The Alphabet of Normalization




A is for...

- Asexuality
Commercial. Sex. Billboard. Sex. TV plot. Sex.

Sex is something that is seen as a very normal and hyped up idea according to Western culture (even though slut-shaming is still prominent). Sex can be seen everywhere, most commonly used by companies to attract attention and sell products, but some people aren’t phased. Asexuals don’t feel sexual attraction to anyone and that is totally okay. They can even be left out of LGBTQIA+ spaces because they can “pass” as “normal” even though the A is there for them, agender, and aromantic people, all of which deserve more representation as well.

Asexuals rarely get the representation they deserve and this makes feeling comfortable with whom they are a lot more difficult if there isn’t anyone to look up to. Many aces feel “broken” because they don’t experience attraction in the same way that others do and that’s why it’s so important to normalize this often forgotten sexuality.

- Artistic pursuits
When I was around 8 years old I told my nan that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. Her reply was to tell me: “Art is a hobby. You won’t have a career in that.”

When I was 11 I wanted to be a writer. But everywhere I looked, English wasn’t a desirable degree for “future employers” and novels were too hard to be published - and even if they were, you’d get no money from it, which is what our culture values.

In a society that measures our intelligence by how much math and science we can comprehend while treating artistic ability as “talent” and “luck”, it can be hard to feel confident in pursuing artist careers. This is something that we need to change. The arts are so important in our world. They’re accessible, breaking down language barriers to share ideas, inspirational, and above all, art requires hard-work and energy to perfect. Nobody should feel compelled to abandon their dreams because they’re viewed as invalid or ridiculous; they are valid for as long as they’re yours.Scan0235.jpg
-Activism
“Sharon, 15, Taurus ,  Activist ”
Telling someone you’re an activist is hard to ingrain into an introduction about yourself. It should roll of the tongue so casually, you should be able to  tell people you’re an activist like you tell them your favorite color or food, but often it’s kept private until a firm relationship has been established , incase people think you’re too involved in politics or care too much about something they don’t.

Activism should be normalized, telling people you advocate for black lives and justice , or are passionate about fighting issues that the LGBTQ+ community face shouldn’t be held in secrecy incase your compassion offends others who turn a blind eye.
Activism doesn’t make you a radical that the media continues to tell you you are, it doesn’t mean you’re trying to force feed your ideologies or passions down the sore throats of those who don’t care , it just means you’re trying to advocate for change in the world, and you should be able to tell people in confidence that you’re an activist just the same as you’d tell them your star sign.

B is for...

-Bisexuality

“It’s just a phase.” “You’re experimenting.” “Just pick a side, stop being greedy.”

Bisexual people face stigma from both ends of the spectrum: to straight people, you’re too gay, and to gay people, you’re too straight. You’re never simply allowed to be bisexual because it’s never seen as an option in itself - it’s a confused mix of gay and straight and you’ll get over it, eventually.

This perpetuates harmful stereotypes about bisexuals, leading bi people to be less likely to come out, find safe spaces and be protected from violence. Even in the media, the B-Word is never mentioned. We are erased and discounted. Normalising bisexuality means treating it as a real thing, confronting the harm done to the community, and popularising the idea of sexuality as a spectrum rather than a binary. Normalising bisexuality means allowing us safety to exist as we are.

-Bellies

It is so tiring to see ad after ad while scrolling through my Instagram feed. Detox tea, waist trainers, diet pills. Everyone is anxious to prove how flat stomachs have changed their lives for the better. How come nobody ever talks about how amazing bellies are? No matter the size, all stomachs are beautiful, and the size of your stomach by no means determined your worth. Those are two philosophies I love, but am still working on.

It is so easy to hate your stomach, to look in the mirror and cry, but loving yourself is so much fun. It's a constant struggle, but the results are amazing. B for bellies should also be B for beautiful, and don't let anyone convince you otherwise.


C is for...

-Crying as a boy

“Boys don’t cry” is a phrase I’m sure we’re all familiar with. I’m sure there’s been a time in all of our lives where we’ve witnessed this in action - whether it be your own experience or one of a brother,  friend, father or male character on a show. Masculinity has been constructed in our society as a concrete, impermeable thing; emotions are feminine, weak. “Boys don’t cry” basically means “boys aren’t allowed to feel vulnerable, or they’ll never be a real man.”

Normalising male vulnerability not only means that boys can open up about their feelings and cry, but also means we can develop a more compassionate, communicative culture. It means boys aren’t called weak and women aren’t called over-emotional. It means a lowering of men’s suicide rates. It means dismantling a patriarchal idea that conditions and restricts us all.

Boys can and do cry, and that is nothing to be ashamed of.
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-Community college
In our society today, there is an unnecessary stigma connected to attending community college. As a student of a community college, I find the judgmental looks and criticism completely ridiculous. Community college is an accessible and affordable way to gaining a higher education, and should be viewed as a wise choice. Classes at community college are just as challenging and valuable as courses offered at the traditional four-year college, just with a much lower price tag. They offer the same variety of clubs, courses, and student life as most other colleges, but students save thousands on their education and board. As someone who lives at home and attends community college, I could not be more proud of my school or happier with my decision.


-Confidence
Conceit and confidence are two concepts that are often confused in today’s society. On billboards, advertisements, commercials, posters, magazines, or other types of marketing devices, you only see the people that our culture deems as “perfect.” The people who don’t fit this frame are usually edited and manipulated so much that they possess an attractiveness that is basically an illusion. Tabloids have entire sections where they take unsolicited pictures of women at the beach or wearing bathing suits and criticize their unaltered bodies, calling them “too fat” or “too skinny”. They point out stretch marks and love handles and muffin tops, all for supposed comedy, and the readers are supposed to cringe and be glad it isn’t them.

We are supposed to want to work towards a certain look, one so different from our own. Rarely are we taught to embrace our bodies, and self love and confidence is so uncommon that it is most often mistaken for being vain. Just know that it’s okay to look in the mirror and not want to make improvements. It’s okay to love your body, stretch marks, scars and all. Fake your confidence until it sticks, and when someone gives you a compliment, work through all the self doubt you might have and say ‘thank you.’ Post selfies, admire yourself, and work towards building a positive self image. It’s easier said than done, but gradually you can unlearn the negativity.

D is for...

-Diva cups

An alternative to tampons and pads, menstrual cups have been around for over 80 years. One of the most recognizable brands of menstrual cups is the DivaCup. Made of flexible, medical grade silicone, they are used to catch the menstrual fluid, or blood, by being folded and inserted into the vaginal canal (more detailed instructions can be found here). There is a large stigma against the use of menstrual cups because they are not as popularized as tampons or pads. Despite initial judgement, they are much cleaner to use than pads and tampons because they catch all the menstrual fluid and allow you to easily dispose of it. Smell is also not a problem because the menstrual fluid is never exposed to air when in use, only during removing and cleaning. The DivaCup and other menstrual cups are a more environmentally friendly approach to periods and should be given as much of a chance as pads or tampons!


F is for...

-Fat
The word “fat” is oddly common today, thrown around in fatphobic and disgusting sentences like “Oh, if I eat that I’ll get fat”, “Ew, she's so fat” and the most common “Wow, I’m so fat” said by someone who obviously isn't, usually accompanied by “No you're not, you're beautiful” in response. This is so normalized in our society, to see fatness as a negative, that it's hard not to be self-conscious. People are taught at such a young age that fatness is undesirable, ugly and lazy, caused by too much junk food. Society pushes these people to hate their muffin tops,  stretch marks, lack of thigh gaps and cellulite - and instead of loving themselves and their body, to “eat healthy” and exercise in order to lose that weight. We are discouraged by the Joan Cusacks of the world to follow our dreams since the world is “so image-conscious.”.

Fatness is not a negative, and is not always a result of unhealthiness. It could be due to mental illnesses, medication, physical illnesses, etc. And even so, why is that so bad? Instead of tearing down fat people, we should be lifting them up. All bodies are beautiful, especially fat bodies.

-Friendship

Romance is, frankly, overrated. I personally think that there is not enough conversation on the importance of platonic relationships. Having people who want to hang out with you simply because they like you on a platonic level is such a great, underrated feeling. Sharing conversations and jokes and memes and stories with friends who have your back and are there for you is wonderful and shouldn't be taken for granted or seen as less important the romantic ones. Friendships can be just as important and wonderful as  romantic relationships, so don't ever take them for granted.

G is for...

-Gayness
I remember watching a television show with a friend, and there was a particular character that seemed to agitate her.
“God, we get it, he’s gay , but he doesn’t have to rub in our faces. Honestly the gays are taking over.”
I asked her how she knew what sexuality he conformed to.
“Can’t you tell ? His gayness is unbelievable, I mean look at his hand gestures!”
Gayness to her was formulated by several factors : hand gestures, ‘flamboyancy’ , clothing and vocal inflections. To her , it was a measure of one’s sexuality and attraction. The whole idea generalised a unique, remarkable community of people by such factors. It almost made it seem as if you made your sexuality known, you were being overly dramatic , attracting attention and ‘taking over’ what is still a dominantly heteronormative society.
Being gay is a part of your identity, you’re allowed to embrace your gayness, whether or not you conform to the general idea of what gayness is supposed to be.




H is for...

-Hairiness
“No boy will ever date you with that leg hair.” “I’m not letting you leave the house before you shave that off.” “Women are supposed to be clean and smooth.”

I have heard all of these things before, simply for not seeing a reason to shave every day. Women are constantly told that the male gaze is always watching and to do things for both theirs and society’s sakes. The hair on a woman is no different than the hair on a man and it is ridiculous to uphold this sexist trope of perfectly hairless women even in 2016.

Some women have hair in spots that society perceives as wrong; they have hair above their lip, arms, and face and they should know that they are still beautiful. If women aren’t supposed to have hair then why is it such a natural bodily feature? Normalize hairy women.

- Headcovers/hijabs
Headcovers are a common article in many cultures, normalizing them in societies where it is not as common would be a step towards accepting people’s differences. The greatest way to normalize them in society means more representation in media (unstereotypically!!). Many Tv shows are starting to show more diversity in their actors and adding actors/actresses with headcovers would be a great advancement in showing representation. It’s also extremely important to correctly educate people on headcovers. People should be educated on minor things like the differences between a hijab, niqab, and burqa, as well as major things like why the cultures wear it. Due to miseducation, many people think Sikh men are Muslims and commit hate crimes against them. There’s also the whole “white feminism” view on Muslim women being oppressed through the use of headcovers. Almost all Muslim women who wear headcovers do so out of their free will, the ones who are oppressed through headcovers are the ones living in countries that have laws forcing women to cover. Even in those countries, there are plenty of women who willingly wear headcovers. Ultimately, it’s always better to never generalize a group of people.
Here’s a cool video to check out: https://youtu.be/RskvZgc_s9g

I is for...

-Intersex
(Left: flag created by Natalie Phox in 2009 Right: flag created by the Organisation Intersex International Australia in 2013)

The discussion of intersex has often been a ‘hush-hush’ subject in society. The mere unwillingness to discuss it shows how people are uncomfortable with the term, let alone the person. But why should they? This reluctance just grows shame within a person who is intersex—and can have dire consequences to their self-esteem. We cannot make them uncomfortable just because we are.
People born intersex are subjected to surgery during their infancy. Unfortunately, they have no decision when it comes to choosing what gender they are. Often, a doctor chooses it for them by removing specific sexual organs, without their consent, to make them more of the gender their chromosomes are identified as. But none of this is necessary. Surgery should be laid out as an option, not the absolute solution to ‘fix’ an otherwise natural occurrence in mankind. The only thing worth ‘fixing’ in this century: our society’s need to have a gender binary.

Being intersex is not a defect of an individual’s existence and neither should the right to choose surgery be taken away. We have to normalize this discussion because they deserve to live a life as fulfilling as everyone else in this world.




J is for...

-Jiggling

Beauty standards have been around for thousands of years and for thousands of years, people have attempted to achieve these standards and attempt to strut through their lives confidently with what they thought made them a better, more presentable human being. However, for thousands of years as well, countless amounts of people have also defied beauty standards and were able to embrace their natural form, curves, “jiggles” and all, and strut through life just the same. It’s certainly okay to strive to be a better you each and every day, but if you’re satisfied with your body, no one can keep you down. You probably look amazing today, throw on that favorite sweatshirt and a pair of jeans, and walk out that door with a smile, this is your body, your time, and no one can tell you otherwise.


K is for...

-Kindness

We lack kindness
these days
We suspect, double-take, when someone is kind
Is trying to help.

Let our small gestures be heroic,
Not waiting for reward
If we were to leave this world better
than we found it
Let our epic sagas be
the little words of encouragement we gave
Along the way  -- (nysha & art by CJ)

kindness.jpg



L is for...

-Leg hair on girls/femmes
If it shouldn't be there then why does it even grow there? Girls and women shouldn't feel condemned to get rid of their leg or body hair for the sake of social acceptance. It's natural for it to grow there so it shouldn't come as a surprise if a woman makes the decision to not shave or wax it all off. If someone wants smooth legs then so be it. If said person also wants to let their leg hair grow to its full potential, then let them be. A person's level of "feminity" or attraction should not be based on the amount of hairs they've pulled from their legs; and it most certainly is not a standard that should be pressured onto women. A woman should be able to feel comfortable in her own skin, be it with or without hairy legs
-Lesbians
Lesbians are fetishized more often than not, especially when it comes to sapphic POC. When you search up ‘interracial lesbians’ you find excessive amounts of NSFW content, which portray lesbians not as humans, but as sex objects. We are not here for your enjoyment or pleasure. When we hold hands with our girlfriends on the street it is not so you can oogle and harass us. We’re not shoving our sexuality in your faces, especially when we live in a world where heterosexuality is the default. Normalizing romantic relationships between girls/femmes is essential to progressing towards a society tolerant of all love.

M is for...

-Masturbation

Whenever someone brings up female masturbation, there are always people who get a little uncomfortable, or giggly. However, it’s not anything to be embarrassed about. Almost everyone does it, so why not make it more normalized? Often, girls are shamed when they admit to masturbating, while boys are not. It is an odd double standard, but derives from the idea that women are not supposed to enjoy sexual promiscuity. Masturbation is, in fact, extremely good for you! It can relieve stress, and feels good. There is no reason to be ashamed!

-Mental Health Awareness

In recent decades, mental health awareness has gained a hugely forceful voice in the media and society which is an amazing thing, and has surely aided countless individuals. Having the ability to pick up a phone and be connected with someone who understands your situation, whether it be through a hotline, therapist or other personal aid,  or simply talking to a friend, unafraid of embarrassment or conflict can make the improvement process that much easier to deal with and work through. Widespread awareness has contributed to these major steps in normalizing the conversation, and has given unimaginable strength and courage to those people who may have once thought they were alone.

By Adele, Amelia, Charis, CJ, Claire, Daniela, Joy, Nysha, Sam, Shamya, and Sharon.

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