This assignment will focus on theories of social constructionism and the effects it will have on contemporary social inequalities, such as class, age, gender or ethnicity. It can also look at people with a mental illness and how society reacts to them. This is seen in the article I have chosen “Measuring Mental Illness Stigma”. This article looks at the stigmatization of mental illness, and how it is perceived in society. It will show that there has been a change over time of how mental illness is perceived, before it was seen as the same as a normal illness, but in the 1999 surgeon general report, there was a strong view “that our society no longer can afford to view mental health as separate and unequal to general health” (Link et al, 2004: p.511)
Social construct was an idea that “prominently appeared in 1966 with the publication of The Social Construction of Reality” (Hacking,1999:p65). Ian hacking says that a lot of things are socially constructed, such as oral history, reality and gender (Hacking,1999: p.65), this is why social constructionism is the idea that we should be critical of our observations. This is because social constructionism isn’t objective, meaning that what we see can not be regarded as the truth but as a social construct of the society we live in. This because our own knowledge is a perception of the society we live in, for example in the western society man and women should be seen as equals, although this is not always the case, while in many Muslim countries the male is seen as the leader. Burr says in ‘An Introduction to Social Constructionism’ that “since we have to accept the historical and cultural relativism of all forms of knowledge, it follows that the notion of ‘truth’ becomes problematic” (Burr,1995: p.6). By this Burr is suggesting that anything that has been written down from history may be biased due to the fact that it was an observation of someone living in that particular era. This means that we can’t take anything in the past as the truth. This has been seen with the changing of stereotypes of certain groups of people. For example in the AIDs epidemic homosexual were seen as unnatural, and the aids virus was seen by right wing groups as “natural justice” by getting back at homosexual people for “un-natural and immoral lifestyle” (Richardson 1996 pp. 319). Also the changing stereotypes of ethnic minorities, such as seen in Hall et al study “policing the crisis” (Hall et al,1979: p.59) , where there was a moral panic young black working class males, due to the fact people thought they would get mugged by these young black working class males, which gave the police an excuse to go after them. However we know that young black working class males, do not have a higher chance of mugging us, but was merely a folk devil created by the media, which in itself was a general observation made by some reported who was trying to create a moral panic, and this shows us why we cannot take what we read as objectivity, and that everything should be seen in a subjectivity light. This is why social constructionism is important, because it gives us a greater understanding of what is happening around us, whether it is regarding our class, or gender, and shows us that we cannot take historical or cultural relationships as the truth, this is why idea around hegemonic masculinity as being a way a male should act is wrong, and has only been strengthened by our society telling us that it is the way a male should act.
The article I have chosen to look at is “Measuring Mental Illness Stigma”. This article address the stigma behind mental illness, and how it can be changed, because stigma “deprives people of their dignity and interferes with their full participation in society” (Executive Summary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 1999: p.7). There are three main