Around 100 years ago, women were legally banned from wearing pants. In fact, women were not allowed to wear pants on the floor of the United States Senate until 1993. In the 17th century, men commonly wore high heels. In the '80s and '90s, you could expect to be greeted with a thick cloud of cigarette smoke when you entered public spaces, like restaurants and even offices. As a child, I rarely rode in a car seat and always slept on my stomach in a crib surrounded by soft, padded bumpers—all things that would get a parent ostracized if not arrested today.
Less than 10 years ago, marriage was not a privilege extended to everyone—and now we have viral videos of two grooms doing incredibly impressive lifts and mashup dances for their first dance. I can now get a care package of cookies delivered to my friend who just had surgery at her door in less than 48 hours and they’ll look better than any that I could make myself anyway. Public opinion is even turning on climate change. In the United States, the majority believes not only that global warming is real but that we should be doing more to combat it.
As much as we feel bounded by them, our societal norms are usually fluid. Sometimes that fluidity comes about because of advances in our knowledge about safety or public health or the irrefutable science behind a warming atmosphere. Sometimes our societal norms are adapting to new technologies. And sometimes we see changes in public perspective because we begin to allow ourselves to accept change and the associated risk.
But where does that tipping point happen? When does a minority opinion begin to become the majority? It turns out that you don’t have to wait for 50% of the group to be on board with an idea for that idea to have any hope of becoming the majority opinion.