As a senior in college with some elective credits I need to get off the table, I decided to take a course on the psychology of human sexuality.
When people ask me about my classes this semester, they usually chuckle when I mention this is on my weekly itinerary. I’ll admit there’s something humorously intriguing about discussing sex every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning. However, one discussion in this class made me think.
The No. 1 question people have regarding their sexuality is, “Am I normal?” Am I normal for being attracted to the same gender? Am I normal for having a certain fetish? The list of examples can go on forever. This idea of wanting to stay in the bubble of normalcy can expand beyond our sex lives. It seeps into our daily lives as well.
As social animals, it is in our nature to try and not rock the boat. We don’t want to be the outsiders because we fear being ostracized by our peers. We don’t want to go against the grain because we don’t want to get in trouble. For many of us, normativity is comforting. However, there are many ways that strange people with abnormal ideas have changed our society for the better.
In 1848, the Seneca Falls Convention was the first women’s rights commission to pass a recommendation of women’s suffrage in the United States. This happened in a time where women were restricted to a limited societal role as housewives with no business in politics. According to the Syracuse University Press, even some of the Seneca Falls Convention organizers were against the idea of women’s suffrage because it was “too extreme.” Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the primary organizer of the convention, was doubted and rejected for her beliefs in gender equality. For lack of a better explanation, she was considered an extremist weirdo in that particular time period. If it wasn’t for Stanton resisting the normative culture of the 1800s, women would not have had the right to vote by 1920. Martin Luther King Jr. went against a prejudiced establishment and spearheaded great progression in the Civil Rights Movement. His abnormal train of thought and his promotion of nonconformist ideas landed him in an Arkansas prison.
Even after receiving a letter from the FBI that encouraged him to commit suicide, he remained passionate about his objective and continued to fight for civil rights. Though he may not have lived to see the fruits of his labor, they are certainly here, despite the fact that there’s still work to do.
These people were once outsiders, but now we see them as heroes and innovators. People like Stanton and King are considered the pillars of progression in America, and we look to them as inspiration. Everyone wants to make the world a better place, but that may require abstract thinking, a commitment to the unconventional and the drive to make it a reality. The next time you do some self-reflection, first ask yourself, “Am I normal?” If you conclude that you are normal, ask yourself, “How do I change that?” The majority of world history was made by the weirdos, the wackjobs, eccentrics and the unconventional.
Column by Carly Besser, Opinion Editor