So, I’m honored to have a good friend that I’ve known since sophomore year of high school (for ten years, in other words) who is one of the most intellectual people I know. As a critical thinker type, he seems to be extremely open minded to a lot of ideas, including those relevant to humanism, feminism, etc. So open-minded that we had a great conversation today in which he challenged a labeling system at all, after reading my post “Oh, you’re a FEMINIST?”
“You discuss feminism a lot on your blog. And I guess it’s just because I’ve chosen to see past it a lot in my life. But why do you decide to label yourself as something or another. Isn’t human enough of a label for all of us?”
To which I argued, no, unless it deems what kind of human you are. To which I got a “Why should that matter?”
And then I thought about it.
Eventually the discussion led to the idea of social associations, labels and negative labels, cliques, generational differences, etc. All within a good ten minutes time. And thus in this post I shall address what I am now going to call “The Lone Wolf” syndrome.
My friend is a very ideal thinker. He proposed the idea to do away with labels and subsequent negative associations together. To which I responded, in a very Wallace Shawn-like manner, “Inconceivable!”… in so many words.
As I see it, and feel free to dispute this, humans are raised to form social associations from birth. There is no greater social comfort than a sense of belonging, community, acceptance. Note that I use the word “sense,” meaning that though one can interpret the feeling of security in such social circumstances as true and real, the circumstances themselves can be potentially harmful, shallow, and evanescent. Anyone who has seen Mean Girls, heard of gang wars, or been through sorority/fraternity hazing can understand what I mean by this.
These associations, however, still exist, whether positive or negative. As a child (if lucky and in a healthy family structure) we learn to associate with Mother, then Father, then family in general. We have blood ties, a sense of loyalty, that can remain toward the end of our lives if again, this structure is healthy. But surprisingly, this loyalty, as I’ve seen, can also remain in unhealthy family structures. You’ll have teenagers taking care of their alcoholic parents, a boy looking up to his father who does nothing but criticize him, etc. What are they looking for, we wonder, besides a sense of acceptance, approval, etc?
(And please note, I do have to do more research on this to provide you with scientific facts, studies, etc, to further prove my point, but again, for now, this post is relying upon my observations.)
So family is one matter of association. We also have religion, common interests, persona, gender, sexuality, politics all as other “categories” we may fall into. And thus, labels and stereotypes have been formed.
So in summary, it is a theory of mine that individuals fall into these labels as a means to belong to a certain group, to feel socially accepted.
But what if there are views of an individual that stray past the confines of what a “group” believes? Such as, I’m sure there is a Republican that is for progressive change and some Democratic views (mainly because one of my best friends is one and a representative). I’m sure there is an evolutionist that believes in God. I’m sure there is a high school teen who believes it’s wrong to pick on this nerdy kid in school.
And I’m sure that there are people who have missed a sense of belonging (willingly or not) due to the fact that their beliefs, interests, and backgrounds have never fallen into one single group, and thus have not been compromised. I, and my friend aforementioned, are two of these types of people.
I, growing up, was never really in one group of people for more than let’s say a year or so. I mingled in a lot of different social areas due to my varied interests and the fact that I was kind of a complete unattractive nerd. I grew up shy, artistic, in clothes that didn’t always fit right, with glasses and bad hair, eventually braces, etc. But I was also I think skeptical (if not just eventually bored) of what experiences one social group would show to me.
For instance, I joined a travel soccer team in 6th (?) grade. I LOVED soccer up until this point. The girls on my team had always been nice, pretty chill, etc up until this point. Travel soccer was a different story, in that the girls wore make-up and hoop earrings to practice, were worried about their jiggly thighs (despite their pretty faces and tans), and regretted my existence due to the fact that I beat out one of their good friends in try-outs. From then on, I hated soccer.. it had been turned into a situation of competition: not on the field, but within my team, and was painful as all hell.
I always have kind of regretted quitting due to the fact that I sacrificed a great passion of mine due to the fact that I was not socially accepted. From then on I didn’t do that again. Since then I’ve been into art, writing, video games, rock climbing, backpacking and other outdoor activities, karate, filmmaking, piano practice, and while pursuing these activities I don’t think I ever felt totally included in the social group that was associated with my passions. Same with my thoughts: I am a woman who was raised as a Christian, believes in God but is not sure if she believes in Jesus, pro choice, believes in evolution, is not okay with close-minded religion or political parties, etc… perhaps because I just choose to keep an open mind (as well as I can). As my friend said, about himself: “I am free to feel and attempt to change my little piece of the pie however I see fit.”
I’m not sure everyone feels that freedom. I’m not sure a lot of people are willing to stray against their developed norm to be okay with their thoughts, opinions and feelings. I’m not sure most people are okay with the idea of dropping labels altogether.
More thoughts on this later… My post is long enough right now.