When I started university I was told by my teachers that, after studying a topic so intensely you will start noticing things in your everyday life and relate them back to what you have learnt. This is obviously particularly applicable to Sociology but I didn’t believe them. I was never going to be one of those people who would see the deep rooted social and cultural significance of buying one pair of jeans over another. However, after a few events this week and the conversation that followed I realised I have become a bigger Sociology geek than I thought.
Much of my degree and dissertation was grounded in the idea of identity and how people explore and present who they are. We are so many things. For example, I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, a girlfriend, a shopaholic, foodie, traveller, music lover, book worm, Ravenclaw, completely nosy, caffeine addict, student, feminist, queer, cis female and I am white. The list could really go on and by looking at me you probably wouldn’t know most of those things. It struck me how absolutely essential language is when we are talking about ourselves and why do we do it? So people have a better idea of who we are, or who we want them to think we are? And why is it that certain characteristics or labels are more contentious than others? And no one will never know the whole you but we use words to try and best describe who we are.
People have a pretty good idea of what I mean when I say I am a sister- I have a sibling- straight forward. However some labels seem to be a little bit more problematic than others- apparently telling people you are bisexual and/ or a feminist it’s a little more difficult. “Oh so you’re just undecided?” “So you’re a slut?” “Don’t push your sexuality on to me!” “So you hate all men?” “Why are you such an angry bitch?”
We use labels and language so people can better understand us but even if a label didn’t exist or you didn’t know what it meant you would still feel the way you do and would still be you. Regarding sexuality, no one has a choice so why there are so many connotations attached to sexual labels is beyond me. I also believe everyone should be a feminist because for one, why wouldn’t I be on my own side and two, feminism advocates economic, social and political equality amongst the sexes…I don’t understand why you would disagree with that. So while we try to use labels to explain to people who we are, people use them as exclusion factors- you don’t fit their ideas so you can’t be in their club. Identity is forever changing and in a year or ten years my list might be completely different so in reality if someone tries to put you under the thumb or tell you you can’t identify a certain way it’s their issue not yours.
In a world where individuals are still attacked and killed in places that are supposed to be safe to manifest identity and community, it became more prominent than ever, to me that it is so crucial to stand by how you feel and despite identifying differently to one another this shouldn’t separate us, it should bring us together. In a world where so many people are criticized and persecuted for who they are, we should stand together celebrating difference rather than turning against each other.