"Miss U.S.A." from American Dreams: Lost and Found by Studs Terkel

Prepared by Dr. Loretta Kasper

In this week's assignment, you will research some topics and questions that evolve from the readings associated with "Miss U.S.A."

To complete your research, you should go to our SEARCH PAGE. You will need to think of appropriate keywords to search for information to answer the questions. We suggest that you use either the Vivisimo or the Google search engine to do your research.

Here are your research issues and questions:

  • Charles Horton Cooley was a sociologist who developed the theory of the "looking glass self." Find information on Cooley and his theory.

    1. How does Cooley's theory relate to the situation described in "Miss U.S.A.?" How do various forms of media, for example, television, magazines, the Internet, music, affect the development of self-image in young people?
    2. At the end of "Miss U.S.A." the writer calls the beauty pageant, the fantasy, the "American Dream." How do popular television shows like "Friends," or singers like Brittany Spears, promote this fantasy?
    3. Is "physical attractiveness" solely a female issue? Do the same stereotypes of "physical attractiveness" apply to boys and young men? Provide some examples drawn from the media, your readings or your personal experience.

  • Betty Friedan was a key figure in the women's rights movement of the 1960's. Find information on Betty Friedan and her role in the women's rights movement.

    1. How did the women's rights movement encourage females to break away from societal stereotypes?

  • Read the text "The Socialization of Eating Disorders." Write definitions of the underlined vocabulary words.

    1. Based on this reading, what are some possible results of societal pressures regarding physical attractiveness?
    2. Compose a well-organized essay in which you respond to the following:

      The reading states that cultural influences play a role in the development of eating disorders. In this unit on sociology, you have learned about four critical agents of socialization: the family, the school, the peer group, and the mass media. The reading discusses the influence of the mass media in encouraging women to pursue the cultural ideal of beauty. What part do the family, the school, and the peer group play in this process? How can any or all of these agents of socialization work to counteract or to reinforce the influences of the mass media?

      In your essay you should discuss how the family, the school, and/or the peer group can either reinforce or counteract the influences of the mass media with regard to weight and self-image. Provide specific examples drawn from your personal experiences, your readings, and/or your observation of others.

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Professor of English

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September 30, 2003

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