I’ve said this before but I often get to thinking about society and what we perceive as ‘normal’ in the here and now. I always find it all a little bewildering. Take this, from Armpits4August re: female body hair, for instance.
This recent trend (insofar as it’s become normalised for the vast majority of women living in the west during the c20th) has become so quickly entrenched that it’s easy to find someone who will argue that it’s more ‘natural’ for women not to have body hair. Armpits4August isn’t trying to argue for the superiority of whatever being ‘natural’ actually means but, de facto, it cannot be more ‘natural’ to remove naturally occurring body hair. Yet, for many, it appears so.
We do this all the time in society – do something really illogical, tout it as ‘normal’ and then condemn those that don’t fit in with it. Now, I’ve never been much of a conformist, but I would find it hard to dangle a dyed, hairy armpit out and about in my everyday life without feeling self-conscious. (This is what Armpits4August plan to do for charity, if you haven’t heard. Check it out here.) But at least I can see the banality of what I am doing in order to be ‘normal’ – and in this case, hairless.
My point is that ‘normal’ is just nonsense. Be whoever you are and all that good stuff. As long as it doesn’t harm others. And this is where it all gets a bit crappy. Because ‘normal’ is often really horribly harmful to certain sections of society. I bet gay people get sick of all the heteronormative nonsense all around them. And transgender people? The sheer amount of abuse they get from all angles – largely unaccepted by either sexes – is unacceptable and based purely on these randomly ascribed gender norms. And yet, in terms of women’s rights in the UK (note: in the UK), we’re at this point where people think we’ve achieved it all, they think feminism is null and void. We’ve fought the battles, now we can reap the benefits. As I generally explore, this is not so at all – there’s a lot more to be done. But it makes me wonder how we will look back at this time, right here, right now, in decades to come. Where will we position ourselves in this great stretch of history in regards to feminism? Will this have been a time of great change, or one of those stagnant periods where feminism was ‘uncool’ and ‘abnormal’?
Because what I see being accepted as ‘normal’ and / or ‘harmless’ in the supposedly ‘progressive’ here and now is, frankly, horrific.
I really hope we can look back at this as a time where we made great strides against porn culture, rape culture, hypersexualisation, objectification – however you want to term it. That stuff, up there. Because it’s not doing anyone any good, whatever sex, whatever gender.
PS I really recommend reading Ms. Magazine’s 4 part series on sexual objectification – what it is and how to respond to it.
- Objectification begets violence (soldiersinpetticoats.com)
- Has it really come to this? (emilystealeaves.wordpress.com)
- The Hall of Fame Misogynist adverts – Car Edition (aseachange.com)
- How objectification silences women – the male glance as a psychological muzzle (scienceblogs.com)
- Adultification and Sexualisation of Girls in French Vogue (thesocietypages.org)
- French report calls for end to sexualisation of children (guardian.co.uk)
- Objectification of Women: The National Organization for Men Against Sexism (nomas.org)