2.25.2014

Labels



Cue the shudders and screams.


This picture accurately depicts how most people feel about this topic of discussion. And, as humorous as this is to me, I am warning you now, I will not be using the word "hipster" at all after this sentence. You have been warned.
Okay, moving on...


We can’t avoid labels. We really can’t. And that’s the unfortunate truth of human nature and life. And being a sociology major, I’ve come to understand some of the reasons why we children of God do that “horrible” thing to our brothers and sisters. It’s ultimately because it makes life easier. I’m no expert in psychology and whatnot, but from being in a few sociology/psychology classes this semester, I’ve learned that entering social interactions, us lowly humans like to group people and instantly classify them so as to know how to interact with said people for our own sake and so as not to embarrass ourselves. We’re so selfish, it’s great. Say your boyfriend/girlfriend invites you to a party at their friend’s apartment. If you’re like myself, parties stress you out and when you’re put into a situation where there are more people you don’t know versus people you do know, your whole goal is to get out of that situation as soon as possible. Such is the life of an introvert #stimulationoverload. Anyways, my point is that upon entering the apartment and seeing faces of people you’ve never met before, the first thing you subconsciously do is classify each person as male or female. And if their gender display is androgynous, you will probably not rest until you figure out what their biological, predetermined sex is. Okay maybe you won’t lose sleep over it, but you’ll definitely be curious enough to kill a cat. I know I would. Because this tells you how to interact with them and what things are appropriate to do around/with them. So yeah. Males and females. Races and ethnicities. Age. LABELS. We do them without realizing. I’m not necessarily saying it’s good, I’m just saying it’s human nature and our brains do it for us to give us appropriate scripts within these social contexts.

My brothers and I have this game and it’s my absolute favorite. I’ll tell you about it and maybe you just might play it too. It’s fun. When walking around Disneyland during our typical summer vacations, we see how many people with BYU gear we can spot. We get a point for every person we see with a BYU anything on who responds when we yell out “Go Cougs!” or “Go BYU!”. They respond, we get a point. If they don’t respond or if they hear us and just flat out ignore us…well…then they don’t really love BYU and cue the hardcore judgments. And if we’re there multiple days, we make sure at least one of US is sporting BYU apparel because if anyone calls out to US, we also get a point.
This nice little story relates to labeling because, well, my brothers and I and all the other random citizens wearing BYU apparel chose to label ourselves as BYU fans. That’s what clothes do. And because we’re kinda required to wear clothes in public, these fabric contraptions express our feelings, emotions, beliefs, attitudes, passions, hates, and so much more. I mean, I guess you could go walk around naked and not be labeled and tied down by the machine, but that’s another label I don’t think you want. So you could look at it as a con of clothing and labels, but honestly, I like the labels that clothes give us. People portray and express themselves to the world WITH clothing. And I’m actually thankful for that. I’ve made some of my best friends because of that.
"Oh you’re wearing a marching band uniform? I did marching band too. Thanks for putting on that “label” so I knew we had common interests and now we’re best friend forever and living together. Yay labels!"
The con? You’re limiting yourself and others. Basing everything on outward appearances limits other interactions with awesome people that you may not have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. SO DON’T DO THAT (that’s bad).

Today, for example, I’m wearing a striped rainbow shirt that is a size large and I found for $3 at DI. Breaking down my previous description, you could probably put LOTS of labels on me. If you knew nothing about me but knew I was wearing a size large rainbow striped t-shirt you might think I’m:

A. an actual size large

B. a strong advocate of gay rights or gay myself

C. thrifty

D. just really weird and crazy and shouldn’t be allowed in public

E. All of the above


But the thing is that only 1 of those 4 (or 5?) things is correct.

A. I’m actually a size small. BUT because of my love of rainbows and all the colors mixed together in happiness, the oversized shirt that doesn’t quite fit me can’t stop my need for rainbows to be all up on dis bidness. It’s just a fact of my life. And I understand that people might perceive me differently. But by putting on that shirt, I accept whatever perceived labels might come with rainbows and rainbow striped shirts. I might not like it, but it’s something we humans have to deal with because not everyone is perfect, and, well, that whole classification of groups in our brains.

B. I’m NOT a strong advocate of gay rights (sorry…) nor am I gay myself. But, again, I just really like rainbows.

C. It’s pretty safe to say I’m thrifty….most of the time at least…. DI is my heaven. If you chose this, you win the internet.

D. I’ll let you decide if this is true. Or, if you don’t like labels, just ignore this and pretend I never wrote it. Cool. Do that.


In conclusion: labels. They can be good and bad. I choose to label (and outwardly express) myself as a Mormon, a daughter of God, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a musician, a dancer, an introvert, an Imagine Dragons fan, a girlfriend (…still getting used to that one…), a follower of Christ, a strawberry blonde, a sarcastic person, an American, a hashtagger, a not-so-good cook, a listener, a future mother and wife, and so many more that I can’t even begin to name. I choose these things and these “labels” because I like them and I want people to know these things about me so they can interact with me pleasurably; these labels are important and define who I am. However, I understand that being citizens of planet Earth, we are subject to other people’s judgments and labels whether we like it or not. There are consequences to all our actions –good AND bad – and the reality of it all is we can’t control most of consequences. As long as we are not the ones casually throwing out these labels, making rash and harsh judgments based on our preconceived notions, and then limiting the people we meet and interact with because of these labels. Just because I like certain music or dress a certain way NOW doesn't mean I can’t decide to change that. If I’m being completely honest here, I know I have been guilty of doing this many times in the past, but I would hope that we can stop this. Limiting people and telling them they can’t do something because of a label that either they or other human beings have put on them is when things are out of hand. Labels can bring people down- oh boy can they do that; they can stunt progression and allow people to think less of themselves. But the key word here brothers and sisters is “can”. Don’t let the man bring you down and stop you from reaching YOUR full potential. Labels can’t do that though- only you can do that to yourself.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you posted this. *internet high five*

    ReplyDelete