Help me turn my daughter into a deviant
November 21, 2016 3:41 PM   Subscribe

My, very non-deviant daughter is in a high school sociology class. The teacher has assigned the class to engage in some sort of deviant (but expressly not illegal!) behavior, then write about the experience and reaction.

We're having a tough time coming up with a good, harmless deviant activity. Working with the definition...

1. Departing from usual or accepted standards, especially in social or sexual behavior.

... and ruling out the sexual behavior part (!), does anyone have suggestions on "appropriate deviant behavior" (OK... that's an oxymoron... but anyway).
posted by ecorrocio to Education (56 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Take her to one of those shooting ranges that rents real machine guns.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 3:44 PM on November 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


In my college sociology class, we faced the wrong way in elevators. For extra credit, we could go sit at an occupied table at the library instead of finding an empty one.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:44 PM on November 21, 2016 [38 favorites]


In elevators, face away from the door.
posted by ShooBoo at 3:44 PM on November 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


A friend of mine in college took a deviant psychology class and for a similar assignment, he went to a sandwich shop in the student bar part of town at about the time that the bars were closing, and paid for his sandwich entirely in pennies.
posted by LionIndex at 3:46 PM on November 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


Lyn Never, we must have taken the same college course!
Another option we had was to walk towards someone on the sidewalk and NOT veer away as we got closer.
posted by bookmammal at 3:47 PM on November 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Stop shaving her arm pits/leg hair?
Stop wearing makeup?
Wear expressly male clothing?

Depending on where you are in the world - strike up a conversation with a stranger in line?
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 3:47 PM on November 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


The most obvious thing that occurs to me is dressing in a very non-standard way. She could wear over-the-top makeup, a strange outfit that clashes or combines things you wouldn't normally wear together, or a costume of some sort.

The suggestions above about violating unspoken rules of shared space are good too. Elevators and cafeteria seating have so many rules that aren't really obvious until you think about it.

She could also maybe do something with technology usage -- completely disconnecting from the internet and social media seems somewhat deviant these days.
posted by duien at 3:47 PM on November 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Wear different clothes for one day at school. Clothes that don't fit, clothes from a different subculture, clothes that are too formal, clothes that are unmistakably boys' clothes if you're comfortable with that. Observe the reactions of students, teachers and staff.

I'm sorry to say you both will be surprised and disturbed at the reactions, which will in themselves depart from usual and accepted standards, even if your daughter says "this is just one day for a class project, that's all." It will reveal a lot more about her classmates and instructors than you expect. It could get ugly. (Source: sibling who began transitioning to male in high school.)
posted by infinitewindow at 3:48 PM on November 21, 2016 [14 favorites]


I ordered a sandwich at a local sandwich shop that was bread, mayo, and nothing else. A friend, behind me in line, ordered meat and mayo, and nothing else.
posted by strixus at 3:48 PM on November 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


Choose to sit on the floor instead of at a desk/on a chair.
posted by samthemander at 3:49 PM on November 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


Play loud music without headphones on the bus or other public space.
Sit right next to somebody in a mostly empty public place.
Get a group of friends to play a loud and raucous child's game in a park, like tag or hide and seek.

I like the above suggestions to wear boy's clothes in public, that will surely garner interesting reactions.
posted by Safiya at 3:50 PM on November 21, 2016


My first thought was really bright colored hair and goth like makeup/dress.
posted by CoffeeHikeNapWine at 3:51 PM on November 21, 2016


When I had this assignment in high school I went to a diner and sat on the table and ate off the chair.
posted by pintapicasso at 3:52 PM on November 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


My favorite one of these, which two friends of mine from college did:

They went shopping at a local....I think it was Sears. This was small-town New England, btw. She's black; he's white.

She had him on a leash, with a collar around his neck.

They shopped. They went and stood in line. While they were in line, she turned to the woman behind her and said "Oh, I forgot toothpaste. Could you hold the leash for a just a minute? I'll be right back!" and she dashed away, pressing the leash into the other customer's hand. Other customer just stood there, with the leash, really unsure of what to do. He said "Could you pretend like you dropped the leash and I just ran away? Please?" Other customer kept holding the leash. My friends returned with toothpaste, took the leash back, and they paid for their stuff and left.
posted by rtha at 3:53 PM on November 21, 2016 [92 favorites]


Show up somewhere (that doesn't have explicitly given rules against it) barefoot. It's generally not illegal (really) in the US, but some people have a hard time with it.

If it's too cold, she could just do the barefoot thing for a short time.

Barring that, wearing bedroom slippers or pajamas out in public.

---

Is there anything that she _wishes_ she could do? Maybe something she used to talk about when she was little? Perhaps something derived from that could be fun.
posted by amtho at 3:59 PM on November 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


Cut in line.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 4:01 PM on November 21, 2016


Is it snowing or just quite cold? she can sit in a public place eating an ice cream cone.

Go to a BBQ rib place and order just a salad.

Wear her coat inside out or all her clothes. If it will be noticeable (for me, it's not), she can skip combing her hair.
posted by crush-onastick at 4:03 PM on November 21, 2016


Tell knock knock jokes in the elevator, or the metro, or the bus, or any other public enclosed-space. Innocent and off-putting. Or sit right next to someone when many seats are available.
posted by nkknkk at 4:06 PM on November 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


She could wear weather inappropriate clothing. For instance, she could walk around a mall wearing beach attire. Flip flops, bathing suit, sun glasses, big sun hat, and a bag with beach towels and maybe toys in there too, to really drive it home.
posted by blackzinfandel at 4:06 PM on November 21, 2016


She and a friend could slow dance in random public places.
posted by blackzinfandel at 4:09 PM on November 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Talk to yourself. Pretend you're holding a phone, but don't have anything in your hand.

Use other people (students, friends?) as a drumset.

Go to a non-starbucks coffee shop and order a very particular starbucks drink.

Try to pay for something using a gift card for a different store.

Dress as a bride or bridesmaid or groom or prom date. For school or other casual activity. Maybe the gym.

Slurp the straw.

Read something obviously upside-down.

Floss in public. Not with the little flosser picks, but actual dental floss. Or brush your teeth in public. Not in a bathroom.

Like nkknkk said, tell knock knock jokes - in a public bathroom. In a stall. See if anybody plays the other half.

Wear obviously mis-matched shoes.

Wear a cape. Be a superhero for the day.

Jump rope everywhere instead of walking. Sing the rhymes.

Go up to random people and ask for selfies with them.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 4:10 PM on November 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Blow bubbles at people exiting a public building like they just got married. Tell them congratulations, mazel tov, etc.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 4:11 PM on November 21, 2016


I would shy away from "deviant" behavior that comes at the expense of service workers who have little choice but to put up with it

How about talk to inanimate objects. Not in a pretend-crazy-conversation way, just, like, thanking the chair for supporting you while you eat lunch, praising the table for being a good table, say hi to the door when you open it, etc
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:12 PM on November 21, 2016 [52 favorites]


Regularly stop and smell yourself. Your armpits, your hand lotion, etc. Make it obvious.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 4:13 PM on November 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


What about breaking some of the rules in the class itself? Talk without raising a hand or being acknowledged. Interrupt the teacher and/or the other students. Do ordinary things, like pulling books out of a backpack, tearing paper out of a notebook, etc. -- very loudly. Come with food. And music. Attempt to teach the class. Attempt to get the other students to walk out. And most importantly, refuse to comply with any directives from the teacher. Etc. (The main thought behind this suggestion is that the teacher is giving a ton of grief to random strangers. Some grief should really come back home, as it were.)
posted by Jonathan Livengood at 4:15 PM on November 21, 2016 [54 favorites]


We're having a tough time coming up with a good, harmless deviant activity.

I'm so confused about why "we" are doing anything here! Isn't this your daughter's class? Isn't figuring out a deviant behavior, not just executing it, part of the assignment?
posted by cogitron at 4:20 PM on November 21, 2016 [31 favorites]


A few ideas based on breaking the unspoken rules of social interaction...
Constantly interrupt everyone she talks to. Refuse to make eye contact with anyone she interacts with. When acquaintances ask "how are you" actually give a long detailed response.
posted by Waiting for Pierce Inverarity at 4:23 PM on November 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Don't bother doing the assignment.
Demand an A grade
posted by fullerine at 4:26 PM on November 21, 2016 [101 favorites]


My son had an assignment like this in his freshman year of college. He ended up going to an African-American church for Sunday service (he is white). The professor loved his choice and he had a great time at the service. He also got invited to Sunday dinner by a bunch of different people.
posted by maurice at 4:27 PM on November 21, 2016 [20 favorites]


She could also maybe do something with technology usage -- completely disconnecting from the internet and social media seems somewhat deviant these days.

Or she could violate some social media norms:
- strike up an unrelated conversation in the comments of an acquaintance's personal-feeling Facebook post
- post 25 uninteresting photos of her carpet to Instagram/Snapchat over the course of an hour
- start up text conversations and then leave the other party hanging indefinitely
- use carefully composed and properly styled essay-grade English while chatting with friends

Or something else that I can't conceive of due to my advanced age, but that ideally will have her peers howling with outraged laughter while her teacher is just befuddled.
posted by contraption at 4:30 PM on November 21, 2016 [9 favorites]


Just be aware that no matter how "harmless" and legal the deviant behavior is, some people feel extremely threatened by such things and will respond accordingly. My sociology professor in college related that one time when a student did the "facing the wrong way in the elevator" experiment, he was assaulted by one of the other passengers.
posted by katyggls at 4:32 PM on November 21, 2016 [6 favorites]




Fifty Fun Things To Do In An Elevator has some good examples.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:38 PM on November 21, 2016


Wow! Thank you everyone so many ideas. In the interim, she came up with a pretty good one: she will be eating her Thanksgiving dinner with her hands. Should get a good reaction around the table.

To answer cogitrons question: the assignment is more about the behavior and writing about the experience. It's OK if she gets suggestions on ideas.
posted by ecorrocio at 4:49 PM on November 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


Ask people on the internet to help her do her homework. (Not being snarky, totally serious!)
posted by snorkmaiden at 5:01 PM on November 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


Eating with her hands is an awesome idea!
I had a coworker from India who took us to an Indian restaurant that he said was like home cooking and he insisted that we eat with our hands. He gave us a couple tips and the most important thing he said to do was to eat with your right hand. That's covered in this video (along with some other tips). Make sure you have a lot of bread if she is going for the full Thanksgiving meal experience. I would tear up the turkey then use a piece of bread to pinch some then scoop up gravy, cranberry sauce and potatoes.
posted by plinth at 5:17 PM on November 21, 2016


Answer everything with something nonsensical, like "Bubbletastic".

Communicate only by writing all day long.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 5:21 PM on November 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Glad she found one - and that's a good one!

Since I'm already commenting, I'll still add another benign one - stop shaving her armpits and legs, and wear clothes that show that off.
posted by Mchelly at 5:37 PM on November 21, 2016


I had to write this exact paper for my sociology class. I sat close to people.

On the mostly empty bus I sat next to people instead of by myself. In the cafeteria I would choose tables with people at them instead of tables by myself, same with class rooms.
posted by magnetsphere at 5:57 PM on November 21, 2016


I love your daughter's idea and echo the others here who have suggested not making this assignment into other people's problem. Your family Thanksgiving table is a great little laboratory.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:41 PM on November 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


A simple, easy, and harmless one is wearing a pair of cat ears or bunny ears on a headband. You can even make them out of construction paper.

That Thanksgiving one sounds great, too.
posted by Rush-That-Speaks at 7:22 PM on November 21, 2016


Wear PJs to church.
posted by Toddles at 8:50 PM on November 21, 2016


The one I've always wanted to do: In a crowded place, shout "Hey asshole!"

When multiple people turn around, as they inevitably will, say, "Just checking."
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:02 PM on November 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Lie to her teacher about about what norms she violated.
posted by v-tach at 10:12 PM on November 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


I had this assignment, and I didn't talk for 48 hours. I only communicated by writing and pantomime.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:05 AM on November 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Small pillow for a fake baby bump + Teenage Girl clothes loose enough on top to pass as maternity wear + Drinking what looks like alcohol in a very public place.
posted by space_cookie at 12:07 AM on November 22, 2016


Might as well throw in a fake cigarette too.
posted by space_cookie at 12:11 AM on November 22, 2016


Don't be deliberately disruptive in class to teach the teacher a lesson about 'giving people grief'. This is hardly the disruption of a social norm, and it's really disrespectful of the person who is trying to encourage independent thought in their students.

The most interesting challenges will surely be those where the social norms are arbitrary, not the ones where there is a sound principle behind them.
posted by jojobobo at 1:03 AM on November 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I didn't speak for a day (I think I picked a day that I didn't have work or class, as a similarly non-deviant type).

I was trying to think of nice things that still break social norms. Buy an inexpensive bunch of flowers and hand single flowers out to random strangers? Pay for someone else's meal?
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:31 AM on November 22, 2016


When I had this assignment in college, I was working at a boutique liquor/wine/gourmet food store, and I used made up words to describe the products when asked. "Oh, that champagne is dry with a hint of migl. You'll like it." "Oh, that tequila goes great either in a margarita or for making a migl with ice." Lame.

This dude and his girlfriend pretended not to know each other sat on either side of someone in a Wednesday church service, and then they shared the hymnal with the person as well.

The assignment was about "Garfinkeling". From Harold Garfinkel.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:50 AM on November 22, 2016


Overdress, as in dress up when it isn't expected.

It is harmless and legal, and absolutely out of the ordinary in 21st century America.

She will certainly experience strong reactions from people.
posted by Cranialtorque at 9:08 AM on November 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


Don't bother doing the assignment.
Demand an A grade


Ask people on the internet to help her do her homework.

Sadly, neither of these is really deviant from current norms... [sigh]
posted by acm at 9:26 AM on November 22, 2016


If you are still reading - she may find it worthwhile to comment on the varying standards of social norms even among suggestions for social deviance!
posted by rubster at 10:30 AM on November 22, 2016


Ask to cut to the front of every line. For increased success, add a generic excuse - any will do!

"May I go ahead of you? I'm sorry, I really need to."
posted by fritillary at 2:28 PM on November 22, 2016


The most interesting challenges will surely be those where the social norms are arbitrary, not the ones where there is a sound principle behind them.

I like this idea. I know the assignment is long over, but the 'arbitrary' part is interesting. Usually societal norms are norms for a reason. They provide some benefit if everyone follows them. What is it?

A lot of conventions have some element of arbitrariness, though. It doesn't matter which side of the sidewalk people automatically walk on, it just matters that everyone defaults to the same side. Lefty-Loosey, righty-tighty. (It drives me nuts when my left-handed wife ties wire twist-ties "wrong" and I'm undoing them later.) The hot water is on the left.

So that's really the bang for the buck in this assignment - the Why? part. Yes, it's funny that people look at you like you're crazy, but why is that a convention in the first place? Step one, look at other cultures and see what different solutions to the same issues have evolved. What is the problem being solved/what is the benefit of everyone doing it the same? Do we need a law, or is social pressure a real thing that should be followed? Always? (Important concept for rebellious teenagers to think about, IMO)

Then turn in the paper reading top-to-bottom vertically, first page on the right, just because I like the idea of the teacher sharing in the temporary irritation they have caused the community by assigning this.
posted by ctmf at 10:08 AM on December 18, 2016


Also, I'm curious how Thanksgiving dinner went.
posted by ctmf at 11:05 AM on December 18, 2016


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