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Subcultures Within Society

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 2318 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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Subcultures Within Society

Hundreds of subcultures exist within the United States. A subculture is a culture within a broader mainstream culture, with its own separate values, practices, and beliefs. In sociology, the concept of subculture explains the behavior of some social groups; sociologists study subcultures as one way of studying culture (Buckner, 2006). Racial and ethnic groups share the same food, customs, and language of their heritage. Other subcultures are linked by common experiences. Some subcultures are founded by members who possess inclinations or traits that differ from the majority of a society’s population. In the United States, teenagers often form subcultures to develop a shared youth identity.

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The film Paris is Burning, directed by Jennie Livingston, explores the drag ball culture of New York on the late 1980s, focusing on the Latino, Black, and transgender and homosexual community. The film revolves around footage of the ball and interviews with members of the ball community such as Angie Xtravanganze Pepper LaBeija, Willi Ninja, and Dorian Corey. Paris is Burninghas become known as an incredibly relevant film; because of the ways Livingston expresses his ideas regarding racism, homophobia and sexual identity.

An interesting side of Paris is Burning is the formation of the drag balls, in which those who go by as either homosexual or transgender participate in a contest. Each contestant is judged on the “realness” of their drag and uses a specific category, their clothing and their dancing ability. The contest gave the community a chance to live a life where they yearned to be accepted also filled with luxury. At the same time the community as a whole is aware of their social and economic rank on society, also known as class consciousness (Crossman, 2018). The sadness of enduring a lack of acceptances is shown when a man in the film states, “After all…how many gay black males are in the business of executive ranks.” This works as an example of the social injustice that the homosexual and transgender community experienced. This is accentuated within the film, when Corey says, “In real life you can’t get a job as an executive unless you have the educational background and the opportunity. Now the fact that you are not an executive is merely because of the social standing of life…black people have a hard time getting anywhere. And those that do are usually straight.”

Even though, there is sadness to these individuals who yearn to be someone accepted by society, the essence of the supportive ball community is inspiring. The ball allows this community to manifest certain feelings they had towards the oppressive groups of society, through style and dance. In Emanuel Levy review of Paris is Burning, he emphasizes the beauty of the ball culture. He describes the film as a “[celebration of] the vitality and resourcefulness of a group that is subcultural, i.e. part of the culture, without being countercultural, namely operating outside and against of dominant culture” (Dwedar, 2017). The structure of ball culture creates a system of houses, with a group of unaccepted individuals and a mother. The houses act as a substitute for each of the community member’s biological family.

Livingston’s film evoked from me to doubt the meaning of gender. Is gender originated from social construction? Livingston without a doubt believes so as she states in an interview “Gender is a construction. Much of it is learned — the behavior and the makeup and the walk and the dress” (Dwedar, 2017). Gender identity is highlighted through the ball competition and is created through the practice of a specific gendered behavior. Each contestant is criticized on their “realness”, just like how society judges this community- when they are a woman, if they cannot trick the public into believing they are a man, then society will not accept them as a real member of the population.

Paris is Burning gives us with the opportunity to observe an underground community, that most of us have not and most likely won’t be exposed to. The film addresses oppression from society, social identity and, identity which seems be both liberating and restricting for these individuals. Livingston’s documentary has become a phenomenon because of its important underlaying message and its inspirational story of learned endurance. The film makes the viewer see the demands of the media, the meaning of identity and question prejudice.

During the 2010s, acknowledgment of LGBT people slowly increased in many parts of the world. In the United States the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in March 2010, under this law, insurers could no longer turn away people just because of their sexual orientation or gender-identity (Thande, 2016). This can be put into context as evidence, showing that equality is still possible. Even though society has been moving forward as far as further acceptance, this improvement is being made very slowly.

Although factors of various sources of LGBT discrimination come into play, LGBT equality is still very much within reach. As society continues to develop, so will this subject. Many years ago, it was considered “normal” to marry into your own household. Now however, that would be considered wrong. The definition of “acceptable” is constantly changing, and so is the aspects of what is considered ordinary. Maybe one day topics like LGBT equality, gay marriage, and LGBT acceptance will not even be thought of as major problems. Through slow advancement into the near future, sexual diversity may not even be a questionable matter anymore. It has been shown through studies that acceptance is growing and is predicted to grow out even further in the future. It may not happen right away, but LGBT equality is extremely achievable.

Work Cited

  • Buckner, R. (2006, June 17). Subcultures and Sociology. Retrieved from http://haenfler.sites.grinnell.edu/subcultural-theory-and-theorists/what-is-a-subculture/
  • Crossman, A. (2018, March 07). What Are Class Consciousness and False Consciousness? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/class-consciousness-3026135
  • Dwedar, M. (2017, June 06). “Like Walking Through a Hailstorm” | Discrimination Against LGBT Youth in US Schools. Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/report/2016/12/07/walking-through-hailstorm/discrimination-against-lgbt-youth-us-schools#
  • Thande, Murugi. “6 Milestones for LGBT Rights in the Last 6 Years.” WUSA, WUSA, 11 June 2016, www.wusa9.com/article/news/local/6-milestones-for-lgbt-rights-in-the-last-6-years/238911698.

Alienation in Society

Modern definitions of anomie and alienation have changed the classical interpretation of these concepts. Alienation occurs when solidarity is absent, and individuals do not feel connected to others or are not maintained and socialized into the whole. Alienation for Marx and anomie for Durkheim were metaphors for a thorough attack on the main institutions and values of industrial based society. They focused on similar behavior, but from contradictory perspectives. Marx assumed a fundamental conception of the relationship between man and society and the value of freedom from restraint. Durkheim on the other hand targeted a boundless conception and the value of moral pressure (Horton, 2019). While Marx was interested in problems pertaining to power and change, Durkheim was interested in exploring problems related to the maintenance of order.

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Marx puts alienation down to the divide in labor and private property which is seen as dehumanizing society. Marx’s view of alienation in labor can be explained as the way a worker feels a sense of strangeness to products of their own creation. This is done by working class people in industries who were put into long and appalling conditions of work to survive. They didn’t have an education, were placed in a deplorable position, treated badly and poorly paid. Due to these circumstances the workers started to compete with one another to get an additional day of work in order to support their household. Marx proposes that workers need to advocate their rights and demand more pay and better working conditions.

Marx’s alienation theory is quite influential and powerful because it gives an explanation of how human life is depraved, however it makes clear that it is not be anticipated. It provides a detailed explanation of the experiences of labor (Answers Ltd, 2019). Marx’s theory of alienation shows the consequence of capitalist production on the emotional state of people and on the social position they participate in and are part of. This was Marx method of seeing his surroundings so he could comprehend and explain how they connect and relate to each other.

There are many examples of alienation, for example when a worker doesn’t get enough income from their capitalist work, they might be forced to take out loans from banks to buy the commodities they might need such as a house or a vehicle. They are overburdened by mortgages and loans however if they were to become unemployed it will all be taken away from them. The solution to alienation isn’t to look back at history but to acknowledge what can be done and how it can be changed. A book by Oliver James describing the Affluenza virus supports Marx where he blames capitalism for creating alienation. The book ‘Affluenza virus’ is sets of principles that makes people more vulnerable to emotional stress. This is done by putting making obtaining wealth, goods and fame more relevant than it actually is. James recommends that changing the way people live will help overcome this which isn’t always easy for people to do. Alienation is not that easy to solve when exploitation and oppression persists in society.

Durkheim believed that in a “primitive” society, mechanical solidarity, with people behaving and thinking similarly and with a common mind-set, is what allows social order to be kept. In such a society, Durkheim viewed crime as an act that “offends strong and defined states of the collective conscience” (Durkheim, 1997) yet he saw crime as a normal social fact. Because social ties are approximately homogeneous and weak in a mechanical society, the law has to be restrictive and penal to respond to misdemeanors of the common conscience.

In an advanced, industrial, capitalist society, the complicated system of division of labor means that people are situated in society according to their merits and compensated accordingly: social inequality mirrors natural inequality, at least in the case that there is absolute equity in the society. Durkheim disputed that moral regulation was necessary to maintain order in society. In fact, this regulation forms as anticipated in result to the division of labor, giving the chance to the people to “arrange their differences in a civil way”. In this kind of society, law would be more restorative than penal, seeking to restore rather than punish unnecessarily.

He comprehends that the transition of a society from “basic” to advanced may result in major social commotion and crisis. However, once society has accomplished the “advanced” stage, it becomes much more developed and is done developing. Unlike Karl Marx, Durkheim did not predict any different society originated from the industrial capitalist division of labor. He regarded chaos, disorder, and conflict as pathological phenomena to modern society, whereas Marx focuses on class conflict.

Karl Marx, and Émile Durkheim based their concepts on the industrial and capitalist revolutions. The broad differences between their theories within this field are famous, but we pay attention to the special specifics in their ways of defining the concept of work. Marx continuously struggled with several concepts of work at different levels of points of view, from work as a liberal and creative activity that allows the dividing quality between human beings and other animals, over the alienation in wage labor to the definitive role of work in the secret of the commodity and of profit. Durkheim did not discuss the concept of work at all, despite the importance of the division of labor in his theory. It is the phenomenon of division, not labor, that is important in relation to the development from mechanical to organic solidarity.

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