Labels are useful. They help us to navigate our insanely complex and diverse world. Without them, well, how would you describe to someone that you wanted… that… hmm… how do you say it… see what I mean?
But labels can be limiting. Because they can begin to describe us in ways that we fail to realize, and sometimes it just seems easier to go along with it.
I’m calling this part 1 because hopefully that will force me to come up with lots more labels, instead of putting out one blog post every six months. Also because I think it is an important concept that greatly impacts our lives. Yep, just thought of another one, sweet, that means I’ll have a part 2.
Okay. Back to labels.
You could say it is because I grew up with three older brothers, or because I’ve always liked playing sports, or because I never really understood how to put make-up on “properly”.
Aside from specifics about my childhood, my whole life I have been a “tomboy”. The girl that gets along with the guys, that likes to play soccer at recess, wears her brother’s old sport shorts, and chooses sneakers over flats (that one just makes sense, “girl” shoes are not made for comfort).
But this is not about me complaining of how that label ruined my life, or how it is wrong or misleading. Because sure, if you want to put me under a stereotype, I am someone who might fit nicely into that narrow category.
No, this is about how when you accept a label, you can fail to see beyond it for fear of breaking the mould that has been set for you.
To be honest, I don’t understand a lot of what it means to be a “girl” in this society. I don’t feel comfortable in heels, I don’t like wearing a whole bunch of stuff on my face because then I have to wash it off at night and I have many more things I’d rather be doing… like sleeping. I don’t understand why my legs are supposed to be clean shaven, when the hair on my head and eyebrows and eyelashes is perfectly acceptable. I don’t understand why girls have to fight for lead roles in society, and I definitely don’t understand why I’m supposed to have a different dress for every occasion. I don’t understand why boys clothes are made better, while I try to stay warm in a see-through sweater. I don’t understand why style can be used to assign sexuality or gender. Most of all, I don’t see why any of those are relevant to the fact that I can bear children and my older male siblings cannot (at least that’s what they told me in sex-ed).
I don’t understand a lot of things. Mostly I don’t understand why not understanding should place me into a specific category.
At first I fought that label tooth and nail, afraid of being an “in-between”, afraid of not fitting in. Eventually I accepted it, and tried to fit every corner of that label.
Now, well now I just try to live.
See, when you accept what people say you are, you stop progressing beyond it. There have been so many times that I have been afraid of doing anything deemed “girly”, because people don’t see me that way, and I knew I would be pointed out. I acted like I didn’t care about being different, until I started to think that all I would ever be was different.
Truth is, I will always be different. As different as everyone else I guess. But when we get wrapped up in trying to match a label we end up being the same, all trying to fit into something that makes sense.
Yeah, sometimes I want to act like a “girl”. Sometimes I want to act like a “boy”. But mostly, I think those labels have been set in place so there is an easy, predictable path for us to take, not because it is who we are.
I am a diverse, multifaceted person who likes to do what makes sense to me in a confusing and unpredictable world. And if that makes me a “tomboy” so be it, but you will never ever know who I really am if you settle for reducing my individuality to one simple category.
And so I challenge everyone reading this to think about what labels have been ascribed to you. What do people tell you that you are? Do you really feel that way? Or do you have other dreams and visions that don’t fit as nicely into categories?
You are complex, and will probably always be somewhat misunderstood. That’s okay, let your true colours shine whether or not anyone else can make sense of it. Because you can live your life being told who you are, or you can go out and figure it out for yourself.