The relational chaos of the women's suffrage movement
As we step our way into relational chaos, let's consider a social issue. Not so long ago, the notion that women should have the right to vote emerged from relational chaos. For hundreds of years before then, a female ballot was a silly idea that rarely occurred in serious conversation. But as it grew into a movement, social order defenders of all genders opposed it as an existential threat:
"[Women's suffrage] are the politics of the very far future. They are too altruistic, idealist and unwanted for the human nature of the present day!" - Mrs. Kate Roosevelt
Yet, what seemed a distant fever dream spread as mimetic sparks enflamed people to the potential of a more just citizenship and balanced governance. The sexism woven into our social order grew increasingly offensive.
But during the decades it took the movement to spread, it wasn't fashionable to be a feminist. It was at the social edge: risky, messy, and isolating. Now here we are, exactly a century later, and women's right to vote isn't merely accepted but normative.
Now, let's abstract this historical narrative into a pattern that may apply to any relational map.
A pattern for how relational chaos becomes social order.
Let's map out the various periods between relational chaos & order:
- Traditional: Those who gravitate to the leftmost edge instinctually enforce and preserve traditions against modern norms. For instance, most of our grandparents would frown on some social customs we wouldn't blink an eye at.
- Mainstream: The middle of order contains the present norms and power structure. It's comfortable, common sense, and quiet. Here, we behave appropriately and find safety. We gather around a warm hearth, feel good about a large retirement fund, and pride ourselves in the respectable title on our business card.
- Fashionable Edge: A little further to the right, we dip our toes into the newest social patterns: recently emerged expressions, sentiments, and social signals that aren't mainstream or too risky. After all, celebrities and social influencers have already endorsed the fashions or viewpoints on this edge. It's where we find the attention-getting "fire" that's unlikely to burn anyone. (Most teens run right up to this edge in their family's map to form their own identity.)
- Culture Wars: Now we've arrived at the rightmost progressive edge of our communities only reaches the middle of the map: emergent relational order. These half-formed patterns are idealistic and romantic enough to attract crowds and formed enough to pose a threat to the order to the left. This space is home to a family's black sheep, radical political movements, and cultural disruptors.
This space is the epicenter of social conflict. In it, idealistic norms and power structures battle to alter the existing social order or die trying.