It’s been many years now since I began noticing a concept that is extremely frequent in global culture and that is what I call “the convention of the unconventional”. This is definitely something that is appealing as food for thought since it sounds like an oxymoron. However, it can be said that it is not a contrast.
The convention of the unconventional is the term I use to describe the idea that in most groups and cultures, there is a highly hypocritical approach to life, in which many people like to claim that they are or that they like things that edgy and rebellious, when in fact, these things are nothing of that sort. What falls under the convention of the unconventional changes through time, so one thing that falls today in that category won’t fall in a decade, which makes it hard to give out examples.
Generally, as the pendulum swings, many things start out as being truly unconventional and then fall under the convention of the unconventional. Here’s an example:
It is true that around the 1950s or so, women in most societies were placed in a rather narrow box. Of course, most women were fine with it and there is nothing wrong with that, but the few who had issues with the lines in which society allowed them to move had a hard time with navigating through culture. For some, the pressure came in terms of sexuality, for others in terms of work and so on. So, about a decade later, when women started a new wave of liberation, it definitely came as a shock for many when women posed nude or were acting boldly or had jobs in powerful positions. The confinements of the age were definitely up for critique and it’s hard to argue that they should not have happened. Afterwards, the women’s liberation movement went in a direction where it was not really needed anymore. However, many women still continued to act as if there was something so edgy about posing nude in magazines or creating provocative works of art. Soon enough, this became the norm and it can be said that it still is today: people acting as if women who are overtly sexual is so edgy. And, of course, the tide is in a way changing, as the pendulum swings in the other direction.
There are many other examples, most of which come from the entertainment business and the arts, but the concept is pretty clear. When people act all shocked, but nothing happens, does it mean that there was really something to be shocked about or is it just because people are, as it is always very on trend, engaging in recreational offense-taking?
I personally think that there are still many taboos that need to be challenged, but they are not and the reason they are not is because they would really cause a social and cultural uproar and those who will break them, unless they are very powerful socially and economically, will be brought down by society. So yes, breaking taboos and showing people who they are is something that can happen, but it rarely does. Generally, breaking a taboo or saying things that are true will cause you a lot of heat and true heat, not the fake type where nothing really changes. Also, consider this: one something is accepted in the mainstream, it is not provocative anymore (a la Lady Gaga). I was recently at a ceremony (here in Romania) and some girl was dancing on stage, I guess she was trying to be cool and sexy and “in your face”, but people were not only not bothered, but quite bored. If it had been a guy dancing in a sexual and “in your face” manner, people would have walked out. People would have walked out even for less; for example if the instead of a girl, there would have been a guy handing out awards, flowers and kisses.
This concept, while it may seem wild, obvious or unimportant is in fact extremely relevant, since conventional unconventionalities take a lot of our time in daily culture. Look around and soon you won’t be able not to see it anymore.