Thursday, July 30, 2009

Definitions -- broad for family, narrow for marriage

Once again, I am fascinated by the responses of my students to my discussion questions on the topic of family in Introductory Sociology.

The overwhelming majority of students, about 95 out of every 100 who respond to the discussion, when asked what a family is provide a very broad definition that focuses on things like "love," "caring," "supportiveness," and other qualities of relationships. These students explicitly include homosexual couples living together, especially those with children, as qualifying to be included in the concept of "family." Sometimes students even will state, that while they do not approve of homosexual relationships, they are still examples of "family."

When the same students when asked about what constitutes "marriage," about sixty percent of them (in Kentucky), are adamant that a marriage consists of one man and one woman only. They reject homosexual relationships as qualifying for marriage, and they reject polygamy in any form as well.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

stereotypes of Appalachia/Eastern Kentucky

My students frequently bemoan the stereotypes that outsiders hold of Appalachians and especially of folks in Eastern Kentucky. They wonder where these stereotypes come from, and mumble about the meanness of flatlanders and city folks.

In Wednesday July 15th edition of the local weekly paper was a news story that gives insight into the origin of the stereotypes. In an old mining camp town called Seco (derived from the acronym for South East Coal), an enterprising family named Looney has operated a very successful winery (the grapes are grown on old strip mine property) and bed & breakfast for more than a decade. The headline of the article read as follows: "Owner says facility forced to suspend operations until neighbors behave."

The key passage of the article is as follows:
Meanwhile Looney remains up in arms over the shots being fired a round the houses and cottages on the winery's property.
"We had a couple from Oregon here," said Looney, "and in the middle of the night someone fired shots outside their window and told hem they wouldn't live to see the light of day if they didn't leave."
Looney said the couple immediately packed their bags and left. "...when we found out what happened we didn't blame them."

While it certainly is unfair to label all residents of Appalachia as gun-toting imbeciles that hate outsiders, obviously there are some folks here that really are just that. And thus stereotypes are born!