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Tutor profile: Livey B.

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Livey B.
International Development Professional and Masters Student at University of Oxford
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Questions

Subject: Sociology

TutorMe
Question:

My final essay topic is "Is the gender binary real?". Where do I even begin to answer that?

Inactive
Livey B.
Answer:

Whoa! That's going to be a nuanced essay! Let's start by looking at three major sociological theories: conflict theory, functionalism, symbolic interactionalism. They all have something different to say about gender. First, we have our functionalists, who are the most traditional. Functionalists think that society is about functioning, so we have assigned people certain roles based on what they look like, or what body parts they have. We are expected to carry out these roles in the name of social cohesion. This might explain why certain gendered expectations are placed on people based on the sex they are assigned at birth. Not following these expectations may break social cohesion, but they can be broken -- so does that make them unreal? Conflict theory (which feminist theory is born out of) looks at power imbalances and looks at society through a lens of the fight for power. A conflict theory perspective might look at how gender plays out in our world and say, "there is a perceptible difference between the rights of men and women and the rights of cisgender people versus trans and nonbinary people and how they can live their lives, thus for all intents and purposes, gender is real." However, a feminist may also take the symbolic interactionist view: we create our own realities through our interactions with others. If we choose not to accept something as true, we can change our reality by interacting with it differently. We can recreate the meaning of gender to be whatever we want it to be, not the strict, prescriptive roles that the functionalist might hope for us to be. Lastly, I'd also like you to consider the Thomas Theorem, which states, "If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.". This means that even if we can construct our realities, once we do, the consequences of those realities are real. Think about how that might help you tie in relevant lessons from all three of these theories. As you start to write your essay, I would encourage you to pull lessons and examples first from what you learned in class. Were there any texts that aligned with any of these three theories? I wouldn't recommend referencing anything that wasn't taught in class unless you were instructed to find outside sources. If you were instructed to find outside sources, I would encourage you to learn from people with different ideas about gender. I've included some resources below: Boy and Girl toy experiments: www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWu44AqF0iI Rain Dove, the Gender Capitalist: www.youtube.com/watch?v=EB-sSiJFEqM Non-binary people explain what being "Non-Binary" means to them: www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVe8wpmH_lU

Subject: Public Policy

TutorMe
Question:

I'm supposed to write an essay on the benefits and drawbacks of a means-tested welfare policy of my choice. I don't even know where to start, can you help?

Inactive
Livey B.
Answer:

Absolutely! First, let's start by making sure we are on the same page with what means-tests welfare policies are! They are social programs (typically targeted at low- and middle- income individuals and families) where the government creates a certain income or qualification threshold, and people who fall under this threshold are eligible for additional socioeconomic support. Here are a few means-tested welfare policies you may want to investigate further: 1. the Earned Income Tax Credit, a tax credit for low-income families 2. WIC, a supplemental nutritional program for Women, Infants, and Children, 3. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which is short-term cash assistance to low-income families, 4. Head Start, a pre-K program for low-income families. In general, many supporters of means-tested welfare policies support them because they believe that these policies are the most effective way to redistribute our tax dollars to those who may be in need in our society. By creating a threshold, we are being efficient about ensuring that those who need help get it, but those who don't need financial assistance do not qualify. Additionally, they often most benefit single-family households and those of minimum wage workers or people with disabilities who cannot work. There are also two camps of criticism toward means-tested policy. 1. Fiscally conservative critics say that means-tested programs give people too much incentive to avoid working, even if they are able to. For example, if you could make $300 at a minimum wage job and receive means-tested benefits, what is the incentive to work if you could sit at home and earn $290 a week? Some critics also say the threshold is too high, and some people who currently receive government checks make too much money to need the additional support. 2. Progressive oppositions to means-tested policies and programs say that it is actually too difficult for the poor to access because means tests are often actually tests! This money is purposefully hard to access because the government does not want to make it too easy for people to be able to access it if they don't really need it. Oftentimes, there are many hoops to jump through, classes to attend, social workers to meet with, just to earn a few hundred dollars in financial support from the government. However, this can make the lives of the poor unfairly and unnecessarily difficult. Additionally, progressive critics argue that the threshold is too low, and many families who receive no government assistance are still living in impoverished conditions. I would encourage you to pick a means-tested welfare policy and explore what is true in the case of the policy you have selected. Is it true that it always goes to the neediest families? Is it true that it is hard for the poor to gain access to the system? Does evidence show what some people are people taking advantage of the system in some way? Let me know what policy you choose, and what you find out, and I'll be happy to help you structure your argument in your essay!

Subject: Communication

TutorMe
Question:

"My professor wants us to use an example of the Diffusion of Innovation and how it relates to the spread of communication. I've seen a lot of business and technology examples, could you help me think of a communications-related example?"

Inactive
Livey B.
Answer:

As you may have already learned, the Diffusion of Innovation theory is often used to explain how technological innovations are proliferated into popular culture. However, the theory can actually be used to describe how ideas spread more broadly. Within the theory, there are five different groups who adopt ideas at different times, later and later after an idea spreads. The innovators are either the creator of the idea or adjacent to the idea creator and are the first to adopt the idea. The early adopters often thought of as the beta test group, are the next to take up the idea. They may not know where the idea came from, but they like to test out new ideas and can choose whether or not to spread these ideas to their social groups. You may like to think of the famous quote from Mean Girls where the meanest girl, Regina George tells her friend, "Gretchen, stop trying to make 'fetch' happen, it's not going to happen," thereby acting as an early adopter who has decided that her friend's idea to use the word 'fetch' as slang for cool is not worth spreading. You then have the early and late majorities who adopt the idea once it is no longer risky to adopt it, and then you have the laggards, who may not ever adopt the technology (think about older adults who struggle adapting to using smart phones). To think of an answer for your professor's prompt, I think the easiest place to start is to think about cultural communication and language trends and think about phrases or practices that are common now (and have moved into the late majority phase), but perhaps were not so common fifty, twenty, five, years ago or even one year ago. Many phrases don't make it to the late majority phase, but with the spread of social media, ideas and phrases are making it into our vernacular. Is there a meme or a phrase you learned on the internet or in the media that you think everyone knows, and you now reference unironically now, even though it didn't exist five or ten years ago? If so, maybe explore that meme or phrases' origins. Who created it? Those are your innovators. Who started using it the most following its creation? Those are your early adopters. How did you learn about it? Maybe you are part of the early majority. How did your parents hear about it? Perhaps they are in the late majority. Are you still correcting people who don't use the internet frequently on the proper way to use this phrase? You might have some laggards in your life! I would be happy to help walk through a few more specific examples with you, but would like to support you to come up with an original idea! If you're looking for some more examples, consider this fun video on Youtube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=05h0dPfmFf0), where a Russian linguist gives examples of English slang that has been adopted by so many people, it is now being used in the Russian language! Talk about diffusion!

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