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Sociology 1201: Week Three. Symbolic Interactionism What Does Marriage Mean Gender Roles and Contradictions . Symbolic Interactionism as a sociological perspective. Our world is a social construction, built through the web of social relationships and meanings.

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Sociology 1201 week three

Sociology 1201: Week Three

Symbolic Interactionism

What Does Marriage Mean

Gender Roles and Contradictions

Sociology 1201

Symbolic interactionism as a sociological perspective
Symbolic Interactionism as a sociological perspective

  • Our world is a social construction, built through the web of social relationships and meanings.

  • We react to the meaning of social things and not to the things themselves.

  • Our self (selves?) in important part a social construction

Sociology 1201

Charles horton cooley looking glass self
Charles Horton Cooley: Looking glass self

“Society is an interweaving and interworking of mental selves. I imagine your mind and especially what your mind thinks about my mind. I dress my mind before you and expect that you will dress yours before mine. Whoever cannot or will not do this is not properly in the game.”

Sociology 1201

Primary groups
Primary Groups

Lewis Coser: “Sensitivity to the thought of others, responsiveness to their attitudes, values and judgments--that is the mark of the mature man (or woman) according to Cooley. This can be cultivated and fostered only in the close and intimate associations of the primary group.”

Sociology 1201

George herbert mead the me and the i
George Herbert Mead: the “me” and the “I”

  • Mind, self and society

  • Mind = my communication with myself

  • Two parts to the self

    • the “me”—very similar to Cooley’s looking glass self

    • The “I”—individual and unique part of me, probably in part biological

Sociology 1201

Herbert blumer s synthesis
Herbert Blumer’s synthesis

  • “Humans act toward a thing on the basis of the meaning they assign to the thing.”

  • “Meaning are socially derived, which is to say that meaning is not inherent in a state of nature…. Meaning is negotiated through interaction with others.”

  • “The perception and interpretation of social symbols are modified by the individual’s own thought process.”

Sociology 1201

Key concepts in the construction of self and society
Key concepts in the construction of self and society

  • Culture: a design for living passed from one generation to the next

  • Norms: rules defining expected situations and appropriate behaviors

  • Socialization:

    • 1. the process of learning the norms of your culture

    • 2. the process of learning who you are

      Families particularly central to this process.

Sociology 1201

Sex and gender
Sex and gender

  • Sex the biological distinction between male and female

  • Gender the culturally elaborated distinction between masculine and feminine… differs across culture and across history

  • Groups: “Because I am a Fe(male)

Sociology 1201

Gender roles and contradictions
Gender Roles and Contradictions

  • “Betwixt and Between:” Interviews with middle schoolers in a Southeastern city

  • Research question: How Free Are Middle School boys and girls to form identities outside the constraining gender expectations that have traditionally disadvantaged girls in the public sphere and repressed boys from expressing their emotions.

  • GROUPS: 2 Discussion Questions

Sociology 1201


  • What are the implications of that word? Do you think it’s useful?

  • Do peers become more important as a reference group as we reach that middle school age?

  • Interviewed 44 middle schoolers who were not yet teens (males and females)

Sociology 1201

Less lattitude for boys
Less lattitude for boys

  • Pascoe: “Multiple Masculinities (text, 547)

    • “Fag discourse:” primary use (function) of homophobia not to expose potential homosexuals but to police boys behavior

      Methods of this study: p. 344-46… the only time I will quote at length in talking about the article you were assigned to read… methods particularly significant in sociology

Sociology 1201

Between tomboy and girly girl
Between Tomboy and Girly-Girl

  • Surprise (to me)… no one volunteered a positive definition of a girly girl …most common phrase ”prissy”—

  • Yes when researchers asked explicitly whether being a girly-girl was a good or bad thing, kids were divided

  • None of the girls identified themselves as exclusivly “girly-girl”

Sociology 1201


  • Some kids saw being girly as making a girl popular

  • The girls , black and white, felt that girls should display some level of femininity

  • Being too much of a tomboy also not a good thing

  • Variety by race: p. 351-352

Sociology 1201

Policing masculinity
Policing masculinity

  • Respondents described masculinity in very narrow and uniform ways: spots, competitiveness, video games, rowdiness

  • “A boy who is perceived as feminine is subject to much more ridicule than a girl who is seen as either overly masculine or overly feminine.” (Why? What does this mean?)

Sociology 1201

Policing heterosexuality
Policing heterosexuality

  • What if a friend revealed he or she was gay?

  • How would your life change if you woke up one day and found out you were gay? 34 students answered one or both questions… majority very negative (“I would be suicidal”), though also a substantial minority (11) that expressed tolerant views

Sociology 1201

Scenario in which a boy marcus becomes a cheerleader
Scenario in which a boy, Marcus, becomes a cheerleader

  • Krista: “People think a male cheerleader is always gay.”

  • Dierdre: “If they’d been friends, she wouldn’t stay close friends… If I hang around with him, they’d be like, ‘ew, you’re gay too.”

  • Most kids told us their peers severely tease gender nonconformity.

Sociology 1201

Sexuality and sex roles
Sexuality and sex roles

  • “One male student told us that if he were gay, he would no longer like sports.”

  • Tendency to conflate sexuality and femininity

  • Some suggestive evidence that if a person actually does embrace a gay identity, he or she is freer to cross gender boundaries and to enjoy activities limited to the other sex.

Sociology 1201

Worse for boys than girls
Worse for boys than girls?

  • Jeffrey: No comparable world for boys who act like girls the way tomboy describes girls who act like boys.” Maybe “fruit.”

  • Instructor: Is tomboy really a negative?“The stigmatizing of Marcus is in sharp contrast to the hypothetical scenario about Jasmine, the girl who wanted to start a girls’ football team.”

Sociology 1201

What about jo
What about Jo?

  • Mallory: “Jo is openly gay and friends with half the seventh grade… though some people hate him.”

  • “Everybody knows Jo’s going to do something like that (breaking the gender rules), so nobody really cares…”

  • Openly gay kids not harrassed the same way for gender nonconformity.

Sociology 1201

People we know vs hypothetical people
People we know vs. hypothetical people

  • “It is notable that all three examples of exempting gays and lesbians from sustained harassment in this study refer to a specific person the respondent knew, whereas the predictions of harassment referred to hypothetical people.”

Sociology 1201

Boys vs girls again
Boys vs girls again

  • “Our findings confirm other studies about the narrow confines in which boys need to stay to avoid being teased by their peers.”

  • “What is perhaps more unexepcted is that girls are now stigmatized for displaying some of the traditional markers of femininity.”

Sociology 1201

Deutsch undoing gender
Deutsch: “Undoing gender”

  • A concept that thus far applies primarily to girls. See quotes, pp. 358-359

Sociology 1201

On the other hand
“On the other hand…”

  • “Boys gain no social approval for deviating from traditional definitions of masculinity. Any behavior remotely stereotyped as feminine is intensely policed by other boys and by some girls.”

    Last words: “Boys need a feminist revolution of their own.”

Sociology 1201

What marriage means
What Marriage Means

  • Groups: Discussion questions for chapters 3 and 4 of Promises

    • Trajectory: Courtship, birth, and ….

      --What Marriage Means: a symbolic interactionist analysis

Sociology 1201


  • Discussion: Questions from chapters 3 and 4 of Promises I Can Keep

  • When you finish, attach the group questions from each member of your group to the group worksheet and turn it in

Sociology 1201