“Do you have kids?” Societal label: mom
“What do you do for a living?” Societal label: valued/not valued
I used to work in special education (teaching assistant). People always said, it’s takes a special kind of person to do that job. Special, maybe. Well paid, definitely not (not valuable).
I took two years off work to go to university (student, later learner) and then worked full time and went to university part time (crazy).
I raised my children from home for many years (stay-at-home mom). My husband does the cooking (failed housewife).
I am presently not working for money (unemployed).
I am busy, doing things all day long (aspiring writer. volunteer. support for elderly family members. engaged in self-care. half-marathoner. queen of laundry. friend. wife. mom. Netflix connoisseur. reader. citizen.)
Without a tidy label, society cannot put me into a box and without that box, I don’t fit. If I cannot say – justify really – how I contribute to the world in a way which fits society’s labels, do I matter?
Labels/boxes/descriptors/narrow categories: Small impact for me and my life. Big contributor to societal discord.
If people cannot label you, they cannot decide if they have common ground with you (us/them). But, if they can label you and decide you do not have common ground with them and their beliefs (threatening) they can ignore you (marginalized), or belittle you (harassed), or overthrow you (colonized) – ‘other’ you.
Labels do not bring people together.
Canada 150 celebrations did not unite people, did not make people know what it means to be Canadian. It bubbled up to the surface – for those who paid attention – that Canada was a label imposed on a place by those who came after and labelled those who were already here as ‘other’, ‘not like us’. Not valued.
Consider this: when people walk down the street and mentally label someone as homeless, the label allows society to walk by, negating and ignoring the other ways that the person is/has been in the world: father, mother, brother, sister, human.
The current state of the world has made ‘othering’ a full time job for those in power (president, dictator, supreme leader) and a spectator sport which has brought greater division and less common ground (left/right/extremism).
I do not know how society can move beyond labels, specifically labels that discount, displace and demean. It takes time and work and effort.
And if that label gives/implies/affords power (white, male, heterosexual), what motivation is there to move past the simplistic categorization one has been socialized to employ?
Should we start small, with dropping the labeling of people in our day-to-day lives, so that we retrain our brains to think deeply? Think about who we are and who the people we live and work with actually are, beyond the labels society has given them?
Hear the story. Ignore the label.
(The photo with this post is the cover of The Fictional Woman by Tara Moss. I discovered it attached to an article about the book by Raelke Grimmer. Moss writes crime novels. The problem, it seems, is that Moss began working originally as a “model”. She has been accused of not writing her own successful novels because, as some people seem to believe, a model could never write intelligent works…”she continues to be defined by dualistic cultural labels”.)