6 Things Society Says Are Creepy But Actually Aren't Weird At All
Much has been said about things that are secretly super creepy when you think about them, but what about creepy things that aren't actually weird? Creepiness is inherently based in social norms — or rather, according to research, deviations from these norms. A study published earlier this year found that while fear has a clear cause, creepiness is less straightforward; in fact, researchers believe that ambiguity is to blame for those shivers down your spine: People who don't behave in the ways you expect are more likely to be considered a little off, even if you can't explain why. But we owe it to ourselves to question these norms, because some of them might be doing us more harm than good.
All these norms and expectations are informed by the cultures in which they're found. Although some creepy behaviors are virtually universal — prolonged eye contact, for instance, or laughing at inappropriate times — others are specific to certain societies. In the United States, for example, residents are known for maintaining vast bubbles of personal space. Even just sharing the same pole on the subway is enough to make many people uncomfortable, but in some countries, getting up close and personal with a stranger isn't considered weird at all.
Of course, it's not exactly news that creepiness is in the eye of the beholder. There are all kinds of things people take for granted that are actually pretty weird when you analyze them more deeply, but the reverse is true as well — and historically, questioning social norms has been hugely important in terms of progressing as a society.
So without further ado, here are six "creepy" things that aren't actually creepy at all — and it's high time our culture stopped framing them as weird.
1. Assertive Women
Traditionally, society rewards men for being sexual aggressors while punishing women for the same behaviors: When a man is persistent, he's called lovestruck and romantic. When a woman is persistent, she's either creepy or outright "crazy" — for example, just look at the popularity of the Overly Attached Girlfriend meme. However, there's nothing wrong with being assertive in a relationship, whether you identify as a man, woman, or neither. Why should gender affect whether something is considered creepy? Double standards are no good, you guys. No good at all.
2. Men Dressing In Traditionally Feminine Clothing
Any time you see a man dressed in "women's" clothing in the media, he falls into one of two categories: It's played for laughs, or the character is a psychotic killer à la Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs, or Norman Bates in Psycho, or (briefly) the Joker in The Dark Knight. You get the idea.
Clearly, society considers men in traditionally feminine clothing to be off, but it's far more acceptable for women to dress in men's clothing. This owes itself to a number of factors, but it's largely down to the devaluation of femininity. Anything remotely feminine is still considered "lesser" than masculine characteristics; by this logic, there must be something "wrong" with men who choose to wear feminine clothes.
Of course, this logic is totally faulty — the difference between men and women's clothing is subject to the whims of the fashion industry. Furthermore, fashion preferences have nothing to do with anyone's worth as a person.
3. Living Alone
This tends to go for women more than men; bachelorhood is considered a totally valid life path for men, while women are often still expected to marry and start a family as soon as possible. (On top of their career, of course, because women are supposed to Have It All.) Either way, though, people who live alone are sometimes considered odd, especially as they grow older — but why is that, exactly? When you question why you found the elderly woman down the street so creepy as a kid, it becomes clear that there's no real reason to think living alone is weird. Of course someone can live alone and be a little odd; the same, however, is true of people who live with other people. Living alone does not in itself make someone creepy.
4. Mental Illness
Bear with me on this one. According to the study mentioned at the beginning of this article, people consider the act of having mental illness to be creepy. Obviously, this is pretty messed up — you can't help having psychological disorders any more than you can help having the physical kind, and considering it creepy just perpetuates the stigma surrounding mental illness.
5. Social Media "Stalking"
Before social media accounts became ubiquitous, it may have been a little invasive to browse through someone's MySpace or — if you were really in deep — their LiveJournal. The sheer effort required to stalk someone online before Facebook, Twitter, and so on meant that you had to be bound and determined to find out everything about them, which could definitely come across as creepy. We live in a plugged in world now, though, so checking out someone's Instagram isn't just reserved for people you obsess over anymore; after all, we follow the Instagrams of people we don't know all the time. And hey, if creepiness is reserved for deviations from social norms, that basically means not stalking someone is creepy.
The issue here might be with the use of the word "stalking." Actually stalking someone is creepy. Googling a date before you meet up with them for the first time is honestly just common sense in the same way that telling a friend where you'll be when you go on that first date is. Safety first.
Clowns aren't creepy. They're terrifying. End of story.