the lip crew on labels
Labels are for jars, not people.
‘Labels are for jars, ingredient listings, well-designed clothes and salt and pepper. They’re not for gender, race, sexuality or anything else for the matter. You are labeled from the minute you emerge into the world as the doctor looks up to confirm if pink or blue blankets will be needed for the baby room. As soon as you enter the world and make your way to adulthood, labels are stuck on you like postage stamps and it takes a while to remove the ones you don’t really want anymore or aren’t too sure about. High school was a defining time for me, where I began to discover who I was, and everyone and everything seemed to have a label to it. If you didn’t, you were ostracised and critiqued, or even worse for high school self-esteem, gossiped about. It’s a task that will never cease; you’ll find yourself constantly clarifying to friends and strangers. The labels will grow extensively as generations become more aware of who they are: ‘female, caucasian, gay, single white female, aquarius, renting, student, feminist, blah blah blah’. Nothing about your gender, race or sexuality has anything to do with labels – it has everything to do with you. Being defined by various labels took a toll on who I was coming out of high school. It made me incredibly unhappy for a short period, but I was lucky enough to rise above it and say a big ‘fuck you!’ to labels. If everyone else did, people may be a little more accepting and we could just keep them for avoiding mixing the sugar with the salt at tea time.’ – Dom Fox, Writer
‘When I think about people and labels, I think of Andrew, a poem by Andrea Gibson, of which I heard an excerpt in an Angel Haze song: “I am whoever I am when I am it.” I love that line – and the poem – because it is so succinct. We’re asked all the time, in some form or another, who we are: job interviews, parties, the first day of class. The more I read about celebrities skirting around or outright denouncing feminism, the more I’ve thought about this issue. The choice to take on or discard labels is complicated and, I realise, very personal. I understand why some people hate them because so much is attached to the labels we adopt or the ones that are given to us. (If I said that I’m really a lawyer who writes in her spare time, you’d have an expectation of who I am.) Personally, I find labels useful. They help me find a community, however narrowly or loosely defined that community may be. They help me connect with people who have similar experiences or ideas (or different ones!) I think we need to decide who benefits from the labels we wear; if they don’t work, I say ditch them.’ – Shannon Clarke, Writer
‘No one has the right to create or add to a definition of a stereotype. Labels are used in society for nothing but shaming and making one feel better about oneself. The only person who should decide who you are is yourself. It’s unfortunate when labels get thrown around and we decide to label ourselves as the worst one we hear. We believe the things said about us when it really isn’t true – it was just said by someone who has their own insecurities. Half of the time, labels get confused and we find ourselves being called something by someone who thinks it has a completely different meaning to what it really stands for. Labels cause nothing but heartache, depression and are often the causes of mental illness. We need to take a stand against labels so future generations don’t spend a lifetime labelling everyone they know with a stereotype. Life is too short to live it wondering if you really are the spokesperson for the label you have been given. Labelling has become a natural part of us and we often do it without thinking about it or without meaning to hurt feelings. It shouldn’t be natural to put someone down with a stereotype nor should it be natural to be the victim of a label.’ – Simone Murcutt, Writer
‘I personally don’t believe that labels are either inherently good or bad, although they can certainly be either depending on how the label is being used and who is using it. When I was a teenager I embraced labels, and moulded myself to fit whichever one appealed to me the most that particular month (or even week). While changing yourself to fit a particular label doesn’t seem entirely beneficial to one’s self-esteem, in that time of my life it was actually the best thing I could have done. I was a very lonely teenager and by labelling myself I was able to find groups of people with similar interests and ideas to mine; it helped me to organise a world that was confusing and strange to me, and I know many others who felt the same way. However, at the same time there are so many examples of labels being extremely detrimental – one perfect example is that of ‘illegals’. Labelling a group of people and attributing certain characteristics to each and every one of them can lead to an inability to see the individual and ultimately, a dehumanisation of certain groups – which is what we are seeing happen in the case of asylum seekers. Ultimately I believe that while it’s your prerogative if you label yourself; when you start labelling others, particularly labels that they do not themselves embrace, it leads into dangerous territory that can result in bigotry and downright cruelty.’ – Kaylia Payne, Writer
‘When you have a discussion about labels I believe you are ultimately having a discussion about language and its intrinsic relationship with identity. Labels, like language, help us make sense of the world we live in and who we are in it. By labelling we are identifying physical differences between material and non-material objects and beings. The difference between language and labels is that language provides a structure to assist with the meaning making processes; labels act as a shortcut. They are a quick way to communicate an image or message, cutting out the middle man and making meaning for you.
I believe that labels can make us lazy and create assumptions. The process of labelling is itself simple: identify, distinguish and make meaning. The outcome, however, can be problematic. For example, labelling someone as a woman: This means that perhaps this person could be deemed as weak, incompetent, soft, and prone to hysteria. The same process applies to men: To be labelled a man it is assumed that this person must act strong, be smart, logical and stoic, amongst other things.
Sometimes, to be labelled can feel like an injustice, as if your identity has fallen into someone else’s hands; it gives someone else the power to mould who you are and how you should be. Is it fair to tell a person that they are this type of personality or that they fit a certain stereotype? What about the person who doesn’t tick either gender box? Or the girl who doesn’t “run like a girl”? Or the boy who played with Barbies instead of an Action Man?
What does identity look like to them? More importantly, what does it look like to you?
Don’t worry I’m not asking you to label, I’m just asking you to be.’ – Brianna Doolan, Writer
‘I do not like labeling people because I feel that the words “label” and “stereotype” are closely related and are overall derogatory. I very much want people to “acknowledge” and “accept” people’s differences and embrace them. Diversity makes the world go ’round and I believe that is a good thing. If we were all the same, how could we learn from one another?’ – Junene Taylor, Writer
‘This might be controversial, but I don’t think labels are all bad. After all, feminist is a label. Which isn’t to say that there isn’t a lot of diversity within those who label themselves feminist – there are radical feminists and eco-feminists, high-heel-wearing feminists and non-shaving feminists – but they all find some degree of meaning and identity in the “feminist” label. But labels become problematic when we use them for the wrong purposes. Labels can be used to exclude – to create an “us” and a “them”, and then to judge whether or not someone is worthy of a particular label. They can be forced on people who don’t find meaning or identity in them. There are few things more hurtful than being labelled something you’re not, or even worse, something you wish you weren’t. Sometimes labels we self-identify with can be used against us, twisted into an unrecognisable shape and used to belittle us and cause us to question who we are. The recent “frightbat” poll comes to mind – a conservative commentator’s attempt to reduce strong female voices to shrieking harpies. But therein also lies strength, as demonstrated by the response of the poll’s contestants, who competed with each other for the most votes and (literally) wore the label with pride. We find strength and identity in labels, and as long as we use them wisely, I think that’s just fine.’ – Alice Ridge, Writer