On labelling people

I spent rather more than I intended of yesterday browsing steampunk websites and building up a wishlist at Clockwork Couture (I’m especially in love with their Steampunk Coat Dress – must save up for that one!!), and happened across rather a lot of commentary trying to tightly define the label ‘steampunk’ (as opposed to ‘dieselpunk’, ‘punk’, ‘industrial’, ‘neo-Victorian’, ‘goth’ and goodness knows what else!).

As a result I have realised that I’m really over this label thing.

Seriously over it.

Sick to the back teeth of it.

What is it with humans and labels?  Why do we feel the need to label everyone, including ourselves?

I know when I come across a label that seems to fit, I get quite happy: “This is me!  There are other people like me”  (well, at least a wee bit like me!).  Unfortunately, I have a tendency to do research on stuff I like, which invariably means I end up finding out that this label is ‘supposed’ (in some people’s minds) to only apply to a select group of people doing specific stuff and who aren’t me – and I’m straight back to being the last one picked for sport teams at school.

But by happy chance (or some kindly divine intervention – take your pick), my research this time has turned up some websites that are helping me ‘flip the bird’ to those who would attempt to deny me my chosen labels!

  • The wonderful Gothic Charm School website – which provides some excellent advice on supporting your own personal vision and graciously living your own life how you chose.  Yes, excellent advice even for a non-Goth like me.  Thank you, Lady of the Manners.
  • This post on the Shamanic Druidry blog – reflecting on the “dogmatisation” of paganism.  I had been wondering if I could ‘truly’ call myself pagan anymore, because my spiritual journey has flowed away from conventional understandings of the term.  This post helped me realise I am still pagan – I’ve just gone deeper in different directions than some do.

So, what care I for ‘conventional understandings’ – except insofar as they help people understand a bit about me.

And I guess that is the point of labels: to help others understand us a bit, without having to explain everything in detail.

If I say “I’m pagan”, people at least understand that I’m not Christian (unusual in my suburb) and they may understand the reverence for nature/Mother Earth thing as well – or they may ask what “pagan” means.  Which is all good.

If I say I like some steampunk clothing (although the cog thing is a bit overdone for my taste), some people will understand that I like modern interpretations of Victorian/Edwarian garb.  Most are going to go “what the heck’s that?!” – which at least leads to a conversation!  Which is all good.

So, maybe I CAN cope with labels.

It’s just exclusive definitions I will hunt down and kill!!

Author: verdant1

belly dancer, mother, student, public servant, shaman, knitter, sister, feminist, gardener and a lot more...

3 thoughts on “On labelling people”

  1. Hmm difficult avoiding labels isnt it? A little while ago I started listing all of the labels which could apply to me and got sick of it as I reached about 9 labels, it kind of proved it was all rubbish!



  2. “Only” 9?! Or was that the ‘getting sick of it’?

    I’ll have a go:
    woman, wife, mother, feminist, student (arts/social science), pagan (yep, I’ll claim it!), shaman, belly dancer, tribal (non ATS) belly dancer, bodhran player, suburban hippy, morris dance groupie, rock music listener, folkie, ex-public servant, cat lover, knitter, sewer, sci-fi/fantasy reader….

    Yep, you’re right – it’s boring!! But I do suspect it helps explain some.


    Oops, forgot: gardener, history nut, acupuncture user, meditator, textile junkie, steampunk fancier…
    As many labels as there are days!


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