Social roles, or social statuses as some refer to them, are the positions we occupy in society. In my Sociology of Family course I lay mine out very clearly when I tell my students that I am a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a college professor, an immigrant, a woman. These reveal my family status, my work status, my ethnoracial or immigrant status, and my gender status. We all have social roles along these lines, some of which are more prominent than others. The ones that stand out as our central ones are called master statuses. For example, in some societies, one's racial status figures as a master status, even if for the person himself his social roles as father, coworker, husband feel more important than his social identity of black man. Many of us no doubt have had the experience of seeing someone whom we identify so closely with his or her master status that we are tripped up when we see this person in a different social setting or playing a different social role: ever see your grade school teacher at the grocery store shopping for her family? As children, it was hard for us to imagine a teacher as a mother and wife buying milk and bread for her family.
|Femme [woman], 1953, by Le Corbusier|