Category Archives: Social Location

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

 

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SOCIAL ROLE

All societies in the world are socially stratified meaning wealth, power, and honor are unequally distributed among different groups. In other words all communities are separated into different social classes. The most frequently used basis for categorizing different forms of stratification systems is the way status is acquired.

In sociology social roles are expectations for the ways in which people are expected to behave in specific situations. These expectations are created and defined by the societies in which the people live. Different societies have dissimilar social roles. Role expectations include both actions and qualities.  For example, a teacher may be expected not only to deliver lectures, assign homework, and prepare examinations but also to be dedicated, concerned, and responsible.

We cannot talk about social role without explaining social status. According to sociologists, social status is the honor or prestige attached to one’s position in society.  It may also refer to a rank or position that one holds in a group. For example, we are all students in this class and each one of us is either a son or daughter of somebody. The position or rank of a person or group within the society can be determined in two ways. A person can earn their social status by their own achievements also known as achieved or attained status. Alternatively, a person can be placed in the position. This inherited position is known as ascribed status meaning they are predefined for an individual at birth. For example prince William of England will have many high expectations compare to any poor child born in England.

In modern societies like ours, occupation or job is usually thought of as the main determinant of status. Other factors such as ethnic group, religion, gender, voluntary associations and hobby can have an influence also. This achieved status is when people are placed on the stratification structure based on their individual merits; the most commonly used here in America is education. The amount and kind of education people attain determine the kinds of jobs they get. The kind of work people do is the main determinant of their income.  Therefore, one’s place within the stratification structure is determined by financial, academic or political success. The higher a person is in rank, the better off he is. Moreover, the education, occupation, and income of parents largely determine the kinds of advantages or disadvantages they create for their own children. These situations are the roots of social inequality we observe in every society. Based on that observation, the gap can only grow deeper and deeper with time. For example Blacks are substantially less well educated than Whites just because the parents of blacks are poorly educated themselves. The sharp difference between blacks and whites is the continuing legacy of slavery. For centuries whites could educate themselves, passing that huge advantage to their children while it was forbidden for blacks to get any kind of education.

In the United States of America, there is no difference in the opportunity given to both girls and boys to have access to education. After graduation comes the reality of the work world. In fact, according to Donald J. Treiman, a sociologist, at equal levels of education, women earn about 60 percent of what men earn. This is explained by the gender preference for men over women that prevails in the work place. Women’s potential seems to be undermined by their so called women to-do task. In fact, the work lives for many women are interrupted for childbearing. Consequently many corporations want to avoid the stress of training and hiring somebody else for her job to replace women whenever they have to be put on leave. Moreover when it comes to gender in American society, women and men are assigned predetermined cultural roles. Women assume the roles of mothers, housekeepers, and servants to their husbands and kids, while men are providers, protectors, and heads of the household. More and more, we see a change in society today regarding the gender roles. Indeed, in modern homes, husbands and wives work both outside of the house. Both are providers for their family and both do the housekeeping job for the well being of the all family.

Works cited

Treiman, Donald J. “Status Attainment.” Encyclopedia of Sociology. 2nd ed. Vol. 5. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2001. 3042-3049. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 13 Feb. 2013

Social Location

Social location is a concept that is often introduced at the beginning of introductory courses in sociology. It helps students who are new to the field of sociology begin to understand the relationship between the course content and their own lives and social experiences. Social location is defined as the social position an individual holds within their society and is based upon social characteristics deemed to be important by any given society. Some of the social characteristics deemed to be important by U.S. society include social class position, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, religion and so on. Sociologists argue that the social location of an individual profoundly influences who they are and who they become, interactions with others, self-perception, opportunities and outcomes.

For most people, nationality is an important part of their social location. I like to travel and when I do, I am often reminded of the degree to which my nationality influences my perceptions of the world, my likes and dislikes and my tolerance for different behaviors. I visited China in 2008 and had the chance to travel from north to south, visiting not only large urban areas like Beijing and Cheng Du, but also small towns and remote minority villages. The food throughout China was delicious – I don’t think I ate a meal that wasn’t tasty and fresh. Here’s a picture of a meal at the home of a Tunpu family (the Tunpu are a minority group not officially recognized by the Chinese government):

However, there were a few foods I encountered that I didn’t try. In villages north of Beijing there are many donkey meat restaurants and in Southern China, dog meat restaurants are common and you can also buy dog meat at the open air markets, along with pork, tofu, fish, chicken and other birds. Here’s a restaurant sign, which advertises the different types of meat available in the dishes sold there (notice the golden retriever at the bottom).

Having worked at the Humane Society for years and knowing what becomes of unwanted animals in the U.S., the thought of eating dog meat didn’t disturb me. However, there were other tourists from the U.S. that I observed who were very upset about the notion of dining on this type of meat. Some of their reactions were quite ethnocentric, such as making proclamations out loud opposing the sale of dog meat and refusal to enter into any markets selling dog meat. Ethnocentrism is a reaction to cultural differences where we are intolerant of these differences and judge the differences from our own cultural perspective. If these individuals had been raised in southern China, I’m sure they’d gladly eat dog meat, as it is a good, inexpensive source of protein, and it is a cultural norm.

Another example of food from this trip that reminded me of how culturally bound we are, was the selection of snacks available at the Wangfujing Snack Street in Beijing. Each evening on Wangfujing Street, the snack vendors set up in a long row of open air stalls, selling quick and cheap eats to the throngs of people who go to this popular shopping district. The vendors sell meat or tofu skewers, stir fries, soups, candied apples, and such.

A number of the vendors selling skewers, in addition to meat and tofu skewers, sell silk worm pupae, starfish, gecko, seahorse, scorpion, grasshopper, and other insect skewers.

Now, I must admit, that while I found this interesting, the thought of eating these foods was not appealing to me (I stuck with the tofu skewers). My national cuisine doesn’t involve the intentional eating of insects, thus my social location influenced my food choices and desires. About 60% of the world’s population eat insects, which are a readily available source of quality protein. But, having grown up in the U.S., where insects for the most part are not a part of our culinary culture, I was not at all delighted at the thought of munching down on these snacks. However, I also recognize some of the problems with the U.S. food pyramid.

Maybe it’s time for those of us in non-insect eating cultures to get over our phobia. Insects are touted by some as the answer to the global food crisis, being a less energy intensive way to gain access to a high protein food source. However, in order to do this, we non-insect eating cultures must change how we perceive these foods. How is this accomplished? One answer, promoted by Dutch scientist Arnold van Huis, is to offer food tastings and cooking classes integrating insects into the menu. Here is a blog entry discussing how one of these events went: eating bugs to save the planet.  If we expanded our diet to include insects, our food repertoire would be much richer. In her “Girl Meets Bug” blog, Daniella Martin lists 38 insects that are readily available to and edible by humans:  edible insects. She also includes some tasty looking recipes. Cricket stir fry or Bee-LT anyone?

Author — Jean L.