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Habits of the Gendered Heart: Drawing Connections between Individualism, Conformism, and Gender
Unformatted Document Text:  1 “By and large the rule of thumb out here is that if you’ve got the money, honey, you can do your thing as long as your thing doesn’t destroy someone else’s property, or interrupt their sleep, or bother their privacy...” “I do think it’s important for you to take responsibility for yourself…In the end, you’re really alone and you really have to answer to yourself, and in the end, if you don’t get the job you want or, you know, meet the person you want, it’s at least in part your responsibility.” “…I was extremely success-oriented…everything would be sacrificed for the job, the career, the company.” These are the words of ordinary middle-class American individuals. They illustrate what Robert Bellah and his colleagues identify, in Habits of the Heart, as the “language of individualism.” These individual’s words are an incredibly accurate micro- level manifestation of the ideology of individualism that dominates US character. For example, take the four clusters of meaning attached to individualism in the US that Irene Taviss Thomson (2000) has identified: (1) the pursuit of self-interest and individual achievement; (2) individuality, uniqueness, or the cultivation of the inner self; (3) autonomy or independence, and (4) isolation, privacy, or the withdrawal into small circles (10). These quotes aptly illustrate the concepts of the “pursuit of self-interest”, “privacy”, “achievement”, “isolation”, independence”, and “autonomy” found in the different meanings of individualism. They exemplify how an ideology is taken up in the language people use to discuss their lives and the world around them. 1 1 Whether the central values and beliefs of individualism do indeed reflect the reality of these people’s lives and US society is a separate issue to which I will return to often in this paper. It is important to maintain the distinction between ideology and reality especially when discussing the ways we believe the sexes are different and whether there are real differences in the character and behavior of the sexes.

Authors: Pelton, Julie.
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1
“By and large the rule of thumb out here is that if you’ve
got the money, honey, you can do your thing as long as
your thing doesn’t destroy someone else’s property, or
interrupt their sleep, or bother their privacy...”
“I do think it’s important for you to take responsibility for
yourself…In the end, you’re really alone and you really
have to answer to yourself, and in the end, if you don’t get
the job you want or, you know, meet the person you want,
it’s at least in part your responsibility.”
“…I was extremely success-oriented…everything would be
sacrificed for the job, the career, the company.”
These are the words of ordinary middle-class American individuals. They
illustrate what Robert Bellah and his colleagues identify, in Habits of the Heart, as the
“language of individualism.” These individual’s words are an incredibly accurate micro-
level manifestation of the ideology of individualism that dominates US character. For
example, take the four clusters of meaning attached to individualism in the US that Irene
Taviss Thomson (2000) has identified:
(1) the pursuit of self-interest and individual achievement; (2)
individuality, uniqueness, or the cultivation of the inner self; (3) autonomy
or independence, and (4) isolation, privacy, or the withdrawal into small
circles (10).
These quotes aptly illustrate the concepts of the “pursuit of self-interest”, “privacy”,
“achievement”, “isolation”, independence”, and “autonomy” found in the different
meanings of individualism. They exemplify how an ideology is taken up in the language
people use to discuss their lives and the world around them.
1
1
Whether the central values and beliefs of individualism do indeed reflect the reality of these people’s lives
and US society is a separate issue to which I will return to often in this paper. It is important to maintain
the distinction between ideology and reality especially when discussing the ways we believe the sexes are
different and whether there are real differences in the character and behavior of the sexes.


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