Period 7 – Conformity in the United States

Definition:

Conformity involves developing attitudes, opinions, and behaviors to match the attitudes of a specific group. We, as humans, tend to enjoy the feeling of being a part of something bigger than just the individual; in other words, we don’t like to stand out. There are a variety of factors that determine how people think and in what ways we are conformed.  Some examples are gender, mass media, school, church, and family/friends.

Conformity includes following certain rules or norms in order to fit into society. For example, conformity in the United States involves having a job, being married, having or adopting children, following fashion trends, driving a car, etc. If one does not conform to these trends, they are probably in the minority. There are some groups that are labeled “anti-conformists” who purposely go against these social norms. An example of this is a clique of people called “hipsters”. When one thinks of a “hipster” they probably think of one who ignores fashion trends, does not listen to mainstream music, and basically forms their own path instead of what society expects them to do. This is the opposite of conformity.

1950’s vs. Now:

Conformity in the early 1950’s was very different from what it is now.  Conformity played an extremely big role in this time period. Although there were rebellions and subgroups that went against the norms, they were largely under the surface of the mainstream America. Men were expected to be one way and women the other.  For example, in the early 1950’s, men had returned home after fighting in WWII, and therefore were expected to be very masculine. They were the “macho” head of the household. The men held jobs, and left the cooking and housework to be done by women. Women were expected to raise the children, clean the home, cook the food, and do the house chores. They were very feminized, wearing nice dresses and always looking their best. When we think of the stereotypical male/female roles now, we think of the ones developed in the early 50’s time period.

In today’s times, these conformed gender roles are considered sexist. Today, it is every bit as common for women to wear pants, sweats, or even unisex clothing. The workforce is practically 50-50 in male to female ratio. There are now stay-at-home dads as well as moms. Most families divide up the housework as well. Women are given far more opportunities than they used to be given, and it isn’t unusual for men to do what women used to.

In the “beat generation” (late 1950’s) there was a group of writers who rebelled against conventional values.  They experimented with drugs, sex and religion.  The “beats” went out of their way to shock the rest of the culture. They were very rebellious and anti-conformist.

Conformity in the United States:

Conformity in the United States right now, varies from what it was back then.  Now more people are going against conformity.  Teenagers are doing drugs, having sex, and going against religion.  Conformity is not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing.  Some degree of conformity is necessary for societies to function. For example, when you stop at a red light, you are conforming to the law because a red light means to come to a stop.  Even though most of the time there is not a police officer on the scene to enforce the law, you still follow the rule.  Conformity is different between countries.  Japan for instance says “the nail that sticks up gets hammered down.” This means that it is better to conform than to stand out; whereas the United States is often said to have been settled by non-conformists.
The United States military uses conformity.  You’re expected by a group to have a high level of conformity (ex. keeping your areas cleaned and organized, obeying orders, wearing a uniform, following a schedule, etc.) If you do not conform to these things, you are punished.

Asch Experiment:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYIh4MkcfJA

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