into working groups and posting on various HASTAC blogs and online forums.

One of the HASTAC groups has created the “Pedagogy Project,” which will be publicized by the  #FutureEd folks. They are organizing a collection of blog posts on teaching and the HASTAC Scholars have all been invited to contribute material. So, here’s my contribution!

••••••

I try to find way to incorporate student-generated content into my classes whenever possible. The idea is to improve student learning by creating an environment that encourages them to be active learners who see their own lives and interests reflected in class content.

There are a wide variety of ways to approach this, from your standard student-presentations on independent research projects to fully democratized student-led courses.  Over the last few years, I’ve been experimenting with techniques in the middle of the spectrum that incorporate student generated content but still give me room to “curate” their ideas.

Different classes require different kinds of models for incorporating student ideas. I’ve listed some of what I’ve been doing below. These are all specific to student-generated classroom content. They do not cover ways to increase student participation in classroom processes such as grading, assignment design, peer-review of papers, or discussion.

CLASSICAL & CONTEMPORARY SOCIOLOGICAL THEORY: Theory courses are challenging. They assign dense, abstract readings that most students struggle to understand. In these courses, I assigned students the task of supplying me with a constant stream of media sources related to the class content. The idea was to 1) give students a formal way to practice applying sociological theory to the world around them by asking them to choose and submit a media item that exemplifies that week’s theories, and 2) to help me generate interesting, relevant classroom content that speaks to their age group.

Students sign up to submit a media piece once during the quarter. For pedagogical purposes it would be great to have them do it more often, but to keep my grading manageable I limited it to one piece per student. This means that when I sit down to put together my lesson plans at the beginning of the week, I have 5-8 one page papers that I can skim for ideas. Each mini-paper presents a media item, describes the strengths and weaknesses of using that week’s key theory to analyze it, and suggests how to use the media item in class. This has resulted in classes in which we use The Simpsons to help students understand Marx’s concept of primitive accumulation or alienation; news coverage of a police surveillance tower at an Occupy rally to understand Foucault’s idea of the panopticon; and YouTube “haul videos” to understand Herbert Marcuse’s critique of consumer society.

When we analyze the media items, I push students not only to think about what aspects of the piece fit the theory in question, but also to think about the ways the theory does not fit the media piece. This helps the students learn to assess the limits and potential weaknesses of each theory, which is usually challenging for them.

You can see the details of the assignment, as well as what was generated from it in both classes here and here.

WOMEN & WORK: I have two small extra-credit assignments designed to help me incorporate student-generated content in this class. Students can sign up to submit a song and/or a news item with a one page mini-paper that describes how it relates to the key concepts in that week’s readings. When I am putting together my lesson plans at the beginning of the week, I read that week’s mini-papers and select one song and one news item to share at the beginning of each class. The song plays as students are coming in to class and getting settled, while the news items are shared after class has begun.

Playing songs as students are coming in has a number of benefits. First, it makes it easier to start class on time with little disruption from late or chatty students. Students arrive earlier than usual so as not to miss the song, and when it ends they are quiet and ready to start class. Second, it gives us a fun way to expand the reach of our reading beyond the classroom and out into the pop culture in which they are immersed in day-to-day life. Third, having them help choose the songs means that the songs are much more current than they would be if I picked them all myself. For example, we’ve screened the 2005 song suggested by a student for our day on sex work I’m ‘n Luv (Wit a Stripper), as well as my own contribution from 1971, Gonna Be an Engineer. After the song finishes, the person who proposed using it says a few words about why s/he chose it. Then, we might have a brief class discussion about the song and/or refer back to it for more analysis later in the class.

•••••

In all of these assignments, I make the final decisions about what student ideas to share with the rest of the class. This helps me do quality control to ensure that the only media pieces, songs or news items shared with the entire class are a close fit for that week’s content and will aid, not hinder, student understanding. When some of the unchosen items are a also a good fit for the class content, I often briefly reference them at the beginning of the class without making them a focal point of the class session. This gives the students a sense of how widely the theories in question can be applied, and helps bring our readings alive.

Publishing your first academic article

I’m speaking in one of my department’s professionalization panels today on the subject of academic publishing for graduate students. The increasingly competitive academic job market requires students to begin publishing early, so I’m looking forward to sharing what I’ve learned so far and hearing what the other participants have to say.  Here’s what I plan to discuss:

1. Different kinds of publications

There are a variety of publishing genres in academic life. Book reviews, encyclopedia entries and book chapters in edited volumes are just some of the opportunities that may come your way while you are a student. I’ve written one book review, one book chapter (coming out in April!), one article in a cross-over magazine meant to be read by scholars and the general public alike, and several online pieces (stay tuned for the launch on of the Critical Sustainabilities project!). I’ve learned a lot from all of them, and in future years I hope to try my hand at writing reports and opinion-editorials as well. Still, publishing peer-reviewed articles in academic journals remains the gold standard of academic writing and is the kind of publication that will help you the most if you hope to pursue a career  in academia after graduation. I’ve had one of these published so far and a have a second going through the submission and review process. The rest of this post focuses on these types of publications.

2. How to pick a journal

The first official journal article I published grew out of my master’s research. Since this project involved collecting new data and making my own argument about it, it was a good  fit for publication. Other opportunities may come to write more theoretical pieces out of field-statements written as part of the qualifying process, or perhaps from class papers. Once you know what writing you want to publish, the next step is to figure out where to publish it.

Trying to find the right journal for your article can be daunting. My strategy was to ask several different advisors and published peers about the journals that they follow, and for recommendations on where to submit my own work. Then I spent time looking these journals up online to get a feel for their content. Usually this meant purusing recent tables of contents. It is also wise at this point to think about the subfield of your discipline in which you hope to specialize, and to target a journal within that field so that your writing will get in front of the eyes of the subgroup of academics whom you hope to join. Again, getting this kind of information requires talking to people who know your field well. Keep in mind that you can only submit your draft to one journal at a time.

I submitted my article first to Social Problems. The editor quickly got back to me with nice things to say about my work, but recommended I seek out a more specialized journal as my piece was too narrowly focused to be able to make a contribution to their larger theoretical themes. I then resubmitted my piece to Organization and Environment, where it was accepted after two rounds of revisions.

Over time, I’ve developed a better sense of the different journals in my field as I see my peers publish in them and as I read more of them myself. I have also found it helpful to subscribe to the “table of contents” e-mail alerts at a variety of journals that interest me. That way whenever they publish a new issue, I get an e-mail that lists the new article titles and their authors.  Even without reading most of these articles, over time the e-mail alerts have given me a much better sense of what kinds of articles are appropriate for which journals.

You may also hear about journal “impact factors.” This numerical score reflects how widely cited the articles published in the journal are. The higher the impact factor of the journals in which you publish, the more “successful” you will be considered by the academic establishment. Nonetheless, I’ve largely ignored impact scores at this early stage of my career and focused instead on getting published by the journals that are best suited to my work.

3. Editing your work to fit the journal

After completing my thesis, I whittled my 70-odd page paper down into something closer to 20 pages. Doing this forced me to pick one of the several arguments in the original work on which to focus, to get to the point much faster, and to be vigilant about cutting text that did not explicitly support my main argument. Next I revised the piece to fit the requirements of the journal to which I was submitting.  These requirements are usually available on the journal’s website under a heading that says “Submit a Manuscript,” “Author Guidelines” or something of the sort. Revisions often include changing the citation and reference style, editing your work to fit within page or word-count limits, or formatting tables and appendices in specific ways. You may also decide to revise your work substantively as well by emphasizing themes most relevant to that particular journal.

4. Submitting your writing

The actual submission process itself is usually fairly straightforward – simply create an online account and follow the journal’s instructions. In addition to your final article, you will input your personal information, keywords for the article, an abstract and a second version of the piece without your name and other identifying information. Your article will go through a “double-blind” review process intended to keep you from knowing who your reviewers are, and to keep them from knowing who you are.

There is often also a space to include a letter to the editor. When I submitted for the first time I just wrote something short and generic such as “Dear [editor's name], Please accept this article for consideration. I look forward to hearing back from you.” However, I’ve since read other opinions on how to use this space. See here and here for more information.

5. Revisions

After you submit your work, one of two things will happen. The editor will reject the article without sending it out for review, or will contact other academics with expertise in your topic to read and comment on your work.  If the first happens, you will likely hear back from the editor fairly quickly. If the latter happens, it will likely be several months before you hear anything. If the article does get sent out for review, you will hear back that it has been rejected outright, that it needs to be revised and resubmitted for a second assessment, or that it has been accepted with few to no revisions necessary (this last option is extremely rare).

When you hear back from the editor about the status of your submission, look at the brief note that tells you whether it was rejected, critiqued with a request for revisions, or accepted. Then, ignore the e-mail for a week or so. I’ve found that I can better tolerate the sting of the critiques provided by the peer reviewers if I separate the time between finding out the status of my submission and actually reading the detailed comments.

In my case, my article was sent out for review by the second journal to which I submitted, and I then received a request to “revise and resubmit.” One of the critiques of my work was that I had overgeneralized my findings as well as overstated their significance. I’ve heard from several faculty members that this is a common problem amongst graduate students, so be on your guard for these problems. I revised my paper accordingly and resubmitted it, after which it was sent out for review again. One of the reviewers was satisfied with my changes, and the other requested further revisions. I made further revisions and submitted the paper for the third time, after which it was accepted by the editor without being sent back out to the reviewers.

This revise and resubmit process can be tricky. You want to make all of the revisions suggested that you believe will strengthen your work, or that can be made without taking away from your argument. You also need to decide which revision requests you will not fulfill because they conflict with the argument you are making or with the overall direction of your piece. You’ll need to then write a letter to the journal’s editor explaining the changes you have made, and justifying those you have not made.  It may be wise to have a friend or colleague read this letter before you submit it. I asked someone else to read mine to help me edit out the defensive tone that snuck its way in there despite my best efforts to respond professionally to critiques of my work. Although journal publishing is meant to be double-blind, either the author or the reviewer will often know who the other person is by the content of their writing. Academia is a small world and you will likely be interacting with your reviewers in other settings in the future, so it is best to remain cordial and focus on how the process helps you improve your work. Here are the first and second cover-letters that I wrote to the editor during revisions process. Comments by the reviewers are redacted as their writing is not mine to share.

When your piece is finally accepted, it will be copy-edited by the publishers for typos. Nonetheless, it is important for you to read the final version of your work before it gets published. This may be another good time to recruit a friend’s help.

See Tanya Golash-Boza’s blog post for more details on how to manage this stage of the publishing process.

6. Timeline

Publishing takes a long time! I finished my master’s thesis in 2008 and published the article based on that research in 2012. However, much of that lag was due to the fact that it took me a long time to get around to revising my thesis into an article. To speed things along, be sure to resubmit your article to a new journal in a timely fashion if it gets rejected.

  • Submitted to first journal- April 2011
  • Rejected by first journal – May 2011
  • Submitted to second journal – May 2011
  • Got first revise and resubmit request – August 2011
  • Submitted second version of article – October 2011
  • Got second revise and resubmit request – January 2012
  • Submitted third version of article – March 2012
  • Article accepted – March 2012
  • Article published – May 2012 (even though the citation is for March)

7. Final thoughts

Don’t forget to celebrate your progress at each turn! Did you submit an article? Turn in a revision? Get something published? Find ways to celebrate these successes!

 Other resources:

Slideshow: The faces of public participation

As part of my second research trip to Los Angeles, on Saturday I attended a hearing at the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD). At issue was the Exide Technologies battery recycling facility in Vernon, and the lead and arsenic it is emitting into the air. The decision-makers heard from lawyers on both sides of the case, and then opened the hearing up for testimony by residents and other interested parties.

Public participation is a key part of much environmental decision-making, and over time advocates have convinced many decision-making bodies to provide translation services. This helps the many Spanish-speaking residents who live near polluting facilities to participate in the environmental decisions that profoundly affect their lives. Being able to participate in environmental descision-making does not necessarily mean that that their voices will actually influence decisions, but it is an important first step.

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See coverage of the hearing by the Los Angeles Times here, and its broader coverage of the company here.