What Is Normal?

According to Judith Butler, “A norm operates within social practices as the implicit standard of normalization”(84). In other words, the reproduction of norms creates this expectation for people to act a certain way according to what is considered “normal”. However, besides the fact that it discriminates those that do not act based on these cultural norms, there is a significant problem that arises from them. Because they are accepted as normal, sometimes it is hard to discern when these norms are harmful for society.

In the case of gender and sexuality, norms differ across cultures yet are harmful nonetheless. In the Western world for instance, there is an expectation for people to develop heterosexual and monogamous relationships, which alienates everyone that does not fit that norm.

Even more extreme, other countries’ norms such as Yemen’s are terribly dangerous. For instance, more than a quarter of Yemen’s females marry before age 15, according to a report in 2010 by the Social Affairs Ministry. The practice of forced marriage was normalized by people acting upon it so that it is now part of Yemen’s culture, and thus part of its reality. In turn, Yemenis are blind to the cruelty of this practice, which evidences how norms can be detrimental to society.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2382145/Nada-al-Ahdal-Doubts-raised-11-year-old-escaped-child-bride-telling-truth.html  (Video of 11-year-old Yemeni girl claiming she will commit suicide if forced to marry)


Chambers, Samuel A. Reading the L Word: Outing Contemporary Television. Kim Akass and Janet McCabe, eds. New York: I.B. Tauris, 2006: 81-98.


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