"Standing up for Women? How Party and Gender Influence Politicians’ Strategic Online Discussion of Planned Parenthood" 2020. Journal of Women, Politics & Policy.

Research suggests that women may use social media to overcome disadvantages when running for and serving in public office. However, limited research has explored how party and gender influence politicians’ social media engagement and if the promotion of women’s issues remains gendered and marginalized online. I use negative binomial regression to analyze how gender and party influence U.S. House members’ discussion and framing of one women’s issue, the Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015, on Twitter. I find that Republican women are the most engaged on average and frame the defunding of Planned Parenthood as a women’s issue and fetal rights issue, balancing gender and party expectations, to strategically engage in this debate.

Maher, Thomas, Morgan Johnstonbaugh, and Jennifer Earl. 2020. "One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Connecting Views of Activism with Youth Activist Identification." Mobilization 25(1): 27-44.

Identity is crucial to social movement participation. Existing research examines why active people “avoid” activist identities but has less to say about how active people adopt such identities as if they automatically follow participation. We draw on interviews with high school and college students from a midsize southwestern city to examine how young people make sense of what it means to be an activist, who identifies as such, and why youth are willing—or unwilling—to adopt this label. We find that respondents’ conceptualizations of “activists” are critical to (non)identification. Those who see activism as a broad category are more likely to identify, holding constant their level of activity. Those who see activism as a greedy institution, requiring significant substantive fluency, making the issue their primary focus, and willingness to sacrifice, do not, despite their level of engagement. Our findings have implications for identity formation and movement participation more broadly.

"Where Are All of the Women? Untangling the Effects of Representation, Participation, and Preferences on Gender Differences in Political Press Coverage" 2018. Socius: Sociological Research for a Dynamic World 4: 1-12.

The author examines why female politicians continue to be underrepresented in the press by measuring how structural inequalities, engagement in traditional and disruptive dialogue, and gender preferences influence the amount of press coverage U.S. House representatives receive. Drawing on a data set of Tweets, press releases, and news articles and transcripts related to the 114th House of Representatives’ investigations of the Iran deal and Planned Parenthood, the author uses negative binomial regression to test the effects of gender, engagement, and interactions of the two on the press coverage received by male and female House members. The results indicate that female House members’ underrepresentation in the media mirrors their underrepresentation in public office. These findings suggest that although political discourse and gender preferences may not be keeping women out of the media when covering gendered topics, getting more women in public office is likely to be a cumbersome challenge in itself.

"Conquering with capital: social, cultural, and economic capital’s role in combating socioeconomic disadvantage and contributing to educational attainment" 2018. Journal of Youth Studies 21(5): 590 - 606.

While socioeconomic barriers to learning have been well-documented by education, sociology, and social policy scholars, further research is needed to understand how students with low-socioeconomic status excel in high-performing schools. The collection and analysis of 20 in-depth interviews with female college students from different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds provide rich insights into the stark differences between the educational practices of low and high-SES students. Building on Bourdieu’s conceptualization of how habitus and capital influence practices in the field of education exposes unique, strategic practices that low-SES students use to attain educational success within a system of reproduction and power. While entering a high-performing school is often perceived as a definitive step for accessing high-quality educational resources, my findings illustrate how it is actually an important intermediary step within a more complex process. Increasing educational opportunity and attainment for low-SES students requires improving their access to social, cultural, and economic capital through knowledgeable mentors who contribute to a habitus and portfolio of capital which enable practices to successfully navigate and challenge the educational system.

Manuscripts in Development

With Andrew Davis. “Safe at Home? Examining the Extension of Criminal Penalties for Marital Rape in Cross-National Context, 1979-2013" Revise and Resubmit.

While sociologists have focused on the national adoption of public-sphere women’s rights such as the right to vote in elections or participate fully in economic matters, less work has examined the diffusion of private-sphere women’s rights that focus on the rights of women in the home. We address this gap by examining the cross-national adoption of laws that criminalize marital rape. Building on prior research that finds that women’s rights organizations, women’s rights focused human rights treaties, and women’s political leadership is positively related to the adoption of public-sphere women’s rights, we explore the cross-national determinants of the criminalization of marital rape. Using an event history analysis covering 144 countries from 1979 to 2013, we find support for the global institutionalist framework that contends that socialization into the global system, as well as direct advocacy efforts of global organizations contribute to faster rates of criminalization of marital rape. Implications for world-society scholarship on the global adoption of women’s rights are further discussed.

“Men Find Trophies Where Women Find Insults: Sharing Nude Images of Others as Collective Rituals of Sexual Pursuit and Rejection” Revise & Resubmit.

As sexting has become more common, so has the sharing of nude and semi-nude images of others. While women and men may both engage in this practice, when they do so, they often participate in two very different rituals. Drawing on 55 in-depth interviews with college students, this article examines how the symbolic meanings attached to men and women’s nude images in the context of intimate heterosexual interactions shape collective rituals of sexual pursuit and sexual rejection. I find that men share images of women as trophies to demonstrate sexual prowess and receive praise from their peers, while women share images of men to cope with unwelcome sexual advances and receive support from their peers. Overall, I find that these feelings of domination and commiseration are gender-specific and linked to the perceived desirability of men’s and women’s nude images. As a result, these rituals may reproduce or resist unequal gender relations within intimate heterosexual relationships.

“Out of Town and Out of Sync: Understanding Romantic Sexting Practices as Online Interaction Rituals” Under review.

Sexual scripts have played a fundamental role in advancing scholars’ conceptualization of how individuals understand and behave during sexual encounters. Interaction ritual theory (IRT) also provides an important sociological framework for how sexual interactions occur. Drawing from 89 interviews with college students about their romantic sexting experiences, this article integrates insights from scripting theory into IRT to argue that sexual scripts influence both how sexual interaction rituals take place online and why some interactions are satisfying while others are not. I find that online sexual interaction rituals largely follow the IRT model even when the condition of physical co-presence is removed. However, the concept of sexual scripts can differentiate between satisfying and unsatisfying interactions. I find that when interviewees rely on traditional sexual scripts or transactional scripts to guide their sexting practices, they experience unsynchronized interactions and feelings of frustration rather than sexual arousal. While women and men both reported experiencing pressure to share images with romantic partners, women were more likely to receive content they found unpleasant. These results provide a theoretical framework for understanding the role that cultural scripts play in online interaction rituals more broadly.

“Sexting with Friends: Gender, Technology, and the Evolution of Interaction Rituals" In-preparation.

While sexting, a portmanteau of sex and texting, may appear to be an inherently sexual phenomenon, I find that it is not uncommon for young people to exchange nude or semi-nude images online with platonic friends. Drawing on 68 in-depth interviews with college students, this article uses the case of platonic sexting to theorize how interaction rituals, which scholars largely imagine as face-to-face events, take place online. The data show that it is participants’ shared understanding of the nude image, an intimate and potentially ambiguous object, that enables a reciprocal asymmetrical performance between sender and receiver. The synchronized performance draws a boundary between participants and outsiders and contributes to a sense of trust between those involved. Sharing images among platonic friends is also a highly gendered phenomenon. While women are most likely to send images to their friends for positive affirmation, men primarily send images to show off or joke around. These findings lay the theoretical groundwork for future research on online interaction rituals and gendered bonding rituals.