We are all members of many groups. How much control we or other members of the group have over our membership in these groups varies. I list 3 types:
No control. Some groups you are a member of because of your genes: if you’re a bald, tall, black, male, it is visibly noticeable that you are a member of each of these groups and no one has control over it.
Internal control. You can choose to be a member of some groups and other members cannot easily exclude you. For example, if you move into a neighborhood you are part of that neighborhood, whether anyone there likes you or not. You can choose to leave, but others cannot directly kick you out.
External control. There are other types of groups where your membership is up to the other members of the group. Here you could think of a country club or any less formal social circle.
For most of these groups there are at least some expected behaviors. Rule violators might be punished. However, I believe the punishment depends on which type of group and, in the cases where there is not external control, whether it was a status lowering rule violation.
Punishment for rule violators
If you are a member of an external control group, the punishment for violating norms could just be getting kicked out of the group. For example, if you were invited to a high society party and pick your nose, you probably will not be invited back. You have lowered your own status, but are prevented from lowering the status of the group by being excluded.
If you are a member of a group with strictly internal control, one way to punish you is by excluding you from groups that have external control. For example, suppose you live a neighborhood that values lawn care etiquette, and you are the lone person who cuts their lawn on a diagonal*. Perhaps you cannot be kicked out of the neighborhood, but you can be excluded from social groups composed of members of the neighborhood. If those social punishments do not cause conformity, additional punishments (such as threats of or actual violence) could occur.
If you a member of a group where there is no control over membership, punishments for violating rules can be quite severe. I would expect the most severe punishments to occur when a member of a group with high power and status behaves like a member of a group with lower power and status (blurring distinctions between the groups).
My friend commented that**:
Women are allowed to dress like men (pants, sneakers, suit) but men get beat up and killed for dressing like a women (because it lowers the status for all men — it is the worst offense.)
The idea is that, if men have more power, they will be quite aggressive towards a man who looks or sounds like a woman. That man is not just lowering his own status, but lowering the status of the whole group (because this is a no control group).
I commented that if we compare effeminate boys to masculine girls (tomboys), that, if the theory holds, we would expect: (a) other boys to pick on or beat up the effeminate boy; (b) girls to not be too hostile towards the effeminate boy (he doesn’t lower their status); (c) other girls to not be too upset with the tomboy (she doesn’t lower their status); (d) boys to pick on the tomboy (she is blurring the gender line)
So, is that the case?
*this idea came from a discussion with my cousins
**This conversation was inspired by the below image by Robert Gilgolov, where we see hairy legs (the hair is emphasized) in what would be considered women’s shoes.