SOC327 2017 Tut1 – Thu 1030

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?

#S327UOW17 #Tut1 #Thu1030

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  1. The unconscious perspective holds that features of our early relationships with caregivers and family members will inevitably resurface throughout our adult lives. This seems hard to refute given my mum’s eternal affirmation that no-one ever really changes. This belief is reinforced in situations where we are told “you are just like your father” or “you look just like your mother”. But the pragmatist in me refuses to accept that we have a fixed, permanent essence that remains throughout our life no matter what. Sure, our DNA shapes who we are biologically and psychologically; it is the differing contexts that distinguish my identity from that of my parents and siblings. As Neil Finn said, ‘history never repeats’.
    During what Piaget defines as early and middle childhood, societal influences are largely mediated by our parents or caregivers. But when we hit adolescence, we begin to identify as individuals who can make choices for ourselves. Being a teenager is all about self-discovery; it is also when we begin to realise the dichotomy between self-expression and our need to belong.
    Unconscious theory refers to the process of introjection, where we interpret and internalise both good and bad things from the external world. Arguably, this process is at its most intense during adolescence. As a teen, I admit to having made some very disturbing fashion choices; as I’m sure many of you can relate. My dad lovingly referred to this look (circa 1993) as the ‘toast rack’. Nearly every girl at school sported one of these; the more gravity-defying the better. Other popular trends of the time included hypercolour t-shirts, Doc Martens and Def Leppard. Magazines, television and movies, the popular kids, were all sites from which I drew inspiration. And while I may have been free to choose how I expressed myself, the fact remained that I just wanted to be like all the other girls. Unpopularity is a fantastic motivator! Not only that, my mum was extremely critical of the choices I made as a teen; it seemed to me she was more concerned with how others perceived me than how I viewed myself. The ‘toast rack’ symbolised the internalisation of something labelled as ‘good’. To my surprise, I was criticised for my choice of hairstyle, by both my peers and my mother. Internalising these ‘bad’ responses generated feelings of insecurity, shame and disillusionment on my part. I still carry those feelings, though nowhere near as strongly as I did then. My conservative wardrobe choices reflect my insecurity and my difficulty expressing my individuality. Occasionally, I harbour unhealthy concerns with how I am perceived by others. This anecdote supports aspects of the unconscious theory; I am living, breathing proof that my early relationship with my mother affects me to this day. But there is little acknowledgement of socio-cultural influences, such as power relations and social structures.
    #S327UOW17 #Tut1 #Thu1030

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