Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Individuality in appearance

Giddens wrote about the nature of individuality in modernity, and that due to the lack of a default method of physically presenting the self, an individual is forced to make choices about self-presentation. Bourdieu discussed the nature of Habitus, how cultural capital becomes embodied within an individual over the course of their life. These two concepts clearly intertwine in the nature in which cultural capital is written on an individual's body in the expression of the self.

To what degree is the manner in which you choose to express yourself upon your body determined by the cultural capital you have grown up with and written into your instinct? What aspects of your physical self, such as clothing or build, reflect the cultural upbringing you have received?


  1. I think that almost every aspect of our lives reflects how we have grown up and in what environment. I think that it is most of the times difficult to represent something that you are not used to or that you are not able to afford. For example, I consider myself to come from a working class family and I do not think that I could represent someone from the high class just because I cannot afford to be buying too expensive clothes or a very expensive car or just expensive groceries. I believe that social class is represented through the way we act, and it is also represented in our body because the more money you have the more expensive things that you will buy and it is seen is something that cannot be hidden. You can tell when someone has money and when someone is just pretending to fit into another social class. It is seen in the quality of the clothes and the variety of things that they use every time. When someone is just pretending they may only afford to have one or two expensive things but not a variety of things and not much of one expensive thing. I do believe that every aspect of our lives reflects how we have grown up or how much money we have.

  2. Because i also come from a working class familily with the the attitude of "work to get what you want", my culture and upbringing has definitely influenced me. As far as clothing goes, if i cannot affrod it, i will not buy it and if i want to buy it, i have to work hard for it. I have adapted the "you have to work for what you want" in not only clothing, but in education and even social relationships as well. Also, if i wasnt busy most of the time, i would have time to work out, go to the grocery store and cook healthy meals and i know that would definitely reflect itself on having more time on my hands instead of me being busy all the time.

  3. I believe that everyone with very few exemptions will be hugely influenced in their choices by their upbringing. Do I choose what to wear, how to behave and what to eat based on my upbringing? yes!... the only way I can avoid this is by making a conscious decision to go against my natural decisions and choices. However, I also believe that my own experiences have shaped who I am, and through my own initiative I have learned and found different options.

  4. There are myriad other ways we express our "habitus" aside from what we wear and what we buy. Many of us overlook this because we live in a Hispanic enclave- we take our "ways" for granted and don't see how other ethnic groups perceive us.

    For example, in Hispanic culture- the woman is taught to listen, not interrupt, and argue as little as possible with the man- be it her father, brother, or significant other. How often have we Hispanic women sat in a class where we have our hand raised to speak while the guy next to you is blabbing away? How many times have we been shut out of a conversation just because we are women? This topic comes up in the book- The Gendered Society by Michael S. Kimmel.

    How many times, for those of us who have kids, have you been to a parent-teacher conference and asked the teacher- how is my child behaving- instead of "what is my child learning?" I once asked my employer- an anglo man- why most of the employees in retail here in El Paso are women (mostly Hispanic) and he was honest with me- he said "they argue less with the boss and they are competitive amongst each other." A racist, sexist thing to say, but I have to agree with him.

    Another way we Hispanics express our habitus- our bodies. Someone had already mentioned this but, the food we can afford is reflected in our body types. On average, Hispanic women have more body fat than women of other ethnicities- This is what the library of health says:

    The results show that Mexican American mothers have larger skinfold ratios and more body fat (as determined by skinfold aggregates) than either Anglo or Black American mothers, whereas Black American mothers have larger ratios than Anglo American mothers. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2807266)

    It's not just something we say- that Hispanic women are curvier- those curves come from what we eat- mostly cheaper, less healthier foods than the average Anglo woman. What better example of how we "embody" our habitus?

  5. My type of up bringing was from a working class family with six kids. Our cultural up bringing was very Hispanic, traditional influence. As far as up bringing, what I retained the most along with my other siblings was definitely having a strong work ethic. I think that comes from being Hispanic and having this strong endurance and backbone for working. As for my physical self all of my siblings, including myself, are very into dressing nicely and enjoying expensive things as a reward of the “fruits of our labors” per say. I think because we were brought up on hand-me-downs we tend to splurge on things we shouldn't really be spending on.

  6. I believe that my cultural upbring hs alot to do with many of the choice I make. Regarding clothes regarding my preference of food. I hve been taught a certain way from my young age and has stuck with me till now.Although not everything I learned I carry-out such things as my family, culture, and religion are importnat to me because from a young age these thing we taught to be the mose important

  7. I do believe that cultural capital has some effect in the way we dress and carry ourselves. Although I love shopping I have learned that I of the mistakes that our capitalistic culture have made. For instance if I cant afford it i will not charge it on my credit card. My family also taught me like many who replied to this post to work hard to get what I want and luckily it has stuck so if i cant afford it ill save for it or forget it.