Study Questions: Chapter 8
1. What is deviance? Give two examples of this phenomenon.
Answer: Deviance is best thought of as a neutral term. It simply means “straying from the norm or the usual.” In light of such a broad definition, it is possible to imagine examples of deviance that include poverty, non-white-ness, or even femaleness. (p. 191)
2. What is the difference between social constructionism and essentialism?
Answer: Social constructionism puts forward the idea that certain elements of social life—including deviance, but also gender, “race,” and other elements—are not natural but artificial, created by society or culture. Essentialism, on the other hand, argues that there is something “natural,” “true,” “universal,” and therefore “objectively determined” about these aspects of social life. (p. 195)
3. What is assimilation? Does this happen in Canada?
Answer: Despite the public promotion in Canada of multiculturalism—the set of policies and practices designed to promote respect for cultural differences—the pressure to assimilate (i.e. become culturally the same as the dominant culture) is persistent. Immigrants who have experienced the embarrassment of having Canadians stumble over their names—sometimes deliberately for supposed comic effect (as when Don Cherry knowingly mispronounces French and Russian names)—may have felt pressure to anglicize their names to make themselves more “Canadian.” (p. 152)
4. What is racial profiling? Give examples of contexts in which profiling can occur.
Answer: Racial profiling is one way in which deviance is racialized. In its report on the “human cost of racial profiling,” the Ontario Human Rights Commission offers a thoroughgoing definition. It defines racial profiling as “any action undertaken for reasons of safety, security or public protection that relies on stereotypes about race, colour, ethnicity, ancestry, religion, or place of origin rather than on reasonable suspicion, to single out an individual for greater scrutiny or different treatment.” (OHRC 2003: 6) The report notes that racial profiling can arise from a combination of these factors, and that age and gender can also “influence the experience of profiling.” (pp. 200–202)
5. What is the ideology of fag? Provide one or more examples of this ideology.
Answer: The ideology of fag is a way of influencing people, especially young males, to behave according to gender role expectations. In Canada, for instance, young men can influence the attitudes of other young men by sanctioning behaviour perceived as effeminate or even just immature or silly with statements like, “Don’t be so gay.” (p. 207)
6. Explain the school-to-prison-hypothesis.
Answer: The “school-to-prison” hypothesis is the idea that in schools located in poorer, often racialized neighbourhoods, there is a biased application of practices such as “zero tolerance,” which creates a misleading perception of higher crime rates. Greater rates of suspension and expulsion, higher numbers of random locker and student searches, and tough anti-violence measures like the installation of metal detectors, the hiring of security guards, and even period police raids characterize the schools in these poorer neighbourhoods, but these measures are greatly out of proportion to the amount of violence and crime actually occurring at the schools. (p. 156)
7. How might society “disable” people with differences from the mainstream?
Answer: A reasonable sociological question to ask is whether society punishes disabled people for their disability. For example, do the ways in which we design and build houses (with steps to the front porch and narrow interior stairways), public buildings (with revolving doors), sidewalks (without sloping edges to meet the road), public transport (cramped buses too small in which to manoeuvre a wheelchair) and shelving in grocery stores essentially punish—by limiting freedom, independence, and self-respect—those who cannot walk? The sanctions, here, are acts of omission. It’s not that disabled people have been singled out; it’s actually that they haven’t been taken into account at all. (pp. 208–209)