Sociological concepts are specific ways in sociology of approaching any given phenomenon. They assist us to get insight picture of the social world that goes beyond justifications that rely on individual characters and idiosyncrasies.
They also assist us to view the general social pattern of an individual’s behavior, and they usually presume that official justifications are self-serving and partial. Social perspective involves a conscious endeavor to go past what is obvious and question what is believed to be a common sense or what is believed to be true. It entails upholding objectivity by critically examining ideas, and accepting what may appear to be awkward or astonishing based on the substantiation.
They study everything from actual elucidation to extensive generalization (Chadwick, 2001). However, the early sociologists also presented a broad perception of the essentials of society. Their perceptions form the basis for the current theoretical paradigms or points of views, which offers them an orienting outline and an idealistic position for asking particular questions regarding social perspective.
Paying closer attention to the concept of women’s social standing, gender aspects are now perceived as attributes of social structures influencing women’s roles and status in culturally and economically predetermined society. In addition, women’s status is also largely dependent on personal experience forming women’s outlook on their position in relation to men.
Social Concept: Women’s Social Standing
Due to the fact that members of society depend on social structures they live in, they strive to frame everyday situations in accordance with the rules dictated by a particular community. Currently, women are rigidly distinguished from men’ perception of social rules and concepts while being involved in social interaction.
This is because they rely on different experiences creating specific frames and blocks of sociological concepts (Macionis and Gerber, 2009, p. 127). While considering women’s statuses in society, it is necessary to make reference to several aspects influencing their position and affiliation to a particular group. Aside from stereotypes ascribed to women, there are many other settings and conditions influencing their behavioral patterns.
Depending on the status a women holds in society, she performs various roles, but when there is more than one social position assigned to a women, it can create a set of multiple roles. All these roles are closely associated with cultural and economic aspects providing shifts in social positions and roles. For instance, when it comes to developing countries, women are less bound to educational background, but are more affiliated to their family roles being an important component of social identity.
In contrast, high-income economies provide more opportunities for people to spend more years as students and exercise family roles less frequently (Macionis and Gerber, 2009, p. 129). These disparities influence women’s perception in various settings and when people strive to break those stereotypes they encounter a number of challenges.
Understanding women’s social position in the contemporary society is especially vital because the social reality itself dictates what roles and statuses should be performed by female representatives in our world community. The concept of social reality shape women’s perceptions, beliefs, and outlooks affecting the nature and character of social interaction.
In particular, women’s marital and familial roles can be dictated by culture, stereotypes, identities and economic situation in a certain environment. The situation concerns the aspect of equality aspect that differs from society to society whose impact is far from positive.
According to the research provided by Das and Gupta (1995), the family structures and role set can have a huge impact on resource distribution between two sexes in the family (p. 92). Specifically “high maternal mortality…is associated with the patriarchal family structure which reduces women’s autonomy and their share of material and social resources” (Das and Gupta, 1995, p. 92). In this regard, inequality in social positions generates much more serious problems than it can be viewed at a glance.
Despite the presence of fixed stereotypes apropos of the concept of women’s social standing, women’s roles and statuses are gradually changing with the emergence of certain movements and trends among which the globalization process is the most powerful one. In this perspective, Hooks (2000) recognizes that
the possibility that feminism defined as social equality with men might easily become a movement that would primarily affect the social standing of white women in middle- and upper-class groups while affecting only in a very marginal way that social status of working-class and poor women (p. 19).
While evaluating this statement, most of female issues are closely related to the firmly established cultural overlays that prevent women from building new behavioral patterns and performing new, more acceptable roles in the globalized society. At the same time, there are specific social positions that women are reluctant to drop because it can negatively influence their social and cultural identities.
Women’s social position is largely dependent on class, age, gender and ethnicity backgrounds. The construction of a particular identity is often based on personal experience, acceptance, and outlooks on the above-presented issues.
With regard to this, Chrisler and McCreary (2010) have highlight male-female disparities concerning gender aspects and have stated that “women were viewed as appropriately marrying relatively early (between ages 19 and 24), as past their period of maximal responsibility at 40, and as having accomplished most of what they would accomplish by 45” (p. 570).
The presented disposition reveals the differences in roles that women perform as compared to males who are more likely to take similar responsibilities at later stages. The influence of gender difference on social roles is also associated with behavior patterns that align with the demands and functions of the role.
Within the established framework, it is worth stating that gender is not merely an indicator of biological features; rather, gender identifies the constantly re-created changes to individual socialization and social interaction. In this regard, gender is an important attribute of social structures. According to Brinkerhorf et al. (2007), biological differences can be reinforced by social stereotypes because men and women are often imposed by conceptions concerning how males and females should look like.
Indeed, physical and biological characteristics can be considered the core aspects in assessing women in certain social practices, like sport, medicine, fashion, etc. Furthermore, “[g]ender is built into social structure when workplaces don’t provide day care; women don’t receive equal pay, fathers, don’t receive paternity leave, basket balls, executive chairs, and power drills are sized to fit the average man…” (Brinkerhorff et al., 2007, p. 203).
Interpreting this, producing changes to gender attitudes and roles can lead to social changes in case there are simultaneous changes in social structures and gender issues. At the same time, as soon social structures undergo changes, gender roles are also influenced by shifts in perception.
Discussing the Concept of Women’s Social Standing with Regard to Existing Theoretical Approaches
Currently, sociologists employ three main perspectives or theories, namely: conflict, interactionist, and functionalist perspective. All these approaches can be disclosed through the concept of women’s social standing and its role in society. In order to understand this social perspective, it is necessary to consider the above-proposed theories in more detail with regard to the role of women in social interaction.
Many sociologists refer to role conflict as a result of confrontation of two or more statuses hold by people. Women can experience role conflict when they are forced to take various directions while trying to respond to the statuses they currently take (Macionis and Gerber, 2009, p. 129). In this regard, conflict theory emphasizes material, social or political differences of a social group which analyzes the extensive socio-political structure, or which undermines ideological conservatism and structural functionalism (Thompson, 2005).
This theory emanated from the sociology of crisis and social change. It is most commonly connected to Marxism as a response to functionalism. This theory focuses on conflict in the society; its discourse is on the occurrence of conflict and what causes conflict in the society. There are various modes of conflicts, one of them being that of revolution and warfare. These occur in phases because of rocky collations among different social classes.
Domination is another mode of conflict in the conflict sociological perspective. Various social divisions tend to form different principles based on promotion of the welfare of their own class. Ideas of lower classes reveal the desire in their own lives while that of higher classes have more conceptual perspectives. Strikes in the current society have become a major social partition between the management and the employees in every organization (Macionis and Gerber, 2009, p. 131).
Even if a woman takes a single social role, which is quite rare, it can also create tensions because of imposing various demands by other members of society. Role strain, hence, is a confrontation of roles attached to a single status. For instance, a woman can work as a teacher evaluating students’ achievements objectively and fairly. At the same time, she can behave more subjectively when treating her children.
These two roles should not be confused; alternatively, it can lead to a role conflict. Fulfilling various roles connected to one status serves as a kind of balancing act. One approach to eliminating role conflict is separating dimensions of our life so that one can perform particular roles attached to one status and carry out other roles associated with another status in a completely different environment (Chrisler and McCleary, 2010, p. 571). The problem of role separations is specifically connected with separating family life from job and vice versa.
Symbolic interactionist perspective
Symbolic interactionist perspective is also referred to as symbolic interactionism. This kind of sociological perspective allows sociologists to consider the details and symbols of daily life, the meaning of these symbols and the way people interact with one another. It offers a serious thought on the manners in which people act, and seeks out to establish the meanings which people attach to their own deeds and symbols, also to those of others.
There have been claims from critics that symbolic interactionist perspective does not take into account the macro levels of social understanding; in other terms, this perspective may neglect crucial issues in the society by directing more interest on the tree rather than the forest.
For instance, it focuses more on the size of the ring rather than the quality of the marriage (Reynolds and Herman-Kinney, 2003, p. 173). There are also claims that symbolic interactionism also put less consideration on the influence of social institutions and forces on individual relations.
When it comes to social interaction and women social position, symbolic interactionists refer to such concepts as ethno methodology and conversation analysis. These threefold relations are unveiled through consideration of meaning, language and social interaction, but in different ways. Hence, meaning implies the study of gestures, responses to those gestures and consequences of those interactions. Meaning can be presented beyond awareness of objective existence of particular notions.
Its objectiveness lies within a response scheme. Hence, there are certain gestures and acts that are predetermined by gender only making reference to cultural disposition, values and attitudes (Reynolds and Herman-Kinney, 2003, p. 174). Women’s social status imposes a number of such behavioral patterns and gestures indicating their roles and positions, which depend on cultural and social identities establish in a particular community.
George Mead, an American philosopher introduced symbolic interactionism to American sociology in 1925 (Chadwick, 2001). Consider application of symbolic interactionist perspective to the institution of marriage; symbols may include a wedding cake, music, flowers, church ceremony and a bridal dress (Pacific Sociological Association, 2008).
For instance, one partner may view the wedding ring as a mere expenditure while the other partner may view it as a sign of enduring love. Oral conversations, in which spoken words function as major symbols, make this personal understanding particularly apparent.
The words bear some meaning for the sender, and they optimistically bear the same meaning for the recipient (Reynolds and Herman-Kinney, 2003, p. 180). In fact, anything can act as a symbol provided it refers to something beyond itself. Therefore, symbolic interactionism offers a serious thought on the manners in which people act, and seeks out to establish the meanings which people attach to their own deeds and symbols, also to those of others.
Functionalist perspective has its center of attention on the input and output relationships and mental actions. It is based on the ideology that mental conditions are understood by effects of behavior, sensory stimulation and other inner acts.
According to functionalism, the mental condition of a human being is not restricted to the biological systems of human organism; instead, computer and other non-biological systems, display functional relations that are similar to human biological systems and are believed to have similar mental condition.
Specifically, structural functionalism is a broad theory which addresses social structure in terms of function of its basic elements including traditions, norms, institutions and customs. Additionally, it studies society as a structure with interconnected divisions (Pacific Sociological Association, 2008). This perspective has chronological resemblance with the application of scientific techniques in research and social theory.
The structural-functionalist approach considers family as a social institution that carries out specific functions in society, like producing young generation, socializing, and providing emotional and physical care for family members. Accordingly, conventional gender roles also contribute to successful family functioning where women perform the role of managing houses and providing nurturing and emotional care to family members.
However, rapid social change and breakdown of a traditional social institution of family and marriage has led high rates of divorce, which is seen as the main social problem (Mooney, Knox, and Schacht, 2010, p. 157). In its turn, shifts in women’s roles and status within a family can also contribute to the problems of poverty, crimes, and substance abuse.
Structural functionalism became very popular among the American sociologists between 1940 and 1954; it focused on ascertaining the functions of human behavior (Thompson, 2005). Robert Merton is one the American sociologist who divided human function into two kinds, namely latent functions and manifest functions. Latent functions are not apparent neither are they intentional, but, manifest functions are apparent and intentional (Ferrante, 2010, p. 29).
Considering those functions, woman’s position in society can also be dependent on a latent and manifest functions perspective. For example, manifest function that each woman performs is that of a mother, a wife, or a daughter. These roles can be explicitly revealed in certain settings and they contribute to balance and stability in society. At the same time, performing a particular role, a woman can feel stressful due to excessive imposition of responsibility.
Caring for children requires great responsibility and skills, which often lack because of experience gap and other issues. In general, women should strike the balance between the functions they perform to avoid dysfunctions and social changes these functions undergo. Apparently, feminism is the result of latent functions coming to the forth.
With regard to the sociological concepts studied, functionalisms can disclose distinctive features of women’s perceptions, reactions that contribute to building behavioral patterns in various social frameworks (Macionis and Gerber, 2009, p. 127). Owing to the fact that mental states are not limited to a particular behavior models, they can be realized in numerous ways.
For instance, a silicon-based machine could, in principle, have the same sort of mental life like that of a human being. However, this would only be when its cognitive system realizes proper functional roles. Hence, women’s role in a particular setting is largely predetermined by earlier established patterns that have been formed on at a mental level of perception.
The concept of women’s social standing is predetermined by women’s particular roles they perform in culturally and economically predetermined societies. Aside from traditions and stereotypical images attached to women and their place in social structures, they are often affected by gender, race, and age factors being the attributes of social structures as well.
Furthermore, women’s social position considerably depends on educational background and personal experience that forms women’s values, outlooks, and beliefs in certain settings. Therefore, the presence of certain sociological concepts assists people in understanding the social world going beyond judgments and justifications and relying on particular characters and idiosyncrasies.
Additionally, understanding social roles of women contributes to better analysis of behavioral patterns existing in society that influence the overall appraisal of social constructions. Owing to the fact that all members of society depend on those social structures, they strive to frame life situations within the rules and clichés dictated by a particular community. This issue considerably affects women because global shifts in perceptions influence specific social and cultural frames women got accustomed to.
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