Have you seen the bearded guy that wears dresses on TV? Who hasn’t!? Conchita Wurst has been all over the news after winning the Eurovision Song Contest 2014 in Copenhagen, Denmark. The fact that Conchita won shouldn’t be impressive since the girl can really sing. However, most of the news regarding Conchita have been around the fact that she looks “different”. Many may say she is talented, some that she is weird, others that she is… eccentric.
The word eccentric typically appeals to the “weird”, “abnormal”, “strange”, and in some occasions to the “bizarre”. So yes, maybe we don’t see many bearded ladies walking down the street everyday and it can seem “strange” to some people. However, that is the beauty of diversity; the fact that many of us have distinctive traits not shared with others. Furthermore, Emig (2003) states that “Eccentricity becomes a viable and necessary cultural concept when culture begins to be perceived as having centres and margins”. Centers? Margins? Eming (2003) further explains,
“The concept of eccentricity serves as a field of experimentation, but also tolerance and compromise in times of cultural self-interrogation. The eccentric is on the margins of the acceptable and conventional, but not outside it. The eccentric is not strange, ill, criminal or perverse, although the borderline towards becoming an excluded ‘Other’ remains close. At the same time what is at the centre of culture at any given time in this concentric model now requires the continual reference to its margin (p. 380).”
So the question is: Who is in the center? Who is in the margin? When someone is displaced into the margins he or she becomes marginalized. Marginalization of individuals who seem “different” has been historically a reality. No, I am not going to start talking about witches or wizards, nor of slaves or indigenous populations. However, we need to address the present marginalization of those who look “eccentric” to society. Those who are physically disabled, dress different, wear different clothes (or none at all), who love someone of their same gender, have a different skin color, who are polyamorous, who talk different. In one way or another, we all fit one or more of these marginalized populations. Hence, how could we establish what is “abnormal” or “bizarre” in our community?
Every individual should be treated as unique, as eccentric. Prejudice, maltreatment, oppression, and marginalization should not be happening in 2014 when our communities are composed by diversity. At the end of the day we are all eccentric in our very own way. At the end of the day we are all Conchita.
Photo source: http://thunderbird37.com/conchita-wurst-have-a-view/
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text rev.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatry Publisher.
Emig, R. (2003). Eccentricity begins at home: Carlyle’s centrality in Victorian thought. Textual Practice, 17(2), 379. doi:10.1080/0950236032000094890