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Marisa Ruiz

November 15, 2008

Sociology 251

Film Reaction Paper #1: Using the Sociological Imagination

What Two Aspects of Culture or Society may be Affecting the Discrimination that Edith is


When one looks at an individual’s experience, it is important to consider all the factors

that shape their lives. In using the “Sociological Imagination” we can better understand an

individual by looking at how their personal experiences interact with the larger structure of

society during any given time period.

In the movie, If These Walls Could Talk 2: 1961, we look inside the life of a lesbian

couple during the early 1960’s. As racial and ethnic inequality and discrimination was prevalent

during this time, gay and lesbian couples were not immune to the same injustices that the other

groups experienced. Upon the death of Edith’s partner, Edith alone faced many difficulties, thus

forced to undertake painstakingchoices in order to protect her from further adversity. Among the

various issues that plague American society, we can further investigate Edith’s experience with

inequality by looking at two aspects of discrimination: gay and lesbian discrimination and

institutional discrimination.

During the early 1960’s, gay and lesbian couples had to deal and cope with society’s

general intolerance of homosexuality. Trials and tribulations of being a lesbian couple during

this time met social stigma and minimal public acceptance. The general public felt that any

deviation from society’s idea of the “traditional family” was perverted and immoral. In the

earlier half of the movie, this is demonstrated by the teenagers’ reaction towards Edith and her
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woman friend holding hands as they walked out of the movie theatre. According to society’s

ideology of marriage and the family structure at the time, the only accepted model was based on

the “traditional nuclear” heterosexual couples, Family, itself is a social institution in which

gender related role behaviors learned, is molded fundamentally in part of our larger social

institutions. During the early 60’s, there was no support systems available for homosexual

couples. Same-sex relationships were not an option; when there was emphasis on the American

idea of what a “traditional family,” homosexuality was not a part of the normal conventions and

institutions that govern heterosexual couples and families. Based on American society at that

time, same-sex couples were not widely accepted. Knowing this, Edith was faced to take some

drastic measures that hid her love for her woman friend, which caused her to be further isolated

in her life. In their relationship, they chose to keep their union rather private in order to avoid

ridicule. These challenges posed to seem detrimental on their emotional well-being.

Another aspect of social discrimination is institutional discrimination where inequality is

clearly observed by the outcomes that affect specific groups of people such as gay and lesbian

groups. There were no public policy concerning the rights, recognition, and protection of same

sex couples when it came to legal issues, such as hospital’s next of kin rules and policy. Legally

there were no open doors. With lack of support, and lack of access to resources that were

established for these groups, there was no way Edith could fight hospital policy. Therefore,

under these conditions it made no sense to disclose the true nature of their relationship. In the

film, one example of institutional discrimination was when Edith went to the hospital. During

the final hours of her partner’s life, Edith could not go into the ICU due to next of kin rules and

hospital policy. She was not even informed of her death; although she made it known that, she

was waiting to hear of any changes in her lover’s condition. Like today, there were no
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government policies that legally protected the rights and equality of same-sex groups or any

organization to support groups for alternative lifestyles.

In conclusion, when one looks at an individual’s experience, it is important to consider all

the factors that shape their lives from a micro-macro perspective. In doing this, one must look at

all the components within the person’s framework as well as society’s outlook on such issues like

same-sex issues. As we further investigate the experiences of individual, it is imperative to

observe the interrelations between the individual, their family, and larger society. In all fairness,

it is crucial to come to conclusions without bias or judgments from what we have learned from

our own individual experiences. We must use this “sociological Imagination” to further

understand each individual’s beliefs and perceptions in living their life as part as a larger social