Course:ANTH213/2024/topic/Normativity 1

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Simple Hierarchy Pyramid

Normativity refers to the societal expectations and standards that guide behaviour and judgement, influencing how individuals perceive and interact within their communities. Normative frameworks create a social hierarchy that dictates who follows and embodies the accepted norms the most and who does not. Based on this hierarchy, people at the highest position of the hierarchy are granted more freedom socially, economically, and politically. Norms are a fundamental part of defining what is considered acceptable and appropriate within society. They differ throughout cultures and evolve over time and across different geographic and social contexts. Such norms are derived from the many different contexts which define an individual. These include, but are not limited to, sexuality, gender, disability, and race.

Within the context of sexuality, there are the concepts of heteronormativity and homonormativity. Heteronormativity privileges heterosexuality as the societal norm, reinforcing the belief in a gender binary and positioning it as the superior orientation. This leads to disproportionate societal value and accommodation for heterosexual individuals over LGBTQ+ individuals, evident in legal rights, societal norms, media representation, and resource allocation.

In contrast, homonormativity attempts to mirror heternomative concepts and values within the LGBTQ+ community and their relationships. This process divides the LGBTQ+ community, creating a space that values some gender identities and sexualities over others, illustrated in day to day life and through representations in the media.

Diversity Conference Group Photo

Within the realm of gender there is cisnormativity, an institutionalized social construct that views being cisgendered as the default natural state of a person’s gender while being transgender in any capacity is unnatural and therefore inferior and potentially even fraudulent. As a result transgender people face stigma and erasure in their everyday lives while cisgender people face scrutiny and invalidation of their gender if they fail to conform to colonial gender standards.

Regarding disability and health, neuronormativity is a prominent challenge that people face when compared to ‘normal’ individuals that are seen as the standard in society. This process begins in childhood, creating barriers in social and environmental contexts that hinder individuals identifying as neurodivergent, diabled or those struggling with their mental health.

Lastly, racial normativity describes the standards which disadvantage ethnic minorities that operate both implicitly and explicitly in social, political and economic sectors. These norms set expectations for how individuals are expected to act, look and even speak.


Heteronormativity is the concept of taking heterosexuality as the norm and standard because it is assumed to be natural and healthy. Heterosexuality is deeply connected to the idea that there are only two genders (gender binary), that these two genders reflect biological sex, and that individuals are attracted to those of the opposite gender. It is also understood to be the superior sexual orientation and thus heterosexuals are often disproportionately valued and catered to in society compared to those who identify as LGBTQ+. This preferential treatment can manifest in various ways, such as legal rights, societal norms, representation in media and culture, and access to resources and opportunities.

Gender expression is often interlinked with the concept of a gender binary and thus heteronormativity as well. Gender expressions are placed on a spectrum of masculine and feminine. On either extreme there must also be alignment with gender and biological sex. This then creates a hierarchy in society between and within the two genders. The most masculine men are highly valued and assert social dominance over everyone else while the most feminine are socially supported for being compliant and sexually receptive to men[1]. These gender practices are understood as hegemonic masculinity and emphasized femininity[1].

Cycle of Hegemonic Masculinity

Within the masculinities the hierarchy is as follows: hegemonic, complicit, subordinated, and marginalized[2]. Hegemonic men actively support gender inequality and enforce their position at the top of the hierarchy while complicit men do not actively enforce their high position but they benefit from the hierarchy. Behaviours that comply with hegemonic masculinity are heterosexuality, strength, assertiveness, dominance, emotional restraint, avoidance of femininity and queerness, and objectification of women. Subordinated men do not fit into the definition of hegemonic masculinity and are often oppressed by the hegemonic man, such as homosexual men. Marginalized men are oppressed according to other means, including race and class, but are positioned highly because of their gender. This model for masculinities is not the same universally and are not fixed categories. Categories and definitions can change depending on context, time, and space.

Emphasized femininity is seen as a reaction to the hegemonic male[1]. The power dynamic between men and women is what shapes the norms connected with these genders. Historically, women have encountered inequality in many aspects of society and these sentiments suppressing women socially and politically have continued to trickle down into the expectations of women and femininity. Femininity is associated with being compliant, submissive, passive, nurturing, and desirable. Because the hegemonic male enforces his position by asserting dominance by adopting behaviours previously mentioned, then women adopt an emphasized femininity in order to fit into the role assigned to them. When women exhibit 'masculine' attributes like being intellectual, bold, and independent, it threatens the patriarchal system[3]. Which is why in professional and academic environments, women must be 'good girls' that take on the responsible and caring role in order to not cross a social boundary[3]. Both the gender binary and heterosexuality are seen as a natural occurrence, meaning the norms associated with gender and heterosexuality are embedded within the social hierarchy[4]. The high position of the hegemonic male allowed them to create a system with an imbalanced power dynamic where men and heterosexuals benefit the most socially, economically, and politically by diminishing the value of femininity and queerness[4].

Intersex Pride Flag
Transgender Pride Flag

Biology is a very important concept when discussing heteronormativity and gender because it is the deciding factor in defining what is acceptable in society and what is not. There is very clear evidence of how gender and the associated norms are socially constructed, for example it is socially accepted that the colours pink and blue are preferred by, and therefore assigned to, girls and boys, respectfully. This is evidence that traits and behaviours associated with gender are socially influenced because the issuing of colours to certain genders was not alway how we know it now. Before the 1930s red and pink were thought of as a boy's colour, which represented strength, while blue was a girl's colour, which represented daintiness[5]. But after Nazi Germany used a pink triangle to identify and stigmatize homosexual men, the colour pink symbolizes femininity[5]. Despite this, normative standards are still understood to be aligned with how individuals behave based on their biology. This is why intersex and transgender people are deemed to be outside of the norm, because they confront the assumption that gender, and thus sexuality, are biological givens.

Intersex people are those who were born with genitals, chromosomes, and/or hormones that are neither clearly male or clearly female[6] while transgender people live as a gender that differs from what they were assigned to at birth[4].  Despite having an unclear sex and gender, intersex people are raised and live life within the binary. In some cases, intersex infants who have male genitalia that are deemed to never be an average size undergo surgery to modify their genitalia as well as undergo other medical interventions to live their life as a female[6]. This decision is heavily influenced by the fact that it will be hard for the infant to be in a heterosexual relationship and perform what is expected of them as a male. In both instances, biology and genetics do not factor into one’s social gender. Especially with transgender people, when one’s biology is not aligned with their social gender, a problem arises with their relationships with heterosexual cisgender people because it calls into question the sexuality of the cisgender person[4].

Inclusive Progressive Pride Flag

A significant part of heterosexuality and hegemonic masculinity is the avoidance and disgust of queerness. This avid rejection of homosexuality, and queerness in general, is a way to maintain the social hierarchy and ensure that hegemonic men stay the norm. Another reason for hegemonic men to avoid, or even act hostile towards, homosexuality is more because of sexual disgust than pathogen disgust or moral disgust[7]. Men in general are seen to be naturally dominant which supposedly explains their high position in the hierarchy. But with homosexuality and same-sex relationships, there are blurred and fluid boundaries on who is considered the ‘man’ and who is considered the ‘woman’ in the relationship (see homonormativity). A man being seen as feminine, as in passive, threatens the existing patriarchal hierarchy because it challenges gender norms. Thus, a hegemonic man acts hostile to queerness and femininity to reinforce his dominant gender role and conform to gender norms as a way of belonging.


Homonormativity, a social construct that emerged in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, is the assumption that the norms and values of heterosexuality should be replicated and performed among those who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community[1].

This concept, rooted in queer theory and activism, sheds light on privileging certain forms of homosexuality that mirror mainstream societal norms[3]. This includes the normalization and favouring of monogamous relationships, marriage as the pinnacle of romantic commitment, and traditional family structures[3]. Moreover, those deviating from these norms may be marginalized or excluded.

Delving into the realms of pop culture and media and the lens of intersectionality provides a deeper understanding of homonormativity and its connections to heteronormative ideals. By examining these areas, insights emerge into how the LGBTQ+ communities are influenced by and resisting such norms.

Relationship with Heteronormativity

Both homonormativity and heteronormativity uphold and reinforce societal norms regarding sexuality and relationships. However, both concepts illustrate this in different constructs. Heteronormativity establishes heterosexuality as the default[1] and ideal sexual orientation whereas homonormativity operates within the scope of LGBTQ+ communities, privileging forms of homosexuality that align with heterosexual societal norms.

Marginalization of LGBTQ+ Relationships

In heterosexual relationships and hook-up culture, there is an emphasis on penetrative sex as the standard form of sexual activity, with other forms of intimacy overlooked[1]. Although in some perspectives that norm could be relevant, oftentimes it isn’t. In the LGBTQ+ community, perceptions of sexual activity can widely vary due to diverse experiences and identities[5]. Their perspective shapes each individual’s understanding of sexual activity[5]. Within heterosexual relationships, sexual activity can be easily classified as the main form of sexual activity is penetrative sex with a penis and vagina[1]. However, with male-to-male, female-to-female, and other varied forms of relationships, the mainstream norm of sexual activity cannot be applied, resulting in an ambiguous classification of what sex is. This leads to the stigmatization of individuals who do not engage in non-penetrative sexual activities and those who do not conform to traditional sexual roles[5]. Given the intricate nature of sexual relationships within gender minority communities, strategic ambiguity becomes a pragmatic approach. This approach refers to intentionally using ambiguous language to describe the scope of a sexual relationship to protect one’s social identity[1]. Furthermore, it is much implemented within the LGBTQ+ community due to the intricately linked and pervasive influence of heteronomativity in society.

Within heteronormativity, traditional gender roles play a significant aspect of reinforcing the assumption that heterosexuality is the norm. Heteronormative ideals state that men should be masculine and women should embrace a more feminine outlook, conforming to relationships with a binary model[1]. These expectations and norms persist within different relationships in the LGBTQ+ community, where there is often an underlying assumption that one partner should embody masculinity and dominance while the other is expected to embrace femininity and submissiveness[1]. This leads to the marginalization or elimination of individuals whose gender identities or expressions deviate from societal norms, reinforcing the notion that heterosexual relationships or the norms within heterosexual relationships are legitimate[1]. Although homonormativity challenges, heteronormative assumptions about sexual orientation, they still may uphold traditional gender roles within same-sex relationships that mirror heteronormative dynamics[3]. The pressures to conform to these norms cause discrepancies, ambiguity, and confusion on what is and is not deemed a romantic relationship.

Diverse Identities

Homonormativity and heteronormaitivity are deeply intertwined within cultural contexts, relflecting and reinforcing societal norms and expectations surrounding sexuality and relationships. These norms influence various aspects of culture, including media representations, social institutions, and everyday interactions, illustrating individuals’ perceptions of themselves and their communities Cultural representations in media play a significant role in reinforcing both heteronormative and homonormative ideals[8]. Mainstream media often prioritize certain types of LGBTQ+ identities and relationships that align with heteronormative standards, while marginalizing those that do not fit these norms. Similarly, within LGBTQ+ media and cultural spaces, there may be pressure to conform to homonormative ideals, perpetuating exclusionary practices and marginalizing individuals and relationships that challenge these norms[8]. Social expectations within cultural contexts further reinforce heteronormative and homonorm[8]ative ideals, shaping individuals' perceptions of themselves and their communities. Recognizing the interplay between heteronormativity and homonormativity within culture is essential for understanding the complexities of LGBTQ+ identities and relationships within broader societal contexts and working towards greater inclusivity and acceptance for all individuals.


Intersectionality is a framework for understanding multiple aspects of a person’s identity intersect and interact to shape their experiences of privilege and oppression[9]. It emphasizes that individuals may experience discrimination or privilege differently depending on the intersection of their various identities[9]. Intersectionality in relation to homonormativity acknowledges that LGBTQ+ individuals possess a diverse range of intersecting identities beyond their sexual orientation or gender identity[9]. These identities can include race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, ability, and more. Intersectionality highlights how these intersecting identities intersect and interact to shape individuals' experiences of inclusion and exclusion within LGBTQ+ spaces[9].

The country, China

Cultural norms and representations often shape and reinforce homonormative ideals within LGBTQ+ communities. Media, literature, and popular culture may prioritize certain identities and relationships that align with mainstream cultural norms, while marginalizing or eliminating others[8]. This can perpetuate exclusionary practices within LGBTQ+ spaces, where individuals who do not fit these cultural norms may feel marginalized or invisible[10]. Cultural expectations and norms also influences social dynamics within LGBTQ+ communities, shaping individuals' perceptions of themselves and others[10]. Within homonormative cultural contexts, there may be pressure to conform to certain ideals of sexuality, gender presentation, or relationship structures[10]. This can create barriers for [3]individuals whose identities or experiences diverge from cultural norms, leading to feelings of isolation or alienation within LGBTQ+ spaces. Cultural histories and traditions also play a role in shaping homonormativity within LGBTQ+ communities. Historical movements and struggles for LGBTQ+ rights have often focused on achieving legal recognition and social acceptance for certain identities and relationships, while marginalizing or eliminating others[11]. This historical context influences the cultural landscape of LGBTQ+ communities and contributes to the reinforcement of homonormative ideals.

The concept of Neo-Confucian Homonormativity, the relationship between gay men and their families of origin, which emphasizes hierarchical social structures, filial piety, and traditional gender roles[11]. In a recent study, Luo, Tseng, and Yin investigates the recent proliferation of family-themed homosexual stories in China specifically, based on life-history interviews and participant observation conducted in Shenzhen[11]. In societies influenced by Neo-Confucianism, such as China, LGBTQ+ individuals may face unique challenges related to cultural expectations and norms. The effects of Neo-Confucian Homonormativity can include social stigma, family pressure to conform to heterosexual norms, and the erasure or marginalization of non-conforming identities and relationships[11]. LGBTQ+ individuals may experience internalized shame or guilt due to societal and familial expectations, leading to increased psychological distress and decreased well-being[10]. Moreover, the perpetuation of Neo-Confucian homonormativity can hinder progress towards LGBTQ+ rights and acceptance within these cultural contexts, reinforcing exclusionary practices and perpetuating systematic discrimination[10].


Transgender Flag

Cisnormativity functions in the same way as any form of normativity does. In this case, it’s the concept that being cisgender is the normal, natural, and correct option while being transgender is unnatural, deviant, and is some form of trickery. To view people through the lens of cisnormativity is to assume everyone is cisgender by default because it is supposedly the only natural state of a person’s gender identity and therefore superior position to be in. Being transgender in a cisnormative society is to be seen as unnatural, disgusting, and to be invisible in most societal structures such as healthcare and education. In reality, the fluidity of human gender is well documented throughout history and biologically speaking there is far more variance in sex than cisnormativity takes into account.[6] Biological sex is far more complex than the simple XY chromosome difference taught in schools and the belief that sex is strictly determined by one’s natural genitalia can even be false as intersex infants are often medically altered on the basis of whether their genitals are conducive to heterosexual penetrative sex.[6]  Cisnormativity functions by appealing to bio-essentialism which declares the differences seen in cisgender men and women as being a result of their biological sex. Within the view of bio-essentialism women are viewed as naturally weak, docile, and nurturing while men are strong, aggressive, and confident. As a result, cisnormativity also functions to perpetuate gender stereotypes as people more often than not decide a person’s gender based on outward appearance and activities. Length of hair, clothing, and other forms of visual cues such as accessories segregate people into their supposed gender by supposedly reflecting nature.[5] The most prominent example of course being the common sentiment that blue is for boys and pink is for girls.[5]

Cisnormativity has consequences that can largely be divided into two categories, erasure and stigma. Both of these categories can be viewed prominently in healthcare. These barriers often make access to healthcare more difficult for transgender people, for example, stigma and erasure make it more difficult for transgender women and one can assume assigned male at birth trans people in general to engage in HIV prevention. PrEP medication for example is targeted specifically toward cisgender queer men in its marketing and fails to engage with trans women as a separate demographic from queer men.[12] Not only are trans women not included in HIV prevention campaigns like PrEP marketing but PrEP itself does not take their hormones into account, potentially becoming less effective in a person engaging in feminizing hormone replacement therapy.[13] Trans women being excluded from both the research surrounding PrEP’s efficacy as well as in health campaigns concerning HIV perpetuates the stigma that trans women and transfeminine individuals in general, are simply men in dresses.

Pregnant Transgender Man

Cisnormativity in healthcare also goes both ways, hindering particularly the reproductive and sexual healthcare of transgender people assigned female at birth.[14] Reproductive healthcare is almost always addressed to cis women exclusively regardless of the fact that gender-diverse individuals are capable of giving birth as well. OBGYN education is severely lacking in regards to transgender patients with some practitioners assuming trans people with vaginas do not have sex and refusing to engage in discussions regarding sexual health.[15] Being able to find medical professionals trained to care for your body is key to a successful so naturally lack of access makes family planning a larger burden .At its most dangerous stigma can have such a powerful grip on healthcare providers they refuse to perform procedures on patients such as pap smears.[15] This stigma and erasure against transgender people leads them to be less likely to seek healthcare. On top of being less likely to reach out to healthcare professionals trans people may also conceal information. They may omit the fact they are transgender and circling back to reproductive healthcare they may seek to specifically emulate the gender they were assigned at birth despite the distress that may bring.[16] This is done to ensure they receive adequate care free from stigma and sadly perpetuates the cycle of cisnormativity by keeping transgender people in the shadows.

Boys Only Soccer Team

As already stated it is pervasive within the specialized education of healthcare providers, however, cisnormativity can be seen all the way back down to kindergarten. Cisnormativity is pervasive in the education of children. Elementary, middle, and high schools are hotbeds of cisnormativity ranging from their curriculum to their policies. Cisnormativity leads to socially transitioned children being unable to use school facilities that align with their gender socially isolating them from their peers.[17] They are erased from their washrooms, locker rooms, and sports. Not only does this negatively impact the children socially but the barriers to proper washroom access can actually be a medical risk with children having medical issues with their bladder because of holding their urine. The curriculum itself is also biased against them, particularly in the area of biology.[17] Transgender people are not discussed when educating children about the physical differences between the two sexes reinforcing through erasure what the bodies of men and women are supposed to look like. This both allows cis students to feel justified in being invasive toward trans students and encourages them to view their trans peers as illegitimate or fraudulent.[17] The lack of active education about transgender bodies also imposes the burden of education on the shoulders of transgender students, leaving them to try and bridge the gap in the knowledge of their peers regardless of the effectiveness or social consequences.[17]

Cisnormativity however does not only impact education about the physical body, but also physical education. Very often children are segregated by sex during gym activities whether it’s having the genders face each other in games or only competing against their own in sports. Cisnormativity allows for trans children to be singled out during these classes and physical education tends to be where the most overt and damaging bigotry can occur.[18] Separation of the sexes in physical education, just like cisnormativity, is based on bioessetialism, regarding male students as stronger and faster than their female counterparts by default. As a result, students are separated arbitrarily by gender reinforcing cisnormativity and gender roles. This segregation and the cisnormativity found in sports policy in education, recreation, and competition spaces prevents transgender youth and adults from participating especially when these policies not only divide people by gender but also exclude transgender people from accessing facilities like locker rooms .[19] Cisnormativity not only polices transgender athletes though, it also harms cis-gendered women and particularly those in professional sports. In any sport women who appear less feminine and exercise less emphasized femininity are often accused of being men. This assault on their identity is most likely to happen to women of colour,[20].This seeks to exclude women solely based on their outward appearance not meeting the expectations of white supremacy and bioessentialism imposes on women’s bodies. In professional sports, this becomes particularly egregious.[20] In professional sports, policies are created to even exclude cisgender women with typical XX chromosomes due to levels of natural testosterone in their bodies. This also predominantly wielded against women of colour especially those of African descent due to their appearance not meeting white colonial standards of femininity.[20] Cisnormativity hurts everyone in the end regardless of whether a person is transgender or not and is a significant burden to our society hindering our capabilities for gender equality and transgender acceptance.


The image is of a flag which has a black background and 5 coloured zig-zag stripes crossing it diagonally, down and to the right. The colours in order from left to right are purple, green, white, yellow and red.
Disabled + Neurodivergent Flag

Neuronormativity is a social structure which sets anything neurotypical as a standard for individuals to be compared to in regards to development and ability. It is a source of privilege for neurotypical individuals and builds a discriminatory society for neurodivergent people to live in.

Ableism is discrimination which favors able-bodied people. The autonomy and agency of neurodiverse individuals and those with disabilities are threatened by this concept. Agency revolves around whether individuals have the ability to determine their own actions, specifically relying on normative perceptions of mental ability. It can be considered as the ability to act AND as the ability to act.[21] In the case of neuronormativity, we need to look at the ability to act, and who specifically is considered able in a social context.

Expectations and perceptions of what a ‘normal’ state of mental ability is conflict with the topic of neurological dis-ability, and leaves neurodivergent individuals outside the narrow framework of who is able to possess agency.[21] This normativity overlooks diverse ways individuals can exercise agency as both neurotypical and neurodivergent. In challenging neuronormative ways agency is understood, we can realize agency relies on recognizing the diverse ways individuals experience and navigate their environments to make choices.[21]

A clear power dynamic and social hierarchy can be seen when realizing the neuronormative implications of who is deemed to have agency.[21] Neurotypical individuals are set as the standard for ‘normal’ ability, while neurodivergent individuals are placed on a lower level and compared to the neurotypical standard in order to be considered equal to. This dynamic enforces neuronormativity and the marginalization of neurodivergent or disabled individuals. Daily, there are quick moral judgments being made on individuals, and many are made on the consideration of neurotypical, 'normal', standards. These judgements continue to perpetuate this neuronormative marginalization.[22]

An image of two silhouetted people facing each other. Each person has a speech bubble with a question mark. One person has a grey brain (representing neurotypicality), while the other has a rainbow brain (representing neurodivergency).
Double Empathy Problem

Being able to recognize structural violence, such as neuronormativity at work, and being critical towards these social forces are important in addressing this issue.[22] Tackling the narrow opinions on diverse ways individuals can apply their agency is another step towards overcoming neuronormativity in society.

Neuronormativty is prioritized when evaluating typical development of children and has a strong impact on how children are perceived. A construction known as the 'normal' child has been defined over the past century as a result of changes in education, such as compulsory schooling, intelligence and personality tests.[23] The 'normal' child in this case is a neurotypical child, as was defined when categorizing individuals based on their testing and how they fit into societal norms of development.

Social, cultural and economic interests in history have influenced how neurodiverse children are regarded.[24] Neuronormativity has identified them as unable or a liability when it comes to participating in the economy and society once they are old enough to be expected to.[23] This is because of the fact that these systems were built around prioritizing the success of neurotypical individuals, and neurodiverse individuals are seen to be at fault for not conforming to these norms.

Neuronormativity prioritizes neurotypical behaviour and development for the child at the expense of neurodiversity, leading to the marginalization of children who do not fit within those norms.[24] In fact, parents have many anxieties regarding the development of their children resulting from societal pressures of neuronormativity and the general want for their child to conform to the standards society has set.[25] There is also stress placed on the parent due to the belief that a child who does not conform to neuronormative standards is a result of parental inadequacy.[25] The widespread commercialization of parenting advice has stemmed from these anxieties, providing access to resources, knowledge and support from others.[23] This spread of information mainly caters towards neuronormative expectations of development and traditional family values.[24] Challenging the construction of neuronormativity beginning with the child can be done through embracing diverse developmental paths and advocating for inclusive and supportive environments between all children.[25]

Medical professionals like psychologists and psychiatrists were main actors in defining what 'normal' meant, which was a key component in creating the medicalization of neurodiversity.[23] Diagnostic labels placed on individuals at young ages create what is 'normal' and neurotypical for a child compared to others who were neurodivergent. These children grow up to face unequal and poor treatment in society due to being viewed through a neuronormative lens. Society fails to acknowledge the broader context of structural violence and barriers faced by diverse individuals and instead turns these social issues into medical ones.

Medicalization occurs when social issues relating to neurodivergent individuals are managed by medical experts.[26] This is done in a way that does not address underlying sociocultural contexts, and instead narrows these issues down to individual treatment. This medicalization targets and almost criminalizes neurodivergency rather than tackling the systemic barriers and discrimination society produces due to neuronormativity.[26]

A photo of many perscription pill bottles, with different types of pills inside and spilled out onto the table.

Individuals with neurodiversity or disability are sent to address their struggles faced in society with medical professionals, who will prescribe medications or other treatments and not look into their situations beyond that.[27] These individuals may struggle with situations such as unemployment, isolation and education because of the neuronormative society they live in.[27] The structural barriers they face do not receive appropriate consideration and are not addressed, instead the responsibility is placed entirely on the individual.

Societal expectations place a burden on neurodiverse people, pressuring them to conform to the neuronormative society in order to participate. This task is especially difficult when there is a challenge in accessing appropriate support for their struggles because of medicalization. Stigma and marginalization are reinforced through medicalization as structural violence is overlooked.[22] Targeting these root causes is important in moving past neuronormativity within society and creating equal opportunity and access to neurodiverse individuals.

Some attempts at addressing structural violence are made through policies and programs created to support diverse individuals, however it is important to assess how effectively these efforts address the needs of people on an individual level.[22] The general population beyond diverse individuals have unique brains with different minds and behaviours which should not be addresses by label, but rather on a case-by-case basis.[15] Neurodiversity and disability are typically labelled based on the traits an individual possesses and how they interact with their cultural environment.[15] When considering how to accommodate neurodiversity it is inseparable from the question of how to accommodate cognitive diversity.[15]

Racial normativity

Racial normativity refers to the manners in which certain racial identities, behaviours and appearances are normalised within a society and establish a standard that privileges specific racial groups over others. This concept highlights how social standards related to race are constructed and maintained to the expense of ethnic minorities. The term racial normativity includes all the rules (both explicit and implicit), expectations and behaviours that shape how individuals belonging to racial groups are expected to act, speak and even look. It can manifest in various aspects of one’s life such as representation in the media, educational opportunities, legal systems and social and economic interactions. Although it may hide under the veil of neutrality — casting a shadow over the ways in which certain racial privileges are normalised within society — one merely needs to look beyond the surface to see the profound impact of racial normativity on the fabric of everyday life. Normalisation of racial characteristics can marginalise certain groups, fostering exclusion or discrimination against those who do not fit into these perceived normative standards to the detriment of their social, economic and political lives.

Understanding racial normativity involves a holistic analysis that takes into account how these societal standards intersect with other identities — such as gender and sexuality — creating a complex and layered network of privilege and discrimination. To illustrate this concept in action we can use an example: racial normativity interacts with gender norms to produce distinct expectations for individuals based upon the combination of their racial and gender identities, further complicating and deepening their experiences of sexism and/or racism. Realising the fully integrated impact of racial normativity requires analysing how it shapes perceptions and realities of sex, gender and sexuality across different cultures and communities. It invites a critical examination of how normative standards of race influence societal norms surrounding gender and sexuality (and vice versa), often reinforcing and perpetuating systems of oppression and inequality.

Racial normativity significantly influences immigration policies, particularly in its intersections with gender and sexuality norms. During a pivotal period in Canadian history, societal debates focused on the inclusion or exclusion of female migrants from Asia, guided by racial normativity. These policies aimed not merely at population management but at maintaining a racial order that privileged white settler groups [28]. The discussions surrounding female Asian migration illustrate how racial normativity shaped immigration policies, perpetuating heteronormative and gender normative standards. Policies excluding female migrants, ostensibly to protect national identity, indirectly reinforced the gender binary and upheld heterosexuality as the normative standard. Such policies marginalise groups living outside these normative standards, revealing the intertwined nature of racial, sexual, and gender norms within the policymaking process [28]. This historical examination provides insight into how immigration policies can act as a medium for racial normativity, affecting both the racial composition of a nation and the societal norms around gender and sexuality [28].

Contemporary policies like those aimed at preventing forced marriages in communities in Australia further exemplify the ongoing influence of racial normativity. These policies — seemingly devised to protect vulnerable groups  — often end up reinforcing negative stereotypes surrounding the Muslim community, depicting them as problematic or sexist. Such legislation or movements in the media aim to govern intimate aspects of life that are associated with different values and customs in different cultures, regulating practices such as marriage reflect broader social concerns about cultural management, assimilation and national identity that exhibit a colonial ethos. These actions not only perpetuate the exclusion of these communities from societal norms but also underpin the deep-seated anxieties that are born out of racial and cultural differences[29].

Works from other distinguished anthropological scholars echo similar sentiments and shed light on how European colonial administrations established racial categories and norms to subjugate colonised populations in conquered territories. These norms became intricately tied to the social and sexual lives of the colonised, designed to cement a social hierarchy that privileged the European settlers. Such historical dynamics have implicitly continued to influence contemporary social standards and policies that disadvantage minority groups[30].

Understanding and challenging racial normativity is a necessary requirement in the process of establishing a more inclusive and equitable society. It demands a holistic examination of how these standards are historically established and maintained. It also involves recognizing the subtle ways in which these norms shape public opinion and perspective across various spheres of life. By addressing these underlying structures and creating a critical discussion about the implications of racial normativity, we can begin to dismantle the systemic barriers that create inequality and discrimination. In an ever-increasingly interconnected world, an analysis of racial normativity would be remiss to not consider its global ramifications. Global media and corporations can push Western-centric racial norms that marginalise non-Western peoples, affecting global perceptions and interactions. In the same vein, international corporations often enact policies that may favour certain racial standards over others, influencing employment practices around the world.

Racial normativity not only operates through policies and practices, it also influences social interactions and individual behaviours. It operates through the use of language, daily interactions and often the seemingly innocent assumptions that underlie social programs and systems[31]. This normalising force colours how people from differing racial backgrounds experience the world around them, shaping everything from job opportunities to social networking, and even their access to healthcare. Research into the availability of medical treatment, contingent on race, shows that ethical biases impact both the quality, and accessibility of care offered to patients[32]. In the workplace, racial normativity has been found to influence hiring practices where the ‘cultural fit’  — aimed to determine if a candidate would mesh well within the existing company culture  — actually refers to the alignment of prospective employees within the dominant racial group’s norms and values[33]. These instances portray the reach of racial normativity in manipulating the dynamics of power and privilege in everyday settings.

Community engagement and activism have proven effective tools in combating the effects of racial normativity by shining a light on these ingrained biases and advocating for systemic change. Grassroots movements and initiatives within communities play a vital role in educating the public, creating platforms for alternative narratives that can be picked up and gain traction in the media, pushing for policy-making that aims for true racial equity[34]. These efforts aren’t only important for uncovering hidden disparities, but also in the redefining for normative standards that incorporate a variety of cultural identities. By actively challenging the established norms, society can progress towards more equitable structures that holistically reflect and celebrate human diversity.


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 Currier, D. M. (October 2013). "STRATEGIC AMBIGUITY: Protecting Emphasized Femininity and Hegemonic Masculinity in the Hookup Culture". Gender and Society. 27 – via JSTOR.
  2. Connell, R. W. (1995). Masculinities. Berkeley: University of California Press.
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