Reverby  found that such unethical experiments were more widespread than just the widely known Tuskegee study and that the US Government funded a study in which thousands of Guatemalan prisoners were infected with syphilis to determine whether they could be cured with penicillin. Ethical oversight in science is designed to prevent such egregious violations of human rights today.
Sociologists also have professional ethical principles they follow. Obviously honesty in research, analysis, and publication is important. Sociologists who manipulate their data are ostracized and can have their memberships in professional organizations revoked. Conflicts of interest are also frowned upon. A conflict of interest can occur when a sociologist is given funding to conduct research on an issue that relates to the source of the funds.
For example, if Microsoft were to fund a sociologist to investigate whether users of Microsoft's product users are happier than users of open source software e. Unfortunately, this does not always happen, as several high profile cases illustrate e. But the disclosure of conflicts of interest is recommended by most professional organizations and many academic journals.
A comprehensive explanation of sociological guidelines is provided on the website of the American Sociological Association. Having discussed the sociological approach to understanding society, it is worth noting the limitations of sociology. Because of the subject of investigation society , sociology runs into a number of problems that have significant implications for this field of inquiry:. While it is important to recognize the limitations of sociology, sociology's contributions to our understanding of society have been significant and continue to provide useful theories and tools for understanding humans as social beings.
Charmaz, Kathy. Blumer, Herbert. Symbolic Interactionism: Perspective and Method. Sociologists develop theories to explain social phenomena. A theory is a proposed relationship between two or more concepts. In other words, a theory is explanation for why or how a phenomenon occurs. An example of a sociological theory is the work of Robert Putnam on the decline of civic engagement.
While there are a number of factors that contribute to this decline Putnam's theory is quite complex , one of the prominent factors is the increased consumption of television as a form entertainment. Putnam's theory proposes:. This element of Putnam's theory clearly illustrates the basic purpose of sociological theory: it proposes a relationship between two or more concepts.
In this case, the concepts are civic engagement and television watching. The relationship is an inverse one - as one goes up, the other goes down. What's more, it is an explanation of one phenomenon with another: part of the reason why civic engagement has declined over the last several decades is because people are watching more television.
Putnam's theory clearly contains the key elements of a sociological theory. Sociological theory is developed at multiple levels, ranging from grand theory to highly contextualized and specific micro-range theories. There are many middle-range and micro-range theories in sociology. Because such theories are dependent on context and specific to certain situations, it is beyond the scope of this text to explore each of those theories.
The purpose of this chapter is to introduce some of the more well-known and most commonly used grand and middle-range theories in sociology. In the theory proposed above, the astute reader will notice that the theory includes two components: The data, in this case the findings that civic engagement has declined and TV watching has increased, and the proposed relationship, that the increase in television viewing has contributed to the decline in civic engagement.
Data alone are not particularly informative. If Putnam had not proposed a relationship between the two elements of social life, we may not have realized that television viewing does, in fact, reduce people's desire to and time for participating in civic life. In order to understand the social world around us, it is necessary to employ theory to draw the connections between seemingly disparate concepts. Another example of sociological theorizing illustrates this point.
In his now classic work, Suicide ,  Emile Durkheim was interested in explaining a social phenomenon, suicide , and employed both data and theory to offer an explanation. By aggregating data for large groups of people in Europe, Durkheim was able to discern patterns in suicide rates and connect those patterns with another concept or variable : religious affiliation.
Durkheim found that Protestants were more likely to commit suicide than were Catholics. At this point, Durkheim's analysis was still in the data stage; he had not proposed an explanation for the different suicide rates of the two groups. It was when Durkheim introduced the ideas of anomie and social solidarity that he began to explain the difference in suicide rates. Durkheim argued that the looser social ties found in Protestant religions lead to weaker social cohesion and reduced social solidarity.
The higher suicide rates were the result of weakening social bonds among Protestants. While Durkheim's findings have since been criticized, his study is a classic example of the use of theory to explain the relationship between two concepts. Durkheim's work also illustrates the importance of theory: without theories to explain the relationship between concepts, we would not be able to hypothesize cause and effect relationships in social life or outline processes whereby social events and patterns occur.
As noted above, there are many theories in sociology. However, there are several broad theoretical perspectives that are prominent in the field they are arguably paradigms. These theories are prominent because they are quite good at explaining social life. They are not without their problems, but these theories remain widely used and cited precisely because they have withstood a great deal of criticism. As the dominant theories in sociology are discussed below, you might be inclined to ask, "Which of these theories is the best?
In fact, it is probably more useful and informative to view these theories as complementary. One theory may explain one element of society better than another. Or, both may be useful for explaining social life. In short, all of the theories are correct in the sense that they offer compelling explanations for social phenomena. Structural-Functionalism is a sociological theory that originally attempted to explain social institutions as collective means to meet individual biological needs originally just functionalism.
Later it came to focus on the ways social institutions meet social needs structural-functionalism. Structural-functionalism draws its inspiration primarily from the ideas of Emile Durkheim. He sought to explain social cohesion and stability through the concept of solidarity. In more "primitive" societies it was mechanical solidarity , everyone performing similar tasks, that held society together.
Durkheim proposed that such societies tend to be segmentary, being composed of equivalent parts that are held together by shared values, common symbols, or systems of exchanges. In modern, complex societies members perform very different tasks, resulting in a strong interdependence between individuals. Based on the metaphor of an organism in which many parts function together to sustain the whole, Durkheim argued that modern complex societies are held together by organic solidarity think interdependent organs. The central concern of structural-functionalism is a continuation of the Durkheimian task of explaining the apparent stability and internal cohesion of societies that are necessary to ensure their continued existence over time.
Many functionalists argue that social institutions are functionally integrated to form a stable system and that a change in one institution will precipitate a change in other institutions. Societies are seen as coherent, bounded and fundamentally relational constructs that function like organisms, with their various parts social institutions working together to maintain and reproduce them.
The various parts of society are assumed to work in an unconscious, quasi-automatic fashion towards the maintenance of the overall social equilibrium. All social and cultural phenomena are therefore seen as being functional in the sense of working together to achieve this state and are effectively deemed to have a life of their own. These components are then primarily analysed in terms of the function they play. In other words, to understand a component of society, one can ask the question, "What is the function of this institution? Thus, one can ask of education, "What is the function of education for society?
Durkheim's strongly sociological perspective of society was continued by Radcliffe-Brown.
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Explanations of social phenomena therefore had to be constructed within this social level, with individuals merely being transient occupants of comparatively stable social roles. Thus, in structural-functionalist thought, individuals are not significant in and of themselves but only in terms of their social status : their position in patterns of social relations. The social structure is therefore a network of statuses connected by associated roles. Structural-functionalism has been criticized for being unable to account for social change because it focuses so intently on social order and equilibrium in society.
For instance, in the late 19th Century, higher education transitioned from a training center for clergy and the elite to a center for the conduct of science and the general education of the masses. As structural-functionalism thinks about elements of social life in relation to their present function and not their past functions, structural-functionalism has a difficult time explaining why a function of some element of society might change or how such change occurs.
However, structural-functionalism could, in fact, offer an explanation in this case. Also occurring in the 19th Century though begun in the 18th was the industrial revolution. The industrial revolution, facilitated by capitalism, was increasingly demanding technological advances to increase profit. Technological advances and advanced industry both required more educated workforces.
Thus, as one aspect of society changed - the economy and production - it required a comparable change in the educational system, bringing social life back into equilibrium. Another philosophical problem with the structural-functional approach is the ontological argument that society does not have needs as a human being does; and even if society does have needs they need not be met.
The idea that society has needs like humans do is not a tenable position because society is only alive in the sense that it is made up of living individuals. What's more, just because a society has some element in it at the present that does not mean that it must necessarily have that element. For instance, in the United Kingdom, religious service attendance has declined precipitously over the last years.
Today, less than 1 in 10 British attend religious service in a given week. Another criticism often leveled at structural-functionalist theory is that it supports the status quo. According to some opponents, structural-functionalism paints conflict and challenge to the status quo as harmful to society, and therefore tends to be the prominent view among conservative thinkers.
Robert K. Merton proposed a distinction between manifest and latent functions. Latent functions are the unintended functions of a phenomenon in a social system. An example of manifest and latent functions is education. The manifest purpose of public education is to increase the knowledge and abilities of the citizenry to prepare them to contribute in the workforce. A latent function of the public education system is the development of a hierarchy of the learned. The most learned are often also the most affluent. Thus, while education's manifest function is to empower all individuals to contribute to the workforce and society, it also limits some people by creating boundaries of entry into occupations.
A prominent sociological theory that is often contrasted with structural-functionalism is conflict theory. Karl Marx is considered the father of conflict theory. Conflict theory argues that society is not best understood as a complex system striving for equilibrium but rather as a competition. Society is made up of individuals competing for limited resources e.
Broader social structures and organizations e. Conflict theory was developed in part to illustrate the limitations of structural-functionalism. The structural-functionalist approach argued that society tends toward equilibrium, focusing on stability at the expense of social change.
This is contrasted with the conflict approach, which argues that society is constantly in conflict over resources. One of the primary contributions conflict theory presents over the structural-functional approach is that it is ideally suited for explaining social change, a significant problem in the structural-functional approach. A heuristic device to help you think about society from a conflict perspective is to ask, "Who benefits from this element of society?
Because higher education in the U. Thus, the educational system often screens out poorer individuals not because they are unable to compete academically but because they cannot afford to pay for their education. Because the poor are unable to obtain higher education, this means they are also generally unable to get higher paying jobs which means they remain poor. This can easily translate into a vicious cycle of poverty.
Thus, while the function of education is to educate the workforce, it also has built into it an element of conflict and inequality, favoring one group the wealthy over other groups the poor. Thinking about education this way helps illustrate why both structural-functionalist and conflict theories are helpful in understanding how society works. Not surprisingly, the primary limitation of the social-conflict perspective is that it overlooks the stability of societies.
While societies are in a constant state of change, much of the change is minor. Many of the broader elements of societies remain remarkably stable over time, indicating the structural-functional perspective has a great deal of merit. As noted above, sociological theory is often complementary. This is particularly true of structural-functionalism and social-conflict theories. Structural-functionalism focuses on equilibrium and solidarity; conflict-theory focuses on change and conflict.
Keep in mind that neither is better than the other; when combined, the two approaches offer a broader and more comprehensive view of society. In contrast to the rather broad approach toward society of structural-functionalism and conflict theory, Symbolic Interactionism is a theoretical approach to understanding the relationship between humans and society. The basic notion of symbolic interactionism is that human action and interaction are understandable only through the exchange of meaningful communication or symbols. In this approach, humans are portrayed as acting as opposed to being acted upon.
The main principles of symbolic interactionism are: . This approach stands in contrast to the strict behaviorism of psychological theories prevalent at the time it was first formulated in the s and s. According to Symbolic Interactionism, humans are distinct from infrahumans lower animals because infrahumans simply respond to their environment i.
Additionally, infrahumans are unable to conceive of alternative responses to gestures. Humans, however, can. This perspective is also rooted in phenomenological thought see social constructionism and phenomenology. According to symbolic interactionism, the objective world has no reality for humans, only subjectively-defined objects have meaning. Meanings are not entities that are bestowed on humans and learned by habituation. Instead, meanings can be altered through the creative capabilities of humans, and individuals may influence the many meanings that form their society.
Neurological evidence based on EEGs supports the idea that humans have a "social brain," that is, there are components of the human brain that govern social interaction. A good example of this is when people try on clothes before going out with friends. Some people may not think much about how others will think about their clothing choices, but others can spend quite a bit of time considering what they are going to wear.
And while they are deciding, the dialogue that is taking place inside their mind is usually a dialogue between their "self" that portion of their identity that calls itself "I" and that person's internalized understanding of their friends and society a " generalized other " called the "me". Such an individual has incorporated the "social" into the "self" and will thus experience the world through an ongoing internal communication process that seeks to determine "if I do this, what will be thought of me.
It should also be noted that symbolic interactionists advocate a particular methodology. Because they see meaning as the fundamental component of human and society interaction, studying human and society interaction requires getting at that meaning. Thus, symbolic interaction tends to take two distinct, but related methodological paths.
Processual Symbolic Interaction seeks to uncover the elaboration and experience of meanings in natural settings of social interaction through primarily qualitative methods e. Symbolic Interaction arose through the integration of Structural Functionalism and Conflict Theories.
Specifically, Symbolic Interaction seeks to uncover the ways "meanings" are deployed within interactions and embedded within larger social structures to facilitate social cohesion Structural Functionalism and social change Conflict Theories. To use the case above, Symbolic Interaction may be used to explain the distinction between Conflict and Structural Functionalist approaches to education. If people act toward education based on the meaning they have for it, for example, then people that believe or are taught to believe that education serves an important function for all of society e. On the other hand, if people believe or are taught to believe that education transmits social inequalities from generation to generation e.
In either case, societies and the people that form them will move towards cohesion Structural Functionalism or conflict Conflict Theory concerning educational structures based upon the meanings these people have for the current educational structure. Central to Symbolic Interaction is the notion that selves and societies exist in an ongoing reciprocal relationship wherein each acts back upon the other. Stated another way, Symbolic Interactionism argues that people become selves by learning and internalizing the symbolic materials of the social and historical context and culture they are born into and raised within e.
As a result, Symbolic Interactionists argue against the division of society into micro, meso, and macro forms, and instead focus on the ways that interconnected people continuously construct, alter, signify, and affirm themselves and others in ways that create, sustain, and change existing social structures. They thus argue that society is always an ongoing information exchange between individuals, groups, and social structures that each depend on the other for their meaning and by extension their existence and survival.
The most significant limitations of symbolic interactionism relate to its primary contribution: it focuses on the ongoing construction and contestation of meanings in society e. As a result, Symbolic Interactionism typically focuses on "how" things are done e. As a result, Symbolic Interaction is more adequately suited to explaining how the world is, but is unable to demonstrate and document predictions about how the world might differ, if circumstances were hypothetically altered. Another more micro-oriented approach to understanding social life that also incorporates the more structural elements of society is Role Theory.
Role theory posits that human behavior is guided by expectations held both by the individual and by other people. The expectations correspond to different roles individuals perform or enact in their daily lives, such as secretary, father, or friend. For instance, most people hold pre-conceived notions of the role expectations of a secretary, which might include: answering phones, making and managing appointments, filing paperwork, and typing memos.
These role expectations would not be expected of a professional soccer player. Individuals generally have and manage many roles. Roles consist of a set of rules or norms that function as plans or blueprints to guide behavior. Roles specify what goals should be pursued, what tasks must be accomplished, and what performances are required in a given scenario or situation.
Role theory holds that a substantial proportion of observable, day-to-day social behavior is simply persons carrying out their roles, much as actors carry out their roles on the stage or ballplayers theirs on the field. Role theory is, in fact, predictive. It implies that if we have information about the role expectations for a specified status e. What's more, role theory also argues that in order to change behavior it is necessary to change roles; roles correspond to behaviors and vice versa.
In addition to heavily influencing behavior, roles influence beliefs and attitudes; individuals will change their beliefs and attitudes to correspond with their roles. Many role theorists see Role Theory as one of the most compelling theories bridging individual behavior and social structure.
Roles, which are in part dictated by social structure and in part by social interactions, guide the behavior of the individual. The individual, in turn, influences the norms, expectations, and behaviors associated with roles. The understanding is reciprocal.
Role theory has a hard time explaining social deviance when it does not correspond to a pre-specified role. For instance, the behavior of someone who adopts the role of bank robber can be predicted - she will rob banks. But if a bank teller simply begins handing out cash to random people, role theory would be unable to explain why though role conflict could be one possible answer; the secretary may also be a Marxist-Communist who believes the means of production should belong to the masses and not the bourgeoisie.
Another limitation of role theory is that it does not and cannot explain how role expectations came to be what they are. Role theory has no explanation for why it is expected of male soldiers to cut their hair short, but it could predict with a high degree of accuracy that if someone is a male soldier they will have short hair. Additionally, role theory does not explain when and how role expectations change.
As a result, role theorists typically draw upon insights from Symbolic Interaction Theory and Historical Comparative analyses to address these questions. An extension of role theory , impression management is both a theory and process. The theory argues that people are constantly engaged in controlling how others perceive them.
The process refers to the goal-directed conscious or unconscious effort to influence the perceptions of other people by regulating and controlling information in social interaction. If a person tries to influence the perception of her or his own image, this activity is called self-presentation. Erving Goffman , the person most often credited with formally developing impression management theory, cast the idea in a dramaturgical framework.
Aware of how they are being perceived by their audience, actors manage their behavior so as to create specific impressions in the minds of the audience. Strategic interpersonal behavior to shape or influence impressions formed by an audience is not a new idea. Plato spoke of the "great stage of human life" and Shakespeare noted that "All the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players". Social constructionism is a school of thought introduced into sociology by Peter L. Social constructionism focuses on the description of institutions and actions and not on analyzing cause and effect.
Socially constructed reality is seen as an on-going dynamic process; reality is re-produced by people acting on their interpretations of what they perceive to be the world external to them. Berger and Luckmann argue that social construction describes both subjective and objective reality - that is that no reality exists outside what is produced and reproduced in social interactions.
Religion is seen as a socially constructed concept, the basis for which is rooted in either our psyche Freud or man's need to see some purpose in life or worship a higher presence. One of the key theorists of social constructionism, Peter Berger, explored this concept extensively in his book, The Sacred Canopy. Social constructionism is often seen as a source of the postmodern movement, and has been influential in the field of cultural studies.
Following the establishment of women's academic conferences and coordinated protests of the American Sociological Association's annual meetings during the 's, women made significant inroads into Sociology. For example, women such as Dorothy E. Smith , Joan Acker , Myra Marx Ferree , Patricia Yancey Martin , and bell hooks were all pioneers in Sociology who developed insights and empirical findings that challenged much of existing sociological practice, knowledge, and methods. These early scholars also founded women's academic organizations like Sociologists for Women in Society to lobby for the admittance and inclusion of minority people and perspectives within scientific disciplines.
The theoretical perspectives these and subsequent scholars developed is broadly referred to as Feminist Theory. The name derives from the ties many of these individuals had and continue to have with women's movement organizations, the promotion of minority perspectives, their experience in relation to the subjective nature of scientific practice, and commitment to principles of social justice.
Feminist Theory uncovered a vast "herstory" of women's and other minority academic thinking, writing, and activism, and integrated insights from these essays and studies into the scientific enterprise. In so doing, these scholars uncovered many ways that Feminist theorists from as far back as the 's had already introduced insights - such as Social Constructionism , Intersectionality , and the subjective nature and critical possibilities of scientific work - that have become crucial to scientific research and theorizing across disciplines.
Further, historical research into the history of Feminist Thought has uncovered a litany of social theorists - including but not limited to early abolitionists and women's rights proponents like Maria W. Cooper , Harriet Tubman , and one of the first African American women to earn a college degree, Mary Church Terrell ; early black feminist writers promoting gender and sexual equality like Zora Neale Hurston , Langston Hughes , and Richard Bruce Nugent ; early 20th Century writers and activists that sought racial civil rights, women's suffrage, and prison reform like Ida B.
Feminist scholars across disciplines have continuously sought to expand scientific "facts" beyond their initial and often continuing white, male, heterosexual biases and assumptions while seeking knowledge as an entryway into a more just social world. Similar to the other theories outlined in this chapter, Feminist Theory is far more expansive than can adequately be explored within one textbook, let alone within a single chapter in a textbook.
Feminist theorists and methods, for example, can be found in wide ranging fields beyond sociology including biology, genetics, chemistry, literature, history, political science, fine arts, religious studies, psychology, anthropology, and public health. Feminist Theory often dramatically influences scientific theory and practice within such fields. Below we offer summaries of the major conceptual approaches within Feminist Theory. It is important to note, however, that while we outline these perspectives under distinct headings and within specific orders for the purposes of clarity and introduction, contemporary Feminist theorists and researchers across disciplines often draw upon more than one of these perspectives in practice and continually seek ways to refine and integrate each of these approaches.
Before presenting this outline, however, it is important to be aware of three basic premises or foundational ideas within and between contemporary Feminist Theories. With these foundational ideas in mind, we now present the primary Feminist theoretical perspectives. They believe that economic inequalities are the most central form of inequality. Therefore, eliminating capitalism would get rid of gender inequalities.
Therefore, to bring about gender equality, we must work to eliminate both capitalism and patriarchy in all social and natural fields of knowledge and experience. Radical feminists believe that women are oppressed by our patriarchal society. They do not believe that men are oppressed. They seek a fundamental reorganization of society because our existing political, scientific, religious, and social organization is inherently patriarchal. Separatist feminists, like radical feminists, believe that women are oppressed by our patriarchal society.
In order to achieve equality, women need to separate themselves from men. Some believe this is a temporary stage while others see this as a permanent goal. Cultural feminists, like radical feminists, believe that women are oppressed by our patriarchal society. Black feminists believe that many inequalities are important in society today, not only gender.
In addition to gender inequalities, they focus on race, ethnicity, and class — and sometimes also add sexuality, nationality, age, disability, and others. They believe that people experience gender differently depending on their location in socially constructed cultural, political, and biological structures of race, ethnicity and class. Therefore, there is no universal female experience. This perspective is sometimes referred to as multicultural feminism, multiracial feminism, or womanism. Queer feminists - sometimes referred to as Postmodern Feminists - believe that gender and sex as well as other social locations and systems of social and natural organization and categorization are multiple, constantly changing, and performed by individuals and groups within situated social, historical, scientific, and political contexts.
There are many i. They focus on creating social change through challenging the existence and blurring the boundaries of these categories. This perspective shares many ideas with Queer Theory. Recently, some sociologists have been taking a different approach to sociological theory by employing an integrationist approach - combining micro- and macro-level theories to provide a comprehensive understanding of human social behavior while these studies rarely cite Symbolic Interaction Theory, most of their models are based heavily upon Herbert Blumer 's initial elaboration of Symbolic Interaction in relation to social institutions  .
Numerous models could be presented in this vein. George Ritzer's  Integration Model is a good example. Ritzer proposes four highly interdependent elements in his sociological model: a macro-objective component e. This model is of particular use in understanding society because it uses two axes: one ranging from objective society to subjective culture and cultural interpretation ; the other ranging from the macro-level norms to the micro-level individual level beliefs. The integration approach is particularly useful for explaining social phenomenon because it shows how the different components of social life work together to influence society and behavior.
If used for understanding a specific cultural phenomenon, like the displaying of abstract art in one's home,  the integration model depicts the different influences on the decision. For instance, the model depicts that cultural norms can influence individual behavior. The model also shows that individual level values, beliefs, and behaviors influence macro-level culture.
This is, in fact, part of what David Halle finds: while there are art consumption differences based on class, they are not predicted solely by class. Displayers of abstract art tend not only to belong to the upper-class, but also are employed in art-production occupations. This would indicate that there are multiple levels of influence involved in art tastes — both broad cultural norms and smaller level occupational norms in addition to personal preferences. Durkheim, Emile. Suicide: A Study in Sociology. Edited with an introduction by George Simpson. Translated by John A.
New York: The Free Press. ISBN: From a critical perspective, sexuality is another area in which power differentials are present and where dominant groups actively work to promote their worldview as well as their economic interests. Homosexuality was criminalized in Canada in It was not until that the Criminal Code was amended to relax the laws against homosexuality. It was not until that same-sex couples were given the right to marry. Critical sociology asks why homosexuality, and other types of sexuality, have been the subject of persecution by the dominant sexual majority. Sexuality is caught up in the relationship between knowledge and power.
Abnormal sexuality was associated with mental disease, threats to institutional stability, and biological pathologies within the reproduction of the species. As a public concern, sexuality became a danger to be controlled, surveilled, corrected, and in the worst cases, institutionalized. The norms defined by social custom, moral tradition, and scientific knowledge determine the degree of ease in which we can live within our own bodies and assume gender and sexual identities.
As we noted above, having a gender or sexual identity is only experienced as normal or natural to the degree that one fits within the dominant gender schema — the ideological framework that states that there are only two possible sexes, male and female, and two possible genders, masculine and feminine. The dominant gender schema therefore provides the basis for the ways inequalities in power and status are distributed according to the degree that individuals conform to its narrow categories.
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Interactionists focus on the meanings associated with sexuality and with sexual orientation. Since femininity is devalued in North American society, those who adopt such traits are subject to ridicule; this is especially true for boys or men. Just as masculinity is the symbolic norm, so too has heterosexuality come to signify normalcy. For the homosexual, these transitions are fraught with difficulty. To what degree does the same process apply to heterosexuals? Although the idea of coming out as a heterosexual, or as a masculine man or a feminine woman, might seem absurd, this absurdity is grounded in the norms of heteronormative society that are so deeply entrenched as to make them appear natural.
Interactionists are also interested in how discussions of homosexuals often focus almost exclusively on the sex lives of gays and lesbians; homosexuals, especially men, may be assumed to be hypersexual and, in some cases, deviant. Interactionism might also focus on the slurs used to describe homosexuals. This subsequently affects how homosexuals perceive themselves. Constant exposure to derogatory labels, jokes, and pervasive homophobia would lead to a negative self-image, or worse, self-hate.
The CDC reports that homosexual youths who experience high levels of social rejection are six times more likely to have high levels of depression and eight times more likely to have attempted suicide CDC, Queer theory is a perspective that problematizes the manner in which we have been taught to think about sexual orientation.
Queer theorists reject the dominant gender schema and the dichotomization of sexual orientations into two mutually exclusive outcomes, homosexual or heterosexual. Rather, the perspective highlights the need for a more flexible and fluid conceptualization of sexuality — one that allows for change, negotiation, and freedom. This mirrors other oppressive schemas in our culture, especially those surrounding gender and race Black versus White, male versus female. In the end, queer theory strives to question the ways society perceives and experiences sex, gender, and sexuality, opening the door to new scholarly understanding.
Throughout this chapter, we have examined the complexities of gender, sex, and sexuality. Differentiating between sex, gender, and sexual orientation is an important first step to a deeper understanding and critical analysis of these issues. Understanding the sociology of sex, gender, and sexuality will help to build awareness of the inequalities experienced by subordinate groups such as women, homosexuals, and transgendered individuals.
Sex denotes biological characteristics differentiating males and females, while gender denotes social and cultural characteristics of masculine and feminine behaviour. Sex and gender are not always synchronous. Individuals who strongly identify with the opposing gender are considered transgendered.
Gender Children become aware of gender roles in their earliest years. They come to understand and perform these roles through socialization, which occurs through four major agents: family, education, peer groups, and mass media. Socialization into narrowly prescribed gender roles results in the stratification of males and females.
Each sociological perspective offers a valuable view for understanding how and why gender inequality occurs in our society. Sex and Sexuality When studying sex and sexuality, sociologists focus their attention on sexual attitudes and practices, not on physiology or anatomy. Norms regarding gender and sexuality vary across cultures. In general, Canada tends to be less conservative than the United States in its sexual attitudes. As a result, homosexuals still continue to face opposition and discrimination in most major social institutions, but discrimination based on sexual orientation is legally prohibited in the Canadian constitution.
Gays and lesbians are able to get married in Canada, and school boards across the country have instituted anti-bullying policies to prevent the targeting of LGBT students. The Difference between Sex, Gender, and Sexuality 1. Gender 6. Which of the following is the best example of a gender stereotype? Which of the following is the best example of the role peers play as an agent of socialization for school-aged children? Sex and Sexuality What Western country is thought to be the most liberal in its attitudes toward sex?
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