I Am Free to Choose My Own Identity, Discuss

Topics: Sociology, Identity, Social psychology Pages: 6 (2458 words) Published: April 22, 2009
“I am free to choose my own identity! Discuss”

Who am I? How does this differ from how others view me? Identity is something that is so personal to each of us that no two individuals are the same. That is not to say however that we do not share common elements of our identity with others “the notion of identity hinges on an apparently paradoxical combination of sameness and difference. The root of the word identity is the Latin idem (same) from which we also get ‘identical’ “(Lawler, S. 2008:2). This highlights the idea that the basis of identity is that of sameness and difference which was also expressed by Zygmunt Bauman. This idea of sameness and differences allows that the differences can be labelled and subsequently categorised and similarly those who share a characteristic are also grouped to a particular social group, (e.g. men and woman grouped separately on the basis of gender).

Newman, D. (2006: 134) states that “Identity is our most essential and personal characteristic. It consists of our membership in various social groups (race, ethnicity, religion, gender and so on) the traits we show and the traits others ascribe to us.” This exhibits how there are essential factors some of which are predetermined and others which we can control and change and decided upon for ourselves, it is therefore apparent that identity is a dynamic element of our social life this can happen for some people in a rapid and dramatic fashion, for most of us however our personalities develop and change much more slowly and less noticeably so. However that is not to say that just because you have changed how you dress or talk that you have significantly altered your identity this is because to make a change to your identity it is not necessarily a conscious decision because as stated by Layder, D. (2004:5) “Real changes in personal identity emerge out of the creative interplay between social circumstances and events and the way you as an individual respond to them” It is also important to recognise that “Conceptions about individuals and group identities are socially constructed. That is, created against a social background that tries to make social interaction meaningful, understandable and ordered by categorising people in various ways.” (www.sociology.org.uk) Each of us are to varying extents- exposed to social pressures Layder, D. (2004:9) states “we carry around in our heads whole chunks of society’s influences, in the form of rules, regulations, laws, fashion, advertising images and expectations of how others will behave towards us” there are times when we may feel that we are making a free standing personal decision but subconsciously we are impacted upon by our unconscious expectations of society.

There are five different basic sources of identity it is possible to from these sub divide them into biological categories such as age, gender and ethnic background as well as a physical category which includes occupation and geographic location. The first of these categories to look at is gender, initially we may question how gender can impact upon identity after all we are unable to choose to which gender we belong, we are already born to one or the other. www.sociology.org refers to the work of Robert Stoller it states “if the proper names for biological differences in our society are ‘male’ and ‘female’ , gender differences are represented by labels such as ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ . In effect, gender refers to the various ways that cultures confer all kinds of behavioural differences to biological males and females”. Therefore as soon as we are born we are subjected to our first labels, this is particularly significant as they provide the basis of what society expects of us, for example children are expected to be raised differently depending on their gender and are according expected to behave differently as well as the expectation that they...
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