Dear organic sea-sponges and other brethren creatures of the salty aquatics,
We have arrived on this fine day to discuss the use of “natural” as a term that has become bloated and indistinguishable due to overuse. Let’s discuss.
Language is Inaccurate
Our language quickly becomes shorthand, and most folks who inquire about the “kosher”-ness of a situation are not actually curious if the circumstances have been overseen by a rabbi. Probably they mean “is this acceptable to all parties” and not “has this been written into Jewish law.”
While this misuse of language can range from inaccurate to annoying to feeling harmful, we are generally casual with language in a way that will preclude that somebody will get their feelings hurt. That said, people’s feelings matter, and if nobody insinuates that we should do better, we will never do any better.
Stop Using Nature to Justify Your Hang-ups
Due to a variety of cultural factors, it’s very popular right now to engage with things that are “natural.” While it is fine to want to wear cotton rather than polyester and attempt to find affordable organic produce, we are often not talking about produce or non-synthetic fibers.
When we refer to “natural” reproduction, for the most part, we are talking about heterosexual intercourse.
When we talk about meeting someone to date “naturally” we are talking about meeting through friends or pre-existing social networks, rather than utilizing the internet to locate people of our particular affinity group or activity preferences.
When we talk about the “natural order of things” most people are referring to gendered dynamics that fall hard on the side of normalizing abuse, or at the very least maintaining a status quo that does not ruffle anyone’s feathers.
When we talk about “looking natural” we are referring to someone appearing effortlessly beautiful, which allows us to imagine that the labor that goes into aesthetics is superficial and meaningless.
If we talk about appearing “natural” it means someone possesses confidence in things they are unfamiliar with, or we are willing to presume their competence at something. If you have ever known a woman working in STEM, you will know that has more to do with the audience than her actual capacity.
We talk about marriage as a phenomenon as being natural or unnatural, but please avail yourself of Marriage:A History and you may find that it, like everything else on this list, is socially constructed.
You Aren’t A Biologist, Probably
Nature is pretty weird, does unexpected things. I know that therapists are obsessed with using metaphors of streams, walks in the woods, and sometimes the ebb and flow of waves to describe people’s emotional wellbeing.
But once we step away from nature as an objectified metaphor, we can in fact come into the understanding that it does all kinds of weird things that you weren’t expecting. Evolution will occasionally get drunk and blindfold itself and trip over things just to see what happens, and then we wind up with dayglo fish and flat frogs and watermelons that can be convinced to be square.
Nature is a weird beast. Do not cast your eyes upon these bizarre-looking up snakes and fish and tell me that God only wants you to have one sexual partner in your entire lifetime. Those are bounds of logic that do not need to be leapt.
Most Things Are Social Constructs
Nothing is natural, and the use of the term ‘natural’ is inexact and unhelpful. We can describe things as being comfortable for us, or being produced literally without pesticides, or conforming to our expectations, but nothing is actually natural.
If you have been told one too many times that you are an unnatural creature and you would like to hang out in my Den of Unnatural Anomalies which is also my office, we can do that.
Weird fish brought to you by WTF, Evolution?!