All posts by Laurie Essig


This Chicken Tasted So Much Better Before It Was Full of Hate

Like many people, I spent my summer vacation with my large and fiercely loyal extended family. Unlike many people, my family is mixed. No, I don’t mean mixed race or mixed class, although we are that too, but mixed politically. There are plenty of lefties among us; there are also plenty of conservatives. During the Bush years, I often found it incomprehensible that these people whom I love and respect could vote for a man who got this country into wars they didn’t believe in and cultural battles…


Mass Murder and the Culture of Madness

Houston gun show, 2007 (photo by Michael Glasgow via Flickr/CC)

Swimming with my family yesterday, we were shocked to learn that a man just down the beach had been attacked by a shark. The usual feelings of fear, shock, helplessness, and gratitude that it wasn’t us ensued. As this story mingled with the story of James Holmes in Colorado, it seemed easy enough to imagine that a shark attack and a mass shooting are similar events: tragedies floating through the summer air randomly attaching to cer…


The Big Lesson From Regnerus’s Bad Gay-Parenting Study

By this point in time it seems clear that something went really, really wrong with Mark Regnerus’s study arguing that gay and lesbian parents are bad parents. Regnerus claimed that gay and especially lesbian parents had too much “household instability” to make them a family form worth investing in (by which I assume Regnerus meant that such families deserve no state benefits or privileges). Immediately there were questions about the study and Social Science Research, the journal that published i…


Stewart and Colbert Not Funny? Puhlease!

Over at The Baffler, Steve Almond writes that those of us who think The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are comedic genius are just not smart enough to understand that they’re not that funny. According to Almond, the fact that so many of us revere Stewart and Colbert is

not evidence of a world gone mad so much as an audience gone to lard morally, ignorant of the comic impulse’s more radical virtues. Over the past decade, political humor has proliferated not as a daring form of social comment…


Disney Honeymoons Are a Symptom, Not the Disease

In a post on Disney’s wedding industrial and ideological complex over at Bitch, Michael Braithwaite writes about weddings and how to make them good. For instance, Braithwaite writes that weddings with themes are good since

Themes are an excellent way to incorporate some imagination and a little wonder into adult life, which is maybe why theme weddings have become a bit of “thing” in the last couple of decades, with people getting married on the ocean floor, while rock climbing, etc. I’ve had fri…


Does Good Mother = Miserable Woman?

A few years ago one of my daughters, who had not yet fully claimed her feminist card, told me that if I were a good parent, I would be there everyday after school to greet them with a snack and homework help instead of being at work.  Outwardly I laughed at her ridiculous mid-century ideas of parenting, but inside the worry that I am not a good enough mother continued to haunt me.

Now recent research by Miriam Liss, Holly Schiffrin and Kathryn Rizzo published in the Journal of Child and Family S…


Chris Rock Rocks July 4th

On July 4th Chris Rock tweeted

Happy white peoples independence day the slaves weren’t free but I’m sure they enjoyed fireworks.

I realize that tweets in and of themselves are not that important, but the backlash against this particular one is overburdened with significance. Over at Huffington Post, they have a poll and you can vote whether you find the tweet “funny” or “unpatriotic.” About as many people found it unpatriotic as found it amusing (15.56% to 18.42%). Needless to say, if 15% of rea…


I Have a Purple Heart–Sure I do–and Health Care

Today the Supreme Court has ruled that I can lie about military honors and that I must have health care. A seemingly contradictory set of rulings, perhaps, since one seems to venerate individual freedom and speech protections to the point of absurdity and the other is an attempt to actually impose the common good on individual desires.

The Supreme Court

overturned a federal law that made it a crime to lie about having earned a military decoration, saying that the law was an unconstitutional infr…


Does Anyone Really Need to Have It All?

By now everyone and their mother is discussing Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article for the Atlantic claiming that women can’t really have it all: a high-powered career and a happy home life. Slaughter would know. A law professor and then dean at Princeton who got a great gig being the director of policy planning at the State Department, she also had a husband willing to keep the home fires burning. In other words, by Slaughter’s own admission, she  had all the privileges in the world and still couldn’…


Herb Gans Is Right

Gans (photo at–click on image to get to hosting page)

My dear former professor, Herb Gans, has written a piece in Identities that is causing quite a stir among sociologists, especially cultural sociologists such as myself. The piece, which Gans himself admits is a “polemic” and therefore often unfair, is a rant against cultural sociology for separating itself from what he calls structural sociology. Although this might seem like a purely academic argument, I think it has much …


Olympic Sex

Ah, the Olympics. A seemingly simple pleasure that comes along every four years, when we watch the best athletes in the world compete. But as with all simple pleasures, this one turns out to be a bit of a hairball, since it is based on the most simplistic binary of all—male and female—a binary that has a tendency to implode on itself. The 2012 Olympics present a case in point.

Faced with the conundrum of sex in elite female athletes, the International Olympic Committee decided it would test for …


Social Science, Gay Parents, and the Myth of Objectivity

There is a lot of shock and anger that the rather flawed social science produced by Mark Regnerus “proving” that gay parents are bad parents got published in a respectable social-science journal. Social Science Research is now being asked to explain how this work was rushed through in record time and why the outside reviewers didn’t balk at the clear ideological biases of both the research design and its spurious conclusions or, if the reviewers did balk, why their concerns were not taken into a…


Flawed Sociology on Gay Parenting

Many people think that sociologist are all like me, a bit to the left of Karl Marx. But in fact sociology has always had some deeply conservative roots. Emile Durkheim, one of the field’s founders, was wedded to a highly gendered order, something that would enable “conjugal solidarity” (unlike the feminists of his time who saw companionate marriage as a much better idea). In the 20th century, Talcott Parsons dominated U.S. sociology in a way that limited critique to the periphery and described 1…


Is Lack of a Moral Vision Why Democrats Are Losing?

A tantalizing article in The Guardian by Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia, offers us a theory about why the Dems are losing. It’s not the economy, but moral vision that is bringing them down.

According to Haidt,

politics at the national level is more like religion than it is like shopping. It’s more about a moral vision that unifies a nation and calls it to greatness than it is about self-interest or specific policies. In most countries, the right tends to see …


Cheaters, Soda, and Asking the Wrong Questions

Two stories this week struck me as cases of asking the wrong questions and therefore getting the wrong answers. The first was Mayor Bloomberg’s campaign to ban sodas larger than 16 ounces in New York City. According to Bloomberg, the question is why are Americans so fat and the answer is soda. The second was the John Edwards case and the framing of it as one of sin and whether or not the sinner can be redeemed. Or as Katia Hetter at CNN put it, “Can Cheaters Change?”

But what if we asked differe…


Blacks, Gay Marriage, and White Lies

(Image from Khalid Albaih via Flickr/CC)

Myth Number 1: black Americans are more homophobic than white Americans

Myth Number 2: President Obama lost support among black voters when he came out in support of gay marriage.

The claim that African-Americans are more homophobic than white Americans is one of those head-scratching, what could possibly be the purpose of such a white lie kind of claims. When Prop 8 was passed in California, some white leaders in the gay-marriage movement blamed it on bl…


Was This Meal Art? Or Just Gross?

Maybe it’s the start of the holiday weekend, that I just submitted my grades, that I just got a new grill, but I have been thinking a lot about eating and eating meat in particular. Which is why I so didn’t need to read this story (warning: stop now if you are hoping to eat a hot dog this weekend. No really, stop!).

Mao Sugiyama, a self-described “asexual” from Tokyo, cooked up, seasoned and served his own genitalia to five diners at a swanky banquet in Japan last month.

Just days after Sugiyama’…


Count Romney and the Reign of Bain Capital

" . . . and your pension and benefits too . . . " (photo by Flickr/CC user outcast104)

Just a few short years ago, vampires ruled. Twilight, True Blood, and other cultural obsessions posited the vampire as perfection–a strong predator who is not merely beautiful, but never ages. Joan Rivers with a mixed martial arts fighter’s body.

But perhaps it is a sign of our times that these ubervampires have morphed into the far more campy ones in Dark Shadows. As Americans lost our appetite for the sort o…


Ain’t I a Woman?

We all know the GOP ain’t exactly feminist. After all, many Republicans want to control women’s reproductive lives, destroy equal pay for equal work laws, and limit civil rights and privileges to women who marry men. But the GOP-controlled House bill on violence against women that passed last night has been called by The American Bar Association

a retreat from the battle against domestic and sexual violence.

Although the Violence Against Women Act has previously enjoyed bipartisan support, in th…


I Do. I Don’t.

Fifteen years ago, Obama supported gay marriage, then he started “evolving” on the issue, and then yesterday he came out in support of gay marriage with a powerful statement that

At a certain point, I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.

Needless to say, this statement is incredibly important. As Richard Socarides wrote over at The New Yorker,

President Barack Obama’s announcement today