Social Norms Quotes

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I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.
Jane Austen (Persuasion)
As long as she thinks of a man, nobody objects to a woman thinking.
Virginia Woolf (Orlando)
If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you hadn't spoken to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.
Gail Honeyman (Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine)
My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their fascinating graces, and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone.
Mary Wollstonecraft (A Vindication of the Rights of Woman)
Do you really believe ... that everything historians tell us about men – or about women – is actually true? You ought to consider the fact that these histories have been written by men, who never tell the truth except by accident.
Moderata Fonte (The Worth of Women: Wherein Is Clearly Revealed Their Nobility and Their Superiority to Men (The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe))
Anything may happen when womanhood has ceased to be a protected occupation.
Virginia Woolf (A Room of One’s Own)
The fear of appearances is the first symptom of impotence.
Fyodor Dostoevsky (Crime and Punishment)
I do not think I ever opened a book in my life which had not something to say upon woman's inconstancy. Songs and proverbs, all talk of woman's fickleness. But perhaps you will say, these were all written by men." "Perhaps I shall. Yes, yes, if you please, no reference to examples in books. Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree; the pen has been in their hands. I will not allow books to prove anything.
Jane Austen (Persuasion)
I suppose it’s not a social norm, and not a manly thing to do — to feel, discuss feelings. So that’s what I’m giving the finger to. Social norms and stuff…what good are social norms, really? I think all they do is project a limited and harmful image of people. It thus impedes a broader social acceptance of what someone, or a group of people, might actually be like.
Jess C. Scott (New Order)
In an extroverted society, the difference between an introvert and an extrovert is that an introvert is often unconsciously deemed guilty until proven innocent.
Criss Jami (Venus in Arms)
It is vain to expect virtue from women till they are in some degree independent of men.
Mary Wollstonecraft (A Vindication of the Rights of Woman)
When, however, one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even of a very remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, a suppressed poet, of some mute and inglorious Jane Austen, some Emily Bronte who dashed her brains out on the moor or mopped and mowed about the highways crazed with the torture that her gift had put her to. Indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.
Virginia Woolf (A Room of One’s Own)
Some people's blameless lives are to blame for a good deal.
Dorothy L. Sayers (Gaudy Night (Lord Peter Wimsey, #10))
Do not judge other species by your own social norms
Becky Chambers (The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, #1))
Sex: In America an obsession. In other parts of the world a fact.
Marlene Dietrich (Marlene Dietrich's ABC)
When mores are sufficient, laws are unnecessary; when mores are insufficient, laws are unenforceable.
Émile Durkheim
If it ever occurs to people to value the honour of the mind equally with the honour of the body, we shall get a social revolution of a quite unparalleled sort.
Dorothy L. Sayers (Gaudy Night (Lord Peter Wimsey, #10))
The rule seemed to be that a great woman must either die unwed ... or find a still greater man to marry her. ... The great man, on the other hand, could marry where he liked, not being restricted to great women; indeed, it was often found sweet and commendable in him to choose a woman of no sort of greatness at all.
Dorothy L. Sayers (Gaudy Night (Lord Peter Wimsey, #10))
When you grow up as a girl, the world tells you the things that you are supposed to be: emotional, loving, beautiful, wanted. And then when you are those things, the world tells you they are inferior: illogical, weak, vain, empty.
Stevie Nicks
So teach Chizalum that biology is an interesting and fascinating subject, but she should never accept it as justification for any social norm. Because social norms are created by human beings, and there is no social norm that cannot be changed.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions)
You have a right to experiment with your life. You will make mistakes. And they are right too. No, I think there was too rigid a pattern. You came out of an education and are supposed to know your vocation. Your vocation is fixed, and maybe ten years later you find you are not a teacher anymore or you're not a painter anymore. It may happen. It has happened. I mean Gauguin decided at a certain point he wasn't a banker anymore; he was a painter. And so he walked away from banking. I think we have a right to change course. But society is the one that keeps demanding that we fit in and not disturb things. They would like you to fit in right away so that things work now.
Anaïs Nin
In fact, there is perhaps only one human being in a thousand who is passionately interested in his job for the job's sake. The difference is that if that one person in a thousand is a man, we say, simply, that he is passionately keen on his job; if she is a woman, we say she is a freak.
Dorothy L. Sayers (Are Women Human? Astute and Witty Essays on the Role of Women in Society)
[W]hen I see men callously and cheerfully denying women the full use of their bodies, while insisting with sobs and howls on the satisfaction of their own, I simply can't find it heroic, or kind, or anything but pretty rotten and feeble.
Dorothy L. Sayers (The Letters of Dorothy L. Sayers 1899-1936: The Making of a Detective Novelist)
I am anchored on a resolve you cannot shake. My heart, my conscience shall dispose of my hand -- they only. Know this at last.
Charlotte Brontë (Shirley)
Does a rake deserve to possess anything of worth, since he chases everything in skirts and then imagines he can successfully hide his shame by slandering [women in general]?
Christine de Pizan (Der Sendbrief vom Liebesgott / The Letter of the God of Love (L'Epistre au Dieu d'Amours))
It is time to effect a revolution in female manners - time to restore to them their lost dignity - and make them, as a part of the human species, labour by reforming themselves to reform the world. It is time to separate unchangeable morals from local manners.
Mary Wollstonecraft (A Vindication of the Rights of Woman)
MONEY, AS IT turns out, is very often the most expensive way to motivate people. Social norms are not only cheaper, but often more effective as well.
Dan Ariely (Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions)
A slut is someone, usually a woman, who’s stepped outside of the very narrow lane that good girls are supposed to stay within. Sluts are loud. We’re messy. We don’t behave. In fact, the original definition of “slut” meant “untidy woman.” But since we live in a world that relies on women to be tidy in all ways, to be quiet and obedient and agreeable and available (but never aggressive), those of us who color outside of the lines get called sluts. And that word is meant to keep us in line.
Jaclyn Friedman
I look at the blanked-out faces of the other passengers--hoisting their briefcases, their backpacks, shuffling to disembark--and I think of what Hobie said: beauty alters the grain of reality. And I keep thinking too of the more conventional wisdom: namely, that the pursuit of pure beauty is a trap, a fast track to bitterness and sorrow, that beauty has to be wedded to something more meaningful. Only what is that thing? Why am I made the way I am? Why do I care about all the wrong things, and nothing at all for the right ones? Or, to tip it another way: how can I see so clearly that everything I love or care about is illusion, and yet--for me, anyway--all that's worth living for lies in that charm? A great sorrow, and one that I am only beginning to understand: we don't get to choose our own hearts. We can't make ourselves want what's good for us or what's good for other people. We don't get to choose the people we are. Because--isn't it drilled into us constantly, from childhood on, an unquestioned platitude in the culture--? From William Blake to Lady Gaga, from Rousseau to Rumi to Tosca to Mister Rogers, it's a curiously uniform message, accepted from high to low: when in doubt, what to do? How do we know what's right for us? Every shrink, every career counselor, every Disney princess knows the answer: "Be yourself." "Follow your heart." Only here's what I really, really want someone to explain to me. What if one happens to be possessed of a heart that can't be trusted--? What if the heart, for its own unfathomable reasons, leads one willfully and in a cloud of unspeakable radiance away from health, domesticity, civic responsibility and strong social connections and all the blandly-held common virtues and instead straight toward a beautiful flare of ruin, self-immolation, disaster?...If your deepest self is singing and coaxing you straight toward the bonfire, is it better to turn away? Stop your ears with wax? Ignore all the perverse glory your heart is screaming at you? Set yourself on the course that will lead you dutifully towards the norm, reasonable hours and regular medical check-ups, stable relationships and steady career advancement the New York Times and brunch on Sunday, all with the promise of being somehow a better person? it better to throw yourself head first and laughing into the holy rage calling your name?
Donna Tartt (The Goldfinch)
In reaction against the age-old slogan, "woman is the weaker vessel," or the still more offensive, "woman is a divine creature," we have, I think, allowed ourselves to drift into asserting that "a woman is as good as a man," without always pausing to think what exactly we mean by that. What, I feel, we ought to mean is something so obvious that it is apt to escape attention altogether, viz: (...) that a woman is just as much an ordinary human being as a man, with the same individual preferences, and with just as much right to the tastes and preferences of an individual. What is repugnant to every human being is to be reckoned always as a member of a class and not as an individual person.
Dorothy L. Sayers (Are Women Human? Astute and Witty Essays on the Role of Women in Society)
There is no deception on the part of the woman, where a man bewilders himself: if he deludes his own wits, I can certainly acquit the women. Whatever man allows his mind to dwell upon the imprint his imagination has foolishly taken of women, is fanning the flames within himself -- and, since the woman knows nothing about it, she is not to blame. For if a man incites himself to drown, and will not restrain himself, it is not the water's fault.
John Gower (Confessio Amantis, Volume 1)
We are poor indeed if we are only sane.
D.W. Winnicott
People are willing to work free, and they are willing to work for a reasonable wage; but offer them just a small payment and they will walk away.
Dan Ariely (Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions)
The man or the woman in whom resides greater virtue is the higher; neither the loftiness nor the lowliness of a person lies in the body according to the sex, but in the perfection of conduct and virtues.
Christine de Pizan (The Book of the City of Ladies)
When you hear men talking," said Cornelia, "all they ever do is speak ill of women. ... And I don't quite know how they managed to make this law in their favour, or who exactly it was who gave them a greater license to sin than is allowed to us; and if the fault is common to both sexes (as they can hardly deny), why should the blame not be as well? What makes them think they can boast of the same thing that in women brings only shame?
Moderata Fonte (The Worth of Women: Wherein Is Clearly Revealed Their Nobility and Their Superiority to Men (The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe))
So what is the difference between someone who willfully indulges in sexual pleasures while ignoring the Bible on moral purity and someone who willfully indulges in the selfish pursuit of more and more material possessions while ignoring the Bible on caring for the poor? The difference is that one involves a social taboo in the church and the other involves the social norm in the church.
David Platt (Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream)
you want to nudge people into socially desirable behavior, do not, by any means, let them know that their current actions are better than the social norm.
Richard H. Thaler (Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness)
Markets are useful instruments for organizing productive activity. But unless we want to let the market rewrite the norms that govern social institutions, we need a public debate about the moral limits of markets.
Michael J. Sandel (Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?)
Dads. It’s time to show our sons how to properly treat a woman. It’s time to show our daughters how a girl should expect be treated. It’s time to show forgiveness and compassion. It’s time to show our children empathy. It’s time to break social norms and teach a healthier way of life! It’s time to teach good gender roles and to ditch the unnecessary ones. Does it really matter if your son likes the color pink? Is it going to hurt anybody? Do you not see the damage it inflicts to tell a boy that there is something wrong with him because he likes a certain color? Do we not see the damage we do in labeling our girls “tom boys” or our boys “feminine” just because they have their own likes and opinions on things? Things that really don’t matter?
Dan Pearce (Single Dad Laughing: The Best of Year One)
I earnestly wish to point out in what true dignity and human happiness consists. I wish to persuade women to endeavor to acquire strength, both of mind and body, and to convince them that the soft phrases, susceptibility of heart, delicacy of sentiment, and refinement of taste, are almost synonymous with epithets of weakness, and that those beings are only the objects of pity, and that kind of love which has been termed its sister, will soon become objects of contempt.
Mary Wollstonecraft (A Vindication of the Rights of Woman)
With a philosophy education, one can infuriate his peers, intimidate his date, think of obscure, unreliable ways to make money, and never regret a thing.
Criss Jami (Diotima, Battery, Electric Personality)
Difference can be a gift. Being ace can mean less interpersonal drama and more freedom from social norms around relationships. It is an opportunity to focus more on other passions, to be less distracted by sexuality, to break the scripts, to choose your own adventure and your own values.
Angela Chen (Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex)
No: I shall not marry Samuel Fawthrop Wynne." "I ask why? I must have a reason. In all respects he is more than worthy of you." She stood on the hearth; she was pale as the white marble slab and cornice behind her; her eyes flashed large, dilated, unsmiling. "And I ask in what sense that young man is worthy of me?
Charlotte Brontë (Shirley)
There are Tantrics who deliberately seek to do more active forms of renunciation, so transgression of social norms and breaking of taboo, and breaking of social taboos especially, is a form of renunciation.
Zeena Schreck
Chastity ... has, even now, a religious importance in a woman's life, and has so wrapped itself round with nerves and instincts that to cut it free and bring it to the light of day demands courage of the rarest.
Virginia Woolf (A Room of One’s Own)
It was much easier to explain the veil than to answer questions about the wounds.
Pawan Mishra (Coinman: An Untold Conspiracy)
Today we have a cultural norm that insists we hide our racism from people of color and deny it among ourselves, but not that we actually challenge it. In fact, we are socially penalized for challenging racism.
Robin DiAngelo (White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism)
social mobility isn’t just about money and economics, it’s about a lifestyle change. The wealthy and the powerful aren’t just wealthy and powerful; they follow a different set of norms and mores. When you go from working-class to professional-class, almost everything about your old life becomes unfashionable at best or unhealthy at worst.
J.D. Vance (Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis)
Wine and women make wise men dote and forsake God's law and do wrong." However, the fault is not in the wine, and often not in the woman. The fault is in the one who misuses the wine or the woman or other of God's crations. Even if you get drunk on the wine and through this greed you lapse into lechery, the wine is not to blame but you are, in being unable or unwilling to discipline yourself. And even if you look at a woman and become caught up in her beauty and assent to sin [= adultery; extramarital sex], the woman is not to blame nor is the beauty given her by God to be disparaged: rather, you are to blame for not keeping your heart more clear of wicked thoughts. ... If you feel yourself tempted by the sight of a woman, control your gaze better ... You are free to leave her. Nothing constrains you to commit lechery but your own lecherous heart.
Anonymous (Dives and Pauper)
Just as it did in the nineteenth century, the notion that the victims were 'only prostitutes' seeks to perpetuate the belief that there are good women and bad women; madonnas and whores. It suggests that there is an acceptable standard of female behaviour and those that deviate from it are fit to be punished. Equally, it assists in reasserting the double standard , exonerating men from wrongs committed against such women. These attitudes may not feel as prevalent as they were in 1888, but they persist - not proffered in general conversation... but, rather integrated subtly into the fabric of our social norms.
Hallie Rubenhold (The Five: The Lives of Jack the Ripper's Women)
[Y]ou are not ashamed of your sin [in committing adultery] because so many men commit it. Man's wickedness is now such that men are more ashamed of chastity than of lechery. Murderers, thieves, perjurers, false witnesses, plunderers and fraudsters are detested and hated by people generally, but whoever will sleep with his servant girl in brazen lechery is liked and admired for it, and people make light of the damage to his soul. And if any man has the nerve to say that he is chaste and faithful to his wife and this gets known, he is ashamed to mix with other men, whose behaviour is not like his, for they will mock him and despise him and say he's not a real man; for man's wickedness is now of such proportions that no one is considered a man unless he is overcome by lechery, while one who overcomes lechery and stays chaste is considered unmanly.
Augustine of Hippo (Sermons 1-19 (Vol. III/1) (The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century))
When the Rule of Law disappears, we are ruled by the whims of men.
Tiffany Madison
When a woman steps out of line and contravenes the feminine norm, whether on social media on on the Victorian street, there is a tacit understanding that somone must put her back in her place. Labelling the victims as 'just prostitutes' permits writing about Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Kate and Mary Jane even today to continue to disparage, sexualize and dehumanize them; to continue to reinforce values of madonna/whore.
Hallie Rubenhold (The Five: The Lives of Jack the Ripper's Women)
English “manners” were imposed on the middle class as a way of domesticating them, along with instilling in them the fear of breaking rules and violating social norms.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb (Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life)
[In 16th century European society] Marriage was the triumphal arch through which women, almost without exception, had to pass in order to reach the public eye. And after marriage followed, in theory, the total self-abnegation of the woman.
Antonia Fraser (The Wives of Henry VIII)
It really is something ... that men disapprove even of our doing things that are patently good. Wouldn't it be possible for us just to banish these men from our lives, and escape their carping and jeering once and for all? Couldn't we live without them? Couldn't we earn our living and manage our affairs without help from them? Come on, let's wake up, and claim back our freedom, and the honour and dignity that they have usurped from us for so long. Do you think that if we really put our minds to it, we would be lacking the courage to defend ourselves, the strength to fend for ourselves, or the talents to earn our own living? Let's take our courage into our hands and do it, and then we can leave it up to them to mend their ways as much as they can: we shan't really care what the outcome is, just as long as we are no longer subjugated to them.
Moderata Fonte (The Worth of Women: Wherein Is Clearly Revealed Their Nobility and Their Superiority to Men (The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe))
I think scientists have a valid point when they bemoan the fact that it's socially acceptable in our culture to be utterly ignorant of math, whereas it is a shameful thing to be illiterate.
Jennifer Ouellette (The Calculus Diaries: How Math Can Help You Lose Weight, Win in Vegas, and Survive a Zombie Apocalypse)
Because--isn't it drilled into us constantly, from childhood on, an unquestioned platitude in the culture--? From William Blake to Lady Gaga, from Rousseau to Rumi to Tosca to Mister Rogers, it's a curiously uniform message, accepted from high to low: when in doubt, what to do? How do we know what's right for us? Every shrink, every career counselor, every Disney princess knows the answer: "Be yourself." "Follow your heart." Only here's what I really, really want someone to explain to me. What if one happens to be possessed of a heart that can't be trusted--? What if the heart, for its own unfathomable reasons, leads one willfully and in a cloud of unspeakable radiance away from health, domesticity, civic responsibility and strong social connections and all the blandly-held common virtues and instead straight toward a beautiful flare of ruin, self-immolation, disaster?...If your deepest self is singing and coaxing you straight toward the bonfire, is it better to turn away? Stop your ears with wax? Ignore all the perverse glory your heart is screaming at you? Set yourself on the course that will lead you dutifully towards the norm, reasonable hours and regular medical check-ups, stable relationships and steady career advancement the New York Times and brunch on Sunday, all with the promise of being somehow a better person? it better to throw yourself head first and laughing into the holy rage calling your name?
Donna Tartt (The Goldfinch)
Human beings are rule-following animals by nature; they are born to conform to the social norms they see around them, and they entrench those rules with often transcendent meaning and value. When the surrounding environment changes and new challenges arise, there is often a disjunction between existing institutions and present needs. Those institutions are supported by legions of entrenched stakeholders who oppose any fundamental change.
Francis Fukuyama (The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution)
Causing any damage or harm to one party in order to help another party is not justice, and likewise, attacking all feminine conduct [in order to warn men away from individual women who are deceitful] is contrary to the truth, just as I will show you with a hypothetical case. Let us suppose they did this intending to draw fools away from foolishness. It would be as if I attacked fire -- a very good and necessary element nevertheless -- because some people burnt themselves, or water because someone drowned. The same can be said of all good things which can be used well or used badly. But one must not attack them if fools abuse them.
Christine de Pizan (The Book of the City of Ladies)
You are one of those courageous people who want to dare to live; and to do so believe you have to explore the depths of yourself, undistracted and unprotected by social conventions and norms.
Sara Maitland (How to Be Alone (The School of Life))
With genius, as with beauty -- all, well almost all, is forgiven.
Susan Sontag (The Volcano Lover)
Yet if women are so flighty, fickle, changeable, susceptible, and inconstant (as some clerks would have us believe), why is it that their suitors have to resort to such trickery to have their way with them? And why don't women quickly succumb to them, without the need for all this skill and ingenuity in conquering them? For there is no need to go to war for a castle that is already captured. (...) Therefore, since it is necessary to call on such skill, ingenuity, and effort in order to seduce a woman, whether of high or humble birth, the logical conclusion to draw is that women are by no means as fickle as some men claim, or as easily influenced in their behaviour. And if anyone tells me that books are full of women like these, it is this very reply, frequently given, which causes me to complain. My response is that women did not write these books nor include the material which attacks them and their morals. Those who plead their cause in the absence of an opponent can invent to their heart's content, can pontificate without taking into account the opposite point of view and keep the best arguments for themselves, for aggressors are always quick to attack those who have no means of defence. But if women had written these books, I know full well the subject would have been handled differently. They know that they stand wrongfully accused, and that the cake has not been divided up equally, for the strongest take the lion's share, and the one who does the sharing out keeps the biggest portion for himself.
Christine de Pizan (Der Sendbrief vom Liebesgott / The Letter of the God of Love (L'Epistre au Dieu d'Amours))
Your god, sir, is the World. In my eyes, you, too, if not an infidel, are an idolater. I conceive that you ignorantly worship: in all things you appear to me too superstitious. Sir, your god, your great Bel, your fish-tailed Dagon, rises before me as a demon. You, and such as you, have raised him to a throne, put on him a crown, given him a sceptre. Behold how hideously he governs! See him busied at the work he likes best -- making marriages. He binds the young to the old, the strong to the imbecile. He stretches out the arm of Mezentius and fetters the dead to the living. In his realm there is hatred -- secret hatred: there is disgust -- unspoken disgust: there is treachery -- family treachery: there is vice -- deep, deadly, domestic vice. In his dominions, children grow unloving between parents who have never loved: infants are nursed on deception from their very birth: they are reared in an atmosphere corrupt with lies ... All that surrounds him hastens to decay: all declines and degenerates under his sceptre. Your god is a masked Death.
Charlotte Brontë (Shirley)
[W]isdom is the child of integrity—being integrated around principles. And integrity is the child of humility and courage. In fact, you could say that humility is the mother of all virtues because humility acknowledges that there are natural laws or principles that govern the universe. They are in charge. Pride teaches us that we are in charge. Humility teaches us to understand and live by principles, because they ultimately govern the consequences of our actions. If humility is the mother, courage is the father of wisdom. Because to truly live by these principles when they are contrary to social mores, norms and values takes enormous courage.
Stephen R. Covey
A few years ago, for instance, the AARP asked some lawyers if they would offer less expensive services to needy retirees, at something like $30 an hour. The lawyers said no. Then the program manager from AARP had a brilliant idea: he asked the lawyers if they would offer free services to needy retirees. Overwhelmingly, the lawyers said yes. What was going on here? How could zero dollars be more attractive than $30? When money was mentioned, the lawyers used market norms and found the offer lacking, relative to their market salary. When no money was mentioned they used social norms and were willing to volunteer their time. Why didn’t they just accept the $30, thinking of themselves as volunteers who received $30? Because once market norms enter our considerations, the social norms depart.
Dan Ariely (Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions)
God bids you not to commit lechery, that is, not to have sex with any woman except your wife. You ask of her that she should not have sex with anyone except you -- yet you are not willing to observe the same restraint in return. Where you ought to be ahead of your wife in virtue, you collapse under the onset of lechery. ... Complaints are always being made about men's lechery, yet wives do not dare to find fault with their husbands for it. Male lechery is so brazen and so habitual that it is now sanctioned [= permitted], to the extent that men tell their wives that lechery and adultery are legitimate for men but not for women.
Augustine of Hippo (Sermons 1-19 (Vol. III/1) (The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century))
I believe that all lives have equal value. That all men and women are created equal. That everyone belongs. That everyone has rights, and everyone has the right to flourish. I believe that when people who are bound by the rules have no role in shaping the rules, moral blind spots become law, and the powerless bear the burden. … I believe that entrenched social norms that shift society’s benefits to the powerful and its burdens to the powerless not only hurt the people pushed out but also always hurt the whole.
Melinda French Gates (The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World)
She sang, as requested. There was much about love in the ballad: faithful love that refused to abandon its object; love that disaster could not shake; love that, in calamity, waxed fonder, in poverty clung closer. The words were set to a fine old air -- in themselves they were simple and sweet: perhaps, when read, they wanted force; when well sung, they wanted nothing. Shirley sang them well: she breathed into the feeling, softness, she poured round the passion, force: her voice was fine that evening; its expression dramatic: she impressed all, and charmed one. On leaving the instrument, she went to the fire, and sat down on a seat -- semi-stool, semi-cushion: the ladies were round her -- none of them spoke. The Misses Sympson and the Misses Nunnely looked upon her, as quiet poultry might look on an egret, an ibis, or any other strange fowl. What made her sing so? They never sang so. Was it proper to sing with such expression, with such originality -- so unlike a school girl? Decidedly not: it was strange, it was unusual. What was strange must be wrong; what was unusual must be improper. Shirley was judged.
Charlotte Brontë (Shirley)
I told you in the course of this paper that Shakespeare had a sister; but do not look for her in Sir Sidney Lee's life of the poet. She died young--alas, she never wrote a word. She lies buried where the omnibuses now stop, opposite the Elephant and Castle. Now my belief is that this poet who never wrote a word and was buried at the crossroads still lives. She lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here tonight, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed. But she lives; for great poets do not die; they are continuing presences; they need only the opportunity to walk among us in the flesh.
Virginia Woolf (A Room of One’s Own)
This pre-eminence is something [men] have unjustly arrogated to themselves. And when it's said that women must be subject to men, the phrase should be understood in the same sense as when we say we are subject to natural disasters, diseases, and all the other accidents of this life: it's not a case of being subjected in the sense of obeying, but rather of suffering an imposition, not a case of serving them fearfully, but rather of tolerating them in a spirit of Christian charity, since they have been given to us by God as a spiritual trial.
Moderata Fonte (The Worth of Women: Wherein Is Clearly Revealed Their Nobility and Their Superiority to Men (The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe))
He knew I was gay for ages," he said, his voice soft. "We both did. Since we were, like, ten or eleven, maybe. As soon as we understood what gay was, we knew that's what I was. We... We used to kiss sometimes, when we were kids. When we were alone. Just little childish kisses, little pecks on the lips because we thought it was fun. We were always... really affectionate with each other. We'd cuddle and... we were kind to each other, rather than nasty like most children. I think we were so caught up in each other that we just... missed all the heteronormative propaganda that's thrust at you when you're that age. We didn't really realize it was weird until - yeah, until we were ten or eleven. But that didn't really stop us. I guess... I guess I always felt like it was more romantic than Aled did. Aled always just treated it like it was something that friends did rather than boyfriends. Aled... he's always been weird. He doesn't care what people think. He doesn't even, like, register the social norms... he's just caught up in his own little world.
Alice Oseman (Radio Silence)
In youth, our blood rises and becomes volatile. Desire, worry, and anxiety increase. External circumstances now direct the rise and fall of emotions. Will and intention become constrained by social conventions. Competition, conflict, and scheming are the norm in interactions with people. The approval and disapproval of others become important, and the honest and sincere expression of thoughts and feelings is lost.
Liezi (Lieh-tzu: A Taoist Guide to Practical Living (Shambhala Dragon Editions))
The norms were created by somebody, and each of us is somebody. We can make our own normal.
Glennon Doyle (Untamed: Stop Pleasing, Start Living / A Toolkit for Modern Life)
Appalling numbers of youth have been led into a cynical ultra-sophisticated attitude which regards drinking as a badge of social aptitude, which makes a fetish of sport and professes eroticism as a way of life. A perverted and insane pictorial art, lewd exhibitionistic dancing and jungle music form the spiritual norm of this sector of America's youth.
Francis Parker Yockey
You’ll find that people often use the excuse “it was the norm” when discussing racism, homophobia, and anything else in our history they are trying to absolve themselves of. Saying that something was “a norm” of the past is a way not to have to deal with its ripple effects in the present. It removes the fact that hate doesn’t just stop because a law or the time changed. Folks use this excuse because they are often unwilling to accept how full of phobias and -isms they are themselves—or at least how they benefit from social structures that privilege them.
George M. Johnson (All Boys Aren’t Blue)
religion is created by humans rather than by gods, and it is defined by its social function rather than by the existence of deities. Religion is anything that confers superhuman legitimacy on human social structures. It legitimises human norms and values by arguing that they reflect superhuman laws. Religion
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow)
Raging crime, class warfare, invasive immigrants, light morals, public misbehavior. Always we convince ourselves that the parade of unwelcome and despised is a new phenomenon, which is why the phrase "the good old days" has passed from cliché to self-parody.
Anna Quindlen (Imagined London: A Tour of the World's Greatest Fictional City)
Motherlands are castles made of glass. In order to leave them, you have to break something – a wall, a social convention, a cultural norm, a psychological barrier, a heart. What you have broken will haunt you. To be an emigré, therefore, means to forever bear shards of glass in your pockets. It is easy to forget they are there, light and minuscule as they are, and go on with your life, your little ambitions and important plans, but at the slightest contact the shards will remind you of their presence. They will cut you deep.
Elif Shafak (How to Stay Sane in an Age of Division)
Happiness, after all, is generally measured as reported satisfaction with one's life - a state of mind perhaps more accessible to those who are affluent, who conform to social norms, who suppress judgment in the service of faith, and who are not overly bothered by societal injustice...The real conservatism of positive psychology lies in its attachment to the status quo, with all its inequalities and abuses of power. Positive psychologists' tests of happiness and well-being, for example, rest heavily on measures of personal contentment with things as they are.
Barbara Ehrenreich (Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America)
Racism is the norm rather than an aberration. Feedback is key to our ability to recognize and repair our inevitable and often unaware collusion. In recognition of this, I try to follow these guidelines: 1.   How, where, and when you give me feedback is irrelevant—it is the feedback I want and need. Understanding that it is hard to give, I will take it any way I can get it. From my position of social, cultural, and institutional white power and privilege, I am perfectly safe and I can handle it. If I cannot handle it, it’s on me to build my racial stamina. 2. Thank you. The above guidelines rest on the understanding that there is no face to save and the game is up; I know that I have blind spots and unconscious investments in racism. My investments are reinforced every day in mainstream society. I did not set this system up, but it does unfairly benefit me, I do use it to my advantage, and I am responsible for interrupting it. I need to work hard to change my role in this system, but I can’t do it alone. This understanding leads me to gratitude when others help me.
Robin DiAngelo (White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism)
In spite of hopes to the contrary, pornography and mass culture are working to collapse sexuality with rape, reinforcing the patterns of male dominance and female submission so that many young people believe this is simply the way sex it. This means that many of the rapists of the future will believe they are behaving within socially accepted norms.
Susan G. Cole
By heavens! there is something after all in the world allowing one man to steal a horse while another must not look at a halter. Steal a horse straight out. Very well. He has done it. Perhaps he can ride. But there is a way of looking at a halter that would provoke the most charitable of saints into a kick.
Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness)
I shake my head at my friend. “Not only is they lines, but you know good as I do where them lines be drawn.” Aibileen shakes her head. “I used to believe in em. I don’t anymore. They in our heads. People like Miss Hilly is always trying to make us believe they there. But they ain’t.
Kathryn Stockett (The Help)
Women have married because it was necessary, in order to survive economically, in order to have children who would not suffer economic deprivation or social ostracism, in order to remain respectable, in order to do what was expected of women because coming out of "abnormal" childhoods they wanted to feel "normal," and because heterosexual romance has been represented as the great female adventure, duty, and fulfillment. We may faithfully or ambivalently have obeyed the institution, but our feelings - and our sensuality - have not been tamed or contained within it.
Adrienne Rich (Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence)
[I]f the name of wife appears more sacred and more valid, sweeter to me is ever the word friend, or, if thou be not ashamed, concubine ... And thou thyself wert not wholly unmindful of that ... [as in the narrative of thy misfortunes] thou hast not disdained to set forth sundry reasons by which I tried to dissuade thee from our marriage, from an ill-starred bed; but wert silent as to many, in which I preferred love to wedlock, freedom to a bond. I call God to witness, if Augustus, ruling over the whole world, were to deem me worthy of the honour of marriage, and to confirm the whole world to me, to be ruled by me forever, dearer to me and of greater dignity would it seem to be called thy concubine than his empress.
Héloïse d'Argenteuil (The Letters of Abélard and Héloïse)
After several months in our trio relationship, my husband and I started telling friends about our girlfriend... No one seemed to mind the concept of an occasional three-way fling with a stranger, but the concept of dating a third person was a bit much for polite company.
Victoria Vantoch (The Threesome Handbook: Make the Most of Your Favorite Fantasy - the Ultimate Guide for Tri-Curious Singles and Couples)
The imagination serves us only when the mind is absolutely free of any prejudice. A single prejudice suffices to cool off the imagination. This whimsical part of the mind is so unbridled as to be uncontrollable. Its greatest triumphs, its most eminent delights consist in smashing all the restraints that oppose it. Imagination is the enemy of all norms, the idolater of all disorder and of all that bears the color of crime.
Marquis de Sade (Philosophy in the Boudoir)
Depicting rational economic man as an isolated individual – unaffected by the choices of others – proved highly convenient for modelling the economy, but it was long questioned even from within the discipline. At the end of the nineteenth century, the sociologist and economist Thorstein Veblen berated economic theory for depicting man as a ‘self-contained globule of desire’, while the French polymath Henri Poincaré pointed out that it overlooked ‘people’s tendency to act like sheep’.31 He was right: we are not so different from herds as we might like to imagine. We follow social norms, typically preferring to do what we expect others will do and, especially if filled with fear or doubt, we tend to go with the crowd. One
Kate Raworth (Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist)
I do wish men, when they're taking their leave from a lady at dawn, wouldn't insist on adjusting their clothes to a nicety, or fussily tying their lacquered cap securely into place. After all, who would laugh at a man or criticize him if they happened to catch sight of him on his way home from an assignation in fearful disarray, with his cloak or hunting costume all awry?
Sei Shōnagon (The Pillow Book)
feeling so far is that standardized testing and performance-based salaries are likely to push education from social norms to market norms. The United States already spends more money per student than any other Western society. Would it be wise to add more money? The same consideration applies to testing: we are already testing very frequently, and more testing is unlikely to improve the quality of education. I suspect that one answer lies in the realm of social norms. As we learned in our experiments, cash will take you only so far—social norms are the forces that can make a difference in the long run. Instead of focusing the attention of the teachers, parents, and kids on test scores, salaries, and competition, it might be better to instill in all of us a sense of purpose, mission, and pride in education. To do this we certainly can’t take the path of market norms. The Beatles proclaimed some time ago that you “Can’t Buy Me Love” and this also applies to the love of learning—you can’t buy it; and if you try, you might chase it away.
Dan Ariely (Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions)
So imagine two scenarios. Let’s say it’s the holidays, and two different neighbors invite you to their parties in the same week. You accept both invitations. In one case, you do the irrational thing and give Neighbor X a bottle of Bordeaux; for the second party you adopt the rational approach and give Neighbor Z $50 in cash. The following week, you need some help moving a sofa. How comfortable would you be approaching each of your neighbors, and how do you think each would react to your request for a favor? The odds are that Neighbor X will step in to help. And Neighbor Z? Since you have already paid him once (to make and share dinner with you), his logical response to your request for help might be, “Fine. How much will you pay me this time?” Again, the prospect of acting rationally, financially speaking, sounds deeply irrational in terms of social norms. The point is that while gifts are financially inefficient, they are an important social lubricant. They help us make friends and create long-term relationships that can sustain us through the ups and downs of life. Sometimes, it turns out, a waste of money can be worth a lot.
Dan Ariely (Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions)
[J]ust the sight of this book, even though it was of no authority, made me wonder how it happened that so many different men – and learned men among them – have been and are so inclined to express both in speaking and in their treatises and writings so many wicked insults about women and their behaviour. Not only one or two ... but, more generally, from the treatises of all philosophers and poets and from all the orators – it would take too long to mention their names – it seems that they all speak from one and the same mouth. Thinking deeply about these matters, I began to examine my character and conduct as a natural woman and, similarly, I considered other women whose company I frequently kept, princesses, great ladies, women of the middle and lower classes, who had graciously told me of their most private and intimate thoughts, hoping that I could judge impartially and in good conscience whether the testimony of so many notable men could be true. To the best of my knowledge, no matter how long I confronted or dissected the problem, I could not see or realise how their claims could be true when compared to the natural behaviour and character of women.
Christine de Pizan (The Book of the City of Ladies)
This is what the bourgeois political economists have done: they have treated value as a fact of nature, not a social construction arising out of a particular mode of production. What Marx is interested in is a revolutionary transformation of society, and that means an overthrow of the capitalist value-form, the construction of an alternative value-structure, an alternative value-system that does not have the specific character of that achieved under capitalism. I cannot overemphasize this point, because the value theory in Marx is frequently interpreted as a universal norm with which we should comply. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard people complain that the problem with Marx is that he believes the only valid notion of value derives from labor inputs. It is not that at all; it is a historical social product. The problem, therefore, for socialist, communist, revolutionary, anarchist or whatever, is to find an alternative value-form that will work in terms of the social reproduction of society in a different image. By introducing the concept of fetishism, Marx shows how the naturalized value of classical political economy dictates a norm; we foreclose on revolutionary possibilities if we blindly follow that norm and replicate commodity fetishism. Our task is to question it.
David Harvey (A Companion to Marx's Capital)
What if the heart, for its own unfathomable reasons, leads one willfully and in a cloud of unspeakable radiance away from health, domesticity, civic responsibility and strong social connections and all the blandly-held common virtues and instead straight toward a beautiful flare of ruin, self-immolation, disaster?…If your deepest self is singing and coaxing you straight toward the bonfire, is it better to turn away? Stop your ears with wax? Ignore all the perverse glory your heart is screaming at you? Set yourself on the course that will lead you dutifully towards the norm, reasonable hours and regular medical check-ups, stable relationships and steady career advancement the New York Times and brunch on Sunday, all with the promise of being somehow a better person? Or…is it better to throw yourself head first and laughing into the holy rage calling your name?
Donna Tartt (The Goldfinch)
Women, even the most oppressed among us, do exercise power. These powers can be used to advance feminist struggle. Forms of power held by exploited and oppressed groups are described in Elizabeth Janeway's important work Powers of the Weak. One of the most significant forms of power held by the weak is "the refusal to accept the definition of oneself that is put forward by the powerful". Janeway call this the "ordered use of the power to disbelieve". She explains: It is true that one may not have a coherent self-definition to set against the status assigned by the established social mythology, and that is not necessary for dissent. By disbelieving, one will be led toward doubting prescribed codes of behaviour, and as one begins to act in ways that can deviate from the norm in any degree, it becomes clear that in fact there is not just one right way to handle or understand events. Women need to know that they can reject the powerful's definition of their reality --- that they can do so even if they are poor, exploited, or trapped in oppressive circumstances. They need to know that the exercise of this basic personal power is an act of resistance and strength. Many poor and exploited women, especially non-white women, would have been unable to develop positive self-concepts if they had not exercised their power to reject the powerful's definition of their reality. Much feminist thought reflects women's acceptance of the definition of femaleness put forth by the powerful. Even though women organizing and participating in feminist movement were in no way passive, unassertive, or unable to make decisions, they perpetuated the idea that these characteristics were typical female traits, a perspective that mirrored male supremacist interpretation of women's reality. They did not distinguish between the passive role many women assume in relation to male peers and/or male authority figures, and the assertive, even domineering, roles they assume in relation to one another, to children, or to those individuals, female or male, who have lower social status, who they see as inferiors, This is only one example of the way in which feminist activists did not break with the simplistic view of women's reality s it was defined by powerful me. If they had exercised the power to disbelieve, they would have insisted upon pointing out the complex nature of women's experience, deconstructing the notion that women are necessarily passive or unassertive.
bell hooks (Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center)
My Lady, you certainly tell me about wonderful constancy, strength and virtue and firmness of women, so can one say the same thing about men? (...) Response [by Lady Rectitude]: "Fair sweet friend, have you not yet heard the saying that the fool sees well enough a small cut in the face of his neighbour, but he disregards the great gaping one above his own eye? I will show you the great contradiction in what the men say about the changeability and inconstancy of women. It is true that they all generally insist that women are very frail [= fickle] by nature. And since they accuse women of frailty, one would suppose that they themselves take care to maintain a reputation for constancy, or at the very least, that the women are indeed less so than they are themselves. And yet, it is obvious that they demand of women greater constancy than they themselves have, for they who claim to be of this strong and noble condition cannot refrain from a whole number of very great defects and sins, and not out of ignorance, either, but out of pure malice, knowing well how badly they are misbehaving. But all this they excuse in themselves and say that it is in the nature of man to sin, yet if it so happens that any women stray into any misdeed (of which they themselves are the cause by their great power and longhandedness), then it's suddenly all frailty and inconstancy, they claim. But it seems to me that since they do call women frail, they should not support that frailty, and not ascribe to them as a great crime what in themselves they merely consider a little defect.
Christine de Pizan (The Book of the City of Ladies)
It was a fact generally acknowledged by all but the most contumacious spirits at the beginning of the seventeenth century that woman was the weaker vessel; weaker than man, that is. ... That was the way God had arranged Creation, sanctified in the words of the Apostle. ... Under the common law of England at the accession of King James I, no female had any rights at all (if some were allowed by custom). As an unmarried woman her rights were swallowed up in her father's, and she was his to dispose of in marriage at will. Once she was married her property became absolutely that of her husband. What of those who did not marry? Common law met that problem blandly by not recognizing it. In the words of The Lawes Resolutions [the leading 17th century compendium on women's legal status]: 'All of them are understood either married or to be married.' In 1603 England, in short, still lived in a world governed by feudal law, where a wife passed from the guardianship of her father to her husband; her husband also stood in relation to her as a feudal lord.
Antonia Fraser (The Weaker Vessel)
The assertion that religion is a tool for preserving social order and for organising large-scale cooperation may vex many people for whom it represents first and foremost a spiritual path. However, just as the gap between religion and science is smaller than we commonly think, so the gap between religion and spirituality is much bigger. Religion is a deal, whereas spirituality is a journey. Religion gives a complete description of the world, and offers us a well-defined contract with predetermined goals. ‘God exists. He told us to behave in certain ways. If you obey God, you’ll be admitted to heaven. If you disobey Him, you’ll burn in hell.’ The very clarity of this deal allows society to define common norms and values that regulate human behaviour. Spiritual journeys are nothing like that. They usually take people in mysterious ways towards unknown destinations. The quest usually begins with some big question, such as who am I? What is the meaning of life? What is good? Whereas many people just accept the ready-made answers provided by the powers that be, spiritual seekers are not so easily satisfied. They are determined to follow the big question wherever it leads, and not just to places you know well or wish to visit. Thus for most people, academic studies are a deal rather than a spiritual journey, because they take us to a predetermined goal approved by our elders, governments and banks.
Yuval Noah Harari (Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow)
Were we dealing with a spectrum-based system that described male and female sexuality with equal accuracy, data taken from gay males would look similar to data taken from straight females—and yet this is not what we see in practice. Instead, the data associated with gay male sexuality presents a mirror image of data associated with straight males: Most gay men are as likely to find the female form aversive as straight men are likely to find the male form aversive. In gay females we observe a similar phenomenon, in which they mirror straight females instead of appearing in the same position on the spectrum as straight men—in other words, gay women are just as unlikely to find the male form aversive as straight females are to find the female form aversive. Some of the research highlighting these trends has been conducted with technology like laser doppler imaging (LDI), which measures genital blood flow when individuals are presented with pornographic images. The findings can, therefore, not be written off as a product of men lying to hide middling positions on the Kinsey scale due to a higher social stigma against what is thought of in the vernacular as male bisexuality/pansexuality. We should, however, note that laser Doppler imaging systems are hardly perfect, especially when measuring arousal in females. It is difficult to attribute these patterns to socialization, as they are observed across cultures and even within the earliest of gay communities that emerged in America, which had to overcome a huge amount of systemic oppression to exist. It’s a little crazy to argue that the socially oppressed sexuality of the early American gay community was largely a product of socialization given how much they had overcome just to come out. If, however, one works off the assumptions of our model, this pattern makes perfect sense. There must be a stage in male brain development that determines which set of gendered stimuli is dominant, then applies a negative modifier to stimuli associated with other genders. This stage does not apparently take place during female sexual development. 
Simone Collins (The Pragmatist’s Guide to Sexuality: What Turns People On, Why, and What That Tells Us About Our Species (The Pragmatist's Guide))