Cultural artifacts are particularly effective in making ideas seem normal. Huge advertisements at cosmetics stores like Sephora portray young men dressed provocatively in women’s clothing and covered in makeup. Boarding most Delta flights requires walking past an image of a same-sex couple cuddled up in premium economy.
Without using a single word, cultural artifacts can communicate ideas not merely about what counts as normal behavior but about what it means to be human. In essence, Sephora is telling our sons and daughters that “the way we know a boy is a girl is that he is dressed provocatively and covered in makeup.” What message does that send if not to be a woman is to be like this?