The more things change…

July 5, 2012 § 1 Comment

the more things do not stay the same. At least that’s how it should work with cultural shifts. Maybe the original truism is relevant for personal reflections on relationships or life courses, but not so much with social movements. I hope.

So how can mainstream norms regarding gender, sexuality, inequality, race, class, and so on shift? Or be completely reworked? Or just thrown out altogether? How does change happen?

Attitudes change in response to things like persuasive communication, cognitive dissonance, or social influence. Classical or operant conditioning are more structured ways of actively trying to change behavior. (If you aren’t way too wrapped up in The Office and haven’t had a change to watch Jim classically condition Dwight, it’s a pretty entertaining demonstration of psychology.)

A recent study on the cultural control of women tried to figure out why there haven’t been more female leaders of organizations or governments.

Hang on – to see what the numbers are on women in positions of power around the world, take a look at this infographic from Miss Representation:

Does that not make you want to just grab all the sexist assholes by the shoulders and shake them until they stop running their mouths and, I don’t know, donate to Planned Parenthood or something? Oh wait. Well at least there are some men seriously trying to develop women’s leadership skills!

Okay back to the study – the researchers compared societies according to how culturally “loose” (i.e., open) or “tight” (i.e., rigid) they were and how that related to women’s status there. Tight societies have clear norms and resist deviations from those norms, while loose societies tend to be more open to changing attitudes and norms in general. Once norms in tight societies (such as Norway) shift though, the subsequent real-world changes are carried out much more systematically than in looser societies (such as the United States) where broader goals are set but then not followed through.

So. Follow-through in an open society. I think we’re going to need a bigger goat.

(Yeah, I couldn’t resist. For the origins of my goat pictures for social change theory, scroll down or click on this earlier post. Or click here, here, or here.)


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§ One Response to The more things change…

  • Let’s just try to make America like Sweden… I know Sweden’s not perfect (and has plenty of right-wing racism), but with a number like 45%, they have to be doing something right.

    I love seeing the countries that do currently have female heads of state, because they tend to be countries the US thinks it’s better than…

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