Thursday, May 21, 2009

Non Conformity As Resistance to Mediocrity

Some would argue there is truly no non-conformity only pockets of rebellion that may lie within each of us. I remember being in my twenties and hearing staunch declarations of how some friends were so "different" from the norm. They wore it like a badge of honor. Yet often these same people were in fact quite a homogeneous bunch, who relied on their parents' generosity for income and hadn't moved very far mentally or in consciousness away from their suburban upbringing. Yet somehow they thought they were cutting edge because they wore eyeliner, listened to certain styles of music and owned a pair of Doc Martins. Ah the innocence (ignorance) of youth. 

Those that actively challenge the status quo of conformity are often held with a fierce derision. Often those who react so negatively have no idea why, but it's such a visceral and immediate response. Why do we punish non-conformists?

So, if you've read my posts that have appeared late Tuesday evenings/early Wednesday mornings you know I've been following American Idol. I readily admit to not having watched it for some time or waiting until the it comes down to the final three contestants. The front-runner is usually quite obvious by this time. For example the season Carrie Underwood won I knew she would be chosen. She had a marketable look and wanted to perform country music which was an untapped market for Idol. I liked her but I knew for certain that Bo Bice was utterly amazing and yet didn't quite fit the mold. His 1970's flavor wasn't going to impress 19 Management though he was obviously talented. 

Then I skipped a few seasons - happily - until I kept hearing a buzz about this one guy from Season 8. So I watched Adam Lambert perform and was immediately impressed. So many of the contestants were a cut above the norm and yet he was still able to raise the bar. I was curious at how self-possessed he seemed and at ease with himself which was something the others competing didn't show. I also picked up his theatre background by the way he presented himself. There were discussions about his sexual orientation couched in code words like "theatrical" which I found mildly annoying. 

I couldn't quite explain why I'd suddenly become so invested in a complete stranger who was clearly the best out of the bunch yet made people so uncomfortable - including the judges. I thought somehow they'd do something to tank his chances despite themselves to pick someone safer, nee blander. Since it's supposedly up to the viewers to vote (which they don't actually verify who votes, the number of times, the amount of or any of that) I wondered if people would actually come through and vote for an alleged "gay" Idol. See we don't actually know but we suspect. As progressive as some people may like to think they are, they often want cookie cutter conformity surrounding them because it verifies their chosen identity. 

I've been seething about this American Idol loss and I know there's a deeper meaning underneath. One of the contestants was of Indian descent and I had honestly rooted for Anoop Desai to go far simply because I knew certain people in this country would not support him regardless. I also felt the lone Black female finalist, Lil Rounds was treated horribly by the judges and overly criticized. She was given so many divergent messages of who she needed to be to satisfy them that she floundered. This may be about pop-culture "fluff" to some but there's always a bigger issue at stake.

My posts questioning whether Adam would actually win seem rather prescient now. Then I remember it came down to two white men and perhaps I shouldn't be so invested. Yet I see how one was made to be the other while the winner Kris Allen was deemed acceptable. Even he admitted he didn't quite deserve to win - yet he's fully accepted the reward for being the safe choice. 

Isn't it time we stop playing it safe? 

As a woman we're looked at as odd if we choose to not give birth to or raise other people's children. As if the sole purpose of being a woman is to be a mother.

Not everyone wants to get married. As long as it comes from a place of empowerment - and all legal documentation is in order involving children, pets, property, holdings, etc then who are we to say it's wrong?
Black people who don't want to follow the rules of Blackness some would say particular actions verify it. It has become increasingly rare to see the image of Blacks in the normative because so much dysfunction is touted as being regular. That is a lie. Think of how many youths define themselves by wearing extra baggy clothes which is emulated after prison attire. Or dress in extra tight clothing that reveals their bodies. No one ever questions why they do the things they do.

Children should not be teased for being perceived as different. We seemed so surprised at the rash of youths that killed themselves over being taunted as gay. Children pick up on the viewpoints and language of their parents without a filter so why was it a shock to find out that certain people are very intolerant?

Traveling outside your immediate area. Leaving the country is a must. Immersing oneself into another culture is vital to one's development as well-rounded person. 

There are numerous ways we can think outside the box and it first starts with being curious and listening to dissenting viewpoints. Now we must always be wearing our thinking caps about the messages we're being sent, but isn't it wonderful to find yourself being challenged in ways you hadn't anticipated? Having a shift in consciousness can be quite liberating.
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Bailey said...

Great post. Very interesting & thought provoking. Your points about how the majority of us play it safe are good ones. There is nothing wrong from straying from the norm and doing things differently. I don't think people who are different should be teased, mocked, ridiculed or persecuted for their differences. In a perfect world, we would all find ourselves, live, let live and enjoy life. Thanks for the post.

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Shawnta': Thank you so much! Welcome and nice to meet you. Please feel free to participate again. And bring some friends with you, lol!!