Sociological Imagination and Its Influence on My Life

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Why do girls have trouble going to school in many areas of the world? Why are certain racial stereotypes prevalent throughout society? Why are the perpetrators of the vast majority of violence cases men? The sociological imagination allows us to answer these questions by allowing us to relate what is happening in our individual lives to larger social patterns. The first part of this concept is about personal troubles, or the events that happens in a single person’s life and affect only that person; the second part is about general social patterns, which exist in the larger social structure and transcend any one individual’s control. This term was coined by sociologist C. Wright Mills, who demonstrated that the combination of these two aspects illustrates the duality of sociology — that individuals both shape society and are shaped by society.

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One example of how the sociological imagination affects my life, especially in a predominantly male or male-influenced environment such as a locker room or fraternity, is the qualities that define me and many other young men as “real men.” If I am asked what traits define masculinity and manhood, I would list qualities such as being responsible, passionate, courageous, strength (physically and emotionally), independence, etc. However, during my experience in environments where such qualities would supposedly be paramount to proper masculinity, young men, including myself on occasion, used commonplace insults such as “Man Up!”, “Pussy!”, and “Have some balls!” to get other young men to be “strong” and “tough.” This not only suggests that the negative connotations imply a deficit of these qualities, but also establishes the premise that the most effective way for a man to establish his masculine credentials is to tear down those of another man. On top of that, I learned that by communicating these messages, men were afraid of displaying vulnerability or weakness, both of which have feminine connotations in our society. Thus, having a negative attitude towards femininity, not only do societal views of masculinity become based on an aversion to weakness, but also the objectification of women. Until very recently, I chose to integrate these broader views of masculinity into my own view of it.

Just like a lost puppy desperate for any attention, I latched onto the ideas of masculinity I absorbed from being a part of these hypermasculine environments, even though they are toxic to the general welfare of men. One societal force that influenced this decision was a desperate desire to be assertive and dynamic, to have the respect of my peers and be desired by others; since being able to live up to these ideals meant that a man had successfully established his “masculinity,” I wanted to establish my own masculine “credentials” and be accorded such respect and admiration among my peers.

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