Friday, January 27, 2017
Complex You: Social Statuses & Roles
Today, we listed all of the groups that make each one of us who we are. A group can be as few as two but as many as millions of people. Students listed groups like family, friends, clubs, sports, gender, ethnicity, music, sexuality, school, age, and others. And then we listed our position or status(es) within each group. This is the social construction of our own lives-we are made up of socially-constructed groups. These groups provide identity for individuals and they provide a structure for society.
I am always interested by all of the groups that students are influenced by and especially the unexpected groups that surprise me along the way. Sometimes it is someone who I never thought to be religious and they list a religion or sometimes it is someone who I never realized was black who lists her race as an important influence on her. All of these groups we belong to are the complex way we as individuals are made up and that is the way sociologists understand individuals; through their groups. For example, I am part of a family, a school, a group of friends and a neighborhood. In each of these groups I have a status (dad, teacher, friend) and each of these statuses comes with a role that is expected of me (make dinner, show up prepared for class, return a phone call, etc...).
These groups shape my life. Each group creates expectations for your actions. These expectations are called roles. For example after becoming a dad I will never be the same. I can't help looking at kids through the eyes of a parent; I think about music lyrics differently; I am overly critical and cognizant of my own behavior and manners etc... These groups can also come into conflict in an individual's daily life. For example, if I have to go home and cook dinner and my daughter demands attention, it is very difficult to get grading and lessons prepared for the next day, and if a friend calls to socialize or to get together, that becomes a third conflict. My roles as a parent, teacher and friend are all conflicting. This is called role conflict. There are also times when I experience what sociologists call role strain. That is when I am having difficulty meeting the expectations of one role. An example of this might be parenting. I have never been a parent before and so when my daughter is challenging me, I am not always certain how to react; do I give in, ignore or punish her? Some statuses we choose (achieved statuses) like those I already mentioned, but sometimes we are not given a choice (ascribed statuses) like that of a balding man. Don't get me wrong - I thank goodness everyday that Michael Jordan
brought baldness back into fashion in the 90s and I hope it stays there, but I am definitely not choosing this 'do :-).
I hope this exercise helps students see that our class might seem homogeneous but really it is quite diverse. The unique diversity comes from each person's membership in different groups. I hope this is another way we can become sociologically mindful of each other in the class; that is, we can appreciate each person's unique membership in different groups. This way we can be more understanding of each other and more compassionate for each other.
Some ideas for posting on your own blog: Explain more thoroughly about the groups that make up who you are. What is your status in that group? Which statuses are ascribed and which are achieved for you? Have you experienced role conflict or strain? Which groups memberships were you surprised to learn about in our class? Can you see how this lesson increases your sociological mindfulness of both yourself and our class?