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Deviant Bodies. 11/17/08. What happens when bodies deviate from the norm?. definitions of deviance functionalism and conflict theory spoiler: more questions than answers. Statistical definition of deviance. Frequent=“normal” Rare=“deviant”.

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Deviant Bodies

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Deviant Bodies

11/17/08


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What happens when bodies deviate from the norm?

  • definitions of deviance

  • functionalism and conflict theory

    spoiler: more questions than answers


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Statistical definition of deviance

  • Frequent=“normal”

  • Rare=“deviant”


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Statistical deviance What is normal? What is deviant?

Height of men in biology class, arranged from shortest to tallest in 1-inch increments. Average: 5’10”


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Statistical deviance What is normal? What is deviant?

CDC national data for adults aged 20+

  • Men: 5’8” 190 lbs

  • Women: 5’3” 163 lbs


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Statistical deviance What is normal? What is deviant?

Is a 5’3”, 163-pound woman considered normal in U.S. society?


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Statistical deviance What is normal? What is deviant?

Is a 5’3”, 163-pound woman considered normal in U.S. society?

Depends on who you ask.


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Relativist definition of deviance

  • deviance is behavior that violates norms AND that elicits negative sanctions.

  • an act or appearance is only deviant if a negative valuation is placed on it—if people stigmatize or punish those who act or look in a certain way

  • varies based on the setting and the people around


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Relativist definition of deviance

  • In IBOD, people might not punish the 5’3”, 163 pound woman for looking as she does.

  • Her experiences might be different in Hollywood.


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Critical question: “why?”

Why do we (as a society) choose to negatively react to some body variations and not others?


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Diversity abounds

Most common: brown eyes

33% of US pop: blue eyes

Least common: green eyes

Why don’t we punish green-eyed people?


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Diversity abounds

What types of body diversity tend to elicit negative reactions from members of our society?


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What types of body diversity tend to elicit negative reactions from members of our society?

“Extreme Bodies: Super Obese”

“Extreme Bodies: Conjoined Twins”

transsexual bodies

radical body modification (lots of tattoos, pierces, cosmetic surgery, humanimals)

Diversity abounds


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What types of body diversity tend to elicit negative reactions from members of our society?

Why focus on these types of body variations?

Diversity abounds


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sociological theories about deviance

to the rescue!


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Functionalism

  • a group defines itself by the range of behaviors it will accept


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Functionalism

  • a group defines itself by the range of behaviors it will accept

  • a norm becomes most evident in its occasional violation


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Functionalism

  • a group defines itself by the range of behaviors it will accept

  • a norm becomes most evident in its occasional violation

  • by violating group norms and eliciting social controls, the deviant person shows the rest of the group what behaviors are not appropriate


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Functions of deviance

  • reaffirms group norms

  • establishes group boundaries

  • increases group conformity

  • increases group solidarity (fight common enemy)


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Functions of deviance

What functions could bodily deviance serve?


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Functions of bodily deviance?

  • Does stigmatizing obese people reaffirm American norms?

  • Does stigmatizing transsexuals maintain existing boundaries?

  • Does stigmatizing heavily tattooed people draw the rest of society closer together?


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Conflict theory of deviance

power is significant

  • Who gets to decide what is considered deviant?

  • Who ends up in the status of “deviant”?


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Conflict theory of deviance

“Deviant” is a label that is applied to a behavior or appearance when people in power feel threatened.


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Conflict theory of deviance

“Deviant” is a label that is applied to a behavior or appearance when people in power feel threatened.

“Deviance” is a tool of social control.


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Conflict theory of deviance

Who might obese people, transsexuals, or heavily tattooed people be threatening, and how?


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Conclusions

  • There are many ways bodies deviate from the statistical bell curve.


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Conclusions

  • There are many ways bodies deviate from the statistical bell curve.

  • The ones we choose to focus on (and punish) reveal something important about our society.


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Conclusions

What happens when bodies deviate from the norm?


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Conclusions

What happens when bodies deviate from the norm?

  • Nothing


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Conclusions

What happens when bodies deviate from the norm?

  • Nothing

  • We punish the deviants (punish the individual in service of society?)


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Conclusions

What happens when bodies deviate from the norm?

  • Nothing

  • We punish the deviants (punish the individual in service of society?)

  • The individuals punish themselves (self-surveillance)


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Conclusions

What happens when bodies deviate from the norm?

  • Nothing

  • We punish the deviants (punish the individual in service of society?)

  • The individuals punish themselves (self-surveillance)

  • The deviants challenge the boundaries and create change


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Conclusions

Ask yourself:

  • What characteristics of people’s bodies do we choose to define as significant, and what variations do we consider deviant?


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Conclusions

Ask yourself:

  • What characteristics of people’s bodies do we choose to define as significant, and what variations do we consider deviant?

  • What does this tell us about what our society values and about who is in power?


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