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The Paradox of Weirdness: An Exploration of Labeling, Normality, and Othering

January 7, 2023 at 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm EST

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In her debut Interintellect salon, Jessie Mannisto of Third Factor Magazine invites you to explore what it means to be weird, what it means to be normal, and what all of that means for our relationships with others—not to mention with ourselves.

Mannisto originally founded Third Factor as a space for people who felt like square pegs in round holes.  The idea was for them to figure out how to harness their unique traits constructively, to elevate themselves and those around them.  But just what do people mean by that metaphor of a square peg in a round hole, anyway?  It turns out there’s a lot of variety.  Through many conversations with her fellow square, star-shaped, and heptagonal pegs, and through many others in which she tried to explain to “normies” just what she was building, she recognized something: The ways that each of us differ from the human average tend to be acutely salient to us.  Almost all of us, however, have a way in which we feel weird.  And that means feeling weird isn’t weird at all.  She calls this the paradox of weirdness.

Enter the idea of neurodiversity.  Though your host was familiar with this label when she began this project, she didn’t quite anticipate all the different, sometimes conflicting ways people would apply it.  It’s increasingly a part of the square peg’s personal narrative; which, of course, means that it’s also increasingly being challenged.  Some say a “neurodivergent” identity allows them to be themselves.  Others cite YouTube videos listing seemingly ordinary behaviors as signs that you might actually have autism or ADHD.  Some lament long-missed diagnosis; others feel harmed by misdiagnosis.  Some even argue that intellectual giftedness, love of nuance, or dedication to morality are neurodivergent traits.

In this salon, we’ll discuss this trend and the impact it has on our personal narratives and senses of agency, for better and for worse. We’ll explore the following questions:

  • What are the implications of the words we choose to label ourselves, for how others understand us, for the narratives we tell ourselves, and for the relational space between us?
  • What is the most constructive way for us to frame our quirks and challenges in our personal narratives? What elevates us and gives us agency, and what puts us in a box that’s just another hole whose shape doesn’t fit your unique peg?  How does this vary based on the nature of the trait in question?
  • At what point does it make sense to call a trait a “divergence” from the norm (neuro- or otherwise)?
  • What is the role of our environment—changing at a far faster pace than human evolution—in making any given individual feel divergent?
  • What does “normal” or “neurotypical” actually look like?  How does our understanding of this affect what we expect from others and approach our relationships or environments?
  • What makes you feel comfortable being who you are?  How can we encourage that sort of comfort in those around us?



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January 7, 2023
2:00 pm - 4:00 pm EST
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Ticket price (US$)
Debut host ($10)