How Feminism Deconstructed Classifications of “Normal” and “Natural”

Breaking Free from Societal Labels: How Feminism is Redefining Normalcy

Patriarchal and oppressive regimes relied on classifications of what is “normal and natural” to establish themselves as oppressors of women and marginalized women. For decades, however, feminists have dismantled these classifications which are used as tools to entrench violence at times and obliterate and erase it at other times.

To understand these deconstructions and their historical stages, we need to list their origins and outcomes in the categories to which they are applied. Hence, we highlight the fact that feminism has sparked debates about these categories based on an analysis of the situation of women under patriarchal and capitalist systems.

And consequently, how these debates have benefited other marginalized groups, especially those with atypical gender identities and non-heterosexual orientations.

Feminism fights the categories of “normal and natural”, for a pluralistic space that accepts everyone.

What is “natural”?

Feminists have argued about the concept of “natural” and the concept of nature itself. But much of the credit for this wealth goes to feminists who criticized the Marxist theory of work. Since labor theory involved a disregard for the situation of women under capitalism and their struggles with patriarchy.

The theory of labor establishes that humans are united with the nature around them, and is the primary source of meeting their basic needs. In its analysis of the history of capitalism, labor theory presented women as part of nature that is adapted to serve human beings, because of their body biology and their reproductive roles.

Therefore, labor theory’s overlooking the fact that women are part of nature is a patriarchal rooting of violence against women.

Marxist feminists criticized this synonymy between women and nature and dismantled the patriarchal rooting of women’s roles in the capitalist patriarchal system. They analyzed how capitalism grew up to the detriment of women, confining them to their reproductive roles, to exploit these roles in favor of capitalism and its survival.

During the early stages of capitalism, women were primarily confined to their presence in the home as it was considered their “natural” place. Additionally, Capitalism deliberately overlooked the significant role of women in primary production processes, attributing it solely to men, while women took on feminized caring duties and reproduction responsibilities. It is worth noting that even Marxist criticisms of capitalism often failed to acknowledge this vital contribution of women.

As a result, feminists began challenging the idea of women’s “natural” role and place on two fronts – capitalism and Marxism.

Transitioning from the topic of women’s circumstances to the conditions of marginalized communities.

Feminist criticism went beyond questioning the notion of “natural” when it came to women’s societal roles. It scrutinized all patriarchal links between women and nature. One of these links was the categorization of labor based on biological sex, where men were expected to work outside the home while women were expected to fulfill their “natural roles” inside the home. Feminists also challenged the simplistic binary gender division of emotions, which portrayed men as rational and women as emotional.

This marks the start of breaking down the traditional connection between biological gender and societal expectations.

Deconstruction delved deeper into the rejection of the restricted binary social identities of man and woman, which are viewed as “normal,” and any other forms that deviate from them are labeled as “unnatural.”

They later focused on biological bisexuality, which includes both male and female genders. They emphasized that biological sex is not binary, as there are individuals who are biologically bisexual and do not fit into the category of “natural”. This highlights the complexity of human identity beyond societal labels.

In their deconstructions, feminists posed significant questions. One such question was: How is “natural” defined? Does “natural” refer to something untouched by human intervention, like “nature”? Furthermore, if X is considered “normal”, what about Y, which falls outside this narrow classification?

Normal and natural… Social and political structures

Feminists continued their efforts by breaking down the implications of “natural” classifications and the language used to establish these hierarchies within capitalist patriarchy, including the term “normal.” Typically, these two words are used interchangeably to represent the same concept.

Feminism views actions, ideas, values, and attitudes as socio-political and economic structures. These structures deliberately dominate to serve their interests what has been deemed “normal and natural.” This domination is achieved through societal acceptance, laws, policies, repressive discourses, and personal practices. Conversely, anything that is not considered “normal and natural” is rejected, resisted, and eliminated.

In the face of all that is “normal and natural”, there are matters that get marginalized because they do not fall into this box. This is because the existence of these matters threatens the survival of the “normal and natural”, and consequently threatens the survival of dominant regimes. These classifications rely on the suppression of the different, as “abnormal and unnatural.”

In real life, there is a threat of normalizing women’s reproductive and social roles, which restricts them to the private sphere and keeps them under male domination and authority. Any change in these social roles, as perceived in a stereotypical sense, between men and women can lead to a complete shift in the structure of socioeconomic and political systems.

Until recently, these regimes were unwilling to compromise on allowing women to work outside their homes. However, now they see the benefits of women joining the workforce in alleviating the economic burden on men. Unfortunately, the cycle of structural oppression persists.

“The normal and the natural”: tools of violence and exclusion

Despite efforts to create laws and policies encouraging women to leave their homes and protecting them from violence, the dominant structures remain unchanged. Unfortunately, the absence of laws criminalizing domestic violence by men against women and girls allows this type of violence to continue to be perpetuated.

In this regard, the feminization and “normality” of care work have compounded the burdens of women and freed men from caring responsibilities inside the home.

Considering “home” as women’s “natural” place exposes women to violence outside the home and normalizes violence within it. Considering heterosexuality as not “normal and natural” leads to the marginalization and suppression of other sexual orientations.


By the same measure, other sexual orientations are considered “unnatural and abnormal.” In addition, considering that social identities are linked to biological sex leads to denial of the right to cross-genderism, as well as violence, and exclusion of people who do not comply with this division.

Moreover, the classification of “natural” transcends individuals and creates violence. We see this clearly in the view that the countries of origin and birth are the “natural” place for individuals. As a result, violence, exclusion laws, and racist practices that limit the free movement of individuals between geographical boundaries are practiced, especially against those who flee the hell of their countries of origin. This happens in the wake of wars, famines, and political and economic conditions, created by the same systems and discourses that limit their movements outside these areas.

In various situations, people tend to use the terms “normal and natural” when referring to physical and cognitive disabilities, as well as mental health issues. This discourse has become deeply rooted and prevalent.

In the face of all that is “normal and natural”, there are matters that get marginalized because they do not fall into this box.

“Normal and natural” are predominant and stereotypical

To dismantle oppressive structures, it is necessary to ask probing questions that delve into their underlying intentions and causes.

Feminists have conducted research and put forth practical hypotheses, questioning whether what is deemed “normal and natural” is truly so, or whether it has been intentionally ingrained and normalized.

Feminists took upon themselves the responsibility of creating alternatives to what had been normalized and habituated under duress. Behind everything that has been normalized, there is a deliberate erasure of anything that contradicts it, making it the “normal and natural” and the only path before human beings. This wasn’t an easy mission, but feminists have proven to be adept at completing it.

Feminism replaced the word “normal” with the word “mainstream” – that is, the one that was imposed, and authorized, while marginalizing and erasing anything else. The word “natural” has also been replaced by the word “typical” – that is, the one that was deliberately molded and considered the only available pattern.

Feminism challenges the classifications of “normal and natural”, in favor of a pluralistic space that accepts everyone. It opens new horizons for accepting difference and plurality from the prevailing stereotype, which serves oppressive regimes at the expense of the individuality of individuals and groups.

By promoting pluralism and diversity, feminism seeks to establish values of acceptance that have been monopolized by patriarchal systems for centuries, and which have negatively impacted the lives, bodies, and psychological well-being of atypical individuals.


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