The social experience of bodies and feelings

How do you feel? Bodies and emotions seem like the most basic and essential parts of us. You knew your body before you could talk, and your feelings before you could think. They form the core of you. How can such primal things as bodies and emotions – the greatest markers of who you are as an individual – be influenced by society?

Perhaps a few questions might help answer the question:

  • Do you have a tattoo?
  • Do you wear a dress?
  • Did you have braces?
  • How well do you throw a ball?
  • Do you tell people in your life that you love them regularly?
  • Can you restrain your anger?
  • Are you envious of anyone around you?
  • How happy are you?

Think about your answers to these questions. Were these just simple choices that you made as an individual, or skills you did or didn’t pick up at random? Or did your society shape your answers in predictable ways, based on your sex, age, race, education, wealth, health, and social class background? How has society shaped your body, and the way you display and use it? How has society shaped your feelings, their expression, and how you manage them?

#S327UOW16 #Tut1

Posted in SOC327 - Emotions Bodies and Society, Tutorial 1, Uncategorized, UOW.

4 Comments

  1. I’ll start off by saying I may be getting a bit of course, but while initially clicking through all the wrong links on this blog I was reminded of my previous studies of C. Wright Mills, “sociological imagination”, and the intersection of biography and history. Thinking through this and trying to tie it into the studies of emotion, I also remembered his theory on troubles (personal) and issues (societal). While I am oversimplifying his ideas, I think this relates to some of the ideas we are contemplating about emotions. If one person is made to feel negatively about something it is a trouble. But if enough people undergo a similar experience, it is an issue. So what is the cause and effect relationship? Are emotions being influenced by society or is society being influenced by shared emotional responses to something?

    In relation to the Lupton reading, this might touch on the argument about whether emotions are inherent or socially constructed. To me the answer is both, as is the answer to my question above. I disagree strongly with the theorists who believe emotions are not inherent such as Denzin. One of his quotes in the text was “a person cannot experience an emotion without the implicit or imagined presence of others”.

    That puts tremendous emphasis on society. This would mean that as the class responds to the questions provided, the reasoning behind most if not all of their answers would be because society told them to (or not to). For example, yes I sometimes wear dresses because I am female. Yes, I had braces because there are certain societal norms about how one’s teeth should look. And yes I happen to throw a ball well because society encourages/pressures us (for better or for worse) to all have a handful of things we’re really good at. These are just some examples I thought of personally. But I do not like thinking about things that way. I like to believe that people have more authority over themselves, their lives, and their emotions. While society certainly gives us context (as we discussed in class) I do not think that society utterly shapes all that we feel, do, and say.

    #S327UOW2016 #Tut1

  2. In the lecture Marcel Mauss says ‘we are educated in body motions and bodily habits and techniques are assembled for the individual not by himself but by the society in which he lives in’. I believe that as a person we each have our own individual traits and personalities that identify us from one another and help form our decisions we choose in life and the particular dress style we have etc. I believe this formed from the first time we begin to dress ourselves but as we grow and and are introduced into the real world where we meet new people, watch television, movies and socialise with others, we begin to bring out different traits and form other opinions on life and the way we present ourselves. This is influenced by what society tells us to do and how we should act and express our bodies and feelings.

    Lupton says ’emotions are the products of cultural definitions and social relations’. He outlines some emotions expressed through a person formed by society. ‘The reddness and heat associated with the bodily sensations that are identified as embarrassment’. Theses bodily sensations were expressed because of particular emotions caused by an audience of people in society.The way we act in a certain situation has already been mapped out for us by society’s history and an expected behaviour and set of actions is already predicted within the individual. Therefore the body will immediately react by our feelings and emotions will be expressed, either saddness, happiness, anger, joy, etc and this will appear on our bodies with an intention to receive a reaction by society but by our own individual personalities we will respond in a certain way not necessarily predicted.

    The way we make our choices is an individual thing where we form our own answers and opinions and our emotions and feelings are predicted and shaped by society as this is picked up from the society around us as we grow.

    #S327UOW16 #Tut1 #Mon1530

  3. This is such an interesting subject to explore. I love contemplating individuality, autonomy in decision making and the notion of free will. I’m sure we have all experienced the sociology lecturer that defies the notion of agency and laughs in the face of theories otherwise. So Roger, when you ask, did society shape my answers to the above questions in predictable ways? my answer is of course it did… of course it does… and of course it will continue to do so. Yes, I have tattoos, and despite the meaning I attach to them, I’m pretty sure that they match a lot of other peoples tattoo’s. I am also pretty sure I wouldn’t even have considered marking myself in this way if I was born 20 years earlier…the social has undoubtedly shaped my body and the way I project myself. Sure, within the social I get to make some choices however they are limited to the scope of what is already present…and limited to the cultural background of my life experiences.
    In applying this concept to my emotions, I have found myself confronted and flushing red in the face. Could I really be socialised into my emotional responses? When I repress anger and frustration, which I do on a daily basis, is that because I’ve been socialised to do so… and maybe because it is not accepted, particularly for a woman, to be overly emotional. My son’s father has often asked me “Is it that time of month again?” or “do you need a tampon” in response to an emotional outburst of frustration relating to his actions (or more commonly lack of actions) regarding our co-parenting. His comments disarm me, and remind me to rein it in. Whilst being angry is a human experience, it’s not always embraced as appropriate to express. I guess in consideration, Bordo makes some sense “the body is primitive, dumbly responding to the passions” and maybe sometimes emotions CAN be impediments to judgement.
    I think I may, however, be socialised to wear my heart on my sleeve and I will choose the human experience of raw emotion to lead my decisions.
    #S327UOW16 #Mon1530

  4. Its an interesting question to explore, whether a society really does influence your experience of your body and feelings. I think that when i first looked at this question, i thought to myself that i was pretty in control of the way i present and view myself. But after looking at it in reference to sociology i thought of the idea that “the first wisdom of sociology is this: things are not what they seem” (Peter Berger, invitation into sociology 1963:34). This forced me to think more sociologically about this question. So yes i do agree that society influences our experience of our bodies and our feelings. After all, yes i do have a tattoo and no i can’t throw a ball very well, and if i use my sociological imagination i can see that maybe i have a tattoo because they have evolved to be a social norm of todays society? Maybe i can’t throw a ball well because i was born into the cyber revolution, causing me to be more exposed to technology based games than physical based games like handball?

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