seen an uncomfortable-looking man holding a woman’s purse. In the U.S. it is a reasonable assumption that such a man is granting a favor to a woman. However, in China,menand women don expensive designer purses. Lest you think this a fringe element, 45 percentof the high-end purse market in China is male. What experiences have you had with status symbols differing in meaning based on their cultural context?There is sometimes a transformation in the meaning of a status symbol. I remember seeing High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles, or Humvees, on TV in coverage of the Gulf War, so I associated them with war. The symbolic meaning of these vehicles was transformed when they became symbolic of wealth with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s purchase of a customized version–making him the first civilian to own one in 1991. Schwarzenegger encouraged its manufacturer to produce the vehicles for the public, and Hummersbecame a symbolic of wealth and muscle—and for many detractors, gas guzzling vehicles belonging to wealthy people willing to ruin the environment.Bear in mind that status symbols tell us various types of statuses, not only that one is wealthy. For example, an engagement ring announces thata woman plans to marry. The kindof engagementring may hold clues to her and/or her fiancés wealth. Also, a status may be negative. Frustrated with her 15 year-old son’s poor gradesand his disregard for his school work, one mother had the youth stand at a busy Tampa intersection with the following message written on poster board and hung around his neck:I did 4 questions on my FCAT and said I wasn't going to do it … GPA 1.22 … honk if Ineed education.(The FCAT is Florida’s Comprehensive Assessment Test. See a picture of James Mood IIIand read more about his story here.) What status did the sign convey? How about when
judges sentence offenders to hold/wear signs of their crimes?Two women who found and then used gift cards at a Wal-Martstore were sentenced to hold signs with the following message:I stole from a 9 year- old on her birthday! Don’t steal or this could happen to you!Similarly, one judge ordered a sex offender to display his statusas such with a sign on his car and notices around his home.Status symbols connote distance: distance between me and the person who can afford a Birkin bag and knows what one is; and also distance between law abiding citizens and those who transgress and must indicate this by hanging signs of their activity. Status symbols serve to demarcate boundaries, and the meanings of those boundaries are rooted in cultural contexts.Explain and give examples of identity framesThe meanings we give to peoples’ “characteristics” arise from frames.
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- Sandra Marker