Breeching, Perception

Post one Sara Jozefowski

Chapter four of Sears and Cairins talks about the different ways people perceive reality and how it affects life. I think that the perception of reality is something that is really good for people to look at because it is something that varies person to person. There are even different levels of perceptional difference that we may not think of, like city to city, state to state, and in different countries. Country to country seems like an obvious example to me. This is an assumption that I realized I had while I was starting to write this statement. I think people’s perceptions have to vary when they live in different parts of the world. But I had to stop and think about my assumption. For example I have traveled outside of America and faced reality differences first hand. For example when I traveled to Germany I thought it would be okay to sit outside a building while my friend went shopping, I quickly learned through peoples responses that doing that definitely was not socially acceptable there, which was a bit of culture shock for me. Another reason I felt that the different view of reality was a normal thing for people to know is because I study Anthropology. Once I stop to think about it, I know many people who rarely think of other countries reality views being different. Those who live here may not realize that there is a difference in our perceptions of reality at all. Now I am going to narrow our perspective down to state level. I am sure we all know the disputes that occur between people from Wisconsin and people from Illinois. This issue does not make sense. I have talked to people from both states who have assumptions that people from the other state are slow or purposely singling them out for different reasons. But why is this? The states are in the same region the thing that separates them is an imaginary border line. There must be however something creating the tensions between people in states. I think one of the things is our perception. I have had to deal with a pharmacist who I had always thought hated me but I could not figure out why. Over time I realized that there were allot of people from Illinois that come to the stores I worked at, and they moved extremely fast paced and would say something if they thought you were moving slow.  I knew that the pharmacist was from Illinois so once I learned to move at a faster pace to there no longer seemed to be tensions. It is my theory that the difference could be because people are used to moving faster in our neighbor state so to us some can seem rude, however if we look at things differently we probably seem slow and sluggish to them. This is just an assumption that I am making. People might not move at a much faster pace but besides sports teams it is the only connection I can make to the ridiculous dispute between the two states. There is also the perception of cities and country areas. Many people from areas like Union Groove and Raymond see Racine as ghetto and dangerous. Since I went to school in Racine and had experiences in the city I do not see it the same way. I see it as a place where some people have less money and as a result sometimes some get a little run down. There are also areas in Racine where it is obviously kept up better. On the other end, people can see people from the country as ignorant and rude. When you look at their lives not everyone is rich but the difference between the people is the type of work they do and the lifestyle they live. So the different types of work in these areas creates there different views and can cause issues. These places are different from each other and people’s different life experiences have shaped how people look at the world. Although people may not live in extremely different geographic or climate regions slight variations in there conscious reality changes how they look at the world so those people who do not live far from one another may not like the other group’s way of life.

Sara Jozefowski


Eye Contact: A Breeching Experiment

“It’s not polite to stare.” is a fairly common phrase we hear. It makes people feel uncomfortable. But why? Why do we have to feel uncomfortable that someone is ACTUALLY paying close attention to what we’re saying? Don’t we think it’s rude if they don’t look at us when we were talking?
Trying not keep eye contact in conversation is a subconscious thing now. If someone is talking to me, I look away every few seconds without asking why and never wondering why no one ever asked if I was thinking about something else instead of the person in front of me.
These thoughts have been around for awhile and when I read about breeching experiments in Sears & Cairns book (Chpt. 4) I realized what an awesome experiment constant eye-contact would be! We have assumptions on what is appropriate to do in a conversation and what is not.
I stared (hardcore) at my sister while she was explaining an assignment to me. Initially she hadn’t noticed because she had been looking away periodically as she was talking. However, while I responded to her, her breaks in eye contact became much more frequent and lasted longer. Finally she asked what I had been looking at, touching her face and glancing behind her. She looked a bit out of sorts. I asked her if “this” (referring to the staring) was weird. She shrugged and simply said, “It’s not polite to stare.”
Later I had asked her why the staring was weird. It made her self-conscious but she wasn’t exactly sure why. She had never put much thought into because it was just something she (and many other people, she noted) had always done.
“Unexamined assumptions~!”

Breeching, Perception

Eye Contact: A Breeching Experiment


Shirts, People, and Anthropology

I had originally planned to do a breeching experiment having to do with disturbing the assumptions of apparel in accordance to gender, but my time schedules would not allow me adequate time to do them.  Instead what I had decided to do was similar to a breeching experiment but on a much smaller scale, in fact, it was more of a “watch-people’s-reactions-to-the-slogans-on-my-shirt” kind of observation.  Some of you may have noticed that every Thursday I wear a shirt that has to do with supporting the LGBTQI community; shirts that say “Some Chicks Marry Chicks. Get Over It.” or “Some Dudes Marry Dudes. Get Over It.” as well as a shirt with the symbol for marriage equality; the heart with the equal sign in it.  In addition to wearing these shirts on Thursdays, I also wore them on days that I work or on weekends when I am out and about in public interacting with people.  One of the indicators that people were actually reading what was on my shirts was that many coworkers and peers at school actually stopped me to read what my shirt said or asked me what the heart symbol meant.  Some even got close enough to see the tiny letters of the website I bought them from (

Now, you may be reading this and yawn to yourself, “Mike, why is this important?  So you wore shirts that supported marriage equality, whippy-do! Just tell us how this is related to the class and get on with your life.”   Well, this does relate to the class in a small way, and I took that small significance and ran with it and made connections with my own experiences that I don’t know if I can explain enough without seeming too disjointed and jumping around everywhere with ideas. But I will try.

About two years ago I was really into listening and watching TED Talks, and through my searches I came across a talk by iO Tillett Wright titled “Fifty shades of gay”.  In this talk, iO addresses how humans interact with one another and when we are first meeting someone we are going through this mental resume based on the answers the unknown person gives, and it provides a framework for our own assumptions about that individual; who they are, what they do, what they are wearing, possibly their socioeconomic standing.  It is in our nature to categorize things we learn and we place them in “boxes” or categories based on the information and inferences we made about whatever we are doing.  What iO is doing is highlighting our perceptions we have of the world around us, and when something does not fit in the box we assigned it, we either have to make a new box or reallocate that information into another box.  This connects with the small discussion in Sears and Cairns (from pages 85 through 93) that we categorize our perceptions and need to constantly reevaluate our reality and assumptions about it.

This leads into my whole shirt observation scheme.  You see, many people will say I am a quiet, calm, polite person, while others will say I am extremely talkative, loud, and hyper.  Most of my coworkers think the former, so when I wear a shirt claiming something loud and against what they have heard from their religion (roughly four-fifths of my work were hired because they had connections with the owner from a Christian church they all attended at one time and, in case you were wondering, I am in the one-fifth and have no previous interaction with the owner), it definitely turned heads.  I got a mixture of responses from my coworkers:  some told me they liked the shirts, others scowled, one high schooler  tried to embarrass me by saying, “So, chickens can get married now, that’s irrelevant and dumb,” other people asked if I was gay or if I had a boyfriend (to that I told them “I don’t know” and “Maybe”).  At Parkside, some peers just smiled at the shirts, while one Thursday, I walked into a philosophy class and those who did not know me read my shirt, and continued to just stare at me throughout the class with looks of confusion or concern (I’m not sure which).  On a weekend I went to a friend’s house and when I took off my jacket, he threw me his sweatshirt and told me that if his parents saw me supporting gay marriage they would probably not want me in their house.

Needless to say, wearing these shirts got people thinking. They may have heard the marriage equality debate (if it really is a debate) and what others have to say, what their religious institutions have to say, and made assumptions based on those experiences.  But when someone they know, someone who isn’t “evil” or wanting to “ruin their sanctity of marriage” (whatever that is), someone they know in the past they could trust, when they see that person support a cause, regardless of their opinions, the wheels in their minds start turning, and they have to redefine their perceptions and assumptions that they had made.  Whether or not they change their assumptions in a way that supports the cause or leaves them with unanswered questions, it still threw a wrench in their overall worldview.  That is the point behind breeching experiments, to get people to think of their own socially subconscious decisions and thoughts and question the assumptions of their reality, and that is what I hoped to demonstrate.

I had so much more I wanted to address about sexuality and how it may relate to law and politics but this post is much too long to begin with (even with edits) so a few last words.  In the final few minutes of iO’s TED Talk, she addresses sexuality as a spectrum (in this talk she is only talking about being homosexual or straight) where being bisexual is the middle, the polar ends are 100% homosexual or 100% heterosexual.  I find it intriguing the discussion she has where laws cannot be specific enough to address the conditions under which, an employer can fire someone under the grounds of being homosexual or conducting homosexual behavior.  If I can figure out how, I will attach the TED Talk; the last 6 minutes are really significant but the whole talk kind-of builds to her conclusions. As a side note, I would like to add that my own view of sexuality is more like a blurred circular pinwheel with 100% of all the sexualities are at the edges and everyone falls somewhere in it.