The Water and Diamonds Paradox: A View of Systematic Gendered Repression in the Patriarchal Social Construct
In economics there exists what is known as the diamond and water paradox, proposed by the great, capitalist economist Adam Smith. It is based on the idea that the total utility, or the total benefit that a person gets from the consumption of goods and services, is low for diamonds, while the marginal utility or the level of satisfaction one receives as the result of a one unit increase in the quantity of a good consumed is surprisingly high for the stones (Parkin 166). This keeps the price of the non-essential gems high and having them in one's possession enviable. However, water, which is indispensable to mankind with its astronomical total utility, has a marginal utility and price that in a monetary sense portrays it as worthless. Humans value the stunning in appearance and the status attained by ownership of it, over a necessity of life, and apply such a principle to areas apart from water and diamonds.
One example is the frighteningly similar manner in which one judges the value of people, specifically women, on the basis of their physical attributes and manner of dress--pigeon-holing personality characteristics and postulating about everything from their sexual voracity to personal drive to succeed academically. I often find myself gauging or ranking the appearance of all the women in a room at any given time. I am trying to discover my own position in the unspoken order of style and grace. What is it that drives me to do something so destructive? I ask myself. Why does it matter?
This mentality was emphasized by Howard Becker who wrote that "social groups create deviance by making the rules whose infraction constitutes deviance and by applying these rules to particular people and labeling them as outsiders" ( 9). The social norms allow the control of those who conform to them both externally and internally, since they dictate outward appearance--dress, dieting, cosmetics, etc., as well as behavioral patterns and interaction. This stimulates great conflict between those who apply the rules and those who are constrained by them and realize it. The assigning of values and creation of social norms allows the social construct of deviance to emerge, and it is through a process of meaning attachment that acts or individuals are defined and labeled as deviant (Arthur 5). "Deviance" here would be the idea or deviation from conformity--I would not call myself a conformist, but shrink from the idea of ostracism, which is the eventual end for women who refuse to fit, at least to some extent, the ideals prescribed by society.
From an early age women learn that their appearance and public persona are integral to the status that they can achieve in society. Much of what they see and hear can be construed as a message about how they are to make themselves acceptable and advance their ability to move within the boundaries of the...