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Social divisions are a crucial aspect of human societies, distinguishing various social groups based on characteristics such as gender, age, class, ethnicity, and health. While social differences often arise from accidents of birth and are not chosen, they can either unite or divide individuals. People belonging to different social groups may share both differences and similarities, transcending the boundaries of their respective groups (National Council of Educational Research and Training, 2007).
The interplay between social divisions and their interrelationships significantly influences how individuals perceive themselves and the structure of society (Marsh, 2006).
It is essential to acknowledge that humans tend to associate with those who are similar to them, adapting their behavior accordingly. However, this inclination can lead to exclusion and alienation of those who do not fit within established norms and values (Payne, 2006). Social divisions can either reinforce material inequalities or create complex intersections where individuals occupy varying positions within these divisions.
This essay explores the concept of social divisions, their significance, and their interrelationships, using the article titled 'Using Focus Group Research in Exploring the Relationships Between Youth, Risk, and Social Position' as a case study to illustrate how interrelationships between social divisions manifest in real-life scenarios.
The chosen article delves into the significance of utilizing the focus group method to investigate the connections between youth, risk, and social position. The study employed groups of young individuals with similar social positions but diverse backgrounds, including males, females, white British, and ethnic minorities. These groups engaged in discussions about everyday life situations perceived as risky.
Interestingly, common risk issues surfaced in these discussions, but the interpretation and understanding of these issues varied based on class, gender, and ethnicity, demonstrating how habits shape individuals' perspectives and behaviors (Merryweather, 2010).
For instance, young middle-class women viewed risk through the lens of shared activities, such as alcohol consumption and nighttime leisure. Their discussions often revolved around concerns about drinks being spiked or the threat of sexual assault. In doing so, these women constructed a narrative of material risk practices that aligned with their specific social position, portraying themselves as active risk-takers. This narrative challenged traditional gender stereotypes, illustrating how risk perceptions are influenced by the intersections of gender and class (Merryweather, 2010).
Conversely, young black and ethnic minority working-class women perceived risk in terms of experiences related to racism. They recounted feeling out of place in predominantly white environments, such as shopping centers and airports. Discussions about risks associated with violence were grounded in specific material experiences and culturally embedded understandings, leading to the co-production of a gender distinction between violent masculinity and non-violent femininity. This difference highlighted how the interplay of class, gender, and ethnicity shaped their understanding of risks (Merryweather, 2010).
Similar to young BME women, young BME working-class men identified experiences of racism as their primary risk concern. However, their discussions focused more on direct encounters with racism, such as routine police stops and verbal racist abuse. These conversations also showcased gendered performances distinct from those observed in the female group. Some young men expressed a desire to retaliate physically against their abusers, embodying a tough masculinity often associated with working-class cultures. However, they also positioned themselves as rational and respectful non-aggressors in certain situations, reflecting the intricate relationship between class, gender, ethnicity, and age (Merryweather, 2010).
White middle-class males, on the other hand, centered their discussions on risk related to interactions with other young men and alcohol consumption, particularly in the context of witnessing fights in the city center. Notably, a significant degree of conflict and tension emerged within this group, exemplified by the discord between Liam and Mark. Liam framed alcohol consumption as an everyday risk practice, aligning it with a tough, working-class masculinity. In contrast, Mark, with a higher social position, viewed alcohol consumption differently and challenged Liam's perspective. This conflict highlighted how material experiences can be interpreted differently based on the complex interplay of class and gender (Merryweather, 2010).
In conclusion, this essay has explored the concept of social divisions, emphasizing their significance and the interconnectedness that characterizes them. Social divisions encompass various social groups defined by attributes such as gender, age, class, ethnicity, and health. These divisions are not merely about differences but also about the relationships that form among individuals within and between these groups.
Furthermore, the chosen article, 'Using Focus Group Research in Exploring the Relationships Between Youth, Risk, and Social Position,' has illustrated how young people identify different aspects of their everyday lives as risky, influenced by their social class, gender, and ethnicity. This analysis underscores the dynamic nature of social divisions and the multifaceted ways in which they impact individuals' perceptions and experiences.
Overall, understanding social divisions and their interrelationships is crucial for creating more inclusive and equitable societies. By acknowledging the complexities of these divisions, we can work towards minimizing social inequalities and promoting a more harmonious coexistence among diverse groups.
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