Social Deviance

For every community there is an accepted code of conduct. While some aspects of this code are sanctioned under the law others incur less formal sanctions such as a raised eyebrow or ostracism from the main group. What can be considered deviant behavior varies from society to society and has been known to change radically throughout the ages. If behaviors that were considered taboo one hundred years ago are now common and accepted practice should the challenging societal norms be something that is feared or embraced?


When one thinks of deviance a negative image often comes to mind. Over the years many groups have challenged the status quo leading to greater freedom for the wider society. An example of such a group are the suffragists. During an era characterized by strict adherence to gender roles when women were not expected to to play an active role outside of their homes one group of women decided to be different. These women defied social acceptable behavior for their time and protested for the right to participate in the electoral process.


The abolitionists risked their personal safety to challenge the institution of slavery at a time when it was normal and acceptable to own slaves. They faced severe legal penalties and were shunned by their communities for thinking differently. The social landscape of the world was changed for the better as a result of their actions but in their own communities and an in their own time they were considered criminals and a bad influence on the rest of society.

In Contrast

Although emphasis has been placed on the positive side of deviance there are negative aspects as well. There are persons who for some reason or another seek to impose upon the rights and freedoms of others and violate the law to no benefit. These persons are sanctioned by the rule of law and dealt with accordingly.

There are numerous examples of persons throughout history who chose to march to be different. These persons were considered deviant in the strictest sense of the word but their contributions to the social environment that we presently enjoy. The yardstick by which we measure the validity of a law or belief system is how well it stands up to scrutiny and challenges. Without those who are willing to fulfill this role injustice is left to prevail unchecked and there is nothing to propel us into more progressive ways of thinking.