Lecture%2013%20-%20Chapter%207

Lecture%2013%20-%20Chapter%207 - Chapter 7 What is...

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Chapter 7
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What is deviance? Deviance is behavior that violates the standards of conduct or expectations of a group or society. For example, being mentally ill, doing drugs, or committing crimes are all types of deviance. However, everyone commits deviant acts. Wearing jeans to a formal wedding is an act of deviance. Being late to class is also an act of deviance. We are all deviant at some point in our lives, whether or not it is intentional. Deviance varies in its forms and in the responses to it. Some forms of deviance are so severe that they are punishable by law. For example, being a murderer is deviant, and those who are discovered to have committed homicides are arrested, put on trial, and if found guilty, punished for their deviance. However, other acts of deviance are more minor. For example, wearing jeans to a formal wedding is probably not going to result in you being put in the slammer, though you might feel embarrassed.
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Context of Deviance What is deviant depends on the context of the situation you are in, what country you live in, and what time period you live in. For example, beauty ideals have varied across time and across the world. In the United States, thin is in, and the thinner, the better. Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen are good examples of the thin is in trend. Thinness is popular in many other parts of the world as well, though we are now seeing a change towards healthy body weight. The Madrid fashion show last year banned models with a body mass index of less than 18 from walking in the show, though this caused some controversy. In Nigeria, fat is a mark of beauty. Part of the coming-of-age ritual for young women is to spend a month in a “fattening room” where they eat to gain weight in order to become more attractive. In Nigeria, being thin at this point in the life course is considered deviant, where in the United States, being thin at this stage is considered the most attractive. Other beauty ideals have existed too. Being plump or overweight was a sign of wealth, indicating that you could afford to eat well and thus fat was a beauty standard. The Chinese find small feet attractive. This lead to the Chinese practice of female foot binding, where women kept their feet bound tightly to keep them from growing large because small feet indicated that you were part of the upper class and didn’t have to work, and thus small feet were beautiful. In Thailand, a particular tribe finds long necks attractive. Young girls wear rings around their necks and add rings as they age in order to keep lengthening it. The point is that even how people look can be considered deviant in a certain time and place, but that it varies. No particular characteristics is ALWAYS deviant.
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Functions of Deviance One of our main theories of sociology, functionalism, is quite useful for examining deviance. Emile Durkheim wrote about how deviance can actually be functional for society and that without deviance, society would fall apart. He argued that deviance
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Lecture%2013%20-%20Chapter%207 - Chapter 7 What is...

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