Thursday, May 7, 2015

Mind Your Label!

Labels, right? When's the last time you heard someone refer to the concept of a label, in the context of terms used to categorize human beings) in a positive light?
It's "Do we have to have labels?" or "I defy all labels!" or - as someone commented on a Facebook post on this subject, probably in jest, "I transcend all labels."
And there are those -ists and -ians and -isms. At least two dozen separate times I've heard (or read) someone saying they oppose, disagree with, or in some other way deny or defy all -isms, etc.  Which, of course, makes them one of them - a contrarian.
The thing is, we need these things.  Life and the world and the mind, these are all very complex things, and we need labels to act as shortcuts and directories. 
When someone asks "Are you male or female?" there are rather a lot of folks for whom it's just not that simple, but for the vast majority, it's a lot easier to say "male" than saying you're a marginally typical example of Homo Sapiens Sapiens with the XY chromosomal variant and external genitalia, flat structure body hair extending to the cheeks, neck, cheeks, and subnasal plate, etc.
So, while there are always exceptions that fall outside the label's normal range, there are also those large majority who don't, and it's incumbent upon those who do to further explain where they are relative to it, not to demand we all expand the label to accommodate their not wanting to use more precise language.
Suppose you've got someone who's a sushi chef but also likes making donuts, and they demand that we all alter our perception of what it is to be a sushi chef. When they say "I'm a sushi chef" they don't want you to just think "Someone who makes sushi" but also "and deep fries donuts."  This is a little problematic for all the other sushi chefs who now have customers coming in looking for a California roll and a jelly roll.  As silly as the example is, it seems fairly obvious to most of us that the person in question should just say "I'm a sushi chef and a donut maker" rather than demanding we all accomodate his unusual use of the term "sushi chef".
So, if you're calling yourself a feminist, a liberal, a conservative, a socialist, communist, Christian, atheist, agnostic, doctor, lawyer, or sushi chef, and your positions aren't exactly in line with the definitional positions of that thing, movement, philosophy, whatever... Well, that's kind of to be expected. Labels are to save time, not to shape our existence, and nobody agrees with -all- of anything. There's got to be some wiggle room, or the labels themselves become too restrictive to be useful.
But, if you claim a label and or labeled position and your relevant views are diametrically opposed to the actual positions that are properly identified by that label - you're part of the problem.
So, I'd like to cordially and politely invite all fake feminists, liberals, conservatives, progressives, and feminists - especially feminists, this week - to fuck off and find your own damned label.
And, at least part of the problem is that the name "feminist" was very poorly chosen. It sounds like "female supremacist" - if you knew nothing about it but the Latin and Greek roots, you'd assume it meant "female supremacist" or misandrist...
Still - either come up with a new label, or use it properly. "Feminist" means someone who believes males and females should be legally and socially equal. Period. That's it. If you say "I'm not a feminist!" you're either saying "I'm a sexist" or "I'm an ignoramus" and I wish you'd just say that instead.

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