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Violating Norms: A Day in the Life of a Homeless Person Research Paper

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Introduction

Repetitive patterns characterize the society we live in, and one is almost sure how the other will behave in a given situation. We grow accustomed to each other; that is why once a person changes their pattern of behavior, we can see it immediately. There are expectations that society demands from us that guide our behavior; thus, people notice and treat us differently when we go out of them. The rules that guide our everyday behavior are neither written nor spoken and referred to as norms, according to Macionis (69). Many things expected of us that include speech, dress, or actions define normative behavior, according to Shepard (66).

People’s culture broadly defines their norms, although many of these cultures are frowned upon due to a difference in perception. For example, the fashion sense of women in the west that borders on nudity is frowned upon in conservative cultures in continents, such as Africa and Asia. The same is true for Arabian women, who are usually covered from head to toe as their culture and religion demand. Freedom of speech enjoyed in America is not the same in many parts of the world.

This paper is aimed at gauging the reaction of people to the violation of norms. For the research to be conclusive, there is a need to break the model in an area where people are familiar with me. Additionally, the study will require enlisting a few people who will monitor persons’ reactions to my violation of the norm. My action will involve leaving my home’s comfort and posing as a homeless person in my locality. If some people are familiar with me, I expect a preliminary observation that they will be skeptical about my action and might even point out a mental breakdown. I will enlist the help of two of my colleagues who are going to monitor the facial expressions of passersby and, if possible, attempt to initiate conversations with the people who are going to witness my violation to get their opinions.

The research

I did not just decide to be a homeless person, and in my everyday life, I had never put much thought into the plight of homeless people. I knew that they usually spent their days on the street and went into a homeless shelter at night, but that was as much as I thought about it. The other day, however, I saw a person I was familiar with who had been kicked out of his house for being late on his rent payments. He looked lost and desperate, and people had seen him smartly dressed and well-spoken before they just assumed he had a psychological breakdown. When I was given this assignment on breaking social norms, I came up with the idea that I could go into the street and act like a homeless person for a day to get a feel of what such people go through.

Occurrences, my feelings, and lessons learned

Nobody would desire the life of a homeless person, but we are so accustomed to having a roof under our heads that we become oblivious to the plight of those who do not. When I went to the street corner to start my research, I felt very embarrassed at first because I wore some of my old clothing and look quite desperate. Secondly, I was a shy person and disliked putting myself in compromising situations, so this was quite a difficult task for me. People also associate the streets with a large number of poorly dressed and generally unkempt people. However, my case was different since apart from the old clothing I wore, which still looked decent enough. I was generally well-groomed. This made me stand out and served as an advantage as when people noticed me, their reactions were apparent.

I chose a crowded street corner where many people could see me. At first, I tried to be very serious when a couple walked past me, but I could not help but laugh when after a couple of steps past me, they decided to turn back and confirm whether what they had seen was actually the case. They had disbelief written all over their faces; my friend who walked slightly behind them told me that the woman told the man that I was too cute to be in such a predicament.

Most of the people who passed by the place where I was crouching did not pay much attention to me, and I thought they had grown accustomed to people on street corners, and it was not much of a big deal as to who in particular was there. Those who were uninterested were mainly people who were in their middle ages and too much in a hurry to notice that it was not an ordinary homeless person that they were accustomed to seeing. After a while, a colleague of mine walked by. I had not recognized him at first, but I was quickly drawn to his reaction as he had an inquisitive look. He did not speak to me, but as he was walking by, he did not break his gaze from me.

All along, I could see it in his face that he wanted to ask me what I was doing in such a place. My colleague with whom he spoke after a few paces told me that he pointed out that he had thought that I had lost it. He said it in a concerned manner that when my friend told him what I was up to, he laughed at the humor of it.

Most of the people that looked at me in a manner that signified pity or concern made me laugh, and it seemed only to anger them further, meaning that they appreciated the gravity of the predicament I was in. Some of the people looked at me scornfully and in a judgmental manner. Some were even genuinely disgusted at seeing such a normal-looking normal-looking person in such an environment. These people made me realize that homeless people that we see on the streets usually undergo a lot of judgment from the rest who do not understand the situation they are in.

Questions answered

After this experience, there are a couple of my colleagues that look down on me since they did not understand what I was doing. One person even told me that what I did was not justified as it violated God’s will. Her interpretation was that since God had given me a shelter to stay in, it was not prudent for me to display desperation as if to mock those who did not actually have covers. I found that violating this norm elicited strong reactions from people who did not fully understand my research.

Another observation is that when dissecting the reactions of people, men remained relatively unappreciative of my predicament, whereas women showed genuine concern. In addition, people of color who were generally African-Americans and Hispanics showed disgust when I posed as a homeless person, whereas Caucasians were not concerned with what I was doing. This made me believe that if a person of color was conducting the same research and posed as a homeless person, perhaps, he or she could not have been judged as harshly as I was. This means that people are resigned to the notion that people of color are the ones who are the most likely to be homeless as compared to people of other races.

In all honesty, the whole experience of posing as a homeless person was very uncomfortable for me, especially considering that I disliked drawing attention to myself. Moreover, I felt that those who were really homeless and saw me posing were offended by my stunt as I did not explain to them what I was up to as I felt that they would not have appreciated the situation and its facts. The lesson that I have learned here is that it is tough to break an unspoken norm in society. There are many things that keep me in line so that I do not break the models that I am used to. First of all, I am a very opinionated person, and as such, I have rigorous principles that I adhere to. There is also the fact that the morals that have been imparted to me while growing up help me to stay in check.

Works Cited

Macionis, John. Sociology (9th Edition). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 2003. Print.

Shepard, Jon M. Sociology. Belmont: Wadsworth/ Thomson Learning Academic Resource Centre, 2004. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2021, March 26). Violating Norms: A Day in the Life of a Homeless Person. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/violating-norms-a-day-in-the-life-of-a-homeless-person/

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"Violating Norms: A Day in the Life of a Homeless Person." IvyPanda, 26 Mar. 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/violating-norms-a-day-in-the-life-of-a-homeless-person/.

1. IvyPanda. "Violating Norms: A Day in the Life of a Homeless Person." March 26, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/violating-norms-a-day-in-the-life-of-a-homeless-person/.


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IvyPanda. "Violating Norms: A Day in the Life of a Homeless Person." March 26, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/violating-norms-a-day-in-the-life-of-a-homeless-person/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Violating Norms: A Day in the Life of a Homeless Person." March 26, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/violating-norms-a-day-in-the-life-of-a-homeless-person/.

References

IvyPanda. (2021) 'Violating Norms: A Day in the Life of a Homeless Person'. 26 March.

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