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Violating A Social Norm

Norms are the rules that the society uses to promote pro-social and health-positive social behavior as well as promoting the smooth interactions within a society. They include: cultural traditions, community standards, social cultures, shared beliefs and typical behavior. Social norms can either be implicit –written down rules or explicit-not clearly defined and vary from society to society. Problem statement My husband carrying a girl’s purse as if is his own. Society demands that women and not men only carry women purses.

The contents of a woman purse include items like wallets, pens, finger clippers, and lipstick therefore when a man is seen carrying a purse his masculinity is questioned and people see it being weird. Some will think that the person may be a hermaphrodite where he presents both male and female characteristics, while others may think of the person is gay and those who do not subscribe to the issue will look down on him. My husband will go to three different public places (his place of work, our local church and the shopping center).

He will carry a female purse in a manner suggesting that it is his own. He will be dressed normally like a man where he will wear his pin stripped trouser suit, a white shirt, a red tie and black pair of shoes to his work place. To the local church he will wear a maroon shirt, a black trouser and brown pair of shoes whereas to the local shopping center my husband will be dressed in jeans boots, ball cap and Harley t-shirt and in all instances he carried a girl’s purse. While assuming that everything is all right and never to be distributed with peoples reaction.

Hypothesis Since the society views men carrying purses as something, which is abnormal they react differently to this violation of the norm, my hypotheses are: 1. I believe that people will laugh, point, and even frown when this norm is violated 2. I predict that most of the people that will laugh or scorn when seeing a man carrying a female purse My husband is a computer technician and works in an information technology (IT) multinational firm. It is a large institution with more than 1000 employees who are well known to my husband and some very close to him.

He is known as a morally upright and conservative man with a loving and stable family. Since the company cosmopolitan has a wide range of employees of both sexes and of different age groups from many social and racial backgrounds, their reactions to my husband’s behavior were varied. Our local church is composed of people from different backgrounds, sexes and ages. Since the membership of the church is too high, there are some who did not know my husband although a good number were familiar with him.

Our church pastor knows my husband as they were school mates, some of the church goers were our neighbors, and their children, relatives and spouses, and others were his work mates while some were my colleagues at work and in the women group. The shopping center contains a multitude of people, some who were familiar and others unfamiliar. We moved from shop to shop pretending to be doing comparative shopping and in the process came into contact with many people.

They were of varied ages, sexes, races and social statuses. At the work place colleagues were surprised to see my husband carrying a girls purse since for the many years they had worked together, never at one moment had they seen him in such a state. The women started giggling while trying to make their friends aware in case had not recognized the anomaly, male colleagues on the other hand, approached my husband to confirm whether he was aware of the mistake of which he accepted and said it was intentional.

The youth employees on the other hand laughed loudly while pointing at my husband, they further followed him from behind while shouting loudly as if something had gone a miss. Others behaved as if everything was fine and continued with their work normally. In our local church most of our fellow worshippers were surprised and their surprise was clearly displayed in their faces, some gazed at us, others had their eyes and mouth wide open in astonishment while the rest mostly children and women could not control their reactions since they laughed .

Even when the pastor was in the pulpit preaching some of the Christians could steal glances at us and bend under their benches as they burst into laughter, some black women were unable to control their emotions as tears flew down their cheeks. They felt that my husband’s behavior was an abomination and an insult to the male community. Finally in the shopping center, a place where he arrived in the peak hours and many people in hurry to get their shopping and rush home to meet their young children or to their places of work. He had gone to the shopping center using public transport whereby he interacted with many commuters.

At the bus stop some of the commuters alighted while still looking at my husband, some stumbled on each other simply because they over-concentrated at him. From the bus stop to the shopping center, many sneered at my husband however; more surprise was evident in those people who were familiar with him. Inside the retail stores and hyper markets, people could stop buying their items and glance at him. At some point a guard came to him to ask him whether the purse was his or somebody else’s. When he told him that it was his, the guard left without saying a word but surprise registered in his eyes.

To add insult to injury when was leaving while carrying the luggage many felt that he might be having a problem or something was not going well somewhere. Summary and Interpretation During the first instance when carrying a woman’s purse as if it was his, he felt so shy and I did not want to leave the house, but since there was a goal that we wanted to achieve he had to leave the house, at some point he felt like an outcast and though of throwing the purse away so that he can free himself from the embarrassment that he was to put himself into.

He feared meeting my friends, his work mates and those of mine and children and wondered how they will perceive him. He thought of the situation where some felt that he was among the gay something that had received worldwide condemnation from those who are against it. He felt that it was anti-social and against positive- healthy behavior. However, after the first instance, the subsequent days were a bit easier although he felt so low when going to the local church knowing very well that our church was conservative and dogmatic.

Inside the church when everybody stared at him while others broke into tears, he wished the world would burst so that he vanishes into the ground and never to be seen again. During the final encounter in the shopping center he had gathered a lot of courage and was aware of what to expect as most reactions from people were repetitive, the place not withstanding. He felt this way because society dictates that a woman’s purse cannot be carried with a man unless when assisting a lady after which you return to her. Although the norm is implicit he felt like he was doing the wrong thing, something, which was anti-social.

Although most of the reactions from people in different places were as expected, some were extreme. When women had to shed tears in church it was very surprising. There were those whom we considered very liberal but most of them could not come into terms with the way he was carrying a woman purse comfortably. The situation was more worse inside the church where the church doctrines do not allow gay relationships, some also felt that there was a reversal of rules where may be he was acting like a woman contrary to God’s initial plan.

However, at the shopping center they many are used to those styles of dressing, where some youth might have though that it was the new style and hence were to imitate but nonetheless people felt that it was irrational and unhealthy behavior. From the research I did learn that culture runs deeper that skin and that there are some attitudes and behaviors that are considered right by the society while there are others that are taken as a disobedience to the society.

I also observed from the research that these norms are more in women than women and they get more disturbed then their male counterparts. It was a very adventurous research but my husband did not enjoy every part of it and given an opportunity he may not like to do the same again unless far away from our home where he is unknown.


Haines, M. P. (1998). Community-generated protective norms reduce risk and promote Health. Action, 37(4), pp. 1, 5.

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