Punishing Disease: Charlie Sheen, Usher, and the Impulse to Criminalize Sickness

This guest post is published as part of a series related to the American Sociological Association conference from August 12 – 15 in Montreal, Quebec. #ASA17

By Trevor Hoppe, author of Punishing Disease: HIV and the Criminalization of Sickness

Charlie Sheen and Usher were in the news again in recent weeks; but this time, it wasn’t for a penchant for “Tiger Blood” or a #1 single. Online gossip rags reported that Sheen – who made public his HIV-positive status in 2015 – was the subject of a lawsuit by a former male lover who claims Sheen failed to disclose his HIV-positive status. Days later, a California lawyer announced that she was filing a lawsuit on behalf of three women against musician Usher for allegedly failing to disclose that he had herpes.

The idea of punishing people who carry infectious diseases is not new; however, there are signs that the impulse to punish and criminalize disease is become more widespread. As I describe in my forthcoming book, Punishing Disease, over 30 U.S. states passed HIV-specific criminal laws in the 1980s and 1990s. Under such criminal laws, individuals are subject to criminal penalties for failing to disclose their HIV-positive status; they can be incarcerated for decades.

Should we punish Sheen and Usher for their alleged misdeeds? I think we ought to pause to consider the implications.

When a co-worker shows up to work with the flu, many of us probably think unkind thoughts to ourselves about their behavior. We may even wish for karmic retribution. But do we really think they ought to be sued or imprisoned?

Some may reject the comparison of the co-worker’s offense and the failure to disclose one’s HIV-positive status – perhaps because HIV is an incurable illness and because many mistakenly continue to think of it as a “death sentence.” But HIV is no longer what it was in the 1980s; once-a-day pill regimens now allow people to live healthy and full lives.

Moreover, you don’t need to infect someone with HIV to be imprisoned in the U.S. –or even risk that outcome. Simply failing to tell a sexual partner that you have the disease is a crime, even if cases where there was no risk of transmission (such as a 2009 case involving a woman who gave a man a lap dance).

Let’s think back to that co-worker. Imagine for a moment that they had exposed a pregnant woman to the flu. While the flu is not normally deadly, it can cause serious complications for pregnant women, including miscarriage. If we were to punish disease using the same logic as HIV disclosure laws in the U.S., simply showing up to work sick could be construed a crime.

People living with infectious disease are not individually responsible for controlling an epidemic. We must also consider the social factors that shape their lives. For example, American law does not require employers to provide workers with paid sick leave, a policy failure that undoubtedly causes epidemics to spread with greater ease.

Blame and shame will do little to curtail HIV or herpes outbreaks. Put simply, they are not the right tools for the job.


Trevor Hoppe is Assistant Professor of Sociology at University at Albany, State University of New York, and coeditor of The War on Sex. 


Healing from Hate: How Young Men Get Into—and Out of—Violent Extremism

The events in Charlottesville this past weekend drew international attention to the increasing number of hate groups in the United States, and left many wondering: what draws people into white extremist groups? What ideologies motivate these recruits? And finally, is there hope that people will leave these groups?

Michael Kimmel, the SUNY Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at Stony Brook University, is one of the world’s leading experts on men and masculinities. In his forthcoming book, Healing from Hate: How Young Men Get Into—and Out of—Violent Extremism, Dr. Kimmel examines young recruits of violent extremist groups, and unveils how white extremist groups wield masculinity to recruit and retain members—and also prevent members from exiting the movement. Watch an interview with Dr. Kimmel  and hear his response to the tragic events in Virginia.

Based on in-depth interviews with ex-white nationalists and neo-Nazis in the United States, as well as ex-skinhead and neo-Nazis in Germany and Sweden, Kimmel sheds light on these young white men’s feelings—yet clearly make no excuses for their actions. Healing From Hate reminds us of their efforts to exit the movement and reintegrate themselves into society, and is a call to action to help others to turn around and to do the same. 

Learn more about Dr. Michael Kimmel on his website or on Twitter @MichaelS_Kimmel. 

And for resources to discuss this issue with students or others in your community, follow #CharlottesvilleCurriculum and read the Charlottesville Curriculum.

 

 


Update: ASA Conference 2017, Author Sessions

Continue to enjoy all that this year’s ASA has to offer with more sessions from our authors!

Ranita Ray, The Making of a Teenage Service Class: Poverty and Mobility in an American City

Monday, August 14, 4:30 to 6:10pm, The Making of A Teenage Service Class: Race, Class, Gender, and “College For All”

Read Ranita’s thoughts on the “rules” of social mobility imposed on black and brown teenagers.

 

Jean Beaman, Citizen Outsider: Children of North African Immigrants in FranceAnd at publication date, a free ebook version of this title will be available through Luminos, the UC Press open access publishing program.

Monday, August 14, 4:30 to 6:10pm, Boundaries of Difference and Transnational Blackness

Read more about Jean’s thoughts on France’s other state of emergency.

Sharon Sassler and Amanda Miller,Cohabitation Nation: Gender, Class, and the Remaking of Relationships

Tuesday, August 15, 10:30 to 11:30am, The Gender Revolution in Action

And read about a deepening family divide in marriage due to social class.


Don’t miss any any of our author sessions. And visit Booth #709 to order your copy of any of these books.

 


The “Rules” of Social Mobility

This guest post is published as part of a series related to the American Sociological Association conference, which occurs from August 12 – 15 in Montreal, Quebec. #ASA17

By Ranita Ray, author of The Making of a Teenage Service Class: Poverty and Mobility in an American City

Trump’s administration considers “inner city” violence, drug use, and teen pregnancy to be major issues in perpetuating the cycle of poverty in black and brown communities. Those who embrace this rhetoric consider black and brown residents of this country as responsible for their own socio-economic marginalization. This rhetoric is embedded within racist ideologies that construct black and brown communities as culturally depraved. However, the assumption that various “risk behaviors” such as drug use, violence, and teen pregnancy are overwhelmingly responsible for economic marginalization of black and brown communities is regrettably not unique to the current administration.

Many progressive liberals including academics consider risk behaviors as one of the central stories of poverty, although they offer structural explanations that are vastly different than the cultural deficiency (of economically marginalized black and brown communities) arguments. Many liberals consider it important to make visible how and why poverty causes black and brown youth to become teen parents, drug users, and gang members.

While drug use and violence are arguably issues we need to tackle, they are hardly unique to economically marginalized black and brown communities. For example, rate of drug use is fairly consistent across all communities, police violence killed 991 civilians in the year 2015, and postponing pregnancy does not benefit economically marginalized women the way in benefits middle-class women. Moreover, overwhelming majority of economically marginalized black and brown U.S. Americans do not use drugs or join gangs, and they do not become teen parents.

Why then do we write about drugs, gangs, violence, and teen parenthood as the central stories of poverty? Why do government and non-profit organizations, schools, and communities focus on preventing risk behaviors among black and brown youth as the key to breaking the cycle of poverty? What are the consequences of this overwhelming focus on risk behaviors? These are some of the questions I tackle in my book The Making of A Teenage Service Class.

I spent three years among sixteen young economically marginalized black and brown youth, who denounce drugs, gangs and early parenthood, and pursue higher education and white-collar work, to find out if they are able to go beyond their families’ class positions. Their families, teachers, communities, and the youth themselves had to navigate the rhetoric that they were at risk of teen pregnancy, drugs, gangs, and violence by virtue of their membership in a particular socio-economic group. They were told that avoiding these risk behaviors should be their priority, and that should they be successful in avoiding them and pursuing higher education, they could lead the middle-class American dream. The young people were adamant on avoiding these risk behaviors, imagined that they are indeed socially mobile on counts of not engaging in risk behaviors, and stigmatized their friends, neighbors and family members who did not play by the “mobility rules.” On one hand, the young people struggled with hunger, subpar transportation, untreated illnesses, and lack of access to computers, Internet and college support programs while balancing school with minimum wage jobs. On the other hand, the community spent its resources and time in “preventing” risk behaviors.

This overwhelming focus on risk behaviors overshadows structural shortcomings and it reinforces race and class hierarchies by feeding the stereotypes that black and brown youth are at risk and that their behaviors are in need for modification. While there is a difference in how those in different ends of the political spectrum understand the causes of risk behaviors, what is dangerously similar is how risk behaviors are ubiquitously constructed as the central story of poverty around which policies ought to be built.

What we should ask ourselves—irrespective of our location on the political spectrum—is, how can we support all youth and their dreams and desires instead of focusing on risk behaviors? We know that avoiding early parenthood does not increase chances of mobility among poor black and brown youth, drug use is not unique to black and brown youth, and violence is related to mass incarceration in the U.S.—why are we preoccupied with these issues among economically marginalized black and brown youth at the cost of supporting their educational and occupational goals, and fostering larger structural changes?


Ranita Ray is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.


France’s Other State of Emergency

This guest post is published as part of a series related to the American Sociological Association conference from August 12 – 15 in Montreal, Quebec. #ASA17

By Jean Beaman, author of Citizen Outsider: Children of North African Immigrants in France

France has been under a state of emergency since the November 2015 terrorist attacks in several sites in the Parisian metropolitan region, including the Stade de France stadium and the Bataclan theater. Originally put into place by then-President Francois Hollande, it has since been extended about six times. Current president Emmanuel Macron has proposed extending the state of emergency until November of this year—two years after the November terrorist attacks.

Why does this matter? Under the state of emergency, police officers are allowed to conduct searches without warrants, among other measures. And such measures have disproportionately affected black and North African-origin individuals. According to a recent Amnesty International Report, French authorities are increasing using emergency powers to restrict protests and demonstrations. This is the longest state of emergency in France since the Algerian War of Independence.

But France has another state of emergency – how it treats its racial and ethnic minorities. In my forthcoming book, Citizen Outsider: Children of North African Immigrants in France, I show how the North African second-generation is constantly treated as if they were not French even though they are, as revealed by the marginalization and racism they experience. The individuals I discuss were born and raised in France, are educated, and have achieved a middle-class status and upward mobility relative to their immigrant parents. Yet, they are still treated like second-class citizens, or denied cultural citizenship, because of they are non-white. France therefore has a growing of citizens who despite adhering to Republican ideology and doing everything “right” cannot be seen as fully French or be fully included in mainstream society. Much like second-generation Latinos in the U.S., they are continually asked, “Where are from?” and the answer, France, is never satisfactory.

Despite the defeat of Marine le Pen in the recent presidential election, racism and xenophobia have not gone away. President Macron was under controversy this past June for a joke he made about the boats that transport Comorian migrants to Mayotte, a French department off the coast of Eastern Africa. And police violence against black and North African-origin individuals is a growing problem, including the summer 2016 death of Adama Traoré in the banlieue of Beaumont-sur-Oise and the February 2017 beating and rape of Theo L in the banlieue of Aulnay-sous-Bois. Despite France’s emphasis on a cohesive national community, it remains uncomfortable and unsettled with the multicultural nature of its population.


Jean Beaman Assistant Professor of Sociology at Purdue University.

At publication date, a free ebook version of this title will be available through Luminos, the UC Press open access publishing program. Visit www.luminosoa.org to learn more.


A Deepening Family Divide?

This guest post is published as part of a series related to the American Sociological Association conference, which occurs from August 12 – 15 in Montreal, Quebec. #ASA17

By Sharon Sassler and Amanda Miller, authors of Cohabitation Nation: Gender, Class, and the Remaking of Relationships

This season of The Bachelorette introduced social class into the story line, when Eric revealed to Rachel that he had grown up in the city of Baltimore, home of The Wire. Would Eric be able to persuade Rachel that he was the one? And if so, would marriage be on the horizon? Over the past few decades there has been a growing bifurcation in marriage. People with college degrees are now considerably more likely to “jump the broom” than are couples where one or both partners lack a bachelors degree.

What is it about social class and marriage that is so inextricably linked? Shows like The Bachelorette portray marriage as an opportunity for social mobility (for women) or class closure (for men). Glossed over are the challenges differentiating the family formation opportunities of adults from more and less educated backgrounds. Americans with less than college degrees are as likely to aspire to romantic, long-term relationships as the college educated. But barriers to the success of long-term relationships are high. Housing often eats up well more than a third of their income, good paying stable jobs with benefits are hard to find, pregnancies often ensue even when not intended, and debt decreases one’s attractiveness on the partner market.

So, is a college degree now a prerequisite for marriage, along with a professional job? Data show that people with college degrees are now more likely than non-college educated people to get (and stay) married. But how does that come about? In our book, Cohabitation Nation: Gender, Class, and the Remaking of Relationships, we spent two years talking to young adult cohabitors, exploring what contributed to this growing class divide.

While two generally can live as cheaply as one, we found that the less educated frequently moved in together more quickly than they would have liked, often due to economic need rather than the intensification of their relationship. Further, pregnancies experienced early on in their relationships habitually added additional stress to the situation. And, while many women, regardless of social class, aspire to egalitarian relationships, college educated women were better able to achieve their desired end – greater sharing in household chores, and more agreement regarding important things like contraceptive use and where the relationship was heading (engagement). They are also more comfortable with asking for what they want and their college educated male partners are more amenable to sharing and communication than are less educated men. This sets middle class cohabiting couples on the road to marital success. Economic strain and dissonance in expectations and gender roles, in contrast, challenge the relationships of less educated couples, making marriage far less desirable.

While Eric win over Rachel in the end? If her goal is marriage, our results suggest that the final answer will be “No.” It’s not that the less educated eschew marriage. But the expectations of what should be in place for a marriage to occur, expressed by both women and men, increasingly puts the ability to “tie the knot” beyond the means for many of the less advantaged.


Sharon Sassler is Professor of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University.

Amanda Miller is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Indianapolis.

 

 

 


Award Winning Authors at 2017 ASA Conference

Congratulations to our authors for the following illustrious award wins! We are so honored to partner with authors whose works foster a deeper understanding of our world and can change how people think, plan, and govern.

Roberto Gonzales, Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America

  • 2016 C. Wright Mills Award, Society for the Study of Social Problems
  • 2016 Pierre Bourdieu Award for the Best Book in Sociology of Education
  • 2017 Outstanding Book Award, American Educational Research Association
  • 2017 Latina and Latino Anthropologists Book Award, Association of Latina and Latino Anthropologists
  • 2017 Herbert Jacob Book Prize, Law and Society Association

Roberto’s book was chosen as the 2016 Common Read at Tufts University. He continues to serve as champion to immigrant children and has recently discussed how DACA has affected their mental health and well-being.

Aldon Morris, The Scholar Denied: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Birth of Modern Sociology

  • 2016 Oliver Cromwell Cox Book Award, Section on Racial and Ethnic Minorities, American Sociological Association
  • 2016 William Julius Wilson Award, Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology
  • 2016 R.R. Hawkins Award, PROSE Award for Excellence
  • 2016 Betty and Alfred McClung Lee Book Award, Association for Humanist Sociology

Aldon has inspired sociologists to reconsider the roots of sociology. He has spoken often about Du Bois’ legacy, from the civil rights movement to Black Lives Matter.

Joanna Dreby, Everyday Illegal: When Policies Undermine Immigrant Families

  • 2017 Distinguished Contribution to Research Award, Section for Latina/o Sociology, American Sociological Association

Joanna adamantly serves as a voice for children who experience an economic and emotional toll when their undocumented parents are deported.

 

Steve Viscelli, The Big Rig: Trucking and the Decline of the American Dream

  • 2017 Outstanding Book Award, Section for Labor and Labor Movements, American Sociological Association

Steve continues to shed light on one of the most grueling jobs in the United States while simultaneously dissecting the employment practices of the trucking industry.

Kelsy Burke, Christians under Covers: Evangelicals and Sexual Pleasure on the Internet

  • 2017 Distinguished Book Award, Section on Sociology of Religion, American Sociological Association

Kelsy considers the contentious relationship between religion and sexuality.

 

Joachim Savelsberg, Representing Mass Violence: Conflicting Responses to Human Rights Violations in Darfur, available as open access on Luminos

  • 2017 Albert J. Reiss Distinguished Scholarship Award, Section for Crime, Law, and Deviance, American Sociological Association
  • 2017 William J. Chambliss Lifetime Achievement Award, Law and Society Division, Society for the Study of Social Problems

Joachim is active in speaking out against genocide, including the Armenian genocide, and the role of international criminal justice in mass atrocities.

Mary Patrice Erdmans and Timothy Black, On Becoming a Teen Mom: Life Before Pregnancy

  • 2017 Distinguished Book Award, Section on Race, Gender and Class, American Sociological Association

Mary Patrice shares her thoughts on the how society views young mothers today.


See these books, as well as some of last year’s award-winning books, at Booth #709 at the Exhibit Hall. While there, request an exam copy for your course. And online, you can purchase a copy for your personal library—use Code 17E9971 to get a 40% discount. The discount code expires August 29, 2017.


Economic Insecurity in Old Age: Family Change and the Disappearing Safety Net

This guest post is published as part of a series related to the American Sociological Association conference from August 12 – 15 in Montreal, Quebec. #ASA17

Susan L. Brown, author of Families in America, part of the Sociology in the Twenty-First Century Series

Unemployment is at a 16 year low and the stock market is booming. Yet, many Americans continue to struggle in today’s economy, and this is increasingly evident among older adults. They are working longer, often delaying retirement because they can’t afford to give up their jobs. And that’s among those who are lucky enough to be employed. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that complaints of age discrimination in employment are up since last year, although they are somewhat lower than during the Great Recession. Seniority no longer translates into security. Instead, older workers report being let go because they are more expensive (higher salaries and health care costs) than younger workers. Adults who continue working into old age face a rising rate of workplace injuries, which not only can result in physical and emotional suffering but also be devastating financially.

In the face of such labor force challenges, older adults may turn to families or the government for support. Unfortunately, changes unfolding in the family lives of older adults are actually likely to aggravate their economic strain. Much like their young adult counterparts, a shrinking share of older adults are married. About one third of Baby Boomers are unmarried. A generation ago, 80% would have been married. Poverty is quite unusual among married Boomers (5% are poor), but one in five single Boomers is living in poverty. Single Boomers contend with more health issues than do marrieds and at the same time they are less likely to have health insurance.

Historically, widowhood often led to poverty. Indeed, it was the impetus for Social Security. Now, gray divorce, which is a term describing divorce among adults over age 50, is affecting hundreds of thousands of older adults each year. Since 1990, the gray divorce rate has doubled while the divorce rate for young adults has fallen. Widowhood is also declining with lengthening life expectancies. Notably, gray divorce appears to be associated with harsher economic outcomes than widowhood for women. Women who experience gray divorce may have been out of the labor force for decades, making it quite difficult for them to gain employment. They are unlikely to be awarded alimony and do not receive the survivorship benefits that widows get following marital dissolution.

Social Security presumably acts as a safety net for older adults. But it is predicated on outmoded assumptions. Designed during an era of near universal, stable lifelong marriage, this program is most effective for those who follow the traditional family pathway: marry young until death do us part. This pathway is less and less common. Social Security is not an adequate safety net for many divorced women. Among those who are age-eligible for Social Security, the poverty level of gray divorced women is twice that of widowed women. Likewise, never-married older adults, women and men alike, also experience high levels of poverty akin to those of gray divorced women.

Tying economic benefits to marital status disadvantages those who don’t conform to tradition, and the non-conforming are rapidly becoming the norm. Yet, Social Security eligibility criteria haven’t budged in response. The continuously married already enjoy the most economic resources and they arguably derive the greatest benefits from Social Security. The widening economic gap between the married and unmarried is now playing out among older adults. Despite working longer, many aren’t able to escape economic hardship and governmental support is not enough to close the gap.


Susan L. Brown is Professor and Chair of Sociology and Co-Director of the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University.


ASA Conference 2017: Author Sessions

This year’s American Sociological Association conference in Montreal from August 12 – August 15 includes a lot of exciting sessions featuring some of our wonderful UC Press authors! Youo can see the full online program schedule at ASA’s program finder site#ASA17 #ASA2017

Aldon Morris, The Scholar Denied: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Birth of Modern Sociology

Saturday, August 12, 4:30 to 6:10pm, Intersectional Theorizing and Sociology: Legacies and Future Possibilities, a session inspired by Aldon’s book

Sunday, August 13, 10:30am to 12:10pm, Sociology of W. E. B. Du Bois: To Efforts of Canonization 

Roberto G. Gonzales, Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America

Sunday, August 13, 8:30 to 10:10am, Imagined Futures: The Effects of Uncertainty on DACAmented Youth in the United States

 

Sanyu A. Mojola, Love, Money, and HIV: Becoming a Modern African Woman in the Age of AIDS

Monday, August 14, 10:30am to 12:10pm, Author Meets Critic

 

 

James W. Moore, A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet with Raj Patel

Sunday, August 13, 8:30 to 10:10am, Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature in the Making and Unmaking of Historical Capitalism

Monday, August 14, 10:30am to 12:10pm, Oil, Capital and Nature: Do Marx’s General Laws of Production Apply? 

Kevan Harris, A Social Revolution: Politics and the Welfare State in Iran

Tuesday, August 15, 2:30 to 4:10pm, The Future of Muslim Societies: Governance, Movements, and Religion

 

Robert Wyrod, AIDS and Masculinity in the African City: Privilege, Inequality, and Modern Manhood   

Saturday, August 12, 2:30 to 4:10pm, The Gender Question on China’s Second Continent

 

You can also find these authors in other sessions:

 


Join Us and Get a FREE Book at American Sociological Association Conference!

We’re proud to support our Sociology scholars, instructors, students, and authors at the 2017 American Sociological Association Conference in Montreal from August 12 – August 15.

Please visit us at booth #709:

  • Get a FREE book when you take a 5 minute survey on how you teach your course
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Please see our flyer at our booth for our latest releases—including our award-winning titles! The UC Press editorial and marketing teams will also be available for your publishing questions and proposal submissions.

Follow ASA’s Facebook@ASANews#ASA17, and #ASA2017 for current meeting news. And catch up on our recent blog posts on Sociology.