We will discuss the impact context can have in displaying pro-life and pro-choice advertisements to the consumers using the
Demographically, there is a variation in the type of people and groups that use the transit system, ranging in social classes. By using transportation services provided by the city there are going to be discourses that arise in characterizing the type of social classes using the transit system. We believe that the pro-life and pro-choice ads are targeting specific groups including the lower income classes, minority ethnic groups and students. And the most obvious group being targeted by these ads are women.
Bourdieu’s theory of habitus is a useful theory to determine the concept of why city transportation services are used to advertise these pro-choice posters. Additionally, according to habitus, what type of groups are being the targets for these ads. Prior to determining how Bourdieu’s habitus corresponds with this subject, habitus needs to be defined. A formal definition of habitus is provided in the Practices of Looking : An Introduction to Visual Culture, where it is defined as “a set of dispositions and preferences we share as social subjects that are related to our class position, education, and social standing” (Sturken and Cartwright, 60). From this definition, class position and social standings are useful indicators in characterizing the types of groups most consistently using the transit services provided by the city of
University LRT Station,
To better depict the theory of habitus and the discourses arising for the social groups most commonly using the transit systems. We will closely focus on the following groups:
Lower Income Classes & Minority Groups
One of the most common discourses arising with the individuals taking the city bus is that they do not have financial means to use other sources of transportation. Hence only people with lower incomes/ status in society use the bus or LRT system. In the case of habitus, Bourdieu states that this is where society is divided by class positions. The transit system is available for people who have lower income and may not be able to afford a vehicle. Therefore if an individual categorized within this social class were in the position of expecting a child it may be beyond their financial state to be able to care for it. By having pro-choice posters displayed to the targeted audience, they are provided with alternate options to resolve their concern.
Another aspect of the low income status could be minority groups that have just immigrated to
Part of a students’ role in society is deal with the pressures from their families to attain education to improve their well being. To be in the position of bearing a baby would be not socially acceptable and would hinder their educational attainment. To have a baby would include other responsibilities, including monetary values and a certain level of maturity. This idea of meeting social norms is further elaborated by Bourdieu, where he states “the parents feel what they feel and do what they do partly or largely because of the influence of such norms”(Malmquist and Zeiler, 133). Every parent has a planned life for their kids; to have a baby at a young age may not be an ideal option. Therefore the norm would be to have an education before settling down to have children. As a student having to deal with these pressures, the marketing strategy is to try to influence our behavior by displaying these ads. It is uncertain whether this strategy does work, but overall it is the student’s agency that will determine their own behaviors.
Among the groups being targeted by the pro-choice ads, women are the most apparent stakeholders due to their biological capabilities of bearing children. In the text, Sturken and Cartwright state that ads are setting up a relationship between the signifier (social class) and the signified (ads) “to create signs in order to sell not simply products but the connotations we attach to the product” (276). Even if this is the case for other groups listed above, in the position of women, the ad is not selling simply a connotation, but that women have the power to choose whether they want to bare a child or not.
On the other hand, in relation to habitus, the ad is selling connotations to women as well. In the article Bourdieu, Feminism and Female Physical Culture: Gender Reflexivity and the Habitus-Field Complex, depicts Bourdieu’s work around the habitus theory as having gender binaries of masculinity being dominant and femininity being subordinate in society (Thorpe, 492). Here it is stated that from the perspective of male being dominant in society and the subordination of women, women then can be classified as a lower class group that would typically use available public transportation services. The topic of gender classification will also be discussed as a conflict with habitus.
University LRT Station,
Conflicts between Habitus & Ads
For each of the circumstances of the social groups these advertisements are targeting, the ads only offer choices, it does not determine the individual’s decision. An individual’s agency is what determines their outcome decision. This arises an issue surrounding the concept of habitus and can be summarized as follows: it is an invitation to understand what influences the view that agents have of their own actions without reducing them to a model, and by doing so “doing away with the agent” (Collet,419). The habitus theory is a useful way of illustrating why the bus and LRT system is used to describe the advertisements targeting specific groups. It still is up to the individual agency of the person to read the poster and allow it to influence their actions. In Henderikus Stam’s article Habitus, Psychology and Ethnography: Introduction to the Special Section he provides further evidence of Bourdieu’s belief in a person’s freedom of choice where he is cited as saying that ‘“an acquired system of generative schemes, the habitus makes possible the free production of all the thoughts, perceptions and actions inherent in the particular conditions of its production”’ (708). By a person viewing the ads they may acknowledge the text and absorb the information, but in the end it is their own freedom to make the choice. Therefore even though marketers for the ads think they are being strategic by placing these ads in the context of public transportation, it is still up to the audience to determine the outcome.
Holly Thorpe in her article Bourdieu, Feminism and FemalePhysical Culture: Gender Reflexivity and the Habitus-Field Complex, highlights another interesting conflict within Bourdieu’s theory that can be applicable of why public transit services are determined as an appropriate context to display the pro-choice posters. She elaborates that Bourdieu’s writings are discussed as stating that men are dominant while women are the subordinate group. This is further stated where “his insights into gender reproduce standard binaries of masculine domination and female subordination as if these structures are unitary, coherent and unchanged by and in contemporary social life” (492). According to this statement, it could assumed that men are the head of family and in control, hence if the family only own one vehicle, women are required to take the bus, since they are the subordinate group. In Edmonton this does not always seem to be the case, there seems to be a growing trend of sustainability and economical consciousness, due to the recent recession, therefore both genders use the transit system for convenience.
The presentation of pro-life and pro-choice advertisements on
Collet, Francois. 2009. Does Habitus Matter? A Comparative Review or Bourdieu’s Habitus and
Simon’s Bounded Rationality with Some Implications for Economic Sociology.
Sociological Theory. 27(4): 419-434.
Malmquist, Erik and Kristin Zeiler. 2010. Cultural Norms, the Phenomenology of Incorporation,
and the Experience of Having a Child Born with Ambiguous Sex. Social Theory and
Practice. 36 (1): 133-156.
Stam, Henderikus. 2009. Habitus, Psychology and Ethnography: Introduction to the Special
Section. Theory & Psychology. 19 (6): 707-711.
Sturken, Marita, and Lisa Cartwright. 2009. Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Usual
Thorpe, Holly. 2009. Bourdieu, Feminism and Female Physical Culture: Gender Reflexivity and
the Habitus- Field Complex. Sociology of Sport Journal. 26: 491-516.