We live in a society where people love to box others up and add labels to them for easy identifying.
The list is endless (I just chose random ones, I’m not saying that any of those do or do not apply to me). To me, labels aren’t intrinsically evil. They can be used in ways that certainly demoralize, negate or pigeonhole others, but they can also be used with a sense of pride and ownership. The same label can take on different meanings depending on the context.
What’s always curious to me, is when people actively try and distance themselves from a label for no real apparent reason. I encountered this a bunch of times when I interviewed women in their 20s for my thesis project. Many of them (from all parts of the country) would discuss various women’s issues that they supported, but were quick to inform me… “but I’m not a feminist!” as if it was a dirty word.
That would confuse me, and still does, since I’m at the opposite side of the spectrum. Being able to identify as a feminist is empowering for me. It lets others know (in a nutshell) what I believe in and what I stand for. Does that mean I automatically agree with everything every single other self-defined feminist says? Of course not.
These thoughts about labels sprung from a conversation I had the other day. I asked a tech-savvy friend for help in sprucing up this blog (it’s still not 100% there yet, but we’re getting close) and gave her a basic overview of what’s going on here. I found myself describing the blog as a “feminist parenting” one. I’m comfortable with that designation and think it accurately describes the things I write about.
The friend immediately mentioned that she followed another blog that she thought I would enjoy, and went to find the link. While she was doing so, I tried to explain what I meant by feminist parenting and she described the other blog as more on the “hippie/green” side of parenting than feminist.
I couldn’t help but smile, because in my mind I think I probably would use all those labels to describe myself and find them to easily work together. However, while perusing the other blog, she came upon this disclaimer:
My friend wondered why this blogger felt the need to say that, and I countered with “yeah, a lot of people hate labels.” This immediately pulled the memory of the various women I interviewed and their insistence that they are not feminists.
My friend wondered if “hippie” is a dirty word and I had to admit that in the minds of many people, it probably is. It has to be in order for somebody to feel so strongly that she decided to vocally address that assumption.
Perhaps its the fact that (as my friend surmised) that anything that requires a label seems to imply a deviation from the norm, and we’re all so scared to NOT be “normal.”
In a society where I encourage my son not to get sucked into certain stereotypical labels (or at least not let them define who he is), here I am advocating for the acceptance and pride in other labels.
Perhaps that makes me a hypocrite (not the first time I’ve been called that…today), or perhaps I tend to over think things. So…let’s hear your thoughts. Is it scarier to label yourself than be labeled by others?