As part of my BSN program I’m taking a Sociology course. Each week we have to answer questions from each chapter and post them to our online discussion board. I’m reposting some of my answers here if I find them to be insightful or conducive to conversation. Our textbook is You May Ask Yourself: An Introduction to Thinking Like a Sociologist, by Dalton Conley.


CHAPTER 4: Socialization and the Construction of Reality

Define what an ‘ascribed status’, an ‘achieved status’, and a ‘master status’ are.

An ascribed status is a status which you were born with, given to you without your choice because of who and where you come from. An achieved status is a status which you acquire, which you seek out and confer upon yourself by what you do. A master status is an existing status you have which overrides all other status, which basically defines who you are to a large number of people.

Describe some ascribed statuses, achieved statuses, and a master status from your life.

  • Ascribed statuses: Male, 40-year old, Hispanic, Puerto Rican, Caucasian-looking, fat.
  • Achieved statuses: Nurse, Jew, geek/nerd, funny, writer, traveler, patient, gamer, kind.
  • Master statuses: Nurse, Jew, geek/nerd.

How do these statuses make you feel?

I can’t say I ever thought about it, but in general, unless I agree with the status, they are irrelevant. I happen to agree, and voluntarily take on, some of these statuses, but I try to best to not let them dictate my life. I have no choice over my ascribe statuses, and how they help or hinder my life, and I sought and embraced each of my achieved statuses, so they’re important to me. As far as the master statuses, they are essential parts of me, and I’m proud of them.

Examine the positives and negatives of these statuses?

On the positive side, all these statuses combined make up a picture of who I am, and I happen to like who I am. Some of my statuses may make life easier due to the society I currently live in (male, Caucasian-looking), but then some other statuses cancel that benefit (fat, Hispanic, Jew). It’s a give and take, and it’s up to me to make the best of the situation I live through.

How did the example you gave become to be your master status?

Geek/nerd came about from my lifelong love of fantasy/sci-fi/superheroes/games/etc. I have a distinct social life that revolves around this status, and I wear it proudly. Jew comes from having converted to Judaism as an adult, something I worked hard for, struggle hard with, and am fiercely proud of. Nurse because of my job, a career I chose to enter also as an adult, a title I acquired after a lot of sacrifice, a title which I love.

Is the master status within your control to change, or is it a matter of others’ perceptions?

All three of my master statuses are achieved; I chose to pursue those statuses, and they were important enough for me that they became pivotal in how the world interacts with me and vice versa. I’m sure others could heap a master status upon me, but if I chose not to acknowledge it, if I chose to not let it affect my life, is it really a master status after all?

REFERENCES

Conley, D. (2011). You may ask yourself: An introduction to thinking like a sociologist (2nd ed.). New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

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