At some point in one of my classes over the past few weeks, I wrote a sticky note that said, “reason vs. tradition?” and stuck it in my planner. I usually write notes with prompts of things that I want to either blog about or talk about with my boyfriend that could potentially stem into out-of-the-box conversation, and I guess this was one of them. I have met many people who have a mentality of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and sometimes it just goes too far. These people do not typically take into consideration that “not broke” and “most effective” are not synonymous. For example, my middle school used disposable trays and utensils that were producing so much waste and were costly over the years. Somebody suggested using reusable trays and the head of the kitchen staff simply said, “well, this is what we have always done so we are going to keep it that way.” The kitchen staff was so set in their way (tradition, if you will) that they refused to make (reasonable) changes that made more sense.
Although using reason is not always classified as deviance, it can be deviant when it comes to breaking tradition to operate in a way that simply makes more sense. The word deviance has a negative connotation in our society. Being different is praised, but only when this different is conforming to the proper “different” ways. This seems like a massive paradox but in pop culture, people tend to describe themselves as different in order to be cool. For example, eyebrows are a huge thing for many girls. They pride themselves on the way their eyebrows are shaped by their “eyebrow lady” and how well they color them in. In the past few years, Victoria’s Secret model, and now actress, Cara Delevigne sparked a trend of letting eyebrows grow to be bushy. Now models with unkempt eyebrows and unibrows are being hired by major fashion agencies. The same goes for tooth gaps. My parents made me uncool by putting me into braces to close the mile-wide gap between my two front teeth. Although these models are different (or deviant, although the two do not seem to be entirely synonymous) in terms of beauty and beauty standards, the deviance is defined and regulated. The models can have bushy eyebrows or funky make up (that is also regulated by some unknown force who pulls the strings of the fashion industry) but how dare they have a physical ailment, such as a limp or deformity. Models can have greasy looking hair that is carefully crafted by a stylist but how dare they have actual greasy hair. The little trends of deviance are what pushes and changes tradition, even when they are regulated and superficial.
Something that I read in my Sociology textbook this past week that really made me think was a bit on mental illness and whether or not it truly exists. I am not a professional on mental illness, but by my observations and interactions with people who claim to suffer or have suffered from mental illness, I would say that it is a thing that exists. My grandmother show symptoms related to schizophrenia. She lived in a whole different world from us where her reality was farfetched and made up. I would say that in this case, a mental illness was very present. I also think that if a teenager is sad for an extended period of time, it is typical for him or her to say, “yeah, my girlfriend broke up with me and I suffered from depression for three weeks.” If you look at the situation of emotional support/service animals, it is apparent that anybody could be diagnosed with any special need. In my old school, animals were not allowed in the dorms so tons of people were booking counseling appointments and saying that they were stressed so they could be diagnosed with anxiety in order to get an emotional support PET. Students pay for diagnoses to get emotional support cats, dogs, and even rabbits. (How in the world is a rabbit going to help relieve your depression?) I do recognize that service animals are needed by many people, but I feel that some people are taking it too far. I sat next to a couple with two emotional support dogs in a restaurant, and I do not understand why they did not just offer each other emotional support. Maybe these people truly do believe they need an animal to help with their mental health, or maybe they just want to slap a label on themselves so that they feel that they are part of a specific community.
Crime is an obvious form of legal deviance. I am very into crime, in the sense that I read true crime stories and used to binge watch fictitious crime shows like How to Get Away with Murder and Scandal. Also, when major (non-natural) tragedies, such as mass shootings, occur, I find myself obsessing over details of how and why they happened. I started college off as a Criminal Justice major but switched because I did not know what kind of job I would get with that degree (and now I am a Global Studies major and still not sure what kind of job I could get). What I learned in my Intro to Law and Legal Systems class was how law and crime work in a technical sense. My professor was great but he kept things on a simple and mechanical level, with due process, criminal procedures, civil procedures, and torts. We did not dive into why laws exist other that “to keep people safe.” Some may say that laws legally enforce moral standards. Laws in America seem to really exist to protect the interests of rich and powerful (white) men. Although some laws align with morals that hold true in our society, others completely contradict these morals or have no moral value at all. Crime, or breaking laws, often coincide with deviance but some criminalized actions, such as snowball fights in Kansas or wearing stiletto heels in Alabama, are completely arbitrary and would not be considered deviant or morally wrong by most.
Being deviant from social standards or conforming to them are two choices that we all face each day. Many people do not actually have the choice to be deviant because they are so caught up in what society is pressuring them to do that they do not recognize that that they could dance to the beat of their own drums because society is only an abstract force. As I have mentioned before, I am trying to be as much of an individual as I can be. I try to remind myself often that I do not need to look, dress, or act a certain way because it is what is expected of me by others. I believe in a god and I believe that one day I will be judged based on my time spent on Earth. When this day comes, it will not matter if I walked around campus talking and singing to myself or if I wore a hideous outfit one day. What will matter is the overall impact I have made on this world, more specifically, on the lives of those who I meet. I try to live my life by keeping in mind a bigger picture. To me, what matters is that people see me as a player in this game of life who caused no harm but only brought positive change to this world, and that I may inspire others to live their lives to the fullest. I am a flawed human and I do succumb to the need to fit in sometimes. Sometimes, I hate how I look or want to take back words that I said in fear of others thinking I am strange, but I am working on freeing myself from these superficial confines. I am working on being deviant from the norms in order to be happy and productive with lesser limitations.