Social movements draw attention to the individual in a way that goes against the desire to conform and fit into society. The American society is largely made up of a variety of groups that possess a breadth of entrenched and unquestioned ideologies that influence individuals (Licentia, 2005). Such groups include families, religions, and political parties. It is usually the case that movements are born out of the view that a certain entrenched societal practice is unfair, and they are therefore formed to challenge the status quo within that society.
When this occurs, such movements are likely to start out as unpopular entities that are frowned upon by the more prominent and vocal groups within the society. Despite the fact that many people profess to want individualism, the negative attention that is often attracted by such movements makes the adoption of these causes by many individuals unlikely (2005). In other cases, people are just too busy (and perhaps too disinterested) to take the time necessary for the propulsion of social movements.
People shrink from the marginalization that is possible as well as the time-consuming work that is necessary, as such effects have the ability to negatively impact on their abilities to perform their roles within the society. If, for example, a homosexual person residing in a largely conservative small town decides to join a “gay pride” group (in reaction to a general and repressive unpopularity of homosexuality—or to homophobia), that person is likely to suffer from ostracism on several levels. In fact, the group might be publicly ridiculed by the more established groups (religious or other) that exist and are in opposition to homosexuality.
Such a person might just consider it easier (and less time consuming) to move to an area where homosexuality is accepted or (barring that) to practice homosexuality privately. However, in some cases such alternative measures (as moving or keeping lifestyles secret) are not an option. In those cases, the rules, laws, or traditions against which social movements are formed might become so oppressive that it is impossible for the oppressed to continue living. In America, where the living standards are high, people have the luxury of not being overly concerned with poverty.
Such persons are able to consider more abstract issues and they have the resources to band together and speak out about them. Furthermore, the American laws grant the citizens a right to challenge authority, and the media facilitate the accurate and widespread dissemination of information (Licentia, 2005). These are situations favorable to the spread of movements, and individuals who have garnered the courage and tenacity (born, perhaps, of necessity) have been able to succeed in social movements because of these factors.
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