Today’s post was going to be an empties but silly old me accidentally deleted the photo after I’d binned my products. Having said that, I’m actually looking forward to today’s post. It’s a little deeper and something I now feel quite strongly about and that’s the subject of labelling, it is a little strong just before Christmas but I feel like these posts tend to occur in the new year and this is something that I believe should be thought of all year round. I hope you enjoy this post!
Photo taken by Charlotte Billington.
Disclaimer – This post is not factual based, this is simply the opinions and ramblings of me. I also don’t claim to know everything about everything so there could be cases where I’ve misunderstood a label I’ve referred to in this post. No offense is intended!
When I was a teenager labels, were as rife as ever. From your sexuality to your taste in music, the clothes you wore and even your personality, labelling was a thing. A word or term applied to any entity that encapsulated what that entity was.
As a teenager (and even now on weekends) my style was a little different to others around me. I wore a lot of alternative clothing, based on my personality and the clothes I wore, the makeup I applied, the music I listened to, labels were applied.
As a teenager, like many others, I was definitely angsty, I had no idea of who I was or what I liked so for me my labels were an armour. Being called an ’emo’ didn’t insult me, if anything it validated me, it gave me a sense of belonging and a sense of community. And as a misfit, I felt like I was part of something.
Of course the labels had a negative side, stigma for a start, I also found myself looking at everything in a very black and white fashion. Everyone on the street could be given a label, coloured hair and attire in black and neon shades meant you were a “scene kid”, those who wore chains on their pants were “moshers” and later “metal-heads”. Angsty types like me were “emos” those who wore all black were “goths.”
Those labels weren’t just applied by me but by everyone. Think of when you have judged someone, maybe you’ve assumed someone very thin is “anorexic” maybe you’ve assumed someone overweight is “greedy”. Someone who prefers to save might be called “tight” or “skinflint”. Someone sexually confident a “slut” or a “whore”. Whether it’s religion based, age based, gender based or related to style, labels are so easily slapped onto a person like a barcode and once stuck on they can be difficult to remove.
Why we label
We are all guilty of labelling someone else and I think it stems from several things. First is a need to categorise and identify things, I liked labels when I was younger because it helped me to make sense of someone’s identity but of course with that comes the hateful, harmful side that can cause upset.
An example is labelling could be due to sexuality, someone who is homosexual may not mind be called “gay” but then there’s so many others terms and dependent on how they are used they can cause a lot of upset. A simple word can instantly change the context of a label, “gay” can be as simple term to refer to someone’s sexuality similar to homosexual, but swap that word for the word “fag” and you’re being homophobic and you could end up hurting someone’s feelings.
The world we live in is very strange right now and there are two intense yet opposing ends of the spectrum. In a bid to keep everyone happy and due to the rise in hate crime, people are now speaking up and political correctness is much stronger. People are encouraged to use the right terms and harsher, nastier labels are slung around as insults or by the very ignorant.
Then you have the other end of the spectrum, over-sensitivity, people are becoming used to complaining, bad customer service leads to social media rants, proclamations of anger and fury and demands for not only a refund or exchange but also for public apologies. Sometimes, a label used innocently can suddenly be considered hateful or offensive even if the context and intention is harmless.
Mental Health and Labelling
There are some labels that are also becoming popular and like trends and for me, this is very difficult. A key one that I see thrown around by everyone is Anxiety. Anxiety can be a severe and debilitating mental affliction. People who suffer from Anxiety can suffer panic attacks that can be so intense they are mistaken as heart attacks, people might feel so worried and nervous that they are sick or have an upset stomach. The Anxiety can be so intense it can cause people to physically shake or to feel lightheaded or frantic. All of these feelings are terrible, intense feelings that consume a sufferer and can make them feel like they’re suffocating.
I think that it’s good that people are becoming more open about mental health but suddenly these labels are becoming sought after. People who feel a little stressed or a little apprehensive are claiming to have Anxiety when they have no true understanding of the word. Similarly, people who feel a bit sad or are experiencing periods of bad moods are assuming that they have Depression.
These labels should not be taken lightly and the amount of people claiming an understanding or experience can actually be negative. Suddenly, there’s a new stigma. If you claim to have these illnesses you are considered an attention-seeker. Not only can that lead to sufferers feeling isolated or like they are not being taken seriously, but it’s also offensive to those who truly struggle with such conditions.
It’s normal to feel sad and worried sometimes, nobody feels 100% all of the time, they just don’t. Bear in mind, what you see on social media is often just filtering out the best bits of our lives and what we choose to show the world.
Sexuality and Labelling
There’s a lot of different labels out there now for different types of sexuality. When I was younger, there was asexual, homosexual, heterosexual, transsexual or bisexual which then was extended to LBTQ+ to be more inclusive. But, in a modern age we now have more terms for sexuality and gender thrown around Androsexual, Cisgender, Cissexual, Demisexual, Gender Fluid, Metrosexual, Pansexual the list goes on (and can be found here.)
With so many labels and terms flying around it can be difficult to understand each one and to make sure not to cause offense. Pan-sexual is loving people regardless of gender but then Bisexual is liking men and women, believe me there is a difference in the LGBTQ+ world but for those on the outside of that, it can be a little confusing to understand the subtle differences.
People are even extending these labels to parenthood, mothers raising their children as gender-neutral and refusing to dress them in blue or pink because gender shouldn’t matter. It’s a nice sentiment but again is it necessary or has the world gone mad for labels? (This is a constant debate online).
The harm of labelling
The thing is, labelling can easily become harmful. Labels can be harnessed as weapons and thrown at people as insults, they can be used as ammo for bullies to mark out anyone who doesn’t fit their idyllic norm. Bullying has always been around but that doesn’t make it okay, suddenly those who match a certain label may find themselves ostracized. It can be harmful stereotyping, the murder of Sophie Lancaster, the Orlando Shooting at Pulse Nightclub and the Holocaust are all examples of where people have been killed due to their label.
A lesser spoke about but still dangerous harm of labelling is the sense that one isn’t enough. I felt like this as a teenage and I know I won’t be the only one. I didn’t feel like my clothes were enough to allow me to use a certain label, again going back to those mental health labels, people may believe that their symptoms aren’t enough to be considered ill which could leave people feeling confused, lost or in cases of illness be undiagnosed.
The only label you need…
As I’ve grown older I like to think I’ve become a bit wiser and now that I’m in my twenties I’ve learned something that I didn’t know when I was a teen. The only label you need is…you. That’s right, your sexuality, age, gender, dress sense, religion, race, ethnicity none of it really matters. You are an individual and although you may share similarities with others there is nobody who is quite like you from your unique DNA to your preferences, lifestyle choices and personality. You don’t need a label to make you feel worthy and you should never feel like you’re not enough for anyone.