The definition of normal

Look around you and you will find that what you consider normal is actually a set of definitions. The sky looks normal when it fits its definition - that which is above us and blue. The water looks normal when it fits its definition - that which is transparent and flows. The ground looks normal when it fits its definition - that which is solid and which you can stand on.

Definitions are what make reality reality. Change, whenever and whatever shape it comes in, is basically a changing of definitions. And since roles are social definitions, social change comes when the definition of a role is changed or challenged.

Take “woman” for example. Part of its definition has to do with a biological sex or a social gender. But another part of it has to do with all the expectations we have from someone bearing that label. These expectations have to do with her behaviour, her limits, her freedoms, and her problems.

When change comes, that which changes or is challenged is this definition. This is followed by much gnashing of teeth of course by those whose very idea of reality is dependent on definitions being absolute. They say that everything is in danger because the very idea of what a woman is, is in danger. These people may be regressive powers that draw their energy from social structures. They may also be people who, though well-meaning, still depend quite heavily on definitions.

So when I say that women are not goddesses, there are two kinds of people who are going to feel threatened as a result of it. First of these are those who have a vested interest in keeping the old definition going for as long as possible because their own status in society depends on it. Second are the ones who imagine themselves broad-minded but still draw their sense of self worth from the definitions they believe in.

So while the obviously misogynist will have a problems that they will describe as women having “too much freedom”, the second aggrieved party will take affront at the fact that I am trying to dissociate their definition of woman from their definition of culture and nation. They will react with “how can you say women are not goddesses, we respect them so much” while simultaneously refusing to see the problems that arise out of such an equation.

In the long run, it is those who are happy with normal (as opposed to those who defend normal passionately) who are a greater source of frustration. The fighter can be fought, but what does one do about the privileged fool who does not even know there is a war going on? In comic books and superhero literature, it is not uncommon to hear of the hero “saving the day” and bringing everything back to “normal”. But nobody much speaks of what that normal is.

Because though a super villain plot to turn the whole world into gorillas may have been thwarted, the human world is still home to much inequality. Within the normal lies much that should not be normal.


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