This semester I’m taking two classes, advanced research methods and advanced research writing (keep reading, this will be more interesting, I promise). In the writing class we’re working on our literature reviews, the final project for the class. We’ve discussed and worked on various aspects of our literature reviews — annotated bibliographies, abstract, APA style, headings, etc. The main topic of discussion this past week was on LABELS.
One of the aspects I most appreciate about our writing professor is that we do group activities and discussions and she promotes much interaction between our small class. When it came to the discussion of labels, she gave us a few minutes to list 1) a label about ourselves that we DO like, and, 2) a label about ourselves that we DON’T like. Though this may seem like an easy or fast exercise, it caused me pause to think about the labels me and others use to describe ourselves. And more importantly, what labels we use to describe others. For example, labels given to small children (“at risk”, “poor”, “single parent household”) oftentimes stay with them throughout their childhood and into adulthood.
Labels can be descriptive (“intelligent”, “pretty”), positive (“great personality”, “easy to get along with”), negative (“pessimist”, “mean-spirited”), along with being based on one’s ethnicity, religion, sexuality, gender and/or age.
When I listed my “labels” I had much more I didn’t like then liked. The labels that I appreciate and like are: mom, single, female. The ones I don’t like are: white, divorced, middle class, over-educated, plus size, daughter of an alcoholic. As the group shared their personal labels, we each got to know one another on a more intimate and personal level. Labels (both liked and disliked) ranged from feminist, at risk, middle class, African, Native American, working mother, Black, impersonal, to Jewish. In listening to my fellow classmates and professor, I reflected on how we so easily label others and perhaps how unfair it’s to do so.
Is classifying and placing people in silos and labeling them on their physical appearance, religious background, color of skin, ethnicity, level of education, political affiliation, marital status, age, economic state or sexual preference fair?
Is labeling valid in performing reliable and ethical research? Does labeling cause more harm than good?
The U.S. Census Department completed the 2010 census, and in doing so labels the U.S. population for a variety of socioeconomic demographic statistics that will affect government funding, at all levels, for years to come. Not only does the government (at all levels) utilize census information, but businesses do as well for targeted marketing campaigns to segments of the population, such as the growing Hispanic population in the United States.
This past week I thought often about LABELS and reflected on the use of them in my own communication methods and thought processes. Perhaps it’s time for us to not label people (or ourselves) as fast as society would like us to. We’re not a country of silos, described only by our beliefs, color of skin, marital status, age or how much money we make, but rather a country, and world, full of fascinating, interesting, remarkable men, women and children who, instead of being labeled, should be treated with respect and fairness. Isn’t that how you want to be treated?
Let’s vote for a label-free world.
“Once you label me, you negate me.” ~ Soren Kierkegaard
Written By Ms. Renee Vevea, anti-labeler.