Upon being asked the question of what the most important and influential concept to understanding the relationship between sex and society covered in this semester, I began to think about all the different concepts talked and read about in class. When thinking about everything, I began to see connections between different terms that came up throughout the semester that were discussed that I had never seen before. The concepts are all fairly different, yet are all still related in some ways because of the manner that society has been formed over the years. Agents of socialization, sex education, social constructions, and heteronormativity have all become interconnected, creating an environment of hostility towards people who do not identify as heterosexual.
The agents of socialization people are exposed to impact their views on everything in life. However, their views on sex are affected more so than some other aspects of life are. The socialization of sex and sex education has a more prevalent impact on how a person forms their ideas and views on sex. The environment a person was raised in, their religion, schooling experience, family, friends, and the media all heavily influence the formation of what sex means and should mean to a person. But, this can be dangerous- with the amount of societal constructions (such as what “good” or “normal” sex is, gender, etc.) that exist today, it is easy for the manner in which a person was socialized to negatively affect their views on sex or gender. For example, many religions do not condone homosexuality, so if someone is raised in that environment, it is likely they would judge and discriminate anyone who is homosexual.
SInce gender is a social construction, it easy to stereotype and discriminate against those who do not fit into the gender binaries that exist today (boy and girl). So, those who appear as lesbian, gay, queer, bisexual, or transgender are easily stereotypes and judged. The heteronormative ideals that are held by the majority of the people in this country also lead to stigmas and discrimination. When people who have other sexual orientations other than heterosexual, they are often mistreated by society and can even be susceptible to violence, sexual violence in particular (as seen in the video of the transgender man who used the bathroom of a New York McDonald and was beat for it by the manager, yet was charged for a misdemeanor when in actuality he was the victim ).
Over the years, this problem has perpetuated. It has become easier for discrimination and violence to occur without any repercussion on the perpetrator. The connections between these terms and these societal constructions and manifestations all lend to why society is as it is today and why people discriminate, act violently toward, and outcast nonheterosexual people. Having a good understanding of all these terms allows for a person too see the interconnectedness and understand why these horrible things occur. It allows for people to be aware of the problem and not lend to it or be an enabler.
Being an immigrant in a culture affects a myriad of aspects in a person’s life. The way they interact with people, their everyday routines and practices, and all aspects of their lives in an immigrant country are all altered and begin to fall into the mold of that of the host nation. Women immigrants see and feel the effects of being an immigrant more so than other people. Racial and gender hierarchies become a prevalent factor in how their lives are lived, and consequently, their sexualities and employment statuses are shaped based on the expectations of the dominant race or gender. When people immigrate to other countries in numbers, the people of that country typically experience moral panic, fearing that their social order and habitual customs are at risk to change due to foreign people coming in with their “alien” practices. This forms a resentment toward the immigrant people and culture, and gives the host nation’s culture a sense of informal power over them. Consequently, racial hierarchies confine immigrant women to a status of diminished personhood where their rights, culture, and sexual agency are treated as second rate to a dominant culture.
In the United States, hispanic and latino populations have grown immensely in the past decade. Many Mexican and Latin American people have immigrated to the United States seeking better work and opportunities for themselves and their families. Many have joined the labor force, working jobs in the realms of farm work, agricultural work, or on construction; a good amount of these workers are undocumented laborers. The employees in these situations, including the Mexican women who worked on the fields in California who were featured in the documentary, “Rape in the Fields,” are a part of this population. However, because they are immigrants, and are women, they have little to no power; they are easy to take advantage of. Their statuses and sexualities are at the disposal of people of higher racial or gender standings through neocolonialism. They are at the disposal of their employers. Because they have no rights, papers, little money, and need to provide for their families, these women are forced to keep working in unhealthy situations, where they are confined and mistreated. They have no choice but to submit to their employers and obey what they or told for fear of being acted towards violently.
The lack of rights that these women face impacts them in the most negative possible ways. Employers and people of higher racial or social standing feel as if they can take advantage of these women. These women are raped because of this, yet have to bite their tongue and endure the conditions just to provide for their families. Even when these women tell of their experiences of being exploited and taken advantage of, they are treated as second rate. Their claims are dismissed and they are forced to live with the violence and rape they face in their workplaces. If a white woman claimed rape, then she would receive all the attention and her needs would be met; but because these mexican women are part of a diaspora culture and carry no social weight compared to the dominant culture, they are completely disregarded. Historically, rape cases for white women have taken precedence over rape cases for minorities- some cases have even become national news, yet minority cases go completely under the radar.
The documentary “Rape in the Fields” portrayed this idea well. It displayed the notion of rape against Mexican immigrant workers as insignificant when showing the story of the man that would continually take a woman worker far away in the fields and force her to have sex with him. She told authorities about this man, and no one listened. He would rape her and threaten her, yet she had no power whatsoever to combat these actions. When authorities actually did take the situation into their hands, the man pleaded innocent and was not questions, getting away for free. Unfair situations like these cause life-lasting feelings of unrest and fear for the women who have to face these types of men. Situations like these happen often in these certain worker communities, leaving the women hopeless and feeling as if they cannot receive any help. This perpetuates over time, and becomes a culture. When it becomes a culture, it creates an environment where there is an unsaid expectation of the women to submit to the men in authority and their sexual wants without even questioning it or fighting it. These notions become widespread, and women are expected to keep their mouths shut, and they do because it is what they have to do to make a living and survive.
Unfortunately, I do not believe that this culture exists only in these realms, but probably also exist in other circles of immigrant and minority cultures. It probably exists not only in the United States, but in countries across the world considering the historical gender bias and power complex that has been present for years. Do you think that the assertion above is potentially true? Will there ever be justice for these women immigrant workers, or will they continually be disregarded by the authorities and the United States’ justice system? What do you think it would need to take for this culture to change? Why do you think it is that these women who face these situations are completely disregarded?
Just a few days ago, on the Indian show Raw Star, a female contestant in the singing competition was physically assaulted by a man in the audience. The man initially began teasing and taunting the contestant, and when she protested, he stood up, approached the her, and slapped her on the face.
American culture is surely not the only one where women are painted as submissive to men and susceptible to their policing. Power and privilege lie in the hands of men. Gender hierarchies in which women are viewed beneath men aid in the objectification of women’s bodies and the desire of control over said bodies. Male dominance is embedded in cultures and societies across the entire globe, India included.
Many men assume women exist merely to serve them, and when that “service” is unsatisfactory (or in some cases does not even present itself), then the woman is at fault and subject to violent consequences.
Remember the UC-Santa Barbara shooting where a young man went on a killing spree because of his disgust with the women in his life who didn’t freely give themselves to him like they were “supposed to”?
Male dominance and power also connect to issues of morality and social institutions. The man who assaulted the Raw Star contestant claimed that as a Muslim woman, she should be wearing “such a short dress.” We see this rhetoric of using clothing choice or behaviors as an indication of a person’s morality constantly throughout hegemonic society, despite its complete unreliability.
Indian women, like others around the world, are under high scrutiny–unwarranted scrutiny. Men find that they have the right to police women’s bodies, just like the attacker on Raw Star, who told police that he slapped the female contestant to make the point that, “since it makes him so sexually attracted to her, her clothing could ‘damage the brains’ of her other male audience members as well.” (Read: Sounds kinda like “she was asking for it,” to me.)
Do you think that women should be more conscientious of how they are presenting themselves in order to “keep the peace” with men? Have you encountered similar situations while here at Vanderbilt? Is there anything we can actually do to change the mentalities of young men who think like this attacker?
At this point, it’s no big secret. We’ve covered enough material for us all to know how sex and society are very much related and feed off of each other in the world we live in. We’ve learned how gender norms and identities limit and sometimes alienate certain groups or factions in society. It only takes one person in a group to do something wrong for society to turn its back on the entire group.
We all know what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but what about other places? Is Vegas the only place where people go to ‘play’? Why is Vegas such a popular spot for tourists? I bet it isn’t just for the lights and shows…