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Posted: August 20th, 2023

The Mythical Norm: Navigating Multiple Subordinate Categories

Discussion #10. Refer to the online reading handout, Age, Race, Class and Sex in this week’s module by Audre Lorde.

In around 650-700 words, answer the following questions:

What is the mythical norm?

How does it distinguish and demonstrate the multiple ways we can inhabit both dominant and subordinate categories?

What are the consequences or experiences of inhabiting multiple subordinate categories?

How do the consequences and/or experiences change as we occupy more subordinate categories? How do you relate? Where do you fall in this series of categories?

How has this impacted your life and world experience?

The Mythical Norm: Navigating Multiple Subordinate Categories

Audre Lorde’s essay, “Age, Race, Class and Sex,” delves into the concept of the “mythical norm” and its implications on individuals inhabiting both dominant and subordinate categories. This discussion aims to explore the concept of the mythical norm, its effects on individuals occupying multiple subordinate categories, and the personal impact it has had on my life and world experience.

The Mythical Norm:
The mythical norm refers to an idealized standard that is implicitly assumed as the default or norm within society. It represents a set of characteristics and identities that are typically associated with power, privilege, and dominance. The mythical norm is often constructed around a white, heterosexual, cisgender, middle-class male. It acts as a benchmark against which all other identities and experiences are measured, creating a sense of “otherness” for those who do not align with it.

Inhabiting Dominant and Subordinate Categories:
The mythical norm highlights the multiple ways individuals can simultaneously inhabit both dominant and subordinate categories. For instance, a person may possess a dominant identity in terms of race or gender but occupy a subordinate category in terms of class or sexual orientation. This demonstrates the intersectionality of identities and the complex ways in which power dynamics operate within society. It emphasizes that no individual is solely defined by a single identity or category, but rather, their experiences and privileges are shaped by the various intersecting aspects of their identity.

Consequences of Inhabiting Multiple Subordinate Categories:
Inhabiting multiple subordinate categories can lead to compounded experiences of marginalization and oppression. Individuals who belong to multiple marginalized groups often face intersecting forms of discrimination, prejudice, and systemic barriers. They may encounter limited opportunities, social exclusion, and heightened vulnerability to violence and injustice. The experiences can vary depending on the specific combination of subordinate categories, but they commonly involve the intersection of race, class, gender, and other marginalized identities.

Changing Consequences with Additional Subordinate Categories:
As individuals occupy more subordinate categories, the consequences and experiences of marginalization often intensify. The intersectionality of identities amplifies the challenges faced, as individuals contend with multiple systems of oppression simultaneously. The accumulation of subordinate categories can lead to increased invisibility, further erasure of their voices and experiences, and additional barriers to social, economic, and political advancement.

Personal Reflection:
As I reflect on my own position within these categories, I recognize that I inhabit both dominant and subordinate identities. While I may benefit from certain privileges associated with my race and class, I also face challenges and discrimination due to other aspects of my identity. This realization encourages empathy and understanding towards the experiences of those who encounter greater oppression.

Impact on Life and World Experience:
The concept of the mythical norm has had a profound impact on my life and world experience. It has sensitized me to the diverse ways in which power and privilege operate, fostering a deeper understanding of the complex interactions between different identities. This awareness has motivated me to challenge societal norms, fight against discrimination, and advocate for social justice. Moreover, it has prompted me to actively seek out diverse perspectives and voices, recognizing the importance of inclusive and equitable spaces.

The mythical norm acts as a pervasive force in society, shaping our understanding of identities and reinforcing power imbalances. Inhabiting multiple subordinate categories can compound the experiences of marginalization and exclusion. As we navigate the intersectionality of identities, it becomes crucial to recognize and address the structural inequalities that exist. By embracing diverse experiences and dismantling the mythical norm, we can strive towards a more inclusive and equitable society for all.

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