Recently, body shaming has been more focused on the overly skinny models rather than the plus size models. The super skinny model type is now seen as unhealthy or problematic and plus size models are starting to become more prevalent. Although the appearance of more and more plus size models helps women with larger body types feel more confident, it promotes unhealthy lifestyle choices and obesity.
Normative Social Influence
Instagram accounts, blogs and other types of social media and advertising are supporting this new trend and giving bigger women a new found confidence. Many of these posts display the idea that these larger women are the “normal” body type for a woman. According to the theory of normative social influence, “the influence of other people that leads us to conform in order to be liked and accepted by them.” Society sees these models as the social norm and aspire to be like them. If “big is beautiful,” then why would people choose to stay away from the sugar and work their butts off in the gym?
Ad campaigns with plus size models advertise that these are “real” women and that “big is Beautiful.” If statements like these were made regarding thin women alluding to the idea that thin is normal, it would be shut down. Being too thin is seen as a problem but being overweight is considered ok because it is “normal” although just as unhealthy.
Women with naturally thin body types should not be told that they are not normal just as naturally bigger girls shouldn’t hear that they are not normal. A woman who is naturally thin should not be embarrassed about her body type because of the way our culture highlights plus size women.
Society’s shift from super skinny models to plus size models has given the modeling industry a more realistic portrayal of women but the focus on plus size models doesn’t encourage a bigger boned body type but instead promotes the idea that an unhealthy lifestyle is acceptable and normal.
Dress codes establish a social hierarchy. Dating as far back as the 19th century, Americans have focused on fashion and clothing as a way to establish class structure in society. Fashion has always been a way to establish structure in society making it easy to distinguish different groups. Implementing a dress code enforces the idea that social mobility is not possible. They are used as a way to control the movement of people into different classes. Dress codes are enforced in schools, the workplace and other professional areas in order to distinguish power and instill the idea that assimilation is the norm.
Expectancy Violation Theory
Dress codes serve as an example of “Expectancy Violation Theory,” because it explains the effect clothing has on status and power. According to the theory, “Clothing is an important aspect of communication that can influence the perceptions of wearers’ credibility and attractiveness as well as a variety of other judgments” (Dunbar and Segrin). Judgements are made about people based on their clothing. If the clothes a person is wearing don’t align with the message they are trying to send about themselves, the perception of the person is often sqewed.
Power in a Dress Code
Dress codes are taught to children at a young age teaching them that this is the acceptable way to dress to achieve success and earn respect from others. “Virtually everyone has expectations for what types of dress will be worn in specific social contexts and violations of those norms may elicit a range of responses from onlookers” (Dunbar and Segrin). In schools, teachers are held to a higher standard than the students in the way they dress in order to establish their power over the students. Teachers are typically not permitted to wear anything that sends the message that they are dressed casually. When the teacher is dressed casually, it is expected that the students will not show the same respect they would for a teacher dressed more “appropriately.” The more “appropriate” the teacher is dressed, the more professional he/she will seem. This sends a message to the students that professionals who are not dressed to follow this specific dress code are not deserving of their respect. Children grow up believing that the only professionals in society are the ones who are dressed in professional attire. However, this is far from true in the real world says Steffen. Many professionals are not expected to dress in professional attire and still deserve the same respect.
Clothes are a very unique way of communicating and a form of self expression. Dress codes influence the way clothing communicates by setting guidelines that distinguish power and hierarchy in addition to creating a certain expectation of someone just from the way they are dressed.
http://www.fresno.edu/news/11/11/2007/pros-and-cons-school-dress-code by Wayne Steffen
http://www.hindawi.com/journals/isrn/2012/140517/ Expectancy Violations Theory Norah E. Dunbar and Chris Segrin
Society is made up of groups or as we like to call them, “squads.” A squad is a group that people find their identity in. Squads have developed into a part of our culture into a way in which we define ourselves.
The Social Learning Theory
Sociologist, Ashley Crossman, states that “The Social Learning Theory” describes the phenomenon of finding one’s identity through the interaction with others. This theory “attempts to explain socialization and its effect of the development of the self.” With the idea of #squadgoals and the way it categorizes people in today’s society, it is increasingly difficult to break out of this conformity. It is part of human nature to adapt and learn from society and without realizing our adaptations, we slowly begin to identify with these newly found attributes.
The Inner Circle
As a member of a squad, each member identifies with the rest of the group. When each individual member accepts that they are part of a squad, they begin to accept the actions and ideas of the people they surround themselves with. Squads have evolved over time, but the members of the squad change together. The overall dynamic of the squad is constantly changing, but Social Learning Theory supports the idea that these changes are made as a unified group. Ideas, behaviors and the style of the group change and each member adapts to these changes whether it is consciously or unconsciously in order to fit in. It is socially acceptable to change when your squad changes with you. However, A member who chooses to deviate from the group norm is seen as an outcast. Studies by Frontiers in Human Neuroscience show that participants in a research study “conformed more often to in-group judgments than to out-group judgments.” Members of a squad feel a sense of unity and support for each other. This explains the finding that in-group conformity is mediated by fundamental value signals in the brain. The studies performed by the Frontiers of Human Neuroscience help to explain the extreme effectiveness a squad has in influencing the minds of its members.
Association with a certain group of people has a major influence on the behavior of the members of the group. Although squads may seem like they are a way of distinctly defining each member, they actually give no distinction to individuals. Instead, members of each group learn from each other and lose their unique identity.
Gender is something that has evolved along with the evolution of humans. Defining gender involves defining gender norms. Gender is defined by humans through gender norms and through socialization, these norms become inherent in us to the point where they are never examined or criticized.
Paradoxes of Gender
According to Judith Lorber in her book, Paradoxes of Gender, “gender organizes human social life in culturally patterned ways.” We are given a gender role at birth that society has created based upon what is considered normal and not normal for females and males. As long as these boundaries that separate the genders are adhered to, normality is maintained. As soon as these boundaries are crossed, judgements and claims about the person are made. We are so used to the gender norms of today that we only notice they are there if someone chooses to act differently. As a male or a female, each gender is expected to follow certain gender norms that are considered “correct,” but what society doesn’t consider is that these gender norms are constantly evolving and were actually created by society.Gender is a learned behavior. Dr Zuleyka Zevallos explains that gender is “socially constructed.” Certain activities and products are considered masculine or feminine because of the gender norms society has created.
Gender vs Sex
Gender and sex are often confused because of how socialized we are to the gender norms of today. Sex refers to the biological differences between a male and female where as gender refers to the social and cultural differences. These are not biological differences between the sexes but merely behaviors accepted by our culture to define masculinity and femininity.
Gender is socially constructed meaning that it is constantly evolving and learned through behaviors and general social interaction. These learned behaviors become 2nd nature to us and are treated as if they are the norm.
Sociology of Gender
America’s Next Top Model promotes the idea that through hard work, disadvantaged girls can work their way up to the top. The show points out past struggles or anything that is different about each individual girl in order to portray this idea to their audience. They purposefully seek out girls with troubled backgrounds who are not the typical white, American model. America’s Next Top Model chooses girls who have grown up differently whether its through racial differences, cultural differences or have lived through unfortunate circumstances only to transform them into the typical American model the fashion industry is looking for.
According to the article, “Fashioning Race for Free Markets on America’s Next Top Model,” Hasinoff argues that this show “makes race hyper-visible as a malleable commodity and confirms the neoliberal fantasy of the structural irrelevance of race and class in the US by satisfying the demand for recognizable tropes of racialized feminine beauty that only reference hardship or disadvantage as something that can be overcome through hard work.” This argument supports the claim that these models are chosen because of their differences but only with the intent of transforming them into the idealized model type.
Conforming to the Needs of the Market
Hasinoff discusses one particular scenario in which an African American contestant is criticized for her speech. Her small town country accent is not popular among the judges. Even though she remained a front runner throughout the competition, the judges said she was missing one thing. They said that in order to be a Cover Girl Model, which is the end goal of the competition, “she had to be articulate, she had to speak eloquently.” These models are entered in this competition because they are different, but in the end, they are molded into the form that is acceptable in the industry. Danielle is instructed on how to transform into this idealized hip-hop glamour version of herself. She is chosen as the winner at the end of the cycle supporting the need for employees to be able to conform to the “demands of the market” and “the need to continually undertake projects of individual self-improvement to attempt to succeed within the constraints of the system.” Chris Tokuhama discusses in his article about America’s Next Top Model, “I like em All Shapes and Sizes, that we “envision the “what” but entirely forget about the “how.” The process these models undergo transforms each model in order to achieve success in the modeling industry. Viewers watch their success but don’t consider the idea that these models have lost their true identity in this transformation.
This show illustrates the idea that it gives a fair chance for everyone to succeed no matter how different they are but in reality, these differences are only temporary. Throughout the show, it is the judges job to transform these women into the ideal model who can be marketed in the fashion industry.
Being a part of a squad is exciting and yet comforting at the same time. This is why people gravitate to a particular squad. In most cases, People are more inclined to associate themselves with a squad that is either of equal social status to them or above them. This can be detrimental to members of the squad because it encourages members to compare themselves to each other but also can serve as a tool to motivate and inspire group members to achieve the same goals.
Negative Social Comparison
In many cases, this can have a negative influence on the squad members. Sociologist, Lijun Song, shares her findings with Yahoo Health regarding the “comparative reference group theory.” She found that often times people flock to groups of people with a higher status, which may result in comparing themselves to these people in a negative way, which is referred to as “negative social comparison.” Each member sees the ability and potential of the others members of the squad, which can lead to a feeling of self doubt or failure. It can be hard for a group member to see their own self worth when he/she is constantly comparing himself/herself to the people they identify with.
Effective Social Climbing
However, being surrounded by successful people or people a group member aspires to be like, can have certain benefits also. According to Song, association with people of higher status can inspire “effective social climbing.” While some squad dynamics can influence depression and low self esteem, some may influence a sense of determination.
Regardless of the effect it has, a squad is a powerful term that can have a negative or positive effect on people. Being a member of a squad does not exclude you from the effects it may have. Squad members still feel the pressure to compare themselves to the standards of the group and may find themselves trying to achieve this standard even though they are technically in-group members.
According to the article, “A Feminine Style” in Women’s Political Discourse, a feminine style is defined by four specific aspects. President Obama shows all four of these characteristics of a feminist style of speech in his 2014 State of the Union Address. A feminine style is defined as inclusive, which explains Obama’s use of “we” throughout the speech. He suggests that there are steps “we can take” and also uses it as encouragement by saying things like,”we can do it.” Obama’s use of “we” helps encourage a sense of unity among the American public. He addresses the public as if we are all in it together and power is evenly distributed.
Obama also demonstrates his feminine style through his explanation of his past experiences. He focuses on the fact that he and Michelle were given a fair chance growing up and every child deserves the same opportunities they were given. He is very open about his childhood and upbringing and bases his policies off of what he learned growing up.
One of Obama’s main ideas on his political agenda is giving equal rights to women. He puts women’s issues at the forefront of social issues. Although he mentions a variety of social issues throughout his address, he seems to be mainly concerned with the women of our country. He says in his state of the union address,” when women succeed, America succeeds.” This quote shows his faith and concern for women in this country further demonstrating his feminine style of speech.
Finally, Obama uses more emotion than action in the 2014 State of the Union Address. He consistently uses phrases like “I believe” and “hope” to ensure Americans that he is invested emotionally in this country. He feels the need to convince the public through his feelings that he is fully invested rather than through his actions.
Through the use of these four speaking strategies, Obama proves in his 2014 State of the Union address that he uses a feminine style of speaking. He isn’t concerned with demonstrating his power over the American public and wants everyone to know that we are all in it together. He wants every group to succeed and is guided by his emotions.