One Week in The Social World Has Me Rethinking the Basis of My Identity

 

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By Sinead Hunt

This semester, in a dual attempt to a) become a much more well-rounded student and b) fulfill Barnard’s “Thinking About Social Difference” requirement, I enrolled in “Introduction to Sociology: The Social World.” Although it is still early in the semester, this class has already managed to challenge my most fundamental conception of my identity.

As an economics major, I’m used to grappling with difficult mathematical concepts, to stripping people of their humanity and viewing them as the mere sum of their economic transactions. If economics is cold and calculating, then sociology is the diametric opposite. In order to understand the forces that drive individual human behaviors, sociologists fully integrate themselves into people’s daily lives. They infiltrate churches and schools, hospitals and boardrooms, camouflaging themselves in order to produce writing that is both academic and intimate.

sociology.pngThis week, as part of our examination of the development of the self, we studied the work of George Herbert Mead, who is best known for his theory that a person’s identity is developed through their social interactions. At first I was rather resistant to Mead’s idea of identity formation through “social experiences and activities,” mostly because I have always tended to avoid social interactions. However, one thing I have learned thus far is that regardless of whether or not you subscribe to certain social norms, they nonetheless govern your life. Just because I was an anti-social preschooler doesn’t mean that I am the rare exception to Mead’s theory. Even as a four year-old, my fierce independence was fueled by the self-aggrandizing delusion that I was somehow above my peers, above my teachers, and most of all, above the patronizing institution of pre-K.

2f242f718d575fbc3adf7e286cb47095Mead believed that play is integral to children’s formation of identity, as it allows children to take on different roles, thereby adopting the perspective of others. I remember distinctly that one day I was playing with a friend of mine, Amanda, when she imperiously announced that she would play the role of a princess and I her servant. I               still remember bitterly choking down tears as

I began to feel an acrid mixture of rage and resentment. I also remember feeling unbridled glee when I turned the tables on Amanda by channeling my pent up feelings of injustice into revenge. Play allowed me to experience of wide range of perspectives, all from the comfort the comfort of my home.

Mead posits that at a certain point, children’s conception of “self” is transformed by what he refers to as the “generalized other.” This is to say, when you are a very young child, your sense of self is predicated upon how your family members and caretakers perceive you. As you move out into the world, however, and begin to interact with those outside of your family circle, your identity is increasing influenced by how you think others perceive you. Your sense of self is increasingly predicated upon what you believe society expects of you.

In class, our professor asked us one simple question: “Who do you think you are?” She instructed us to summarize our identity in one word and write it down in our notebooks. As those around me diligently obeyed her directive, I couldn’t help but pause. The first thing I thought to write was “smart.” For about as long as I can remember, I have identified as “smart,” predicating not only self-worth, but the very essence of my sense of self upon my intelligence. When I was very young, I had no conception of my own intelligence or abilities. I felt no ambition, no desire to achieve, no impulse to prove myself to anyone: I simply just existed. Mostly I was content on fulfilling my own preschool version of hedonistic desires, which mostly consisted of fruit snacks.

It wasn’t until second or third grade that I began to internalize what my teachers thought of me. My teachers expected me to achieve, so in a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, I began to achieve at high levels. My mother once recounted to me a horrifying story about her coming home, only to discover that nine-year-old me was stressing about an upcoming state science exam. When she asked me why I felt so anxious, I responded that I had heard the teachers talking about me, and they had expressed a certainty that I would get a perfect score. Suddenly, I felt not only an obligation to perform well, but to perform perfectly. My intelligence, my achievement and my sense of self became inextricably and dangerously linked.

The moral of the story? Sociology will fuck you up.

 

New Yorker Cartoon linked here

Edited by Ruby Samuels

 

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Natural Disasters Don’t See Red or Blue

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      AP Photo/David J. Phillip

By Grace Armstrong
Most of my memories are from Houston, Texas. I wasn’t born in Houston, but about a year after I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, my family hiked it to Houston for my mom’s new job. I’ll never forget the time we had a class field trip to the Alamo; the pure joy I felt that one December when it slightly snowed for four seconds; seeing a police officer pursuing a car on horseback. But the things I remember the most are the hurricanes. Read More »

Letter From The New Editor

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By Ruby Samuels

Allow me to introduce myself: I am Ruby Samuels. I enjoy writing, running, boxing, talking to strangers and long walks on the beach. I also enjoy being part of the Barnard Bite, which I am proud, excited and nervous to announce has elected me Editor-in-Chief.

Whether you worked a 9-5 internship, traveled the world or started a lemonade stand over the summer, the school year has inevitably returned and the Barnard Bite is ready to write all about it. As the new Editor in Chief, I can’t wait to post new articles, meet new writers and reach a bigger audience than ever before.Read More »

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The Glory of the Great British Baking Show

By Allison Yeh

Warning: This is not Cutthroat Kitchen but rather a dozen amateur bakers with soothing British accents making biscuits and other delightful treats in a tent. That being said, The Great British Baking Show, available on Netflix, is life changing. Never before had I craved sponge cake or felt compelled to analyze the sogginess of a pie. The soothing background music paired with an even keeled narrator voice eases any tension felt by the people competing against one another. The judges, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood (real names, I swear), love using constructive criticism and often express sheer joy at a contestant’s “good bake.” They also love eating the food and making it look exceptionally “scrummy.”

The show is set up in 50 minute episodes containing three challenges: Signature Bake, dudebiteTechnical Challenge, and Showstopper, all surrounding a theme (eg. pastry day). The contestants’ range in age and background – a middle aged firefighter or a seventeen year-old girl living at home – are refreshing after watching shows like Chopped where professional cooks call upon their egos to help them through each challenge.

Another unique aspect about the show is how it informs the viewer of baking techniques. Contestants will give advice as they bake of what will make their cream “curdle” or how to get the best caramel. Not only are you watching an exciting competition, but also you are remotely learning how to bake. It’s only natural that at the end of binging all three seasons you may feel feel qualified to judge a dessert at a soggybottomrestaurant on its uneven layers of icing or it’s close textured sponge. While Chef’s Table may promote a sense of culture in your air of fine dining, The Great British Baking Show allows you to feel like an expert in the field of enriched dough versus regular dough. With quirky side notes and two show hosts whose presence seems annoyingly extraneous, GBBS takes on a whole new genre of food competitions, and perhaps highlights how America does it all wrong. After all, the winner of the show receives a nice glass trophy and nothing more.

 

Country House Butterscotch Brownies : The Best Blondies You’ll Ever Eat (Recipe from Martha Dixon’s Copper Kettle Cook Book)

 

By Olivia Nathan

 

Full disclosure: This recipe is from one of my mom’s favorite cookbooks and she taught me to make it a couple years ago. I have made it for my Dad’s birthday, for my Mom’s birthday, and for lonely Friday nights. Despite it being the easiest thing to make and baking them successfully all the previous times (AKA creating the most heavenly, gooey, coconuty treat ever), on Valentine’s Day this year I used baking soda instead of powder and also burnt them. My boyfriend ate one and said it was, “Still good”. He’s a theater major at Tisch and I told him the classes were really paying off…

 

1/3 cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg, unbeaten

1/4 t salt

3/4 cup sifted enriched flour

1t baking powder

1t vanilla

1/2 cup coconut

1 6 oz. package semi sweet chips

1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (I prefer pecans)

 

Melt butter in medium-sized saucepan. Cool. Add sugar, egg, salt, flour, baking powder, and vanilla. Blend the above ingredients; then add coconut, chocolate chips, and chopped nuts. Spread in greased 8 or 9” square pan. Bake 25 minutes in moderate oven, 350 degrees. These are quick and delicious.