A label is defined as a name given to something or someone to categorize them as part of a particular social group. Labels might seem like a harmless way to identify people by their most apparent characteristic traits. But they’re not as harmless as they seem to be. They can be cruel and vicious. They can leave a person scarred for life. And we as a society are pretty generous with giving out labels. Attaching horrendous labels to people with personalities not quite as horrendous has become a very prominent part of our society.
A man is aspiring and determined, a woman is simply ‘over-ambitious’. A man that has something to say also has something that needs to be heard. A woman that has something to say, well, she is just simply ‘hysterical’. A man is smart and clever. A woman is a ‘cunning little minx’. A man owning his sexuality is a casanova, a woman owning her sexuality is a ‘slut’. Men are victims of this unjust labeling system, too. A woman is emotional, a man is a ‘wuss’. A feminine woman is an ideal woman. A feminine man is ‘not manly enough’.
What are the expectations of society from genders and why are these societal expectations so difficult to meet? A man can be as masculine as he can be feminine. A woman can be as ambitious as a man. A man can show emotions and still be a man. A woman doesn’t have to be cunning to be clever and a woman having multiple sexual partners isn’t a slut.
Labels aren’t just plaguing the gender norms. They’re present in every single aspect of society. A skinny girl is ‘anorexic’ and a fat girl is a ‘binge eater’. Someone who just likes things clean supposedly has ‘OCD’ and someone with mild sadness has ‘Depression’.
These are just a few examples from the myriad of labels that we assign to people and that people assign to us. We might not realize it but these labels follow us everywhere. And at some point, they get stuck in our brains. They become an inseparable part of our identity. You can run away from people and places. You can change your identity completely. You can fake a personality. But how can you possibly outrun yourself? How can you hide away from all the things that have been so deeply etched onto your mind that you actually start to believe them?
How can you lie to yourself?
Sure, actions have consequences. But words? Words yield weapons that cause damage that’s not merely skin deep. Words cause damage that can prove to be irreparable. For superficial are the wounds that bleed and heal. The real, hurtful wounds are the ones that do not bleed but fester and fester within one’s conscience until there’s nothing left of it.
Our reputations precede us and it doesn’t take long for a falsely given label to manifest into reality and convert us into exactly what society wants us to be. We should dare to be different; dare to be us. Therefore, we need to stop stamping on people the cruelty of our minds and let them be. The labels given by society can be indelible to the point that no amount of tears can wash them away. No amount of fear can chase them away and no amount of consolation can make them vanish.
Thus, we must learn to be kind to each other. We must learn to not judge one another so quickly. Kindness is the way to get anything done in this world. As it should be. And we must use our words with the utmost care, knowing fully what we intend to imply. We’ll learn to work together as a unified team and not just as a society when we stop scaring people with this social construct of labeling them as something or someone they might not truly be.