Category Archives: Culture

Social Class

Since the beginning of time, people have been categorized. The broadest category that everyone seems to fit into was a ‘social class’ category. Over time, and within different cultures, the definition of each class and what put you there has varied. For some cultures it was due to money, some it was a matter of race, and others a matter of immigration. Really, any type of social location could put a certain person into a certain class. As sociologists, we know the most important fundamentals of culture. Those fundamentals being: culture is learned and shared, and varies across time and place. That being said, we can deduce that our culture today has made our social class system what it is, based on what we have learned from other (much older) cultures. So I think the big question here is, why do we put people into social class systems? I firmly believe social classes help to define people and help a society function. Unfortunately, money defines who we are and in our society today, money (how much we have and how much we make) puts us into the classes we are in.

Money rules us. It buys us nice cars, nice clothes, and nice houses. You wouldn’t put Kim Kardashian and a homeless man in the same social class, would you? Of course not. You’ve been taught that how much money a person has, puts them into the social class they ‘belong’ in. So Kim would be put into the Elite class, and the homeless man would be put into the poor class. From day one, we have been taught that we each belong somewhere. As a child, I remember being confused. We have these social classes, but everyone is supposed to be equal? That doesn’t make much sense. However, I have since come to realize that as a society, we do the things we do because it is what we have been taught to do. The town I live in is primarily a lower-middle class town, with a few families being middle class, and a few families being lower class. My family is one of the few upper-middle class families in this town of less than ten thousand people. So personally, I was quite often reminded of my family’s money in a not so nice way. Jealousy is an emotion often aroused in teenagers, but high school was hard no matter how well I dealt with the kids who made me feel bad. All they saw were the nice clothes I wore and the nice car I drove to school. They didn’t see how hard both of my parents worked each and every day. My passionate Republican side says that everyone gets what they work for. I think that’s the issue with people today. They so desperately want something; they just aren’t willing to work for it. The same goes for social classes; people don’t want to be in the lower class anymore, but they really don’t do much to earn the money to put them in a different class. Like I stated earlier, money defines who we are.

Along with money, I feel as though racism has been a leading factor of putting people into different classes. Often times, the media will tell you a story of a murder committed by a black man, but they won’t tell you about the crimes committed of a white man. The media and movies have taught us that black people are always the ones to get in trouble. With the Civil War, and the Civil Rights Act, you would have thought that racism would have ended, but I do believe it is still alive today. For example, if a white woman and an Asian woman go to interview for the same job, the white woman is more likely to get the job. However, if a man and a female go in for the same job (no matter the race), the man will most likely get the job.

The biggest factors defining social class are income and wealth. To give you an example of social class inequality, in the workplace, for every dollar a man makes, a woman makes 77 cents. Potentiall, this puts any single father in a high social standing compared to a single mother. Also, the median household income is around $52,000 per year. From everything she does (clothing line, video game, makeup line, photo shoots, etc.), Kim Kardashian has stated she made roughly $28 million this year. Hardly seems fair. But then again, the famous quote goes, “Life isn’t fair.”

The problem is that the money in the US isn’t distributed equally; and I agree, it isn’t! I must warn you, Republican is going to come out of my mouth again. It irritates me to no end when I see a person panhandling on the side of the road. So my solution to those people is: instead of wasting your time making a few bucks on the side of the road, go to a place like McDonalds which hires all of the time, and make more money working there. Everyone has to start somewhere. It might be a crappy place like McDonalds, but it’s a start. Typically, people tend to stay in the same social class their whole lives, but any change you want to make, you have to work for it.

Social classes are unfair, a double-edged sword, if you will. However, in order to have a classless society, people would need to love themselves, and love thy neighbor. Knowing history, that will never happen. So for now, I think we as a society need to deal with the social class system and work towards a more loving society in general.

Here is a humorous video about social class from 1957:

Here is a stereotypical explanation of social class:

— Abby

 

CULTURE SHOCK

Culture shock is defined as the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes (oxforddictionaries.com, 2013).  It is what happens when one encounters people, or groups, that have a different set of values, norms, and even laws.  Culture shock can even happen within a certain country, if that country is diverse enough. For example, one might experience culture shock when going from northern Michigan to Texas. There are things such as the weather, food, and dialect that are different from what one considers normal if from northern Michigan. To better understand what culture shock is, one must better understand what a culture is.  Wherever one lives in the world, culture is comprised of norms, folkways, mores, laws, and even includes languages to name a few.

Have you sat in a movie theater and watched as everyone got quiet once the movie started?  Or how you just know how to act while you’re attending church?  What about how we raise our hands to ask a question in class?  These are norms of our society, or in other words, what people have decided is acceptable.  There are different types of norms for different societies.  For example,  folkways deal with norms within a particular society.  A folkway is a norm that when broken, it is not that big of a deal even if a norm is broken. You will still be made aware that what you did was wrong, but you will live to see another day.  A good example that comes to mind is for men in particular. When using the urinal, you are supposed to stand at least two urinals away from the next person. Where is this rule written?  It is not written, but if you were to go stand right next to another man at a urinal when there are other spaces available, you would be sanctioned.  For example, the man you stood next to might leave in a hurry, or give you a dirty look, because what you did is considered wrong.  Mores are norms that are taken more seriously and obedience to must be necessary for society.  Mores are usually made into laws. These laws are enforced with more serious sanctions, such as prison, to make sure our obedience is mandatory.

These patterns of society help create our culture. Society needs these patterns of behavior to survive.  Without these, we would easily fall into chaos caused by the lack of rules.  Think of a school room full of students without the teacher.  The children will go wild, pulling hair and running around, with no one to object. In doing so, they break the norms of the class room. Nothing would be able to be accomplished until the teacher returns to establish the norms.  Without those norms in place, the children were not able to learn and advance; staying in the same state until the norms were again in force.

Now that we better understand what culture is and consists of, we can talk about culture shock.  I experienced this when I went from Michigan to the country of Malawi. I was trading not only countries, but races as well.  As I went from the dreary parts of Michigan to the warm heart of Africa, I could not help but feel out-of-place.  The people talked different, transportation was odd to me, and do not get me started on the food.  As I immediately began comparing the two places, for a time, I began to think my home was better, simply because we did not eat caterpillars and all (for the most part) spoke the same language.  Although those thoughts passed as I spent more time there, I now realize that to be Ethnocentrism.  I feel bad holding what I was used to as being better than where I was, but that is a fairly common thing to do.  Looking back, I think that Ethnocentrism could even be the founder of racism.  It would not be very hard for those feelings of, “My culture is better than yours,” to lead to the idea that, “I am better than you.”

As time went on, I became more acceptable to the culture and the people around me. In turn, it became easier for me to practice cultural relativism, or the judging of peoples’ behaviors based on their own culture.  For instance, eating bugs as part of a meal.  In America, it is considered disgusting, however, in Malawi it would be considered normal.  So as I began to practice cultural relativism, I no longer deemed that as wrong and took part in such cultural activities.

While I was in Malawi, I went to some interesting places.  Once, we were invited into a very wealthy Indian man’s home.  I felt so strange because I was still in Malawi, but everything I had come to associate Malawi with was gone.  Instead of a dirt floor, he had tile.  He told us that he resented the dirtiness of most of the people there.  He almost lived to set himself apart from the dirtiness of the rest of the country.  As we left this man’s home, we looked around and realized that there was a whole group of people who felt the same way.  This counter-culture openly opposed the main culture of Malawi, but they could not get rid of the main culture entirely.

New Picture

As I moved from the warm heart of Africa to the neighboring country, Zambia, I noticed that because of the size of the country and number of different tribes, it was hard for them to be united under one culture.  In the north, you had the Bembas, in the south was the Tongas, and eastward was home of the Chewas.  These subcultures were still able to relate to most things, but you just knew that they were different.   They differed in their mores, folkways, and values of the larger society (Jon, 2011, 63). I believe that the shared main culture within all of the tribes of Zambia is what keeps it together. If a country lacks that main culture similarity and there are competing cultures fighting for dominance, the result may very well be civil war.  Looking at the civil war in the United States, the culture of the South was to have slaves while the culture in the North was anti-slavery.  The two different cultures were so close to each other, within the same country, the differences could only be solved by war.

Culture is very much a part of who we are.  Every day we are shaped by our culture and the rules that come with it.  We need our culture to hold us together and help society to continue to advance.  When we are placed into a culture that we do not relate with, we are shocked.

Works Cited

“Culture Shock”. OxfordUniversity Press. 2013 2/23/13 <http://oxforddictionaries.com/definitino/english/culture%2Bshock

Witt, Jon. Soc 2012 Ed. Boedeker, Gina. New York: McGraw-Hill. 2011.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSJFBeVFtak  Youtube.com Posted by: Fallon Burke, 2009

http://romeoandjulietdebate.wikispaces.com/file/view/800px-Quarter-4-benchmark-group2.jpg/126626615/800px-Quarter-4-benchmark-group2.jpg  Titled Chaos in Classroom.  Classinex.com.br

SUBCULTURE

In this day and age, we live in a society where every person is expected to live up to a mainstream standards of how to dress, how to act, and even who to love. These expectations are of foremost importance to our culture and for the majority, people follow these expectations. But when you look into society there are groups that chose to live by their own set of values and norms, sometimes very similar to mainstream society,  and these groups are termed subcultures. They live in harmony with mainstream society but they choose to follow their own standards, but do not stray too far from mainstream society. When values and standards vary even more from the mainstream we find groups called countercultures, which are subcultures that deliberately go against certain aspects of the larger “mainstream” culture.

An example, that encompasses both of the terms sub and counterculture, would be a relationship group called polyamory, poly meaning “many” or “several”, and  amory meaning love. Polyamory is the practice, desire, or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved, and this aspect is what makes its practice a counter to the mainstream culture. The social norm of mainstream culture is to have a monogamist relationship based on truth and trust. Even though polyamory does go against social norms of love between a closed pair of people it still has the same values of trust and honesty, which gives the culture a more vague, but arguable, trait of being a sub to mainstream culture.

I recently learned about this term/culture from a dear friend of mine who has been living in a polyamorous relationship with their spouse for more then six months now.  They kept this a secret initially because of fear of how I would react to this information, and in all honestly, my first reaction was shock. I was shocked to find out this even existed in society. I didn’t understand how this could work or even be accepted by people, let alone an entire society. When my friend explained this life style choice to me, she stated clearly and rigidly that, “polyamory is not about sex, it is not at all like swinging. Polyamory is about having an open relationship with your spouse where you both are allowed to have a relationship with another person, and everyone involved knows one another and we’re understanding of the situation. It is about love and the overwhelming amount there is capable for people.”  My next question was to ask how far this relationship would, or could go, because legally you can only marry one person. From here my friend informed me the farthest it would go is to have all persons involved move into a house together, and live life loving each other. After I heard all the information I could, and doing my own research on  polyamory as a lifestyle, I had a few more questions. I asked my friend why they chose this life style, and they remarked, “ I feel this is what I was cut out for. It feels right to me, I have more love to share with someone other then my spouse. It also gives me a greater opportunity to be loved and love. I have known people who live this life style and when I finally understood its values and terms I realized this was the life I would like to live.”

When you relate this type of subculture/counterculture to society you find that many people are not informed about this lifestyle.  U.S.-based relationship values relating to intimate relationships are trust and loyalty, and to mainstream culture we view this lifestyle as deviant.  When my friends got married they signed a marriage license, which in most states means you are forever bonded to this person, and to commit adultery is illegal. Adultery is extremely frowned upon in our culture, it not only shows that you are disloyal to your spouse but it is also viewed as being dishonest to your fellow man.  I emphasize adultery because my friend who lives this life style chose a career that has strict rules concerning adultery. These rules never state what a punishment for adultery could be, but that you will be punished. As a result, my friend could potentially lose her entire career because of this.  Thus, one of my final questions to them was how could you live this life style knowing that one day your entire life career could come crashing to the ground, all because you and your spouse choose to live this way. My friend simply stated, “ I am willing to take the chance to live what I would consider a normal life, I am happy and strongly believe this is the right way to live. If I lose my career over this I will be hurt. But I don’t feel I should have to change my lifestyle to abide by what is expected of society.”

When I think about relationships in society today there are so many different types of love.  Our society has not come to terms yet with these new lifestyles, and at the same time new and vastly different relationships are popping up everywhere. As a society Americans are still working on accepting a homosexual lifestyles, let alone group relationships. I feel that after learning of my friends’ new way of love that society will most certainly shame them. It angers me to feel this way but that is how our society, and most any society works. We shame what we don’t understand and what is seen as counter to our mainstream. I think the solution to this situation is to be tolerant of things that are different. When we look back in history, stories just like this can be found in many different areas. This story is not about love, it is about acceptance that difference is inevitable.  Society use to shame anyone with non-white skin. But with time and awareness society overcame and did more than accept these differences; they began to celebrate them. It is not to say that there are not those who are jaded by the ideas of change to this day, but as a whole society, we can progress to be inclusive rather than exclusive. With saying this, I feel the only way this type of life style will be accepted is with time, and when society is informed and to an extent almost forced to witness these new values we can begin to embrace our differences.

 

Works Cited

Wikipedia contributors. “Polyamory.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 21 Feb. 2013. Web. 22 Feb. 2013.

 Witt, Jon. SOC 2012. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2010. N. pag. Print.

 

SYMBOLS

It’s been said and understood that the socialization of a child starts as early as infancy. As the child grows up, they begin to act as their parents do when certain situations come up. Their parents and their society are their standard of normal. Within this society there are symbols. According to our textbook “SOC,” Symbols can be anything from a gesture, an object, or even a word that forms a basis of human communication (Witt).  Children can pick up on these symbols at a very early age. Children pick up on social norms and symbols by observing how their parents act, and through these observations they link meanings to actions. For example, my parents would always fold their hands when they were praying. As I grew up in a Christian church, I would do the same.

The whole idea behind Children reacting to symbols is very similar to other sociological concepts. The first major concept that a child reacting to symbols is like is socialization. Socialization, according to SOC, is the lifelong process through which people learn the attitudes, values, and behaviors appropriate for members of a particular culture. Children learning about symbols are basically part of socialization because the child has to learn about the culture, the symbol, and how the two go together. It’s all about the child learning things and applying it to how they act. It’s common when a child is so used to the symbols for the child to have culture shock when they visit other cultures. For example, a book published by the West Side Toast Masters says that holding two fingers up in America can either mean “peace” or it can signal the letter two. If you were to make the same kind gesture to someone in Greece, that person would take offense because in Greece the gesture means “up yours.” Similarly, I once hurt my middle finger and my doctor suggested that I keep it elevated. It was quite humorous to see how many people were offended because of the doctor’s orders. All of these things happen because we are trained to react a certain way to gestures, it differs from culture to culture so mixing is problematic at times.

Another issue I’d like to touch on that comes with symbols is the interpretation of religious symbols. I grew up in a very religious home so I was taught to have reverence for the cross. The cross to my family and me was a symbol of redemption and purpose. To others, it could be a symbol of family unity. And who knows what else it could mean to others. My point is that the meaning of the cross is up to the interpretation of the culture or subculture and that is passed onto children.

In conclusion, we have our own interpretation to what symbols mean even though they may be different than other cultures. Children’s interaction skills start by interacting with basic symbols that are all around them and whether they realize it or not, their perception of these symbols will stick with them for a very long time. Our perception of simple hand gestures, religious and political symbols, and even simple shapes and colors all spawned from our socialization in our preparatory stage. Our understanding of symbols will be passed onto our children and our grandchildren; it’s just how our society works.

 

Work Cited

Witt, Jon. SOC 2011. 2ndnd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, 2011. 326. Print.

“Cultural Differences.” West Side Toast Masters. N.p.. Web. 25 Feb 2013. <http://westsidetoastmasters.com/resources/book_of_body_language/chap5.html&gt;.

 

SUBCULTURE

With the United States being a very diverse country, we still have a unified culture. Culture is the learned and shared ways of believing and doing with a society. It provides us skills, habits, and styles which are passed from generation to generation. As a complex society, we have many subcultures in the U.S., which are segments of the larger culture. They have their own beliefs and values which they carry from their own cultures. Conversely, many subcultural groups also participate and engage in the behaviors of the dominant culture. As we know, language is part of culture.  It has an impact on subcultural groups within a larger society who struggle to keep their language. For instance, many Somali children, when they move to the U.S, end up speaking American English more fluently than the language of their culture simply because the U.S  culture surrounds them most of the time. Not only does the dominant culture influence on language, but it also dominates subcultural values, mores, and folkways.

Although there is a huge immigrant population in this country, I would say when it comes resocializing, some immigrants can adapt easily.  Resocialization, the process of leaving old behavior behind and accepting the new life changes they’re undergoing is easy for some, while others, like refugees, take time to go through this process.  This is simply because some immigrants may come into this country for different reason: education, business, or vacation. These kinds of immigrants tend to experience fewer traumas compared to refugees who are vulnerable, having undergone rigorous situations in their countries.  My mom, for example, after living three years in Lansing, is still having trouble transforming herself and taking on some of the behaviors of the U.S..  Language is an issue for her. Even though she has transformed by adhering to some of the norms and values of this country, she wouldn’t have even followed these without being told by her children to do so. The language barrier has kept her from getting a job since English is the only language used in the larger society. This problem has explicitly resulted from the lack of resocialization and driver’s license.  Addition, she is not able to go to a doctor’s appointment without an interpreter. By accepting new transitions and social relationships, resocialization changes individuals from their old behaviors and way of life to the new patterns.

 

 

Another problem associated with subcultures is ethnocentrism.  Ethnocentrism can lead to bad things for many different reasons. It often puts down a certain group or culture. Subcultural groups can feel ethnocentric when they have to learn the language of the bigger society. In addition, following their norms and values has been prioritized. Ethnocentrism also leads a group to thinking they are righteous and better than other groups.  This happens at my workplace when working with some employees from the dominant culture. I had small talk one day with one of my coworker and come up with one of the norms of culture to compare with another from the large culture. I felt he implicitly preferred the norms of that subculture. Sometimes ethnocentrism does not have a negative impact, rather it has advantages. For instance, it can create patriotism. Even though we consist of different societies with different beliefs, values, norms, and knowledge, we still have common norms, values and symbols that bring us together.  For instance, the flag symbolizes unity and shows love of the country and obedience to the rules and regulations. The flag encourages people to be patriotic for the country whether an individual is from the dominant culture or subculture.

CULTURE SHOCK

Imagine you are planning a much needed vacation and you decide to go to China.  You are on the plane when you arrive at your destination.  Getting off the plane and walking into the airport, you notice some things that are different than in the United States.  As you continue to walk through the airport and make your way towards where you will be living during your vacation, you realize things are very different than where you from.  People are speaking a different language, wearing different clothes, and eating different foods; those are just some of the differences between cultures.  When people visit another country or anywhere different from where they live, they experience some uneasiness or may be a bit uncomfortable.  This is called culture shock.  Most people will experience some degree of culture shock when they visit another area different from where they are from.

 Culture shock can be described as the feelings one experiences after leaving their familiar home culture to live in another cultural or social environment.  It occurs when the cultural symbols or signs that we use in social interaction are stripped away.  Some symptoms of culture shock that people may experience are homesickness, withdrawal, irritability, or the person might even feel a bit hostile towards the people of the new area because they do things differently than what the person is used to which is part of the cause for the person feeling uncomfortable.  They may feel negatively towards the people that live in the new area because they are different and don’t do things the way the visiting person is used to.  When people travel to other countries, they may come in contact with a counterculture.  A counterculture is a subculture that opposes certain aspects of the larger culture.  There may be people within a culture that do things differently than the rest of the people within that culture.  Another concept related to culture shock is ethnocentrism, which is when someone assumes that their own culture or way of life represent what is normal or are better than others.  Some people may realize they think this way when they travel away from home.

There are some things a person can do to prepare for culture shock and possibly try to prevent it or minimize it a bit.  It is a good idea to learn as much as you can about where you are going before you go.  Familiarizing yourself with the culture and what it will be like will help dealing with culture shock.  A person should try to stay open-minded when traveling somewhere new.  They could try to have a sense of humor about things to lighten the mood of the situation a bit, or possibly making a new friend in the new country would help.  Making a new friend means you would have someone who knows all about the culture of the area and could be of great help with any questions or concerns.  You could also bring some things with you to remind you of home, such as a favorite picture of your loved ones, or some other special item that will make you think of home and feel more comfortable.  It would also be good to keep in touch with people back home, such as friends and family.  They will help put your mind at ease, give you some advice and support when you are feeling uncomfortable and alone in a new place.  Perhaps the most important thing someone can do when traveling to a new place is to not give up.  You should just keep trying to figure things out in the new area, and just try to stay positive about the situation.  It won’t necessarily be easy at first, but it will get better.

Culture shock is a common thing to deal with when traveling to a new area.  People feel uncomfortable and sometimes even scared when they don’t know what is going on.  There are several things that can be done to deal with culture shock, and if people try to do these things and don’t give up, they can overcome the feeling of culture shock and have a great time in the new area they are traveling to.

SOCIALIZATION

Socialization is the process through which we learn from people how to behave, our attitudes and our values based on the culture that we are a part of. Gender Socialization refers to how different genders are to act based on a culture. Females are taught that we are weak while men are taught that they are supposed to be strong. An example that I have of this is when I was little, I did not do much lifting because I grew up with all brothers and they were the ones that were supposed to do the lifting. As I got older they started wanting me to do a little bit more but I was used to the idea from society that I was supposed to be inferior to the males.

When I was growing up I was given all of these hand me downs and it got to the point that I didn’t think that I was pretty or anything and wasn’t sure how I was supposed to dress. So I was eventually put in a school that had a uniform and that is where I started to try and show a feminine side because I would only hang out with females, which up until then wanted nothing to do with me.  When I left that school I went to wearing only pink for about two years and tried forming a nickname because I thought that was the only way to be cool. When I was younger I didn’t think well of myself because of the male clothing I wore and now I rarely wear boy clothes.  I prefer to wear light pinks or light blues or feminine tops. This refers to Looking-Glass Self.  People start to believe what they think others think of them. Our culture tells us that what we wear matters if we want to be popular or be an outcast. When I was younger all I wanted to do was fit in but as I got older I stopped caring about it as much, I just preferred to try and get the grades.

Gender Roles are played depending on the gender you are and the culture that you live in. Though females have been for the most part inferior in most cultures, there are some though where they are seem to be the more superior. The Amazon culture was a female society where they were the more powerful ones and the males were the ones that were non-dominant, unlike here where for the majority, females are told to be the ones to look after the children and the men are supposed to be the breadwinners. If males do not feel like they are making the money, they feel emasculated.  So the females are the ones that are supposed to take care of the children and keep the house clean.

Different societies through our socialization have different Rites of Passages depending on the culture that you’re a part of. In the American culture for the most part, the first rite of passage seems to be prom for females. Everyone wants that chance to get that pretty dress and be waited on and have that perfect date. This isn’t though of the most important rites of passages like graduation. One of the rites of passages that is actually extremely important is graduation. That ceremony is what your entire family looks forward to. They are crushed if they feel that you may not graduate. This happened to one of my siblings about a month before graduation.  He was told the only way he would be able to graduate is if he stayed after the rest of the year and came back for the last two weeks and was in his class the entire time.

Of course my parents made sure that he did it so that he would be able to graduate, but he was so close to not having that experience. Other cultures though have Quinceanera for the females or a bar mitzvah for the males at different ages that say they have reached adulthood, like graduation is for us.

So depending on your culture there are different ways that we are perceived as males or females or what we find should have a celebration. One of the few things that seem to be important all across the world is the marriage celebration. All nations have some sort of celebration but it just depends where you live that helps you decide what is important. Another thing that culture influences is what we consider beautiful. In our society females are told to be skinny and guys are told no make-up. The question is, why do we have these cultural things that seem to mark who we are?  So why do these things control who we are? They should not be able to decide what we find acceptable. In the video the song is called crazy and I feel that it makes sense with some things that are part of our culture that just goes a little crazy but this is how our society is. We all want that beauty but how far is too far?

RITE OF PASSAGE

Imagine that you’re a boy of the Algonquin Indian tribe from Quebec. When you reached the age of 13 you would be taken to a secluded area, probably caged, and given a very strong hallucinogen, called Wysoccan, which is said to be 100 times stronger than LSD. After being given this drug, the boys are forced to stay secluded for 20 days and fend for themselves. This drug was meant to force all of the childhood memories out of your head. In some cases taking this drug caused the boys to lose memories of their families, their identities, the ability to speak, and sometimes it even caused death. If one of the boys came back with some of their childhood memories left, they were sent back and given a second lethal does and forced to try and cheat death a second time. This is a very extreme example of something that is known as a rite of passage, and it is seen only in this culture. A rite of passage is a ritual or event that marks a transition from one social position to another.

There are many different types of cultures throughout the world. Culture is the characteristics of a specific group of people, such as language, religion, social habits, music, and arts. The Rites of Passage that a person will go through during their life is very dependent on their culture. Different cultures have their own special rites of passage that people must go through at various times in their life. The ritual that I talked about above is a very good example of how different cultures have different rites of passages. Taking a child to a secluded area and giving them drugs that could possibly kill them would be very frowned upon by an American ethnocentric point of view, but it is seen as necessary to become a man within the Algonquin tribe.

Ethnocentrism is the judging of someone else’s culture based only on the views and standards of your culture. When people from the American culture look at the Algonquin ritual they are only looking at it based on their beliefs about drugs and children. To avoid ethnocentrism, people should try and open up their minds while looking at different cultures. People need to realize that some of the behaviors and activities that we participate in within American also look weird to people from other countries. For example, there are a few religions who view cows as sacred creatures and slaughtering one is seen as a taboo.   They would see the way that Americans eat beef as very offensive, but it is just part of our normal lives.

 

The way that we look at different rituals preformed in different places around the world also depends a lot on Socialization. Socialization is the way in which people learn their culture and the appropriate way to act within that culture. Another big factor in deciding the rites of passage that we will go through in our life are agents of socialization. Agents of socialization are the people and groups that influence the way that people learn their culture. This includes family, religion, mass media, and peers. The two biggest agents of socialization for the boys of the Algonquin Indian tribe would be family and religion. When a boy reaches the age of 13 he is pressured by his family to take place in this ritual. His father did it and so did his grandfather, so it’s mandatory for him to do so too. Religion also plays a big role in the socialization of this ritual. When the ritual first took place it was built on strong religious beliefs.

Two other good examples of rites of passages are high school graduation and wedding ceremonies. High school graduation marks a very important time in a person’s life where they are switching roles between being a child to being an adult.   This rite of passage has been taking place in American since 1821 at the first public high school, The English High School. Wedding ceremonies are also a very important rite of passage that marks the transition from being single to being part of a married couple. Both of these rites of passages have been put into place so that family and friends can help celebrate and show their support during these important steps in life.

RESOCIALIZATION

Socialization is the way in which we learn our culture, and the norms of that culture.  Behavioral expectations are referred to as norms.  Violating or deviating from these norms leads to negative sanctions.  Obeying these norms leads to positive sanctions.  We learn the socialization of our culture through various people and groups that are called agents of socialization.  These can include the media, our peer groups around us, our workplace, family, and even governments.  For example, young children may learn some manners from a children’s media show.  Their family may reinforce the socialization of manners with negative or positive sanctions for following or not following these norms of culture.

 

In contrast to socialization, resocialization is getting rid of old behavior patterns and accepting new ones as a part of a new life transition.  Resocialization occurs best in a total institution setting.  In this setting, a single authority figure inside the institution will decide what activities will be conducted by individuals during the day and when.  The people inside the total institutions have almost their every move set out for them.  If they do not comply to these orders by authority figures, than they will face consequences.  These are some of the factors that make a place a total institution.  Another factor is having every aspect of life within the institution be related towards the goals of the organization.  Examples of total institutions include mental institutions, the military, convents, and prisons.  In a prison institution, the prisoners are forced to dress very similary, do the same activities as other inmates, and share their living spaces with others.  They are stripped of their identities, and are forced to conform to the way everyone else acts and appears because they have no other choice.  Isolation occurs for some

In a penitentiary institution, a degredation ceremony begins to resocialize the prisoners into the institution.  They are stripped of all of their personal belongings including phones, clothes, jewelry, etc.  They are then forced to wear clothes similar to everyone else.  They may begin to lose their sense of self during this degredation ceremony.  From this point on, they have scheduled daily activities and routines that allow for little time to themselves.  Everything they do is based upon the goals of the total institution.

 

After these degredation ceremonies, prisoners will learn to discard their deviance for the law and take on new behaviors and new social roles inside of the institution.  They may have a daily job to perform, and are made to model the ways in which they are expected to act in the workplace in an effort to resocialize them into a working class society inside of the institution. Agents of socialization that may influence them during this time include family encouragement, media role models, and government counseling programs inside the prisons.  There are also educational programs inside the prisons to help them develop important skills.  For instance, in the following video, inmates work with shelter dogs in an effort to help train them to be more pleasurable to families that will then adopt them.  Caring for these animals also helps to reduce tension within the institution for the inmates.

 

Resocialization also exists in the form of new life changes.  The disengagement theory discusses the ways in which older people should sever their personal social relationships and give up their social roles that they hold within society.  They are discarding old behaviors such as talking with their friends or going to work every day, for a new role in society.  Their new role in society is to prepare for death.  Some are even forced into retirement homes.  Some cultures practice a more extreme form of disengagement theory.  For example, the Fulani people of Africa force their older people to live next to the graveyard and prepare for death.  They consider them to be already socially dead.  Many people disagree with the disengagement theory, and believe it to be unhealthy for anyone to sever their personal relationships.  Although many believe that older people will be more comfortable if they are retired from their working role in society, most agree that they should still stay active within society.

NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION

What is nonverbal communication? It is the messages sent, intentional or unintentional, without words—clothing, facial expressions, body language, etc. (Witt p. 57). All nonverbal communication is learned. How would we know to give someone a hug when someone looks sad or give a high five after scoring a goal? This form of communication varies across cultures (Witt p. 57). Did you know that the thumbs-up sign is considered rude in Australia and Iraq (Witt p. 57)? Good relationships consist of good communication—verbal and nonverbal. Nonverbal communication matters more than what people realize (Segal). They say, “Actions speak louder than words”. In this case, yes they do. If a person says that they that they will be at an engagement at a certain time then show up late, it sends the message, “This engagement is not important to me,” otherwise, she would have made the effort to be on time. If two people are having a conversation and one person says she is not angry, yet has a frown and furrowed eyebrows, she contradicts herself. The other person is then confused and mislead.

There are many forms of nonverbal communication: appearance, facial expressions, posture, gestures, eye contact, touch, and space.

We can send messages through our appearances. “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” – unknown author. First impressions are important, not only what we say but also how we present ourselves. If I had a big job interview and showed up in sweat pants, torn shirt, and bedhead, the interviewer would probably be less inclined to hire me. Why? I sent the message that I did not care enough to clean up for an important meeting. What we feel on the inside is how we dress on the outside. Growing up in school I was always told, “dress for success.” As I am writing this I feel like a slob. I am wearing jean, running shoes and a sweatshirt. I have noticed that whenever I dress up, I feel all the more confident and presentable.  This is also known as the dramaturgical approach that looks at social interaction as if we were all actors on stage. The “costumes” help actors get into character.  Uniforms or work wear get employees into the respective role; props such as brief cases, cars, phones, or tools are all used to enhance our sense of role (Witt p. 78).

The appearances of our facial expressions provide a wealth of information. Facial expressions are universal—happiness, grief, fear, disgust, etc. (Segal). There are many ways of sending a message through an expression. Just the other day I told my sister a story that I found funny and I thought she would feel the same; but as I was telling her and chuckling along the way, her face portrayed the exact opposite—horrification. In the work force facial expressions can sometimes send more messages than words. If a person, we will call her Susie, represents an organization, she would want to send the message of friendliness and professionalism through her expressions. Let’s say that Susie is listening to a client. Despite her expression, she is interested in the topic; yet, she appears to be uninterested in what the client has to say by her blank expression. This not only reflects poorly on her, but the company too. (“Personal Appearance”).  In this video, we can see how thoughts and emotions toward co-workers can be expressed through facial expressions.   The Office: Faces of Jim

This woman in this picture portrays a wealth of information through her facial expression. What kind of emotions do you think she is feeling?

We do not have to read a peoples’ facial expressions to sense what they feel; people can communicate through posture. Have you ever felt angry in a situation? If so, how did you stand or sit? Most likely you had your arms or legs crossed. Defensive postures have been interpreted as such (Cherry). The other day I came to Biggby to work on this blog. There was a couple sitting at a table across from me and I couldn’t help but notice that the man had good nonverbal communication skills. He sat across from the woman with his feet flat on the floor, crossed hands on his lap, maintained eye contact, and nodded affirmations. He seemed to be interested in what she was saying.

This picture portrays communication through posture. The woman is turned away from the man. What do you think she is expressing? What emotion do you think the man is portraying?

This picture portrays communication through posture. The woman is turned away from the man in the background with the wide stance. What do you think she is expressing? Sadness? Prejudice? What do you think the man is portraying? Danger? Anger?

With posture comes proximity. Proximity is one of those universally known facts, but never discussed. Typically, if we are unacquainted with someone, we stand at a comfortable distance; between 18 inches to four feet spaced apart (Cherry). The better we know someone, the more comfortable we are around him or her; in other words, standing closer to someone is a way to communicate a close relationship without verbal communication. Have you ever entered an elevator with one other person, whom you do not know, and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with him? Probably not.

Our values dictate our codes of conduct. Our values—what we truly believe—become apparent through our actions (in other words, nonverbal communication). For example, if I truly valued a friend I would show her interest in a conversation. I try to avoid yawning, make eye contact, and affirm her through nods.  Have you ever talked to someone who seemed uninterested in what you were saying? I have. It’s annoying, isn’t it? Values are the expression of what we believe, but Norms are the guidelines of our actions. Every society has a set of social norms. For example, “respect elders,” “Do not murder,” “Sharing is good,” etc. Social norms must be expected from every member of society in order for the norm to function. When we go to class we are not told what to do, yet every student sits down and waits quietly for the professor to begin the lecture. Another example is the movie theater. When we go to a movie, we expect viewers to be silent and to sit in the seats provided. Let’s say that you go to a movie theater and you wait quietly for the movie to begin. Then, an old man with large round glasses and white wiry hair enters and begins to shout and cartwheel. How would you react? Others would probably give him weird looks; bold people would maybe try to correct him. He broke the norm. The old man deviated away from expected actions.  The movie theater norm is a folkway. Folkways are a set of norms that guide everyday expectations; if broken, the deviant is not severely punished. On the other side of the spectrum are mores. Mores are the social expectations that must be rigidly upheld in order to maintain societal order.  The violators are severely punished. If the old man who cartwheeled in the theater were to pull a weapon on the crowd, the United States law would punish him.  On the other hand, formal norms are written down, but violators are punished by the state. For example, many restaurants have the, “no shirt, no shoes, no service” rule. The United States government wouldn’t punish the violator; he or she would simply be turned away from the restaurant. Informal norms are those understood rules but never discussed or taught. I subconsciously sat with my back to the person sitting across a table from me at Biggby. It is not considered normal to face a stranger and make eye contact with he or she. No one ever taught me this, nor have I ever discussed with anyone how to act in a coffee shop. (Witt p. 59-60)

So what happens if nonverbal communication goes wrong? When nonverbal communication goes wrong it can be interpreted as deviance, such as the old man mentioned above. For example, I remember the first time I spoke with my friend’s mother. She stood very close and put her hand on my shoulder and did not break eye contact. It was less than comfortable. Another example is Ben. Ben is an articulate speaker; however, if you were to ask his colleagues they would say he is forceful and unapproachable. Ben speaks with his arms crossed, wide stance, and chin up. In meetings, while everyone is seated he chooses so stand and pace. While he may not intend to exude force, everyone reads it as such. (Segal).

Nonverbal communication can also act as a “saving-face” ploy, also known as impression management. In Japan, if the “company man”, or the breadwinner of the family, loses his job he continues to rise early, get dressed and head off to the working sector of the city. Instead, he goes to the library or other places to pass the time until he returns home at the usual time. He may do this to maintain the appearance of a workingman. He may be too ashamed to admit to his family that he lost his job (Witt p. 78-79). People do this more subtlety than realized. If embarrassed in front of friends or a crowd, a person may roll his eyes and shake his head. We can see this frequently in sports. If a goalkeeper fails to save a goal, the keeper shakes his head, places hands on top of his head or covers his face.

Can nonverbal communication skills be improved? Of course! There are many simple solutions. When you are in a conversation, maintain eye contact. This doesn’t mean never break eye contact-that would be unusual. Dress in a presentable way; others will be more prone to treat you in a respectable manner. When addressing a crowd or public speaking, do not look at the ground or mutter. Speak up and look them in the eyes. These are just a few simple tactics to improve nonverbal communication skills.

Works Cited

Cherry, Kendra. “Types of Nonverbal Communication.” About.com: Psychology. About.com, 2013. Web. 15 Feb. 2013.

Segal, Jeanne, Melinda Smith, Greg Boose, and Jaelline Jaffee. “Nonverbal Communication: Improving Your Nonverbal Skills and Reading Body Language.” Helpguide.org. N.p., Jan. 2013. Web. 15 Feb. 2013.

“Personal Appearance.” SkillsYouNeed.co.uk. N.p., 2011-2013. Web. 15 Feb. 2013.

Witt, Jon. Soc. Ed. Gina Boedeker. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011. Print.

Media links to the above information:

http://esciencecommons.blogspot.com/2011/03/key-facts-about-nonverbal-communication.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jMB9ln9yrI