[Answers in Sociology] Chapter 7: Stratification

As part of my BSN program I’m taking a Sociology course. Each week we have to answer questions from each chapter and post them to our online discussion board. I’m reposting some of my answers here if I find them to be insightful or conducive to conversation. Our textbook is You May Ask Yourself: An Introduction to Thinking Like a Sociologist, by Dalton Conley.


CHAPTER 7: Stratification

Describe how important your social class has been in determining the outcomes and your life chances. (Provide two or three examples).

For about 98% of my life I have been firmly middle class, with that 2% being simply a +/- margin of error. I’m the eldest child of a single mother of three, and although there were a few times when my mom had to seriously hustle to get her family ahead after a sudden setback, we were fine; not rich, not poor, but not lacking. I don’t think social class impacted my life chances and outcomes as much as my mom’s work ethic and example did. Mom worked hard all her life, finished university while all three of us were in grade school, helped others to a fault, and always tried her best to have a positive attitude. Are those middle class traits? Maybe, maybe not. To me it’s more important that they were her traits. About the only thing I can surely say is an outcome brought about by my social class is the fact that I attended college, that it was drilled into me that college was the way to a well-paying job and stability. And because of being middle class, I qualified for Federal grant assistance (which I basically squandered, but that’s a different topic). Years later, though I now have a much better-paying job than my mom ever did (she was a teacher), I remain part of the middle class, but I don’t let that define me. It simply is what it is, but nothing more than that.

Then describe if and how multiple statuses such as your race, gender, geographic location you were born, etc. intersected in shaping the outcomes?

Geographic location, specifically being in a large urban metro area, is the one status that I think helped most, as it meant I had the best access to all the amenities of modern life, including the public schools I went to, the public university I attended, entertainment, etc. It also helped me in that, by virtue of being middle class, we could afford not to live in government housing projects, which meant I wasn’t exposed to crime and gangs and drugs. Race? We were all Puerto Ricans, whether white or black or mixed, so meh, don’t think so. Gender? Maybe being male helped, but that’s me looking back with today’s oversensibility about gender and privilege coloring things, not something that was obvious in any way. I don’t feel I was a victim of my social class at any point in my life.

REFERENCES

Conley, D. (2011). You may ask yourself: An introduction to thinking like a sociologist (2nd ed.). New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

[Answers in Sociology] Chapter 4: Socialization and the Construction of Reality

As part of my BSN program I’m taking a Sociology course. Each week we have to answer questions from each chapter and post them to our online discussion board. I’m reposting some of my answers here if I find them to be insightful or conducive to conversation. Our textbook is You May Ask Yourself: An Introduction to Thinking Like a Sociologist, by Dalton Conley.


CHAPTER 4: Socialization and the Construction of Reality

Define what an ‘ascribed status’, an ‘achieved status’, and a ‘master status’ are.

An ascribed status is a status which you were born with, given to you without your choice because of who and where you come from. An achieved status is a status which you acquire, which you seek out and confer upon yourself by what you do. A master status is an existing status you have which overrides all other status, which basically defines who you are to a large number of people.

Describe some ascribed statuses, achieved statuses, and a master status from your life.

  • Ascribed statuses: Male, 40-year old, Hispanic, Puerto Rican, Caucasian-looking, fat.
  • Achieved statuses: Nurse, Jew, geek/nerd, funny, writer, traveler, patient, gamer, kind.
  • Master statuses: Nurse, Jew, geek/nerd.

How do these statuses make you feel?

I can’t say I ever thought about it, but in general, unless I agree with the status, they are irrelevant. I happen to agree, and voluntarily take on, some of these statuses, but I try to best to not let them dictate my life. I have no choice over my ascribe statuses, and how they help or hinder my life, and I sought and embraced each of my achieved statuses, so they’re important to me. As far as the master statuses, they are essential parts of me, and I’m proud of them.

Examine the positives and negatives of these statuses?

On the positive side, all these statuses combined make up a picture of who I am, and I happen to like who I am. Some of my statuses may make life easier due to the society I currently live in (male, Caucasian-looking), but then some other statuses cancel that benefit (fat, Hispanic, Jew). It’s a give and take, and it’s up to me to make the best of the situation I live through.

How did the example you gave become to be your master status?

Geek/nerd came about from my lifelong love of fantasy/sci-fi/superheroes/games/etc. I have a distinct social life that revolves around this status, and I wear it proudly. Jew comes from having converted to Judaism as an adult, something I worked hard for, struggle hard with, and am fiercely proud of. Nurse because of my job, a career I chose to enter also as an adult, a title I acquired after a lot of sacrifice, a title which I love.

Is the master status within your control to change, or is it a matter of others’ perceptions?

All three of my master statuses are achieved; I chose to pursue those statuses, and they were important enough for me that they became pivotal in how the world interacts with me and vice versa. I’m sure others could heap a master status upon me, but if I chose not to acknowledge it, if I chose to not let it affect my life, is it really a master status after all?

REFERENCES

Conley, D. (2011). You may ask yourself: An introduction to thinking like a sociologist (2nd ed.). New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

[Answers in Sociology] Chapter 3: Culture and Media

As part of my BSN program I’m taking a Sociology course. Each week we have to answer questions from each chapter and post them to our online discussion board. I’m reposting some of my answers here if I find them to be insightful or conducive to conversation. Our textbook is You May Ask Yourself: An Introduction to Thinking Like a Sociologist, by Dalton Conley.


CHAPTER 3: Culture and Media

In the last 20 years there have been major changes in the media: Facebook, blogs, and You Tube are just a few examples. How do you think these media have changed our culture – both material and non-material parts of our culture?

Even having lived through the changes, it’s sometimes hard to remember what the world was like before online mass media. I’m actually willing to say that online social media has been the biggest and most influential change in media in the last hundred years, which is saying a lot when that span also includes radio and television. From the oldest books to the latest tweet, mass media, or media—period, has made this huge planet small. Cultures separated by thousands of miles have affected each other due to media passing on their cultural messages onward. The wisdom, lessons, mistakes, entertainment, triumphs, follies, etc of cultures around the world have been exported via media like pollen in the wind, which has then mixed with other, recipient, cultures to create mixtures never known before. Non-materially, media has merged cultures by sharing values, struggles, recipes, literature; by creating awareness of what happens half a world away as if it was a local event. Materially, media has changed culture by the creation of the very gadgets used to transmit media, be it a radio, or a TV console, or a smartphone, artifacts created by companies worldwide, marketed across the globe, connecting people more and more each day.

Explain if you think various social media forms have made people more connected or less connected?

It’s a dichotomy, for social media has both connected and disconnected people. As an example of disconnection, Facebook has given everyone and their mother a platform to air their opinions as if they were truth handed down from the mountain, which is all well and fine if you (and I) can remember that they are opinions and can only affect if you let them. Sadly that’s not what happens most of the time. I am willing to bet money that everyone reading this has a story about someone in their timeline saying something utterly stupid as if it was fact (anti-vaccers, I’m looking your way), and there ensuing as a result an animated argument, which leads to hurt feelings and sometimes ostracism. I for one have a cousin that I actively have to avoid talking to too much lest we end up on the topic of vaccinations and she says something stupid that makes me lose my cool.

As an example of connection, however, the very same Facebook has allowed me to reconnect with family members I barely ever see any more due to distance (yes, even my cousin referenced above), and connect with friends I have made online, people that have become real and important parts of my live, yet live scattered around the world. Heck, social media helped create one of the most important social upheavals of history, the Arab Spring! As noted by Howard and Hussein (2011), “Digital media helped to turn individualized, localized, and community-specific dissent into structured movements with a collective consciousness about both shared grievances and opportunities for action.”

Can you identify some intended consequences of such social media on our lives?

San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) just wrapped up in San Diego, California. Although a gazillion fans of pop geek stuff were there, most of us were not. Instead we used social media to keep track of what was going on in SDCC. Exhibitors at the show know this, and they use social media to release glimpses of what’s going on at the show, both to entice people to perhaps make it in person in the future, and to whip fans into a frenzy and get them talking about their new projects, creating more buzz that they could create by themselves alone. Example: the new Star Wars movie crew showed a 3-minute behind-the-scenes video to a hall of about 6000 attendees. Before it could be pirated online, it was uploaded to various websites for fans to share, whipping the online Star Wars fandom into a frenzy that made Star Wars the most-talked about topic at SDCC and led popular webzine io9 to declare that Star Wars was “Basically, the ultimate winner of Comic Con. They just crushed it (Anders, 2015).”

What about unintended consequences?

To stick with the geek theme and to see the flip side of how to handle things, at the very same show, Warner Bros showed a trailer for their upcoming 2016 movie Suicide Squad, featuring a number of villains from the DC comics universe. It’s being hyped up directly by the studio (along with their other DC comics movie, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), so they wanted to use SDCC to create fan buzz. They showed the trailer, but unlike the example above, they did not upload it to social media at all. The trailer still got pirated online, recorded with a smartphone. Two days later, “Warner Bros. was […] “forced” to upload the trailer officially in hi-res glory, and it did it with its arms crossed and lips pouted [along with a ] super passive-aggressive note (Francisco, 2015).” (Full note from WB here.) The unintended consequences here wasn’t so much the release of the trailer, but the PR hit Warner Bros took as a result of not being proactive with their fandom, and then being all passive-aggressive when they finally did (do read the note, it is high-school-worthy passive-aggressiveness!).

Why do you think some countries limit or ban some of these media?

Quite simply, to control the thought process, to create hegemony. Communism has led the way in this during the modern era, banning books, jailing dissenting philosophers and activists, deciding what people are exposed to in order to control what they think and believe. China has had a most draconian control of internet access in the country via its government agencies, squashing and persecuting dissent found online. Forces in Egypt and Iran during the uprisings of the Arab Spring tried to control, or eliminate, access to social media in the country to disrupt the manifestations. Information is power, and social media allows info to travel across the world from person to person, and where one seed remains, a forest may yet grow.

REFERENCES

Adair, T. (2015). SDCC ’15: And the winner of Comic-Con is…. Retrieved from http://www.comicsbeat.com/sdcc-15-and-the-winner-of-comic-con-is/

Anders, C. (2015). The biggest winners and losers of Comic-Con 2015! Retrieved from http://io9.com/the-biggest-winners-and-losers-of-comic-con-2015-1717547126

Conley, D. (2011). You may ask yourself: An introduction to thinking like a sociologist (2nd ed.). New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

Francisco, E. (2015). Does Warner Bros. know how to use the internet? Retrieved from https://www.inverse.com/article/4525-does-warner-bros-know-how-to-use-the-internet

Howard, P., & Hussain, M. (2011). The role of digital media [Abstract]. Journal of Democracy, 22(3). doi:10.1353/jod.2011.0041

Ng, J. (2014). How Chinese internet censorship works, sometimes. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/17/china-internet-censorship_n_4981389.html

Warner Bros. (2015). Suicide Squad trailer. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/SuicideSquad/videos/1613593225587979/

[Answers in Sociology] Chapter 1: Sociological Imagination

As part of my BSN program I’m taking a Sociology course. Each week we have to answer questions from each chapter and post them to our online discussion board. I’m reposting some of my answers here if I find them to be insightful or conducive to conversation. Our textbook is You May Ask Yourself: An Introduction to Thinking Like a Sociologist, by Dalton Conley.


CHAPTER 1: Sociological Imagination: An Introduction

List out your ethnic background, sex and religion.

I am male, Puerto Rican, and Jewish.

Then write down what messages you have received from your families about these statuses.

  • About being male: In general, not much, actually. My family does not perpetuate the Hispanic machismo stereotype. I was taught men need to be tough, resourceful, honorable, and hard-working, all by example (mostly by my grandfather). Growing up surrounded mostly by women, however, I was also taught that men need to be understanding, patient, family-oriented, faithful, and reverent. In fact, my grandfather thought that the Scout Law (“A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent (Boy Scouts of America, 2015).”) was a great definition of what a man should be (it’s no wonder he enrolled me in the Boy Scouts as soon as I was of age).
  • About being Puerto Rican: We are a people of tradition, hard-workers on the one hand, laid back on the other, a people of faith, lovers of good food, part of the States but also fiercely our own.
  • About being Jewish: I converted as an adult, so I didn’t receive anything from my family regarding Judaism. In fact, 13 years after my conversion, I continue to struggle with what it means to be Jewish, and specifically a Jewish convert, especially when I am the sole Jew in my family, and when I have no further familial connections to Judaism (not since my divorce). I have learned that being Jewish is being unique, different, special, hated, proud, humble, but these are things I have learned on my own, not from my family (from other people’s families maybe, actually).

Then write down what you think “other people” think about people with your status?

  • About being male: Powerful, responsible, hard-working, chauvinistic, entitled, privileged, clueless, childish, irresponsible, lazy, lustful. (In general, the view of men isn’t a very good one lately.)
  • About being Puerto Rican: Loud, lazy, happy, cheerful, fun-loving, religious, victims.
  • About being Jewish: Aloof, mysterious, elitist, strange, rich, connected, influential, meek, victims, persecuted, fractured, reverent, non-reverent, antiquated, cheerful.

How is the Sociological Imagination useful in this discussion?

Sociological Imagination (SI) allows me, the individual, to relate to the collected experience of my family (both natural and those I have allowed to influence me) to my personal life. What it means to be a man, for example, is too big a question for me to try to answer, but because I am connecting my experience to that transmitted through my family, I can imagine how my personal experiences relate to those my grandfather went through during the 40s or 50s, or the experiences of his father during the 20s. In regards to being Puerto Rican, SI allows me to connect to the history of all Puerto Ricans and see how that shaped my family and myself, how it continues to do so even though I haven’t lived in the island for 20 years. When it comes to being Jewish, SI is the only way I have to create an identity of what it means to be Jewish, since my identity is built from the narratives of people I have allowed to influence me, from their families’ stories. SI is what allows me to take my place in the greater narrative of Judaism.

REFERENCES

Boy Scouts of America. (2015). Scout Law. Retrieved from http://www.scouting.org/Home/BoyScouts.aspx

Conley, D. (2011). You may ask yourself: An introduction to thinking like a sociologist (2nd ed.). New York: W.W. Norton & Co.