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Deviant Bodies

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									Deviant Bodies

          11/17/08
What happens when bodies
deviate from the norm?


   definitions of deviance

   functionalism and conflict theory

spoiler: more questions than answers
Statistical definition of
deviance


   Frequent=“normal”

   Rare=“deviant”
Statistical deviance
       What is normal?
       What is deviant?




Height of men in biology class, arranged from shortest to
  tallest in 1-inch increments. Average: 5’10”
Statistical deviance
       What is normal?
       What is deviant?

CDC national data for adults aged 20+

 Men: 5’8” 190 lbs
 Women: 5’3” 163 lbs
Statistical deviance
       What is normal?
       What is deviant?

Is a 5’3”, 163-pound woman considered
  normal in U.S. society?
Statistical deviance
       What is normal?
       What is deviant?

Is a 5’3”, 163-pound woman considered
  normal in U.S. society?

Depends on who you ask.
Relativist definition of
deviance

   deviance is behavior that violates norms
    AND that elicits negative sanctions.

   an act or appearance is only deviant if a
    negative valuation is placed on it—if people
    stigmatize or punish those who act or look
    in a certain way

   varies based on the setting and the people
    around
Relativist definition of
deviance

   In IBOD, people might not punish the
    5’3”, 163 pound woman for looking as
    she does.
   Her experiences might be different in
    Hollywood.
Critical question: “why?”


Why do we (as a society) choose to
 negatively react to some body
 variations and not others?
Diversity abounds




      Most common: brown eyes
      33% of US pop: blue eyes
      Least common: green eyes
Why don’t we punish green-eyed people?
Diversity abounds


What types of body diversity tend to
 elicit negative reactions from
 members of our society?
   Diversity abounds

                        “Extreme Bodies:
What types of body       Super Obese”
 diversity tend to      “Extreme Bodies:
 elicit negative         Conjoined Twins”
 reactions from         transsexual bodies
 members of our         radical body
 society?                modification (lots of
                         tattoos, pierces,
                         cosmetic surgery,
                         humanimals)
   Diversity abounds

What types of body   Why focus on these
 diversity tend to    types of body
 elicit negative      variations?
 reactions from
 members of our
 society?
sociological theories
about deviance
to the rescue!
Functionalism

   a group defines itself by the range of
    behaviors it will accept
Functionalism

 a group defines itself by the range of
  behaviors it will accept
 a norm becomes most evident in its
  occasional violation
Functionalism

 a group defines itself by the range of
  behaviors it will accept
 a norm becomes most evident in its
  occasional violation
 by violating group norms and eliciting
  social controls, the deviant person
  shows the rest of the group what
  behaviors are not appropriate
Functions of deviance


 reaffirms group norms
 establishes group boundaries

 increases group conformity

 increases group solidarity (fight
  common enemy)
Functions of deviance


What functions could bodily deviance
 serve?
Functions of bodily
deviance?
 Does stigmatizing obese people
  reaffirm American norms?
 Does stigmatizing transsexuals
  maintain existing boundaries?
 Does stigmatizing heavily tattooed
  people draw the rest of society closer
  together?
Conflict theory of deviance

power is significant

 Who gets to decide what is
  considered deviant?
 Who ends up in the status of
  “deviant”?
Conflict theory of deviance


“Deviant” is a label that is applied to a
  behavior or appearance when people
  in power feel threatened.
Conflict theory of deviance


“Deviant” is a label that is applied to a
  behavior or appearance when people
  in power feel threatened.

“Deviance” is a tool of social control.
Conflict theory of deviance


Who might obese people, transsexuals,
 or heavily tattooed people be
 threatening, and how?
Conclusions

   There are many ways bodies deviate
    from the statistical bell curve.
Conclusions

   There are many ways bodies deviate
    from the statistical bell curve.

   The ones we choose to focus on (and
    punish) reveal something important
    about our society.
Conclusions

What happens when bodies deviate
  from the norm?
Conclusions

What happens when bodies deviate
  from the norm?

   Nothing
Conclusions

What happens when bodies deviate
  from the norm?

   Nothing
   We punish the deviants (punish the
    individual in service of society?)
Conclusions

What happens when bodies deviate
  from the norm?

   Nothing
   We punish the deviants (punish the
    individual in service of society?)
   The individuals punish themselves
    (self-surveillance)
Conclusions

What happens when bodies deviate from the
  norm?

   Nothing
   We punish the deviants (punish the
    individual in service of society?)
   The individuals punish themselves (self-
    surveillance)
   The deviants challenge the boundaries
    and create change
Conclusions

Ask yourself:

1.   What characteristics of people’s
     bodies do we choose to define as
     significant, and what variations do
     we consider deviant?
Conclusions

Ask yourself:

1.   What characteristics of people’s
     bodies do we choose to define as
     significant, and what variations do
     we consider deviant?
2.   What does this tell us about what our
     society values and about who is in
     power?

								
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