Breaking the Social Norm of Attire

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Student ID: 20150822
School: UWI – Roytec
Lecturer: Karima Pragg
SOSC-0206
Done by Renee Alysha Bernard
Table of Contents
Statement of Problem .......................................................................................... 2
Hypothesis ......................................................................................................... 3
Setting ................................................................................................................ 4
Incident .............................................................................................................. 5
Summary ............................................................................................................. 7
Biography ........................................................................................................... 8
Norm Violating Outfit ........................................................................................ 9
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Statement of problem
Social norms are another component of culture. Norms are the specific cultural
expectations for how to behave in a given situation. Society without norms would be chaos; with
norms in place, people know how to act and social interactions are consistent, predictable and
learnable (Anderson, M.L & Taylor, H.F. (2013). Sociology: The Essentials 7th edition). In this
paper, the norm of social attire is going to be broken. Social norms can be classified as implicit
norms; these norms may be learned through specific instruction or by observation of the culture.
These norms are part of a society’s customs.
To break this social norm, I have decided that I will attend my cousin’s wedding
reception in a tuxedo. Traditionally, African women wear Venda dresses, Indian women
wear sarees, Muslim women wear thobe/ thawb dresses and English women wear ball
gowns. Women wear dresses and skirts opposed to men, who wear shirts put together
with matching pants colour coded according to their gender. In Trinidad and Tobago, a
woman will usually wear a dress and a man will wear a tuxedo. Below is what society
perceives that should be worn to a wedding by a woman.
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Hypothesis
In this attire, I think I will get a lot of unwanted attention. As previously stated, this
outfit was chosen because it is not socially acceptable for a female dress as a male, especially at
a formal event or function.
People will be wondering why am I dressed like that, they will be staring at me and
talking among their peer groups about me. I strongly believe I will be talked about and the
following is a list of the possible reactions which I may receive while conducting this project:
1) “Why is she dressed like that?”
2) “Is she the male in a lesbian relationship.”
3) “Is something wrong with her and that’s why she has a very distasteful fashion
sense?”
4) “Is that a woman or man?”
5) “She is bold”
6) “We need to take out a picture and send it to fashion police.”
I think when people look at me, they will laugh out loud and ask themselves why is she
dressed like that when she could’ve dressed like us.
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Setting
This norm violation took place at Ortinola Estates Ltd. The theme was A Winter
Wonderland; the view was so breathtaking I felt as it I was in another realm. Deep red carpet
took over the grass surrounded by white palm branches with foam to give the winder effect. As
you walked in two men hold up the drapes for us to enter the make shift tent. As you entered
there was a glitter path leading to where we sign our names as attendees of the wedding. The
bright blue colours were all over the tent.
Bouquets of red roses lay all around in every corner and table top. Crystal streamers hung
from the middle of the tent. All around had an icy finish, had the weather not been scorching hot
in my little island, I would’ve thought I was in the middle of the Arctic or Greenland due to
decoration.
To my left I saw another tent, the tent I loved out of them all. There in all its glory, stood
the food tent with mouthwatering food such as roti, channa, mango, curry meats. For those who
did not like Indian food there was also pelau, stew chicken, macaroni pie, baked beans and fresh
salad. I looked ahead and I saw tables where the other guests and myself would be seated. I
quickly spotted my name on one of the tables and urged by family to move as there were other
people in the entrance waiting.
The tables were adorned with white table cloths and silver cutlery. A tall vase of flowers
stood in the middle with candles. Tables were closely put together trying to accommodate
approximately one hundred (100) people. It was slightly crammed but workable. As more people
came in, everyone was dressed in their very best. Men in their 3pc suits and women in their long
evening dresses.
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Incident
The incident took place at approximately 5:00pm in the afternoon. As I walked through
the grand entrance of small red roses on the floor to get to my table, I immediately felt out of
place and indifferent in my purple, male, three peace suit as I sat down with my family having a
casual conversation. I looked around as I thought to myself all the other females are looking
radiant in their dresses and here I am, the only one dressed as a man. As everyone else became
seated, it was observed at this point that some guests were visibly disturbed by the normbreaking outfit. Some guests were seen questioning each other whilst others did not seem to be
bothered.
I got up deciding it was time to take a walk to the other tent where the food was situated.
I sighed when I saw the long line of people as my belly grumbled signifying that it is feeding
time. As I walked by two guests were having a conversation, when they saw me and they
stopped talking for approximately five seconds. Afterwards they went back talking but in a
quieter and hushed tone. I could tell I was the topic of conversation. I immediately thought to
myself “Hmm the things I do for this sociology class eh but this is too funny”. I then saw my
sister in law which made a smile on my face. Finally, someone I know, but to my horror she
screamed “Oh My God Reneeeeee! What are you wearing?’ in a loud manner which drew even
more attention. There were a lot of stares and glares thrown my way to which I just smiled and
waved while getting my food to carry back to my table. Nobody is going to bring me down.
I mingled with several of my younger family members and their friends till they
announced that it was time for the bride and groom to have their first dance as white suited
servers passed around with crystal flutes of champagne. I look on with awe. The camera men
took pictures while they danced to the song “The Power of Love by Celine Dion” capturing the
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moments they exchanged as if they were the only ones there. I explained to the people who were
not family that my cousin always believed that blue and white were the colours of trust, honesty
and loyalty as they commented on the decorations. It signified a new beginning and a reflection
of their relationship. After I did my little speech, one said “since we’re talking about honesty, I
must let you know that you look just like a man with that haircut of yours and suit.” Another
joined the taunting and said “what are you supposed to be? The groom or are you a dike?” while
someone said “Despite what you dress as, you will always be the beautiful person I know you to
be”.
I felt absolutely humiliated, all my pride and high self-esteem evaporated and I was left
standing alone until my bigger cousin came up to me. She told me she overheard them and asked
me to dance. I couldn’t say no to her as she was the bride. She then said “I never once thought of
the day I will see you a tux. Yes, everyone may be entitled to their opinions but I just want to let
you know that you are gorgeous. You are bold and carefree hence the reason why you rocked
this look so well. Always remember who you are and I know for a fact you are not one to back
down or let something as simple as this break you.” With those words and as the song ended she
left.
I was glad for that talk as I went back to finding other friends and family with my new
found boost of self-confidence. Eventually the looks and stares calmed down as the evening
progressed. Some people even came up to me letting me know they heard what happened earlier
and they think I am a strong woman for wearing what I like and not what I should adapt to. I felt
happy and overjoyed. Aside from that incident I found the whole situation hilarious. Based on
the reactions of the guest to my norm-breaking outfit, it seemed to have fulfilled its intended
purpose in gaining the attention of others and engaging them in provocative thought.
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Summary
As I carried out this experiment, I felt a mixed of emotions. At one point I felt this whole
situation amusing while at the other I felt ashamed and embarrassed of my attire as people
actually thought I was gay. I have an enormous amount of pride and I do not enjoy being judged.
I did not enjoy being the center of attention and being talked about unless it is something great I
have achieved.
I predicted in my head before I carried out this task that I will be frowned upon, be
scrutinized, looked at, talked about and those are exactly the reactions I got as well as some good
comments. When people saw my attire they chose to laugh at it or judge me because this is not
how a young lady dresses. People reacted this way because young ladies are known to be looking
prim and proper at wedding in their very best with heavy fake faces of cosmetics and fancy hair
styles. I interacted with some people and a female gay couple commended me because one of
them wanted to dress like I did but was scared to due to being criticized.
That got me thinking a lot. There are these imaginary rules that are unwritten, people
don’t talk about them but yet they are followed from generation to generation. People are afraid
to do something different or step outside of it because they don’t want society to classify them as
peculiar. They wish to stay in groups for a sense of belonging even if that means themselves will
be unhappy once they fit into the “in crowd”.
This project was an eye opener for me, it proved a point I learnt that norms controls
society on how we must, think, act, dress and speak. It hinders and blocks self-expression. If
anything, I would say that this project thought be to be confident and brave in all you because
society is going go judge you regardless. The only opinion that matters is your own, you should
always make yourself happy and never conform to these unwritten rules of society.
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Bibliography
 https://study.com/academy/lesson/what-are-social-norms-definition-examples-ininfants-children-adults.html
 Anderson, M.L & Taylor, H.F. (2013). Sociology: The Essentials 7th edition
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Norm Breaking outfit
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