I will be upfront here & admit I am not really sure where I am going with this one, guess I am just putting it out there in the hope that responses back will help clarify my thoughts a bit more :)
Yesterday I read a piece “Feminism and white privilege” written by Robyn Oyeniyi, which, after much discussion on Twitter & with my daughter here at home, really got me thinking about ‘Labels’. I was going to let it go, then Robyn tweeted "Quick Post: Reply to @TeamOyeniyi" by Mark which was a response to her piece. Now, it was great seeing the differing opinion as obviously more ‘discussion’ on an issue is a good thing. What I noticed though, was again the use of so many labels to describe various groups, thought processes, philosophy’s etc.
Feminism - White Privilege - Intersectionality - Racism - Women of Colour - Western Feminism - African American - Australian Indigenous - Black British - African-Britons - Anglo Australian - cis-gendered person - trans community - and quite a few more and this is in 2 pieces alone ;-)
Now both Robyn & Mark are intelligent people & would be using all these ‘terms’, ‘descriptions’ - for ease of punters like myself, let’s just call them ‘labels’ - in a totally appropriate manner, yet, how many regular, non academic or less educated for example actually understand all these labels? Worse, do all these labels actually hinder us or help us?
This ‘label’ business started for me on Christmas Day with a quick check of the computer to verify there were no dramas with work & we could happily continue frolicking in the pool with friends & family. A friend of mine was with me & saw one of the tweets, anyhow, long story short, it started a conversation about ‘Left’ & ‘Right’. Now my friend is not well read, nor had an extensive education, but, she is very savvy, runs her own business & not what I would call ignorant, so I asked her what she thought those terms meant. This was her response:
Left = A Communist or a Greenie AND Right = Religious or Rich
Obviously unless you have studied a subject or have had an extensive education, this above example shows that not everyone perceives a ‘Label’ in the same way as we are obviously not all walking dictionaries – and hell, even they re-define words over time – so how often we are using a ‘label’ to describe something yet the person on the other end of our communication is perceiving it very differently? There are many reasons why a ‘label’ will be interpreted differently on the other end, media, experience, education, it could be as simple as hearing another use that label incorrectly and you have perpetuated it?
Chatting this morning, Sam (https://twitter.com/belungerer) raised another very good point:
@YaThinkN a good Thinky. Names help define our perception of th infinite world around us. Once named, we tend to not examine a thing closely— Sam Baldwin (@belungerer) December 28, 2013
We do use Labels to define who we are, but, does that then make us lazy, not make us look any further, or like a team sport, we have picked our team so we stick at it, through thick & then, regardless of whether our experiences & education along the way means we really should have a bit of a look at ourselves further? Or do we often get stuck in the roles we have assigned ourselves & keep up that role that others perceive us to be?
Labels can be a Trap
An example is ‘Mothers & Fathers’. Before you are a parent there are many issues you don’t consider, then you have a kid, well, the world changes. You have different responsibilities and to a certain degree you will redefine yourself. Myself, I was pretty crap at being a ‘mother’ in the classic sense, I could not cook cakes & bikkies, I despised sitting around with other mothers discussing little Johnny’s pooing habits, I wanted to scream at these women & ask if they even knew what was happening in Bosnia (yep that example is showing my age LOL). BUT the stupid thing is, I ‘tried’ to be a ‘mother’. When I should have just kept trying to be the best PERSON I could be coping with the new responsibilities of having a child?
Labels can make us Secure or Lazy
Staying with the ‘parent’ example. Once you have defined yourself as a mother, you can also use that as an excuse or alternatively a ‘comfort’. Oh I don’t have time to ‘read/learn/listen’ I am a too busy with the baby. Or - and I am not saying this in a bad way, I still remember those proud days when the only achievement I had for the week was getting all the washing done AND having a shower myself that day LOL – I am now a mother, the only thing I need to know is how to bring up this child, there is no other room to be anything else. So, by defining yourself as a ‘mother’ as your primary label, are you lazily limiting yourself? OR are you comforting yourself in a new unsure role?
Labels can Alienate
I also wonder if we hurt or miss out on things when we label people? I see it on Twitter, “Don’t bother following me if you are on the Right”. Now, how do you know that person viewing your profile may not interact with you because they perceive themselves as being of the ‘Right’ persuasion? They may not actually be what you consider to be ‘right wing’? They could just be ‘conservative’ in nature & due to their own experience level ‘think’ that means they are of the ‘right’? So, you could actually be missing out on meeting & chatting with a really interesting tweep just because of a labelling system? Another example is Robyn’s piece yesterday. I saw the words Feminism & White Privilege and was not going to comment. I see terms like that & my first reaction is “Oh Shit, staying away from that mess”, I have seen so many arguments in regard to both those labels that I sadly tend to take the gutless option & cop out of those conversations as it seems to be a lose/lose most times. Sad, I know, so will work on that issue of mine in the future ;-) BUT, because I don’t define myself as a ‘feminist’, nor as a ‘white’ person, does that mean by not participating in those conversations am I maybe missing out on learning more?
Labels affect Perceptions
Now my husband is a ‘Coder’ or ‘Programmer’, lazy labels as he says “He can’t be effed explaining what he does”. So when you meet new people, invariably they ask what you ‘do’, that is easier than saying “I write software online for a specific industry...” which of course makes the average person’s eyes glaze over & go “Oh Computer Geek”. Now, Stephen is pretty anti-social so does not particularly care that he is not as included in the chit chat, but in fact, the others are missing out. He is actually a very interesting guy, who can talk on a range of topics from the NRL to Time Travel (don’t even ask about that one LOL). So, as the label of ‘programmer’ is not as common as say ‘mechanic’ the perception is different and he is treated accordingly? Who has missed out in this labelling situation?
What if you can’t Label yourself?
Another issue is that Labels can make us comfortable, think we know ourselves, where we stand on issues, what sort of values we have? Yet, what if you are like me or Les who keep questioning? Are we then labelled ‘indecisive’ because we don’t have a ‘stance’? Or is Les correct that maybe we are wiser because we have not limited ourselves with a label? Obviously I would be hoping wiser is the answer there instead of 'indecisive flake' LOL
I will finish with a really great piece I found this morning. I wish I could credit who originally tweeted it though sadly I was still on first coffee, so needless to say, no idea :( Anyhow, it was written by Noah Smith, “Redistribute wealth? No, redistribute respect” and even though is from an American perspective (SO don’t let that ‘perception it is only for US consumption stop you reading) and includes a heap of labels, it does actually does tie in with what I have said above. While everyone is debating which label they belong to or ascribe to, there is another word that is not a label, yet put to good use liberally, would make a much better society, ‘RESPECT’. Should we maybe respect people more to look beyond the labels both society & ourselves inflict upon us?
I have only given a few examples of where labels can lead us, there are many more of course. Quickly off the top of my head, I would consider myself to be a curious, caring, mother, partner, small business person, idealistic, decent human being? But am I? Should I be saying I am Left Wing? Am I actually Progressive? I care about Human Rights, what does that make me? I care about Social Equality? I think if you work really hard you should reap the benefits of it? So many labels...
How many labels could be applied to me? How many labels would you apply to yourself? Do these Labels help or hinder? So many more labelling & stereotyping issues, I have only touched the surface above, we still need to discus the mine fields of labelling such as Race, Gender, Sexual Preference or Religion so give it your best shot ;-)
Spreading the word
- Please show your appreciation by following and supporting @lynlinking who works very hard to disseminate both blog posts & relevant media reports on a daily basis :)
Thinkyness came about from the charming @Perorationer who often tweets Jan & Noely in the morning with a random article he has found that would make you think, could be anything from Women in the 1800's to a potential world wide wine shortage which we would then discuss, obviously this led on to us tweeting each other #Thinkyness articles [...] more
All articles displayed on this website are the personal opinion of the writers and do not reflect the official position of any businesses or organisations any writers may be associated with.