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Sociological Imagination

Sociological imagination is a power that enables us to think about why we are they way we are now, an ability that allows us to improve the habits we adopt from our parents, and a sense that permits us to learn more about our society through our personal experiences. By definition, “ sociological perspective is a point of view that helps us understand human behaviour in the larger social context in which it occurs”.

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My family and I moved from Macao, a city in China, to Canada several years ago, and I notice that our family and other immigrant families in Canada, is slowly moving away from our home cultures to Canadian culture. Chinese believe that only the males in the family can carry on the family name, since females take their husband’s last name when they marry. With this concept, Chinese parents tend to give more opportunities for learning to the son rather than the daughter. For instance, during my mom’s childhood she was told to help out with the housework when her homework was finished, while my uncle, her brother, was only asked to study hard all the time. As my sociology professor mentioned in class on Sept. 2002, culture is learned from role models, such as parents and media. My parents’ role models are their own parents, but when we moved to Canada my parents were influenced by other nationalities and began to treat children more equally.

I agree with the fact that “heritage should be pass[ed] along to next generation” (James, 1995, p. 171-2). However, I also believe that different cultures around the world are gradually changing. With my experience of emigrating from Macao to Vancouver, I am able to experience life in two different cultures. Not only is my family adapting to Canadian culture more as time goes on, but every family’s culture is also changing imperceptibly.

A major change in today’s society is the progress of reaching gender equality. Since there are many differences between females and males, can our society ever reach gender equality? Take for example, an immigration physical check for my female relative by a male doctor. It is a body check, so the doctor asked her to take off all her clothing, but my relative felt uncomfortable in that situation. She wanted to see a female doctor instead, but was unable to because of the smaller number of female doctors. However, the doctor still required her to take off her clothing without regarding to her sensitivities. From a structural functionalist’s point of view, the proper male gender role is the preparation for the labor force while female gender role is the preparation for child rearing. “[M]ales and females make different contributions to overall social stability” is the structural functionalists’ explanation of gender inequality (Kachuk, 2002). Functionalism assumes that males are the ones working in higher positions with higher pay, like doctors, while females are the ones working in lower positions with lower pay, like nurses, due to the biological and psychological differences between females and males.

On the other hand, liberal feminism claims that humans “can not maintain a society when inequality exist without reforms” (Kachuk, 2002). I harmonize with the liberal feminism’s concept because every individual is unique and original in different ways, so we must give equal chances for every person to make different contributions in the improvement of our society. We live in a society that value occupational positions; we do not equally value what in done at home. In order for every human to get equal respect for his or her contributions to society, we must eliminate the existence of patriarchy or male dominance.

During my childhood, I heard stories that sound strange to people of other cultures. One of the most memorable stories that my older cousin told me was about a girl opening an umbrella indoors and catching the evil spirits in the umbrella. The evil spirits followed that girl for a long time afterward. My cousin claimed that the rumour was true, and so I believed him since I was just a young, na?ve girl. One unforgettable incident that happened in elementary school after I moved to Canada was when I told my friends about the story of the evil spirits inside the umbrella. They laughed at me and said I was dense. I felt like a ‘geek’, a ‘nerd’. After that day, I never mentioned any of my silly beliefs of mine until now. This incident from my childhood demonstrated George Herbert Mead’s concept of “I” and “me”. The pure thoughts of the “I”, or the element of self, are controlled and hidden by the ‘me’, which can be seen by other people.

Mead proposed his concept of “ [t]he ‘I’ as the subjective element of the self that represents the spontaneous and unique traits of each person [and] [t]he ‘me’ as the objective element of the self, which is composed of the internalized attitudes and demands of other members of society and the individual’s awareness of those demands” (Kendall, 2000, p.109). My part of “I” just wanted to tell my friends a significant rumour that I heard from my cousin. However, my “me” part stopped myself from telling the childish rumour again as I learned from the embarrassing experience. This filtering process by “me” limits the ability to exchange valuable information or share personal feelings with others. Our society does not consist of people’s inner thoughts; it consists of only the thoughts that have been filtered from the majority’s perspective. Thoughts are not flowing freely in our society because each individual’s sense of self is derived from the perceptive of others. Humans are able to understand the thoughts and actions of others by using their sociological imagination to relate their own thoughts and actions to others around them.

Through some daily incidents with others and alone, we can analyze and become more aware of the issues in today’s society. Sociological imagination can help us to question why are we always doing things in a certain way, and whether improvements can be made. The sociological perspective allows individuals to challenge common understandings, to view the different opportunities and limitations in our lives, and to be knowledgeable participants in society.

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