The Usefulness of “The Sociological Imagination” in Relation to Gender, Social Inequality and Suicide
Sociological imagination is the “quality of mind” (Mills, 1959: p. 4) that enables us to look outside our everyday life and see the entire society as we were an outsider with the benefit of acknowledge of human and social behaviour. It allows us to see how society shapes and influences our life experiences. Is the ability to see the general in the particular and to “defamiliarise the familiar” (Bauman 1990: p. 15). According to C. Wright Mills, it “enables its possessor to understand the larger historical scene in terms of its meaning for the inner life and the external career of a variety of individuals” (Mills, 1959: p. 5). These experiences are affected by social changes so in order to understand them we need to look beyond them. This way, sociological imagination is very useful as it allows us to relate the situations in which we live our daily lives to global societal issues that affect us. However in this essay I am only going to discuss the usefulness of sociological imagination in relation to gender, social inequality and suicide.
Seeing the world sociologically also makes us aware of the importance of gender. Gender refers to the social aspects of differences and hierarchies between male and female. Every society attaches meanings to gender, giving woman and men different kind of work, responsibilities and dress codes. We tend to think that becoming a man or becoming women is a biological destiny. But sociological imagination allows us to see it in a different way. Butler argues that “There is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender ... identity is performatively constituted by the very "expressions" that are said to be its results” (1990: p. 25). In other words, gender is a performance; gender is not who you are but what you do. Similarly West and Zimmerman states that “A person’s gender is not simply an aspect of what one is, but, more fundamentally, it is something that one does, and does recurrently in interaction with others” (1987: p. 140). In my opinion gender is a biological destiny is what we are; masculinity and feminity, however, is what we perform and act in everyday life.
There is an interesting case with a Swedish family who refused to reveal whether their child is a boy or a girl. They based their idea on feminist philosophy that gender is a social construction. They want to grow up their child freely without forcing him/ her into a specific gender. The mother argues that it is “cruel to grow up a child with a pink or blue stamp on their forehead” and so he or she will be able to avoid preconceived notions of how people should be treated if male or female. In one way she is right we have the right to choose between alternatives and not be forced into something but I think this is just not morally right. This child will suffer in school; children will ask and point fingers. He/ she might be even excluded from groups because kids will know that this is not normal. Kids are curious and want to know more; let’s just take my niece for example, she always comes up to me and she says “ I am a girl!” and she gets very upset if I joke with her and say “No, you are not, you are a boy”. This made me think that it is very important for kids to know who and what they are. In think this will affect the child because he/ she will be trapped between a hard decision which shouldn’t even be a question because we are the way we born and we don’t decide who to be.
Furthermore, a case from 1967 shows how a serious issue is to play with genders. A boy called David was left without a penis after a circumcision. He was raised as a girl and dressed up as a girl. The parents never told her the truth until she was a teenager. She then rebelled against feminity and then started receiving testosterone injections and underwent another genetic reconstruction process to become David again. David felt...
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