New Sociologists Research Focuses on Gender

October 17, 2018

When MCLA’s newest assistant professor of sociology began his college career, he initially planned to become a documentary filmmaker. But after taking a Sociology of Gender course, Dr. Travis Beaver fell in love with the field.

“I found that sociology gave me a new language to talk about issues I’d already been thinking about, and a new framework for analyzing the world,” Beaver said. “I was drawn to the fact that sociologists of gender aren’t interested in just explaining the world: they are equally invested in changing the world to bring about a more just and equitable society.”

Later this year, he will contribute a chapter to Male Femininities, a book about self-described “feminine” straight men who are mistaken for being gay because they do not conform to gender norms.

According to Beaver, American parents increasingly are encouraging their daughters to engage in traditionally “masculine” activities, such as sports and learning about science and computers. “This is an exciting and encouraging development to see that gender norms have become less restrictive for girls,” he said. “Unfortunately, there is less evidence that boys are being encouraged to engage in traditionally ‘feminine’ activities.”

In fact, parents are discouraging their sons’ participation in feminine activities for fear they might be bullied. This fear is not unfounded, and highlights how femininity is devalued, Beaver said. “I think this has harmful ramifications for our society.”

Through taking his courses, Beaver hopes students will learn to see the world in a completely new way. 

“I think sociology is at its best when it ‘makes the familiar strange,’” he explained. “I hope that my students learn to think critically about things they have previously taken for granted.  I want them to always question why our society is structured the way that it is, and to think about how we might change those structures to create a more inclusive society.”