The Body & Mind – Sociology & Deviance
Physical Characteristics of Deviance
Obesity Trends in the U.S.
Expression, fitness, and the body
Ask: Can undesirable physical characteristics be regarded as a
form of deviance?
Most sociologists would argue that absolutely physical characteristics
factor into being known as a deviant or not. There is an underlying
principle that sociologists examine when looking at physical
characteristics as holding a “right or wrong” quality. Within the
framework of social stratification (layers) we find those qualities that
society deems desirable and those qualities that society deems less
desirable or even heinous.
Let us first examine Social Stratification- the creation of layers
(strata) of a population, who possess unequal shares of scarce
desirables, the most important of which are income, wealth, power
Wealth- all the economic resources possessed by an individual or
Power- the ability to control the behavior of other’s even against their
Prestige- Social recognition, respect and admiration that a society
attaches to a particular status.
Social Stratification is a “ranking system” Another text calls it
“Structured Social Inequality”
---Draw Stratification Diagram on Board---
(Values) Social Worth
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Invite students to describe attributes they think determine our “status”
or “rank” by physical characteristics.
When students give a category briefly discuss what would be seen as
a “positive/high” and “negative/low” form of that category.
As you can see, we often place a value (whether you feel it right or
wrong) on the physical appearance that one another has. One
sociologist who was most interested in this idea of presentation of self
was Erving Goffman.
In 1963, Goffman wrote the book, Stigma – Notes on the Management
of Spoiled Identity. Here he wrote a variety of ways we are graded.
Stigma: is the manifestation or outward appearance of an inner
deficiency, one that either has been or may be noticed, which
results or would result in infamy and dishonor.
Goffman argues that some who has been stigmatized is a blemished
person, disqualified from full social acceptance. When this is an
extreme blemish, it may even become the one single trait that defines
how you know the person – a MASTER status.