Social Constructionism: It’s EVERYWHERE!
Diverse studies indicate that newborn female infanticide rates in the Inuit population can range anywhere from 15% to 80% (Schrire 162). They kill their babies. Specifically, they will dispose of infant girls or sick and weakly infants. While this practice might go against every moral belief you have, it is widely accepted amongst Inuit society as a normal practice. Mind you, the Inuit do not commit infanticide because they enjoy it. They view it as a last resort and will often try to get the infants adopted. But how can something be viewed as “right” in one society be completely “wrong” in another? The idea of right and wrong is socially constructed, that’s how. Social constructionism is the theory that our ideas and beliefs are formed by the way we think and communicate with other human beings.
How we communicate about something affects the ideas we have, and our ideas ultimately affect the thing itself. In other words, our ideas about things are always changing and our ideas are changing things. The Inuit are more accepting of infanticide because their society views it as a necessity. When food is in short supply, you need to bring people into the society who can produce more food. The male is viewed as being capable of producing more food, an idea that is also socially constructed, and is therefore a priority. If an infant looks weak, they assume it will not be able to hunt or produce food and is not worthy of being brought into society. The Inuit believe that if a society is not capable of supporting a life, then that life should not be brought into that society. Since food is not in short supply in our society (as a matter of fact, it is quite the opposite), our idea about infanticide is drastically different. Our society believes that every life should be given a chance. The whole debate over the legality of abortion comes from this belief. Even the idea of an abortion or something being legal is affected by social constructionism. It is not just our abundance of food that affects our view of infanticide. Every aspect of a culture has an influence on all of the beliefs possessed by members of that culture.
Social constructionism applies to more general, overarching beliefs, but it also applies to specific things as well. Something as simple as a cup of coffee has been greatly affected by social constructionism. Where the coffee beans were grown was chosen because people eventually figured out what type of climate is best for growth. Whether you buy brand name coffee beans and grind them yourself or you buy pre-ground Folgers is determined by the value that you assign to your coffee, which is socially constructed. All of the members of a culture will share a few main beliefs (such as the idea of a mother figure) but within that culture there will be differences in beliefs, both large and small. Social constructionism decides what religion you will follow, or if you will even follow a religion at...