Posts Tagged ‘ascribed status’


Forcing Women’s Roles to Evolve?

August 2, 2009

familyWhen I was growing up, it was common for most families to be nuclear in structure (dad, mom, and two or so kids) with the father being the “bread winner” and leader (patriarchal organization). Forty some years later, things have changed a bit. Modern American family structure accommodates same-sex families, single parent families, sandwich families, and families where parents are replaced by grandparents (I haven’t heard a catchy phrase for this structure yet).

The income sources of families have changed, too. Now it is common for the mother (if one is present) to work and have a broader role in family leadership, what sociologists call a equalitarian setup. But, after talking to many of my students and even a few professors—I wonder if this last change was chosen by many women (achieved status) or simply one that women are now inheriting (ascribed status).

Would you like to voice an opinion about this? If so, please respond to one of the questions below:

1. Do you think that when women entered the work force in large numbers, this resulted in a decrease in men’s salaries compared to past cohorts? If so, what effect would this have on newly formed families? Do you think this might have increased the pressure on women to enter the workforce?

2. Many studies have shown that women, whether career-oriented or working in less-skilled jobs, are paid a percentage of what equally educated and experienced men are paid. Why do you think that is? What effect does this have on the quality of life for single parent families headed by a female?

3. Some people complain that while women have taken on more responsibility, men’s roles have stayed the same or even shrunk. What do you think?

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Social Status: Do we take it too seriously?

February 13, 2009

Many sociologists study people’s social position relative to others as a predictor of their behavior. Someone’s social position or location is often referred to as “status” in sociology. Generally speaking, there are two types of status: achieved and ascribed. Achieved status occurs when we do something to warrant the status. This can be based on demonstrated talent or abilities, such as a baseball player hitting a world record number of home runs. We don’t have to do anything to acquire an ascribed status—society simply assigns us that position. Examples of ascribed status could be “old man.”

Let’s apply the idea of status to Michael Phelps. Phelps won eight swimming medals at the Olympic Games in Beijing. Recently, a photograph of him supposedly smoking a pipe often used to consume marijuana was published on the Internet. Kellogg’s® has since declined to renew his contract. Phelps has also been suspended from the USA Swimming Organization for 3 months. The New York Times quoted a released statement from the USA Swimming organization that said: “We decided to send a strong message to Michael because he disappointed so many people, particularly the hundreds of thousands of USA Swimming member kids who look up to him as a role model and hero.”

Discussion Questions:
1) Sports figures have been a traditional source of inspiration for America’s youth. What values and norms do organized sports convey for young people? How important a role do you think this plays in the American assimilation process?

2) Can you discuss behavior issues of other sports stars? Are such controversies uncommon among athletes today? Do you think this might offer insights into whether sports figures reflect the real or ideal cultural aspects of America?

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