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Friday, January 4, 2013

Essay on Breaking the Norm

 Essay on Breaking the Norm

Norms are regarded as important rules and expectations set by the society as their way of not only organizing a group but more importantly as their way of maintaining order. More often than not, these rules and expectations are implicitly dictated by the society and are valued as a standard how an individual should behave. At times, expected behaviors are explicitly set by the group. Some sociologists believe norms are created by humans in order to promote order in a group. On the other hand, some scholars argue that social norms are created primarily to promote roles, thus reinforcing the stability of a social class. Although the reason behind the emergence and existence of norms are unclear, what is certain is that these norms are seen as important. Thus, breaking it or deviating from the social standards are often frowned upon and even condemned by the society (Bobel, et al 2011, p.5).

In order to fully understand a social norm, one has to break it. Doing so, will allow an individual to fully grasp how the society values it and the consequences of deviating from the expected behavior. The norm I have chosen to break is the church dress code. Typically, church goers attend a service wearing conservative and formal attire. Women are expected to wear conservative clothes such as a knee-length skirt or dress, paired with a decent top or a cardigan. Men, on the hand, are expected to wear trousers and a polo shirt. I decided to break this norm by going to church wearing very skimpy clothes. I wore a short, skimpy skirt and matched it with a loud pink, body fitting tank top. As for my shoes, I wore a towering five-inch high heel shoes. In addition, I also put on a loud make up and tied my hair in a messy bun.

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I decided attend the 9am Sunday service. Walking towards the church, I’ve noticed a couple of old ladies sitting in a bench. As I passed them, I made it a point to look at their direction. One of the ladies gave me a disapproving look, while the other one waited for me to pass by before whispering to the other lady’s ear. Next, I passed by a couple who were probably around their mid-30s. The guy was wearing a pale blue collared shirt, while the wife was wearing an emerald green dress. I carefully walked passed them and noticed how the wife gave a heavy sigh as she slowly shook her head in what I perceive as a sign of disapproval. Similarly, I received the same disapproving look from the three people I met on my way to the church. One of them was jogging who discreetly glanced at me and quickly looked away as soon as our eyes met. He is followed by an old lady who was probably around her 60s who stopped watering her plants just to stare at me. Finally, a woman walking her dog gave me a slightly disgusted look.

Inside the church was no difference. As soon as I’ve entered the church, I noticed how almost everyone glanced my way and gave a disapproving look. Although there was no who reprimanded by attire, I heard murmurs, noticed some heads shaking, and looks of contempt and even disgust.
The experience was uncomfortable and at the same time it served as an eye opener. Although I was not directly confronted nor reprimanded, the looks, whispers, and non-verbal communication were enough to make me uncomfortable. I knew in my mind that almost everyone was thinking the same thing – that I my attire and physical appearance was disrespectful and I was causing unnecessary attention.  What was more interesting to point out, is that church must be a place where people are taught to focus on a person’s faith rather than his or her appearance. However, my experience showed me otherwise.  This only shows that although, the church does not explicitly dictate a particular service attire, the group sets a standard and deem what is acceptable and unacceptable. Challenging a norm, therefore, would mean being silently “outcast”, “judge” and “labelled” by the group.

Cited Works
Bobel, C., & Kwan, S. (2011) Embodied resistance: challenging the norms, breaking the rules.
Tennessee: Vanderbilt University Press


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