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How does sociology understand social problems? Explain what makes this orientation to social problem

Updated: Aug 18, 2022

SO 206: Social Issues in Contemporary Society

Midterm Exam

Short Answer

1. How does sociology understand social problems? Explain what makes this orientation to social problems unique?

According to sociology, a social problem is an issue, condition, or behavior that brings negative consequences to many people and should not be encouraged. Social problem orientation is unique as it shows the stages of social problem development.

Stage 1: emergence and claims-making. This stage has many people start calling to attention the undesired condition or behavior within the society.

Stage 2: legitimacy. The stage is when the social group can prove or turn the undesired condition or behavior into a social problem successfully.

Stage 3: renewed claims-making. At this stage, the social groups will reassess their claims and push for new demands if the first claims were rejected by the government or the agency in charge of improving the condition or behavior.

Stage 4: development of alternative strategies. Social groups come up with a way of dealing with social problems after realizing their claims may fail.

2. Describe the concept of privilege. What are the key features of privilege according to McIntosh and Allen? How does this concept relate to oppression?

The term privilege refers to a certain group having or enjoying certain benefits they never earned or worked for due to their social status or hierarchy just because they are a dominant group.

Mcintosh and Allen share the features of privileges as being white or male. This shows that white privileges are the unearned benefits that people in society enjoy by being white while male privileges are those enjoyed for being a man. However, Mcintosh claims that the whites are taught not to recognize the white privilege just like men are taught not to recognize their male privilege.

The concept relates to oppression where the dominant or the strong oppress the minority or the weak. In oppression, the dominant or the strong group would use their power or any means available to rule over the weak. When one group has privileges they gain an added advantage over others which leaves them above the other groups in society. They can thus dominate or exert their power over the less advantaged groups.

3. How was the indigenous body constructed as “dirty” and what are the impacts on the ongoing problem of sexual violence?

During the colonial era, there were a lot of social changes that occurred including how women were viewed in society. To white settlers, indigenous women were seen as tools to be used and disposed of without any care for their feelings and the consequences of their actions. Many women suffered under this notion as they were termed as "dirty". An indigenous body was termed "dirty" because in the eyes of white settlers native women were not worthy of being treated as desired. They were viewed as objects and mostly suffered sexual violence to meet the desires of the colonizers. Most women were raped and no offense was taken against their offenders. This has affected the way women are being viewed in society and is the reason why sexual offense continues up to now. The colonial-era led to women being viewed as sexual objects and weak hence had to do what men gender wants.

4. What is the difference between wealth and income? Why might wealth be a better measure of someone’s economic standing than income?

Wealth is the measure of all the assets a person or a company owns without considering their liabilities while income is the amount of money a person or a company receives from their investments, work, projects done or businesses operated.

Wealth is a better measure of a person's economic standing because it considers all the assets they own which can easily be converted to cash at any given time when the owner wants, unlike income which only includes the money the person will get from the business, or investments ignoring the possessions they have.

5. What are at least three of the social problems related to poverty? Do assistance programs and policies address poverty as one of the causes of the issue?

The three social problems linked to poverty are increased crime, poor education, and prostitution. Assistance programs and policies address poverty as the main cause of these social problems.

In poverty, one cannot afford quality education which limits the education level some people may have. Mostly, school dropouts occur due to poverty which makes it hard to afford school fees to further one’s education.

Prostitution increases as members of society try to find new means of survival by selling their bodies to have the income to meet their basic needs. In poor areas, there are high rates of prostitution as people are trying to get income due to their lack of quality and needed skills to earn a living.

Crimes are also another effect of poverty. When people cannot afford to meet their needs, they turn to crimes like robbery, scamming, drug use, and trafficking. Some people even fall victims to human trafficking.

6. Describe how focusing on the morals and behaviors of the poor prevents Americans from seeing the social forces that create poverty.

This focus leads to developing unconstructive conclusions like the poor are lazy, unambitious, and closed minded. It also leads to stereotyping poor people due to impaired judgments. While people are basing their focus on behavior and morals, they fail to see the forces or reasons behind their poverty as they are busy concluding based on what they perceive rather than the facts. The Americans will fail to recognize the social problems like discrimination, unequal distribution of resources, and the privileges that exist in society due to the social construction created which pushes some people into poverty. They also fail to recognize the struggles and hard work of the poor in an attempt to make ends meet and move out of the poverty bracket.

7. How are racial categories socially constructed? How does this process connect to a history of racial inequality?

Racial categories are constructed based on some characteristics like race, skin color, facial features, and hair texture. The social elites do the construction as they are the dominant and the top-ranking group in the society hence based their categorization on the characteristics of the majority. Racial categorization is used to define and highlight the differences that exist among the people in a society based on their appearance, cultural setup, or ethnicity.

This connects to the history of social inequality where the dominant race was at the top of the social class and the racial minority group at the lowest. The racial dominant group enjoyed privileges that were not offered to the racial minority creating a disparity in the economic welfare, resources, and abilities they would access and enjoy. The gap that existed between the two races in a society defined the inequality due to race.

8. Define the concept of “colorblind” racism. How does this impact the ideal of racial equality?

Colorblind racism is the use of nonracial dynamics to explain the racial inequalities experienced in the current society. When there are claims that racism does not exist in our societies and that everyone has equal opportunities and rights which is truly not the case. This notion undermines the victims of racism who exist in the current society. Colorblind racism fails to address the root cause of racial inequalities but tends to cover it up by bringing in excuses that make it look as if the problem does not exist in society. As some people are made to believe that there is racial equality, the elites will bring in rules or policies that will give them dominance over the minority races without drawing more attention from society to racial inequality.

9. What were the original Jim Crow laws? Explain the meaning of the new Jim Crow laws?

The original Jim Crow Laws were based on racial segregation which caused a lot of racial discrimination and inequality in society. Under the laws in the past, whites had their education, transport, and housing facilities, policies, and systems. The minority races like blacks had to use separate transportation, housing, and schools from whites.

The new Jim Crow laws have come up as a way to enhance colorblindness where they hide under laws and policies that give the white race dominance over the minority races. A good example is the laws in the judicial system which are harsher on other races and lenient on the whites making the prisons dominant with other races. the stricter rules where the blacks have to provide their identifications and undergo strict scrutiny in the name of observing the law and keeping security is an example of a new Jim Crow law.

10. Describe one approach/action that addresses the cultural and structural factors to gender inequality. How does this approach attempt to solve a specific social problem?

The increased funding for rape crisis centers and other assistance for girls and women who have been sexually abused and/or raped helps address gender inequality. It addresses the social issue of sexual violence where women are the majority of victims and often do not get justice as sometimes it is assumed it was voluntary or they provoked their offenders. Social movements have come up to help victims access help, medical care, counseling programs, and other training for economic empowerment. Such movements like 'Me Too" have helped more victims come up and seek help. Other feminine groups and movements have come up to sensitize society against sexual violence against women and even sought to have laws to convict social offenders. Laws against sexual offenses have been able to help reduce sexual violence cases and victims seek justice.

Essay question

1. How is masculinity constructed as violent? What is the role of the media in contributing to this social problem? Why should mass shootings be defined through a gendered framework?

Men are believed to be strong, dominant, and emotionless by the popular culture in society. Through this, young men tend to think using violence shows their masculinity by making them feared by those around them. It leads to self-destructing behavior of boys and teenagers who want to show their manhood by committing violent crimes, using drugs, and bullying others to show who has control. In such attempts, violence is used when the young men try to make their stand on who is the "boss" by oppressing the weak or those they term should be under them. Most of the victims are women who are reduced to nothing but subjects of men and have to submit to them as a way to show they recognize and accept the masculinity of men.

Media contributes to this social problem to a great length. Most social problems are escalated by the media through the content shared and the comments made. Movies and commercial adverts express men with dominance and strength and some make them look like gods to be worshipped by women. Some show violence where the protagonist tries to establish his ground as the "real man" with no fear, emotions, and great strength shown by the destruction he creates. They show women over depending on men which leads to a social construct that men should be depended on by women and they have to be in charge. With such content, the young men develop the logic that masculinity comes with violence. Also, on gender-based crimes media tend to be neutral on men and does not condemn their actions harshly unlike when it reports on women's crime.

Mass shootings should be defined through a gendered framework since most of the incidences are carried out by men. The offenders of most mass shootings are men and women and children fall under victims. This is caused by the masculinity that society and popular culture have constructed. This construction has left men unable to face their emotions which end up being built up until they are unstable and explode in form of violent crimes like mass shootings. This gendered framework will help society see the root cause of mass shootings by tracing it back to masculinity. it will help society address the social problem related to masculinity and manhood definitions.

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