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Social Experiment: Informal Norms of Gender Issues

Since we live in a society, we need to adhere to the social norms, and they have long become part of our life. With many years of adhering to the social norms, we stop noticing that we unwillingly and unconsciously obey them. Deviation from the accepted norms and behavior concepts will result in social disapproval and criticism.

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An array of social experiments has been carried out when people knowingly broke the socially-accepted norms, a great example may be seen at Andrew Hales’ YouTube channel, where he uploaded multiple videos of him breaking the socially-accepted norms (Wade, 2012). As it is seen from the clips, even such minor deviations such as holding the door for people when they’re far away, walking close to other people, or staring at them and never breaking eye-contact may result in a negative reaction.

For the experiment, I chose to break the informal norms of gender issues. It has always been considered that females are the weaker sex requiring protection and seeking to obtain it from men, the stronger sex. However, if one hints that a woman now is the actually weaker sex, this may result in a confrontation or a heated argument. Feminism has become a part of our life now, and actions by men labeling women as weaker sex are frowned upon. Since it is now socially accepted that men and women are actually equal, I decided to conduct a social experiment in which I asked random females to help me carry a box full of textbooks upstairs while I’d be carrying a seemingly lighter plastic bag. The experiment appears worthwhile because, according to the norms, I am expected to ask men to help me. Similarly, women are expected to seek help from men when they want a hand with something heavy.

I expected that some of the participants would help me, although with signs of reluctance and disapproval. Since the norm I chose to break was not really a harsh one, I did not expect a strong negative reaction.

In a crowded university lobby, I stood near the stairway with a reasonably big box of books and a smaller plastic bag, which seemed lighter. I saw a young female student approaching the stairway, I blocked her way and asked her to help me carry the box upstairs, interestingly she agreed and asked me to lift the back off the floor and place it in her hands. No sooner did I do that than a guy appeared and grabbed the box from her hands, offering his help without being asked. I carried the bag downstairs and asked a couple of ladies for help when one of them tried to lift the box and feeling how heavy it was, she put it down, saying that I should get someone stronger, probably a friend or a male acquaintance. The experiment showed that every second lady refused to carry the box on the grounds that it was too heavy, recommending that I find someone else to do it. Those who did agree were rather reluctant and disapproving. Interestingly, if the same request was addressed to men, it may be assumed that nine out of ten would give a hand with no questions asked.

The social experiment presents a contradiction between the socially-accepted norms and the understanding of equality between men and women. Sadly, there are cases when females are offended if offered help with such trivial things as opening or holding the door, offering a hand with something. More worryingly, our society has become so politically correct that trivial comments, remarks, or jokes may be regarded as sexual assault (Sherlock, 2015). In the course of the experiment, I have learned that norms have become an integral part of society, and people are expected to follow them.

Reference List

Sherlock, R. (2015). How political correctness rules in America’s student ‘safe spaces’. Web.

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Wade, L. (2012). Norm Breaching: Social Responses to Mild Deviance. Web.

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