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Lecture 1

Constructing Differences

The readings in this text explore how the categories of race, class, gender, and sexuality are socially constructed and transformed into systems of inequality.

I. Introduction

Your author states that the categories that we use to describe ourselves and those around us are the product of social rather than biological factors.

Relative to race, it is unlikely that anyone is “racially pure.”

But we have to recognize the social factors, because these are the bases for social interaction in our daily lives. These social factors make them culturally significant in our daily interactions.

Question: Just because we are culturally different, does that make difference itself into a negative?

No, it is not differences that are necessarily negative. In fact, cultural differences make us more interesting to one another. So differences in and of themselves, do not make us unequal.

**It is the meanings and values applied to these differences that make them harmful.

So when we apply meanings and values to these differences, we are essentially creating structures of social stratification – a system by which society ranks categories of people in a hierarchy, and how social stratification results in systems of inequality. In this hierarchy, those at the top of it, are deemed to have positive attributes, and are the keepers of the culture and society. Therefore, they are viewed as being more moral, and intelligent, and have the rights to more rewards and opportunities that society can provide, relative to others beneath them. [Use the South African system of apartheid for an example.)

**So, we will examine how these various categories of difference are constructed and how they impact all members of our society.

I. The Construction of Difference - Thinking Critically
In examining the construction...

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