When did designer labels move from clothing to individual badges of honor? The trend of collecting and displaying labels that identify personal uniqueness and self-proclaimed struggles has permanently invaded the ecosystem. People are wearing badges declaring not only their politics, but their stand on science, history, and reality; every aspect of their life journey; gender/sexual identity; food predilections; spiritual/religious alignment or superiority; and trendy disease diagnosis. Suddenly people are itemizing all the ways they are individuals in an edgy tribe, do not have to apologize or deal with their behaviors because they are on a designer spectrum or are led by a higher being, or have struggled against the odds.
Not only are people wearing labels like bumper-stickers with pride, but they are forcing them on others. I have been a vegetarian since I was 18, but do make chicken soup once a year with a real (kosher) chicken. The power of the soup, after all, is in the chicken. This makes me suspect among committed political vegetarians. I have also been known on rare occasion to eat fish when ordered to due to low protein levels. When revealing this tidbit I was forcefully informed that I was a pescatarian. There was no room for argument, the label gods had spoken.
In the same time frame I was informed that I was not really a feminist because I did not attend a women’s march but rather donated blood. When I mentioned my history of suing a big oil company for sexual discrimination and harassment, and breaking glass ceilings in various institutions, I was told that those efforts did not count since they benefited me.
Feel free to display all your self-claimed badges but do not force me to join this dance. Yes, many of these labels are real and useful, but many are not, and become self-serving barriers and excuses. Or perhaps performance art. Is the badge now defining and molding you? Labels will never take the place of apologies and using them in that way is insulting. And (trigger warning) I am capable of supporting your uniqueness while refusing to proclaim mine. I am starting a new “non-labeled” trend.