Normal

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Normal was created, not discovered, by flawed, eccentric, self-interested, racist, ableist, homophobic, sexist humans. Normal is a statistical fiction, nothing less. Knowing this is the first step toward reclaiming your power to define yourself, know yourself, and love yourself for who you are, not who you should be.

Normal Sucks: How to Live, Learn, and Thrive, Outside the Lines

One of the most transformative things I learned was that normal hasn’t always been normal it has a history not of discovery, but invention.

The word normal did not enter the English language until 1860s.

Normal Sucks Full Film – YouTube

All societies have struggled with normal and, as French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss wrote, we have made the cultural “problem” of differences, anomaly, and abnormality central to every culture. Normal and its twin—not normal—are the “fundamental problems of the human condition.” We are all surrounded by institutions, systems, and cultural practices that demand and enforce normalcy. We all have to build a life and a self—despite, around, or through—the strict judges of normality’s jurisprudence.

I want you to be prepared. I want you to know how to live, and thrive, in a world that will at some point tell you, as it does us all, that you’re not normal because of what you think, how you look, who you love, how you learn, how you feel, how you behave, or what you believe. I want you to know that normality is a problem to be struggled with, to be resisted, and ultimately, an idea to be rejected and replaced. And I want you to know, if those judges of normality wound you, like they have me and so many others, how to stitch yourself up and fight for a world that is not governed by those judges. When normal comes for you, I want you to be able to say what I couldn’t when it came for me. Normal sucks.

Normal Sucks: How to Live, Learn, and Thrive, Outside the Lines

We have built learning environments, our culture, our communities, around the myth of normal and average. That myth of normal and average has bombarded all people with a pervasive imperative that to be okay as a human being, to be acceptable as a human, you have to strive for this mythical norm, this mythical average, which by definition does not exist.

Jonathan Mooney

Every classroom that penalizes students for distributed modes of attention organizes learning according to a neurotypical norm. Every classroom that sees the moving body as the distracted body is organized according to a neurotypical norm. Every classroom that teaches predominantly for one mode of perception is organizing its learning according to a norm. Every classroom that knows in advance what knowledge looks and sounds like is working to a norm.

Histories of Violence: Neurodiversity and the Policing of the Norm
Ordinary tried to fix me
I was a threat to a page in history
Miss me with the treatment, doo-wop bleaching
Straighten my kinky with a new pop Legion

--Talent by Swamburger

Challenging that myth of normal is a philosophical imperative because we are doubling down normal.

The myth of normal is what’s broken, and the identity that, if you don’t fit it, that you are less than, that’s what’s broken. We need to reframe what we problematize, not bodies, not difference, but this pervasive imperative to be normal.

We didn’t have the word normal in the English language until the 1860s. Normal is a product linguistically of the industrial revolution , of standardizing production, of moving in a place that’s forcing people to fit that standardized mold. Normal is a statistical concept, not a fact in the world.

All progress, all evolution, is driven by deviations from the norms.

All evolution and progress is driven by mutations and deviations. If we lose that, if we eradicate that, we have lost our strength as a community, as a society.

Jonathan Mooney
They're declaring war on your norms

Selling yourself short tames the vision 
How you're depicted can change the sentence

Innocent by Swamburger

Somewhere, on the edge of consciousness, there is what I call a mythical norm, which each one of us within our hearts knows “that is not me.”

Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider
Is anything as strange as a normal person?
Is anyone as cruel as a normal person?
Waiting after school for you
They want to know if you
If you're normal too
Well, are you?
Are you?

I'm so confused, am I a normal person?
You know, I can't tell if I'm a normal person, it's true
I think I'm cool enough, but am I cruel enough?
Am I cruel enough, for you?

Normal Person by Arcade Fire

Normalcy was declared. (Normalcy was always a declaration.)

Arundhati Roy, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

Still, it would be progress if we could acknowledge that there really is no such thing as “the normal child”: instead, there are children, with varying capabilities and varying impediments, all of whom need individualized attention as their capabilities are developed.

Martha C. Nussbaum, Frontiers of Justice

The normal was one of a pair. Its opposite was the pathological and for a short time its domain was chiefly medical. Then it moved into the sphere of—almost everything.

Ian Hacking, The Taming of Chance

The normal body, invented in the nineteenth century as a departure from the ideal body, has shifted over to a new concept: the normal ideal.

Lennard J. Davis, Enforcing Normalcy

Ian Hacking summed it up when he wrote that the word normal, with its attendant meanings, “whispers in your ear that what is normal is also all right.”

Normal Sucks: How to Live, Learn, and Thrive, Outside the Lines

You need to know that normal has a history. You may assume that this is a history of discovery—that somewhere, at some point, someone found out what was normal for human beings. And normal, and normal people, are often presented like that—as facts in the world. But that’s not true. That is a lie. It’s a lie that gives normal such power in our lives. And while normal has a history, it is not a history of discovery, but a history of invention. Normal hasn’t always been normal.

Normal Sucks: How to Live, Learn, and Thrive, Outside the Lines

What is average, however, is often called normal—and what is called normal becomes the norm.

Normal Sucks: How to Live, Learn, and Thrive, Outside the Lines

You are normal if your behavior, appearance, and background are the dominant culture. You are normal if you fit into this culture and are therefore deemed normal by the school, the church, the town, the doctor, the professor. Normal is what works in society’s norms. This is a whole new tautology—normal is what is called normal by people who are considered normal.

What a mess the twentieth century made out of normal.

Normal Sucks: How to Live, Learn, and Thrive, Outside the Lines

Since almost everyone tries to appear as “normal” as possible, those who appear clearly “abnormal” according to their society’s standards are constant reminders to those who are currently measuring up that they might slip outside the standards.

Susan Wendell, The Rejected Body

Normal has always been propped up by and constructed on the bodies and lives of the not normal. And to be on the bottom of that pile, to be the negation of normal that is its foundation, is to not just differ from normal; it is to be normal’s opposite—abnormal—which is false and wrong.

Just because normal isn’t a fact doesn’t mean it hasn’t been used to dehumanize people with differences. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Like normal, abnormal has a history, not of discovery but of invention. As you make your life, you need to know this history and the process and systems of normalization that have turned natural differences among humans into abnormalities to be diagnosed, categorized, and then of course, corrected. You are round pegs, as we all are, and no matter how much I try, I can’t protect you from the relentless message that you must fit the square hole.

Normal Sucks: How to Live, Learn, and Thrive, Outside the Lines

The sorting of typical humans into hierarchical medical categories of difference was not inevitable. Human differences had been, before this sorting, interrupted in other ways. Charles Darwin proved that all evolution was fueled by variation. Before the category of the abnormal, people with cognitive and physical differences were often considered wonderful, eccentric, remarkable, singular, extraordinary, queer, odd, strange, whimsical, absurd, and curious. According to Henri-Jacques Stiker, a disability historian, people with cognitive and physical differences during the Middle Ages “were spontaneously part of a world and of a society that was accepted as being multifaceted.”

What changed?

Difference became abnormality when the probability theorists, skull counters, and shrinks who brought us normal become coconspirators with the great sorters of the early twentieth century. Normal emerged, side by side and arm in arm, with the rise of science as a tool to describe and make sense out of the world. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, biologists created systems to categorize the natural world, astronomers mapped the sky, geographers the world, and anatomists the human body. Normal lurked in the background, drawing a line in these charts and systems between what was acceptable and what was not—and we all know that the not is abnormal.

Normal Sucks: How to Live, Learn, and Thrive, Outside the Lines

Normal was used to create dehumanizing categories of social disqualification, based on a narrow continuum of acceptable human variation—the grand total of which was none. This biologically based, scientifically justified discrimination disqualified a wide range of humans and had a huge impact on atypical bodies and minds. Variability becomes disability, abnormality, and pathology. From here on, this medical model will become the foundation for how society makes sense of, addresses, and treats cognitive and physical differences. The medical model makes variability synonymous with sickness and puts the social “problem” to be solved in the person, not the environment around the person.

The great sorting and pathologizing of difference are still with us today. This is dangerous, because if there is one thing I know, really know to my core, it’s that to define deviations from the norm as a deficit or disorder or abnormality is the first step in making a person into a problem to be fixed and a sickness to be cured.

Normal Sucks: How to Live, Learn, and Thrive, Outside the Lines

Taken as a whole, the research on neurodiversity is a profound rebuke to our collective illusion of sameness—and the systems of normalization that make this dream a nightmare for many of us. This body of research shows that a constellation of brain differences are not only correlated with, but directly lead to, a range of thinking patterns and cognitive skills like creativity, problem solving, intelligence, and innovation that have made humanity’s progress possible. As Harvey Blume wrote in an article in The Atlantic, “Neurodiversity may be every bit as crucial for the human race as biodiversity is for life in general.”

Normal Sucks: How to Live, Learn, and Thrive, Outside the Lines
But I don't need a cure for me
I don't need it
No, I don't need a cure for me
I don't need it
No, I don't need a cure for me
I don't need it
I don't need it

Please, no cure for me
Please, no cure for me

--Cure for Me by AURORA

Because normal is contingent—on history, on power, and, most of all, on flawed humans faking it until they make it.

Normal Sucks: How to Live, Learn, and Thrive, Outside the Lines

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Published by Ryan Boren

#ActuallyAutistic parent and retired tech worker. Equity literate education, respectfully connected parenting, passion-based learning, indie ed-tech, neurodiversity, social model of disability, design for real life, inclusion, open web, open source. he/they

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