Ethnographic Report: Halloween
For this ethnographic reflection assignment I used Halloween to interpret the many different people I observed and the many interesting costumes and actions I saw. This Halloween I decided to take a walk up to frat row in search of some fun festivities but more in search of all the funny costumes I was going to see and of course the many intoxicated people I saw making fools of themselves.
During this whole time of observing many different scenes with many different types of people I found one very common thing, the men in almost all cases seemed to be trying to impress the women and or get them to come home with them. I also noticed the difference in the actions of different types of males, the bigger guys acted different than the smaller. I observed 2 different fraternity’s where a good percentage of the people in them were intoxicated and trying to show off for the opposite sex, men more than the women.
Halloween night unfortunately ended up on a very cold rainy night but surprisingly that did not seem to stop Berkeley from going out and having a good time. The first fraternity I went to which I am going to keep the name disclosed was very crowded and very hot and sweaty. For this first experience I was going to use Geertz method of interpretive observation and more stay back and observe what I saw rather than asking the people interacting what they felt.
I am going to start with outside the frat before I even got inside I had something to observe. Walking up to the door I heard the 3 or 4 guys at the door yelling at the people trying to get in and making them feel like they had no business bing there. These 3 or 4 guys at the door had a very bad attitude and put out a vibe that I’m sure most frat guys do which is, I’m big, bad, and powerful so don’t mess with me. From my interpretations these 3 guys felt as if they were better than everyone else and that they had more power than everyone just because they were in a frat and were guarding the door at the particular time.
I noticed as girls walked up and tried to get in the guys always let the pretty ones or the ones in a sexy costume in and not always those girls that were in ugly costumes or were not as attractive to them in. From my point of view 9/10 girls that tried to get into the party got in while 4/10 guys that tried to get in got shut down. When a larger guy approached the door the guards did not say anything out of line to him, because they were no longer the biggest and strongest person there. But when a smaller guy walked up the guards quickly began questioning them and asking stupid questions or even yelling at them.
I feel as if this was a major power struggle with masculinity on the line. When the guys felt like they were dominant they would say whatever they wanted but with the larger stronger guys they watched their mouth a little bit more. Once inside the house is when the real observations began, on one side of the party was a dance floor with a number of guys waiting for an opportunity to pounce on a girl and dance with her. Don’t get me wrong there were also girls that I could tell were trying to look extra hot in hopes of attracting a guy to swoop her up. But in most cases the guys were the ones doing the majority of the hunting.
On the other side of the party was a bar where most of the girls seemed to hangout looking around the party and holding a drink waiting for more people to approach them. One instance that stuck out to me was this one guy wearing a gladiator outfit that seemed to be pretty sober. This guy was bigger than the average guy in the house so he has the alpha male card already in his hand. He easily walked up to a girl and started dancing while the smaller less insecure guys stayed by the side talking to their other guy friends. This told me that a guy knows when he is the alpha male and is not shy to try to explore his opportunities.
Remember while observing this specific location I did not ask anyone what they thought was going on I merely went off my own observations and what I thought what happening at that moment. The main points I dragged out of this whole first experience was the fact of alpha males and how they acted around everyone else. Also the interaction between those who knew they had power and those who were smaller and weaker. This whole situation reminded me of McGuire’s reading about bodily dispositions and how people act differently based on what they look like or how big they are and how the ones that are better act better. In this case the larger men acted very different around women than the smaller men.
As the night moved on I decided to move to a different location in hopes of finding a different aspects to observe and different people to observe. For my next spot of observation I went to a smaller house gathering with less people and also no dance floor. At this place I decided I was going to use Malinowski’s way of analysis and actually talk to the people inside and see what they thought about the situation and not only what I observed.
Upon entering the house the first aspects I noticed was how much more people at this house were drinking rather than the frat. I think this was so because it was later in the night and most of the people at this house seemed to have known each other or previously met each other at an occasion such as tonight. I took around 10 minutes to look around and gather what I could tell about the situation without actually talking to people then I went in. I started with the guys talking to them and trying to get a feel for what they thought was going on and how this certain occasion compared to other ones, I also tried to see if they were having a good time or what the women were like tonight.
The first guy I talked to told me that this had been a pretty fun night compared to how Berkeley usually is and that he was surprised on how many people went on because it still was a Wednesday night. This guy seemed to be a regular party attendee and had the whole scene down. He talked to me about how he was trying to talk to this one girl in the house but she was at the moment talking to another guy. He pointed out the girl and she happened to be talking to a pretty tall masculine guy. I asked him why not interrupt him and steal her away, to him this sounded like a bad idea again because the other guy was much taller and stronger looking than him.
Next I went up to a group of 2 or 3 girls and asked how their night had been going. Contrary to the male’s perspective, this night has not been as fun party because it was raining and because they had practice tomorrow and could not drink alcohol? This surprised me that some people cannot have a “fun” time without getting drunk. I believe this is so because they could not release themselves without drinking alcohol and being open to have a fun time.
I guess everyone has a different perspective on what a fun time is. These women also seemed to be looking to attract other male’s attention but at the same time talk to me to make sure the other guys knew that someone was interested in talking to them. In this situation the man and the women had very different views on how to have a fun night, this might have been just these group of people because I could not talk to the whole party just about 10 of them. But from what I was told both sexes had a different opinion.
Walking home at the early hours of the morning I looked back to myself and took a couple notes in my phone to remember what I was told and what I observed. I again stressed the point about masculinity ruling the male party scene and how the men with a better bodily disposition usually knows he is dominant and is not afraid to show that he is dominant. While the smaller guys like I, usually are around the outskirts looking for an opening. I conclude that the whole party scene is a big power struggle with all the males looking for the alpha male symbol while the females look to attract attention for those perceived as the alpha male.