“Just Walk on by” the Social Constructions Even Though They’re “Taking It” too Far
February 27, 2012 § 2 Comments
Brent Staples’ and Leonard Kriegel’s essays really brought to light how deeply impacted we all are by socially constructed ideas. All of us, whether we like to admit it/realize it or not, have ideas, or stereotypes, about how people should or shouldn’t act based on sex, gender, race, etc. Both essays, though in slightly different ways, talk about the socially constructed ideas of men. We are made to believe that men must be powerful and intimidating. We are made to think that men must be fighters, that they must never back down, and that they must prove themselves victorious over others. Because of this thinking, as in Brent Staples’ essay, young men try to adopt these ideals, which in turn cause others to place people within stereotypes regardless of whether these people belong in such categories. And Staples went as far as to change his own behavior so that people wouldn’t place him within a certain stereotype. In Kriegel’s essay, the socially constructed idea of the “American man” forced him to think he had something to prove to everyone—that he was able to “take it like a man.” Kriegel put himself through hell trying to adopt this idea of what an American man should be and what did he get for it? Arthritis.
One thing that I found particularly interesting about both of these stories is that both men changed their own behavior to either escape a stereotype, as with Staples, or to adopt a stereotype, as with Kriegel. While reading I thought it was ridiculous that these men think they have to change to be more socially acceptable. Both of these men had done nothing wrong and needed to change nothing about themselves, but because of an idea that was created by our society they thought they had to alter their behavior to better fit in. It’s amazing to me how our society is so judgmental of people we know nothing about and how intolerable we are of people who don’t fit a social “norm”.