The misuse of the word “normal”

I hate the word “normal.”  I know this is blunt, but that’s how I feel.  I hate the connotations it has, I hate when people use it, and I hate how it is held up as some sort of gold standard to aspire to.  I think there the level of importance our society places on being “normal” is misguided and seriously damaging, especially because so many people may never be able to achieve it.

So now for Towanda Declaration #2:

The word “normal” is not a synonym for “good” or “correct.”

I suppose my issue with the word “normal” has to do with the generally held belief that to be normal means to be good or correct.  I believe this concept lies at the very root of all kinds of discrimination.  When one group, usually a majority group in a region, is considered “normal,” people who are not members of that group are labeled as “others”; with that label comes the connotation of “different”, “abnormal”, and “bad.”  This process has been seen over and over again throughout human history and in every part of the world.  As a result, it creates what is called the “minority burden”  (which Zinnia Jones describes very well).  The “minority burden” is basically the result of the double standard that arises when a majority and minority group share a space in society.  The minority group is almost always burdened with extra social rules and expectations that the majority group has the luxury of not thinking about: women having to spend more time grooming in order to look acceptable, gays having to “act straight”, black people having to “act white”, autistic people having to “act neurotypical”, just to name a few.  The minority burden has forced all of the groups of people to walk a tightrope, constantly making sure they don’t fall.  In this case, “falling” means to let an aspect of your natural identity be seen.  With the revelation of one of those aspects comes rejection and shame.  All of this occurs because these groups of people were not considered “normal.”

The word “normal” has hurt and killed entirely too many people because of its misuse.  If the word was used in the way it was supposed to, as an indication of the level of typicality something possesses, there would be so many less problems with the world.  The word “normal” should signify and objective, benign judgement, and not much worth should be given to it.  Calling something “normal” says very little about its properties; I don’t understand why there is so much emphasis placed upon it.

I will have more posts on the concept of “normal” and normalcy coming soon.  I will speak about more on how the concept of normal applies to cognitive functioning and minority burden.  Until then, folks, “If you won’t listen to reason, there’s always…Towanda.”