I’m an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at UMass Lowell. I earned my PhD in Sociology at Texas A&M University in 2020, and MA in Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University in 2014.
I was born and raised in Connecticut by Puerto Rican teen parents. Everyday life in a state with such enormous income inequality shaped my concern for how people navigate structural barriers, especially at the intersection of race and gender.
As a sociologist today, I seek to examine the everyday world as a problematic. Dorothy Smith’s conceptualization of the everyday is formative to my research agenda. Smith (1987:99) instructs us to:
Look for the inner organization generating [the everyday’s] ordinary features, its order and disorders, its contingencies and conditions, and to look for that inner organization in the externalized and abstracted relations… of the ruling apparatus in general.
Thus, my research examines how race and gender, as structures of inequality, are created, lived out, and contested in the context of the everyday. I am especially interested in how this process plays out at work, in the family, and in new media spaces. I also pay special attention to how intimate labor— the paid and unpaid work we do to sustain ourselves and others across multiple domains— provides a mechanism for inequality to persist.
Publications and Current Projects
Please email me at Stephanie_Ortiz@uml.edu for copies of any papers.
I have published on how racist and sexist trash talking are key to the construction of gaming culture in New Media & Society, and how men of color cope with everyday racism in gaming in Sociological Perspectives.
I am currently writing a chapter on masculinity, everyday racism, and gaming for The Oxford Handbook of the Sociology of Digital Media.
In my Social Media + Society article, I argue that there is a disconnect between academic and lay definitions of trolling, which function to downplay how everyday users experience trolling as identity-based harassment.
Race, Sexual Orientation, and Emotional Labor
Chad Mandala and I collaborated on a project interviewing university LGBTQ resource center staff regarding the raced and sexual orientation-based nature of their emotional labor.
The first paper (published in the Journal of Homosexuality) argues that the unhappy queer trope (Ahmed 2010) shapes feeling rules such that queer staff are expected to perform trauma. The second paper (published in the Du Bois Review) argues that these sexual orientation-based feeling rules are enforced differentially among white staff and staff of color, which reinforces diversity regimes (Thomas 2018).
Gendered Racism Online
My dissertation project was very broadly aimed at understanding how everyday people conceptualize racism and sexism online (both witnessed and experienced firsthand). I am currently revising this project for publication in the form of three journal articles.
The first paper (published in Ethnic and Racial Studies) assesses the claim that colorblind racism remains the master interpretive framework in the current political climate. I argue that overt racism, especially online, renders the colorblind framework incoherent. I find that young adults are more likely to defend others’ right to “be racist” (an example of Essed’s entitlement racism) than deny the centrality of race in their lives.
In the second paper, I examine how experiences of online sexism challenge postfeminist discourses. I show how young women are able to identify their experiences as clear forms of gender oppression, and link their online interactions to structural inequalities.
Using an intersectional framework, my final paper (accepted at Social Problems) asks how racism and sexism online retrench and contest the social order. I identify four agentic response categories to racism and sexism online, which I argue reveal how race and gender—as systems—organize social action onto specific trajectories. In adopting these response categories, young adults reproduce and challenge social inequalities in distinct ways.