Social norms remain one of the most controversial topics in sociology. Social norms represent established norms of conduct, which are neither codified nor formal. Social norms are shared by a larger community and help to maintain the desired state of equilibrium among various social strata. Community members that do not follow social norms may not face any legal sanctions, but the informal consequences of such violations can be far-reaching, from simple gossiping to open rejection and criticism.
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The most difficult task in this project was to choose a form of deviant behavior, which is not immoral, illegal, unethical, or sexual. Actually, the main task was to define a social norm, which we follow on a daily basis but which, if violated, may also result in long-term negative consequences for the deviant individual. This is why I have decided that wearing a female dress and makeup in public places will become a perfect example of a deviant behavior that meets the criteria mentioned above.
For a man, being dressed like a woman is a serious violation of social norms. Clothing is one of the central elements of gender identification in the developed world. Clothing is often regarded as an essential cultural marker. It comes as no surprise that, since their earliest days, children are taught to wear “correct clothes”, based on their physical gender. Wearing women’s clothes for a man is the same as breaking the connection with the male world. Conformity to these social norms is often justified by the need to be part of the gendered community. Women and men conform to these social norms, because they want to avoid public criticism, judgment, and other negative consequences of deviance.
I expect to see diverse audiences in the locations, where I will be conducting this behavior. I am convinced that I will encounter people of various ages and different social strata. Most probably, and given the places I have chosen for this project, these will be middle class individuals with the interests, principles, and social values defined by their class position. The places I have chosen for this project include: a city mall, a restaurant, a night club, and a public meeting.
I do not expect that my deviant behavior will generate approval in the target audience. Although wearing female clothes by men is neither illegal nor unethical, I expect to face criticism and even rejection. I am convinced that most people will not understand my decision to behave this way. I also suspect that this type of behavior will cause profound changes in the way people think about me. I do not look for approval. I have no political message or cultural intent. I do not think that my behavior will abuse anybody. I can even assume that some people will be quite amused to see a man dressed like a woman in a public place.
As previously mentioned, wearing women’s clothes by men is not illegal. Therefore, no sanctions will result from my committing this type of activity. This type of activity can hardly be called unethical, because men who wear female clothes do not violate any ethical norms. I can easily accomplish the same mission four times, in different places with a different audience. This way, I will be able to compare the way different people and groups react to this sort of deviance. I am not going to wear this type of clothes in a university setting, mainly because students can be aware of the goals and possible consequences of this project. Also, I do not think that university students, with their openness to everything unusual and new, will be representative of the entire community.
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