Before we started our data collection, we anticipated some of the celebrities who might come up – from entrepreneur and Reality TV star Kim Kardashian to Olympic diver and TV presenter Tom Daley. But we never expected Bill Gates. Yet he came up unprompted in nine of the 24 group interviews and across five of the six schools in which we collected data, He was the most popular of a large number of ‘geek celebrities’. There were some regional variations, suggesting a more business-oriented metropolis: Gates came up least in the two rural schools (in only one group in Merlin School and not at all in Hardy) and most in the London schools (in three groups in Jackson School and two in Jordan). His charitable giving was the most common reason for his inclusion, being mentioned in eight of the nine groups where his name was mentioned. In this blog post I explore some patterns in young people’s talk about Bill Gates.
Posts Tagged ‘gender’
After an intense first year on the project, data collection is now complete. As Heather has discussed elsewhere, we’ve started the initial analysis on some of the group interview data by developing a set of thematic codes to cut into the data which spoke to the research aims and questions, as well as unexpected themes and concerns that came up in young people’s talk about celebrity culture (for example: ‘routes to fame’ and different ‘genres’ of celebrity). Having coded the transcripts, we’ve started to take on individual sub-codes and develop summaries of their content, making initial observations about the patterns and themes within these. While this only represents the beginning of our analysis, this process of immersing ourselves in the data has allowed us to get a handle on some interesting patterns in how celebrity culture relates to young people’s classed and gendered aspirations. In this blog post, Kim discusses some of the themes and patterns that emerged from one of her coding summaries: young people’s talk about celebrities associated with ‘technology and enterprise’.
At the gym last week, I listened to the latest episode in one of my favourite podcasts, ‘The Slate Culture Gabfest’, a funny, critical and intelligent review of cultural ‘happenings’ from film to literature. In the show, the presenters interviewed fashion commentator Simon Doonan about his new book ‘Asylum’, a collection of essays on the fashion industry’s ‘glamorous madness and stylish insanity’. Leaving aside my issues with this kind of highly selective appropriation and celebration of ‘madness’ and ‘inclusivity’ within the art and fashion world, I was intrigued by Doonan’s account of his literal and social journey from his working-class parents’ home in ‘the boonies’ (the suburbs of Reading) to become part of New York’s fashion elite. In this post, I share some of my reflections on the significance of Doonan’s story and how it led me back to Michael Gove’s class project.
In this first of three blog posts covering the team’s report of their contribution to the BSA first ever Digital Sociology event, Kim discusses some of the ways in which the project has engaged with the digital within the data collection, and the challenges inherent in this as a feminist scholar encountering celebrity e-bile – violent and sexualised comments directed at female celebrities.
In another post, I’ve described how we’re analysing the group interview data by using broad codes such as social class and origin stories and then looking for patterns within these. This is producing loads of fascinating lines of analysis. In this post I look at just one of these that’s come out of my work on the code for gender. Alongside looking at performances of masculinities and femininities in celebrity talk and tracking cross-gender identification, this code contains data on how women and girls are constructed by young people in their engagements with celebrity culture. Depressingly, the dominant associations are with disgust – at feminine bodies and feminine tastes. We have written about this disgust in our discussion of Tampon Girl and the Kardashians, here I focus on a more positive pattern of talk around ‘independent’ women.
All of the young people we’ve interviewed distinguish between good reasons and bad reasons for being famous. Kim’s written about the frequent disgust directed towards Kim Kardashian both in our interviews and in the media – not only is she called upon as an example of ‘famous for nothing’ celebrity, but she is seen to have risen to fame via a sex tape and has chosen ‘inappropriate’ bumpwear consisting of tight clothing and lowcut tops. However, it’s in 15-year-old Giovanni Plowman, aka Tampon Girl, that we can most clearly see the strong association between female bodies and notions of ‘undeserving’ celebrity. In January 2013 Giovanni Plowman uploaded a video of herself to YouTube which showed her sucking on a used tampon – after she’s removed it off camera – and then throwing up, also off camera. She shot to fame overnight – even becoming an internet meme. What shocks me, isn’t the video itself, it’s the reaction: the widespread – almost universal – disgust that her actions, and she, elicit both online and from the young people we’ve met in our research.
In this guest post for the CelebYouth blog, Gemma Ahearne a PhD student from Liverpool John Moores University, looks at the regulation of class and gender in UK TV programme Snog Marry Avoid in which ‘ordinary’ women can get their 15 minutes of fame by transforming from ‘bad girls’ to ‘good girls’ and subjecting themselves to the scrutiny of the male audience and the camera.
On 9th May, The Education Secretary Michael Gove delivered a keynote speech at a conference hosted by Brighton College (The Sunday Times ‘Best Independent School’ no less). The title – What does it mean to be an educated person? – is provocative enough, but the full speech is really something else. There has already been a lot of excellent analysis of Gove’s sneering and patronising speech on twitter, in cartoon form, on several blogs (a great example being this by The Plashing Vole), among professional associations, and in the news. We don’t want to repeat too much of this, but rather to draw attention to three key issues about education reform and aspirations discourse under this government – crystalised within Gove’s speech – which continue to raise concern for us.
We’ve already started to talk about our work to journalists, in our universities, and even at the South Bank Centre. We have more conferences and events planned in coming months. We’re doing a workshop at Gender and Education Conference at London South Bank University on 26th April and a talk at the Education and Learning: Sociological Perspectives Conference at the University of Surrey on 25th September. As more events come up we’ll post them on the website, tweet them and announce them in the newsletter so do sign up on the right if you want to stay in touch.