Sociology Final Project

By: Julian Mikesell

What I've learned so far

Over the past two quarters in Sociology, I have learned a lot. Among the many topics we have discussed, some that stick out include Gender Roles, Social Norms, Socialization, Social Structure, and the Sociology of Sports.

  • Gender Roles - what society considers appropriate roles or behaviors based on the individual’s actual gender.

    • Adults’ gender roles tend to be deeply ingrained, parents may not even be aware that they are teaching their children about gender expectations.

    • In the United States, it seems natural to dress baby girls in pink; likewise, most parents would never consider dressing their baby boys in pink.

    • Parents also reinforce gender roles by the toys they buy their children. Researchers note that parents are more likely to buy their sons toy guns and action figures and buy their daughters dolls.

    • They also note that parents reinforce gender roles through the play patterns they encourage. Parents tend to expect boys to be rough and tumble, to get dirty, and to be more defiant. Most people expect their daughters to be more obedient and dainty.

    • Females who play sports or dress in masculine clothing are often called “tomboys” because the behavior fits with social gender roles typically assigned to males..

    • Some jobs are viewed as gender specific, such as nursing or providing day care. In our society, it is often more socially acceptable for females to work in nurturing roles than it is for men.

    • Stay-at-home moms are far more common (and more acceptable in society) than stay-at-home dads due to gender roles. It is expected by most of society that the dad will go to work, and the mom will raise the kids.

    • Gender roles are changing in our society, with new genders being defined that cover transgender, bisexual, gay, and a variety of other definitions for how a person chooses to live. This change in society will have a long lasting impact on how roles are defined for future generations.

  • Social Norms - the rules established by society which determine expected, appropriate and inappropriate behavior within that society.

    • William Graham Sumner, an early sociologist, stated that “anything can be considered appropriate when norms approve of it.” Once norms are learned, members of a society use them to guide their social behavior.

    • Our behavior often reflects social norms without us being aware of it. These norms are part of who we are, how we are raised, and are passed on from generation to generation.

    • For instance, you may not think of standing in the checkout line in a store as a norm until someone attempts to step in front of you. Then it registers that waiting your turn in line is expected behavior. Cutting in line violates that norm.

    • Norms range from minor behavior, such as applauding after a performance, to extremely important rules, such as laws against stealing.

    • Social norms can influence common practices such as who we marry. For example, a young Basarwa girl in Africa might become engaged to a man she has not met in order to strengthen clan bonds. This example reflects a cultural norm—a way of conforming to expectations that are specific to where you live and the way you have been raised.

    • Social norms can change over time. For example, research has shown that women in college today are much more interested in earning money than they were in the 1960s. It is more acceptable now for a woman to pursue a professional career rather than plan to stay at home with the kids.

    • A perfect example of a social norm is elevator etiquette. It is not acceptable for someone to push all of the buttons on the elevator when your stop is the last one.

  • Socialization - the process of learning the expectations and rules of the society; the act of participating in or actively being part of a group.

    • Socialization begins at birth and continues throughout life.

    • Successful socialization enables people to fit into all kinds of social groups.

    • Socialization must occur if high school freshmen are to adjust to a new situation, if graduating seniors are to look for employment, and if the president of the United States is to govern successfully.

    • Psychological case studies point out the importance of socialization early in life. Without prolonged and intensive social contact, children do not learn such basics as walking, talking, and loving.

    • Without socialization, a human infant cannot develop the set of attitudes, beliefs, values, and behaviors associated with being an individual in society.

    • Without socialization, infants and children cannot develop the capacity for language.

    • Without language, they cannot understand human relationships.

    • Without this understanding, they cannot form bonds.

  • Social Structure - the way that society is divided into specific segments (i.e. social class); also, the pattern of social relationships within that society..

    • In Ancient Egypt there was a social structure based off of status. For example, the Pharaoh was on the top of the social structure chain. After him are the royal family, then the commoners, then finally the slaves.

    • Social structure was used in many countries and has been around since before the Dark Ages.

    • Not all social structures are the same: some may have Tyrants, Emperors, or Monarchs.

    • We use social structure today as well in the United States.

    • In the US we have an upper class, middle class, and a lower class.

    • The Upper class are the rich and the wealthy, often assumed to be the happiest and most socially connected.

    • The Middle class would likely have jobs, a house, a car, and pay bills. They work hard for what they have, and this class represents a larger percentage of society than the upper class.

    • The Lower class may have jobs, but are thought to live paycheck to paycheck. some of the lower class may rely on social programs to provide for them, rather than work in minimum wage jobs.

  • Sociology in Sports - the idea that sports provide a way of bringing people together for interaction, leading to a small society within the larger society.

    • With sports, most of us see a game and individual players. What we may not realize is that there is also a society that evolves through sports. Through involvement in sports, the following social benefits can be seen:

      • It promotes good character

      • It gives us experience in teamwork

      • It gives us social integration, teaches fair play, provides a way of achieving physical fitness, encourages academics, and even enables social mobility

    • Sports can be a reflection of a culture as well as its achievements. Look at the Olympics, and the way that through sports, the world learns about world culture.

    • Social interaction in sports teaches players who may come from different social structures how to work together as a team. People from different neighborhoods, different social classes, different cultures can come together and form a team.

    • Playing sports encourages collaboration - weaker players show dedication to improve their skills so that they don’t let down their teammates; and stronger players offer their expertise to help coach the weaker players to be better.

    • Some sporting activities are important in maintaining the structure of a society. In Rome there were Chariot races to give that society the social institution it needed.

    • Sporting events are meant to promote fun, however there are always going to be those individuals who disagree and make the sporting event too competitive. Interestingly, these people create classes within sports - there are those who are there for the pleasure, and those who are there for the win.

    • Sports could be a way to help teach people how to deal with anger and frustration. If you watch a major league baseball game, you’ll see fights on the field and in the stand. This can be a tool for learning to work together in a society, or a weapon if people fail to act in a socially responsible way.

    • Throughout history there have been wars and violence just because people didn’t agree to the outcome of the game. If we can learn from these experiences, we can be a much more responsible society.

These topics have several things in common. For me, they all represent basic human behavior and emotion. Social Structure and Sociology in Sports, for example, are closely tied to having pride. Regardless of your social class or your favorite sport team - there is pride associated with both. You work hard to have a lifestyle you are proud of. You choose your sports team and support them through wins and losses. Your culture teaches you how to be social, how to fit in with society, how to comply with expectations and rules. Gender roles are also about emotion, especially in recent years, as non-traditional roles emerge. Our society has evolved to consider same-sex relationships equally to the traditional male-female relationships. A big part of studying sociology is learning to understand and appreciate how our actions, beliefs, values and culture help us fit into the bigger society. And when our social beliefs are challenged, we need to be able to appreciate different view points and consider them before we make conclusions.

Sociology has made me reexamine the world around me. Instead of black and white, I’m more aware of the grey area in between, and I now spend more time thinking about things from different perspectives. For example, I was at a Cardinal’s baseball game with my parents and friends, when out of the blue a Kansas City Chiefs fan came up near our seats and started to yell that the Cardinal fans needed to “get a life”. I see things like this now and realize that this fan isn’t right or wrong - he just has a different opinion. Understanding that society is made up of different roles, rules, backgrounds and opinions helps me be a better person overall.

Sociology has played a big role in historical events. For example, Mesopotamia was the first civilization that was ever created. It was formed because people socialized and came together to form a society. Another example is the social structure of Ancient Rome. Its structure was based on who had the most power and wealth. The Emperor would be on the top with the Royal Family, then the royal guards, then the commoners, then the peasants, then finally the slaves. This structure worked for Rome and created a society that made a significant impact to all of us. Current events related to sociology are significant, particularly to gay people. On July 30, 2015 Congress signed a bill allowing gay marriage. This is a huge change for modern day society, and will set a precedence for the future in how we establish gender roles, social roles and influence socialization.