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SOCI 1001
Charles Gibney

Lecture 6 Self Identity (1) The individual is responsible for making their own choices and creating their own identity (2) Reinterpretation of the past is crucial to this building and re-building of our self-identity (3) The process of building an identity is continuous and pervasive – a kind of obsession (4) Autobiographies are a modern invention (5) Building a self-identity implies asserting control over one’s life course. As much as possible, modern people seek to control time. We strive to plan for, and impose, order on the future (6) The construction of self-identity is extended to the physical body (7) Construction of self-identity involves letting go of the past and overcoming “unproductive” emotional states (8) Morality today is about “authenticity” (9) Life is seen as a series of passages, which can be drawn into our autobiography. We construct a story or a narrative of how we came to be who we are. (10) The construction of self-identity is ultimately self-referential Paul Gilroy: “identity is not about returning to your roots. Instead, it is about coming to terms with your routes” Eastern Religion v. Modern Cult of the Body - Eastern religions use meditation, exercise, and fasting to silence or transcend the “ego” (e.g. fasting) - In modern, capitalist societies today exercise and diet are used to construct a unique the self, to interrogate the self, and to build a unique self-identity – the reverse of transcending the self Lecture 7 3 Challenges to Construction of Self-Identity 1) “Post-traditional” social order. Culture and tradition replaced with science and expertise. People hit with constant barrage of new research findings concerning diet, health and exercise. Findings are tentative. And we lack expertise to evaluate them. Leads to reliance on dieting and exercise cults, fads... 2) There is also a pluralism or fragmentation of life-worlds. Our status sets – work, family life, friends, school, recreation and leisure – are not well integrated. As a result, our self-identity tends to be fractured and divided. We will define ourselves and behave in different ways in different situations 3) Experience is increasingly “Mediated.” We must build our self-identity through increasingly mediated experiences (i.e. television, the internet). Lifestyle images are de-contextualized and human interaction transcends physical space Narcissism: - Personality disorder which can be defined as a persistent pattern of self-aggrandisement or grandiosity, a need for admiration, and exaggerated sense of one’s own importance - Sociologists view that contemporary culture of Narcissism encourages and nourishes narcissistic tendencies in people - Consumer capitalism and advertisement also promotes narcissism “Common Sense” v. Sociological Definitions of Gender - Gender is cultural and sex is biological - Gender is what you do - Gender is more important to sociological analyses - Gender is about the “performance” of masculinity and femininity in a given culture - Biological sex explains very little about what people actually do or why they do what they do - Masculinity is now more about appearances, fashion, grooming and less about core status set (husband, breadwinner, father) - Men today have to maintain balancing act between “tough guise” and sensitive/empathetic and nurturing core in their performance of masculinity - Our performances of gender are always subject to evaluation and judgement based on cultural standards and norms - Because men and women are not equal in our society, the enforcement of gender norms tend to systematically favour men and discriminate against women Performance of Femininity Rule 1: Appearances are paramount Paradox: Standard against which appearances are judged “feminine” are quite literally impossible for real, actually existing women to achieve – failure inevitable Rule 2: performance of femininity requires wielding sexuality and sex appeal instrumentally, key source of social power for young women Paradox: power of sexuality is largely reserved for young women Barbara Ehrenreich: Femininity and maturity are inherently incompatible in our society Rule 3: North American society is unique in its requirement that women balance sex appeal and innocence in their performance of femininity. Result: over-sexualization of young women Paradox: Women are taught and expected to use their sexuality instrumentally, while at the same time understanding that they will be shunned for exceeding the boundaries of respectability Internet: “aesthetic or pornography” and its degradation of women now ubiquitous Consequences: Epidemic of violence against women by men in our society “Gender Ideologies” Definition: narrowly defined and culturally dominant expectations of how men and women should and must perform their gender – today mass media important source Problem: the “gender ideologies” which shape men and women’s performances of masculinity and femininity are limiting but also in ways which are harmful and can lead directly to the infliction of harm For example, masculine ideology: Empathy, caring, nurturing, discipline, intelligence, obedience and the tools necessary for successful relationships are considered “feminine” Result: young men are consistently out-performed by women at school, men have trouble maintaining adult relationships, and prison populations are disproportionately male Romance - Romance is pervasive - We are also ambivalent or of two minds about it - Relationships should and must be built on foundation of romantic love - Relationships should not be rational economic or strategic arrangements - Relationships should be voluntary - Love is a choice; it has to be authentic; soul searching; but you are also supposed to be swept away by emotions and feeling when find “true” love - In our society, romantic love is still sexual love, but sexual love is not necessarily romantic - We are also deeply suspicious of romance and the romantic - We compartmentalize romance and keep it in its place - We use romance pejoratively to refer to people who are unrealistic, idealistic, or driven by emotions and feelings when not appropriate - We use romantic pejoratively to say women are irrational, emotional - Code is the dominant ideology about femininity or how women are supposed to behave - These values and norms pervasive in our culture - Young women actively decode the messages that have been encoded – Young women are decoding wider cultural norms and dominant ideology of how they should act, think, and feel about themselves Decoding Romance 1) Hero: Male protagonist. Invariably handsome, in classic 1960s Hollywood way. He knows how to treat a woman, he buys flowers, little gifts, writes love letters and poems, he arranges candlelit meals to be enjoyed on moonlit terraces; he moves slowly and confidently; nothing hasty or overtly physical. Message: teaches dominant ideology of masculinity: balances rebelliousness and rugged individualism with conformity and material success 2) Female Lead: Blonde, quiet, passive, trusting, timid, loving, caring, nurturing girl who either is rewarded for her morality and gets the boy in the end or winds up tragically abandoned. Message: it is through imagining themselves as the female lead that young women internalize dominant gender ideology of femininity 3) The “Bitch”: She plots and connives to get the male lead. She is charming and irresistible to men, but other women see through her. They see through her and the way in which her ploys don’t represent her true or authentic feelings. She is wild and fun-loving, almost invariably brunette and almost invariably she meets a terrible fate. Cautionary tale about being too aggressive and assertive 4) The “Non-factor”: She is friendly, out-going, fun-loving, and usually absent-minded. She is remarkably for being unremarkable in almost every way. She serves as the loyal companion to the female lead, and a cautionary tale about what men apparently do not want - message: appearance are paramount; must balance sex appeal w/ innocence 5) Displacement of Sexuality: Relationships are about romance and its social and economic implications: relationships are about getting stuff, being flattered with attention, impressing friends with handsome arm-candy 6) Serial Monogamy: the plot line is strict and narrow, advances from platonic friendship, accident or chance reveals it to be love, romance blossoms naturally, engagement, wedding, and the story ends...The plot is predicated on a pre-determined future. It sets young women out to believe that their fate is as wives and mothers. 7) Individualism: the towns, cities, places, etc., in which romances are set are often devoid of people, community or well-developed characters beyond the four discussed above. There is no society. Emptiness symbolizes the boredom of everyday life - only romance (and a man) can provide escape 8) World of Emotions: emotions are paramount; feelings are what matter; what matters most is how you feel. Girls are taught that their life is to be defined by a series often stressful emotions: jealousy, possessiveness, devotion, fear 9) Tale of Redemption: there is always something wrong with the female lead. She is too shy, too scatter-brained, too whatever – usually unsubtle tale of normalizing and fitting into dominant expectations of your gender. *Most Important* Lecture 8 Racism - Racism is a set of beliefs about the alleged inferiority of individuals who are socially defined as members of a certain group (i.e. a “race”) and this racial group is distinguished by its physical characteristics - Racism is largely exercised through culture and social institutions - Racism is “systemic” or “cultural” - Strongest evidence of racism found in the structure of economic inequality – enduring links between race and inequality - Race is cultural & “socially defined” - Common sense tells us that race is biological, innate, natural, and genetic - Scientists know that there is no biological or genetic basis for racial categories - Race is a cultural concept, not a scientific one - The “scientific” racism with which we are familiar was invented in the 19 century in order to justify social inequality and to make slavery appear natural and “by design” - Circularity: evidence of racism is found in structure of inequality, and racism is used to naturalize and perpetuate this very same structure of inequality - For this reason, racism is both durable and hard to grasp - Slavery became illegal in Canada in 1833 - Scientific Racism: Dr. Samuel George Morton (1799-1851) is the founder but his theories are false - Assumptions: People with most wealth and power are the most intelligent - Racism in Canada tends to come in two forms: Systemic/Institutional Racism and Cultural Racism - Systemic or institutional racism is perpetrated by people who work in large institutions or bureaucratic structures. - Cultural racism permeates everyday life and tends to promote racist behaviour or behaviour that reinforces racial inequality - John Porter’s The Vertical Mosaic (1965): A) Vertical - Canada is a class society: there is far less social mobility in Canada than we imagine; and there is an entrenched and small ruling elite and the majority of Canadian citizens. So, Canada was a class society B) Mosaic: Canada’s class-system is ethnically based - Cultural racism reinforces material inequality W.E.B. Du Bois: “Double-Consciousness” - Du Bois argued that the social experience of segregation led African-American people to have a divided understanding of their own self - African-American people’s identity was fractured into “American’ and African on the other - Du Bois argued that black people in America were treated as the problem, rather than individual people with particular problems - He argued that this was because African-Americans are treated not as individual people but as representatives of an abstract racial category - Du Bois argued that when interacting with white America, black people cover the parts of their identity, which are associated with African culture with a kind of a veil - The experience of segregation and oppression leads African-American people to understand the African side of their identity as problem, which needs to be suppressed in order to climb the social hierarchy W.E.B. Du Bois: “Whiteness” - “Whiteness” is less a race than it is the image of the dominant social group which emerges as they racialize subjugated groups - Whiteness emerges only through the racialization of others - Whiteness is entirely dependent on the existence of non-whiteness (e.g. indigenousness, Aboriginality, or blackness - With scientific racism, the dominant majority discover their “whiteness” - Whiteness is often defined as the absence of race or ethnicity because of its dominant position - White people see themselves as unique snowflakes, not members of an abstract racial category - The customs, values and beliefs of the dominant majority is translated into a culture of “whiteness” - White Aesthetic: aesthetic is framework for appraising beauty; Du Bois: physical attributes associated with whiteness become associated with beauty. Whiteness becomes the norm - Du Bois: African-American men and women are forced to manage an impression of whiteness and to suppress or cover with a veil the aspects of their self which were seen as “problematic” or “different” from the norms of the dominant culture - He influenced Iain Chambers - Similar to “Conquest of Cool” argument: the music of African-American subcultures remains “under-exploited,” dynamic source of “cool,” source of “rebellion,” periodically mined by the music industry, which it changes to suit the aesthetic of “whiteness” (and often white musicians) to exploit the music and sell it to the mainstream - in the process music loses its authenticity as expression of cultural, economic and political circumstances The Souls of Black Folk (1903) History: traces the history of American music back to Africa, through the history of slavery, and the period known as the Reconstruction - This history of economic segregation and political oppression gives Black music its cultural autonomy and makes it a key vehicle for the expression of political ideas and political struggle - Philosophy: American pragmatism (which is the source of “symbolic interactionism”): How does experience shape one’s understanding of the self? Double-Consciousness: the experience of segregation has been internalized in their dual identity Political Argument: African-American culture needs to be nurtured and preserved in order to allow black communities to flourish in the wider culture of capitalism, political oppression, legal segregation - Rock N
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