Labels, Stereotypes and Causes

I guess I thought labels and stereotypes would go away with high school. I was wrong. Looking back, it was pretty naïve to assume that something so prevalent in more youthful times disappeared with adulthood. After all, we get our examples of how to treat people somewhere.

This morning I was reading a post from my very sarcastic, very smart blog buddy, Katie. In her post she was being a bit tongue in cheek about the hypocrisy that often comes with labels, though her post was specific to feminists. She often speaks in satire and generalizations so it’s something that if you should take into account before reading. I find her stuff entertaining, even when I don’t agree (which has been known to happen).  This time, it was the comments that caught my eye in her post.

Katie and I have some similarities in how we were raised. We’re both from Chicago. We were both raised by single moms. We’re both smart and independent and proud of it. We’re both unafraid to speak our minds and enjoy writing blogs where we’re willing to take on almost any topic. The one area we’ve disagreed was in relation to interpersonal relationships and chivalry. Her independent soul finds chivalry to be irrelevant and unimportant as this post illustrates, whereas I find it to be hugely important and sadly lacking as I posted here. If you read her post, you’ll see in the comments just how different our points of view are. I guess that’s part of why her BS Feminism post drew me in….we were actually in agreement and it comes back to labels and stereotypes v. actual beliefs.

Let’s be honest…we’re all guilty of labeling and stereotyping. For example, how many people do you know (and hey, it may be you, yourself) hear the word conservative and picture either someone in a military uniform or a very wealthy person in a business suit who looks like they have a stick up their “you know what”? Or picture liberals as “tree hugging” tie-dye and hemp wearing hippies? Neither is accurate, by the way. Here’s the other kicker…being a liberal doesn’t guarantee you vote Democrat any more than being conservative means you are a Republican.

I’ve always disliked labels. I’m sure you’d all agree that we’re so much more than the labels people try to pin on us. It was actually during the Bush/Kerry election that my dislike turned to abhorrence. You see, I used to hang out on this one message board. Many of us had been friends for years. As often happens, closer to the election the posts got political. For whatever reason apparently, on this board, being gay meant you were supposed to be liberal, hence Democrat. Well, one of my very good friends didn’t get the memo. He broke that mold when he would proudly (and very articulately) jump into the debates on the side of Republicans. He won more of those skirmishes than he lost…which prompted another poster to tell him “I hope you get AIDS and die.” For voting Bush? Seriously? After hanging out at that board for more than 5 years I was done.

I’m not even going to touch the NRA….

So back to feminism. I’ll be honest…I’ve shied away from that label, too. Why? Because for whatever reason, the image I’ve grown to associate with feminism is not very complimentary. Picture an uptight, ball busting woman (often a man hater) who won’t allow simple niceties such as men opening doors, pulling out their chairs, helping them with their coat or paying the tab as if somehow it’s a slight to their ability to do so themselves. Don’t even pretend like you haven’t seen this behavior or know people like this. We all do. And that’s their right. It’s just not my cup of tea.

It’s easy to forget that feminism isn’t really about any of those things. In history class I remember cheering for the “bluestockings” and what they stood for. They wanted women to have a right to vote; for them to have a voice in politics. I loved that. I still do. Feminism is also responsible for laws that require women to receive equal consideration for jobs (as long as their qualifications are also equal). It has been responsible for women being allowed equal educational opportunities, equal salaries. It’s given us rights to make decisions regarding our bodies. I feel very strongly about self esteem and body issues whether they belong to men or women. I’ll take on anyone who goes out of their way to make another person feel worthless. These are all causes that I feel very strongly about…and wholeheartedly support!

Just because I may not be a huge fan of the label doesn’t mean I don’t strongly agree with the core of what it’s supposed to stand for. If you don’t agree with me, that’s okay! I’d love to hear your thoughts. If there are other labels/causes that you feel have gotten bastardized, share that, too!

At the end of the day, I think The Breakfast Club had it right at the end…. We’re a little bit of everything and trying to label it…well, it just gives extremists the opportunity to muddy those waters. 😉

39 thoughts on “Labels, Stereotypes and Causes

  1. filbio says:

    Perfect way to wrap up a great post with the ending scene of one of my fav movies! It really does tie up the real meaning that you can’t just label people as we are all parts of many.

    Personally, I believe in being chivalrous. Opening doors and whatnot. Sure, a woman can be independant, but it’s also a respect and consideration thing. Little things like that make life a bit nicer.


  2. prewitt1970 says:

    You couldnt be more right, I to was shocked when I first realized that when we allgrew up that people didnt actually do what we were taught. PLay nice, dont hurt people, be kind to strangers.etc. Love the Breakfast club btw just watched it again the other night. I have to say I used to love to exploit peoples stereo types. When I was a bar tender I had really long hair that i tucked up and slicked back each night as I put on my tux. Looking at me straight on you’d never of known I had hair down to my back and really was just a crazy poetish painter.
    Had fun on my days off after making 300-400$ and hour going into places looking like crap and seeing who gave me the “person” good service and who didnt, purely based on the stereo type of apperence.
    Any how Cheers, Happy Friday.


    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      Oh, I’ve been known to exploit people’s belief in stereotypes, too. If people are going to be foolish enough to believe them, I see no reason I shouldn’t profit from their misconceptions…. Actually, it was a guy who believed that female=smaller/weaker/unable to fight back that gave me the edge I needed to kick his ass when he tried to assault me (assuming that because he was ripped and 6′ tall meant guaranteed win). Smart and wily (and being a tomboy) came in handy that night.


  3. datinginvegas says:

    Hi Kitt,
    I think the term Christian is labeled. I am proud to be a Christian but that doesn’t mean people don’t look at me like I’m uptight, judgmental and hate gay people. I went to a performing arts school-my best friend is gay. I don’t care about what someone does; and it’s not my place to judge. In fact my faith tells me I am never supposed to judge-only love. It’s very hard to judge people when you are focused on loving them. I also get tired of the way people treat pro-lifers.I don’t want to dictate, judge or condemn any woman on what she does to her body. I just don’t believe in abortion. I am NOT telling other woman what to do or fighting for laws to be changed (I have close friends that have made that decision and I still love them and think they’re good women.) However, if I even mention the words pro-life I feel labeled.

    As far as feminism stereotypes go…I may be hypocritical. I want equal pay and rights; but I still want the guy to open my door. At least I am honest about it. This is a great post!! I love it!


    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      You’re right about the Christian label. Although there are people who are “fire and brimstone” types, that’s not what I believe. I’m a Christian. It doesn’t mean I go around judging people or preaching at everyone. I believe in the power of love and acceptance. I believe that’s the example Jesus set…and what I try to emulate.

      I also get where you’re coming from on the prolife/prochoice thing. Personally, though I don’t plan on having an abortion, I believe that others have the right to choose. Then I see the billboards or license plates that intimate that if you’re not pro-life then you MUST be pro-abortion. Those advertisements infuriate me because I keep thinking…we don’t know the circumstances behind the very difficult choice that someone may be making. We don’t know if the termination is due to incest, rape, to save the life of the mother. We. Don’t. Know. So who are we to point fingers at someone. Unfortunately, extremists in the “pro-life” umbrella have made things even more difficult for people who believe as you do. Blowing up buildings in the name of life kind of sends mixed messages, and unfortunately they’re the ones that get air time on tv, radio, internet…

      And I don’t think you’re hypocritical at all about what you want when speaking feminism. I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. In fact, I’ll be honest…although I can certainly pay, if a man were to ask me out, I’d expect him to pay (although if I ask him out I’m more than willing to pay for him, too). And I love those little courtesies. It’s all these mixed messages that we send that have men very confused as to how we should be treated.


  4. Katie says:

    Excellent! So many great points in this.

    It really is a shame how quickly stereotypes about the supporters of a certain cause, and the desire for people to avoid them, can quickly devolve into being seen as attacks on the school of thought as well. I know I have my share of feminist ideas, but I don’t think that requires me to claim to be a feminist when it comes up. I’m a woman with certain principles. We shouldn’t be punishing people for deciding not to define themselves a certain way–and that the end of the day, we know what we stand for, who we are, and who we want, or don’t want, to be.


    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      Exactly. I think that at our core, we don’t need labels to adhere to principles and beliefs. Labels, if we let them, can limit us by boxing us into believing we can only accept and stand for one point of view and nothing else. We were given brains for a reason. We’re all capable of drawing our own conclusions.


  5. Emma says:

    I love watching those 80s movies. They celebrated individuality and teamwork. Look at The Goonies – you had the geek, the trouble maker, the cheerleader, the jock, and yet they all showed they were much more. Right, clearly I’ve gone off topic after watching that clip from The Breakfast Club. 🙂
    Have a great weekend, Kitt.


  6. jonathanhilton says:

    Loved this, and of course the ending video, is right from my youth so, that fit. I am a huge fan of Katie as well, she is funny, articulate and just plain wonderful. I never realized how polarizing having an opinion could be. I mean just the day before I think she was writing about Sandy Hook nail polish, I thought some would be offended by that. The feminism article was funny, entertaining and well written. It didn’t make me believe that there are women out there like that, it was just funny. I believe in equal treatment of everyone, regardless of race, religion, sexual preference, gender or shoe size. I think that all people have the same rights to happiness. Thanks for the great post. I think far too much time is spent on labeling others, it has been my experience the more you label others the more you limit them.
    thank you for the great thought. 🙂


    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      I think you’re absolutely right about labels becoming limits and the time wasted getting there. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Like you, I’m a big Katie fan and though there are times we don’t see eye to eye, we still appreciate each other. We usually wind up talking and finding common ground somewhere….and hopefully give each other a different point of view to reflect on.

      As for the video…glad you enjoyed it. It’s a bit of nostalgia from my youth, too. 😉


  7. Ande Lyons (@AndeLyons) says:

    Great post Kitt!

    I LOVE chivalry… if one of my guys (sons/husband) is around when I’m entering a door, I wait for them to open it. And heavy lifting? Not when someone is watching!

    I’m also a staunch Feminist! I earned my MBA from the only all-women’s MBA program in the world. (Talk about labels…!) Watching episodes of Mad Men reminded me all over again why I believe in equal rights for women… and that was only 50 years ago! (Did you know women are still considered a minority?)

    Sidebar: My Grandmother was a Suffragette. She was born in 1892, she earned a college degree at Boston University, and she taught Physical Education until she married at the ripe old age of 28!

    Labels get us into trouble all the time, especially accents. Brooklyn… New Jersey… Southern… Bawstun… Fargo, North Dakota…

    I was just listening to David Sedaris today… a piece from Pleasant Memories… he LOVES using labels for humor!

    Thanks for keeping us on our toes and thinking about all the possibilities.




    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      Ande, you know how much I love ya! It sounds like fighting for women’s rights is a family tradition. How cool is that? I also know you on a personal level and know you are one of those women who blows those stereotypes out of the water. 😉
      (I did know that they still consider women a “minority”….and that there are women out there that milk it for all it’s worth…something that never fails to irritate me.)
      As you know, women’s issues have always been near and dear to my heart. Like you, I just don’t feel you have to polarize other people who have different ideas on what being a feminist is all about. I think that’s my biggest problem with the label. When the word starts to dictate what I should believe in or how I should feel…the rebel in me comes out. Too many people out there use the label for all the wrong reasons.


  8. Jess Witkins says:

    Oh we definitely still label things: people, organizations, jobs, etc. We label a lot. And for years I had the challenge of making feminism sound cool again. In college I minored in Women and Gender Studies, and I was president of the Women’s Studies Student Assoc. I actually ended up reporting a fair amount of hate mail that was graffitied all over the posters I hung. Super. Awesome. I know.

    You should see if you can get your hands on a copy of the documentary, I Was a Teenage Feminist. We held a film showing of it and I think it’s awesome. It dives into the stigma behind the name and what being a feminist is actually about. i.e. The equality of BOTH sexes.

    Ok. I’ll get off my soap box. But if you ever want more films, books, names to research this…please pick me!!!


    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      You’re right! I forgot about the way we label jobs, too. As for defacing your sign…total douchebaggery! I’ll look for the documentary you mentioned. Sounds very interesting! You can get on your soap box here any time! You and Ande will definitely be my go to people if I ever need more references or details. Thanks!


  9. renxkyoko says:

    There are only 2 parties in theUS. On my blog, I always say I consider myself a liberal, a Democrat, but not a hard core one. I have my own beliefs that I consider pretty ” conservative”, but I can never vote for a party that I disagree with in the most fundamental issues, and I can never join a party that neo-Nazis and white supremacists and who hate people of colour vote for.


    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      There are those (The Tea Party) that would disagree with you about political parties here. 😉 For all intents & purposes, though, you’re right.

      As for not voting for sides that have extremists such as white supremacists, etc…both parties have had these folks. In fact, in the ’80’s, a former Grand Wizard of the KKK was voted to congress as a democrat…and republicans have had very similar recent skeletons in their closet. I don’t think any one party is the right party or the wrong one. All we can do is educate ourselves on both the issues and the parties running…then vote our consciences/hearts. I think that’s exactly what you’ve been trying to do. 🙂


  10. Bill Parker says:

    This is really insightful.

    I think labels can be pretty useful, when they’re meaningful and are defined by the people they apply to rather than defined FOR them. Like…I’m pretty proud to be a feminist. The associations you describe with that label, in my opinion, were created not by feminists themselves but by people trying to keep women marginalized. And by old TV and movies (Slater vs. Jessie in Saved by the Bell comes to mind first, for some reason).

    I don’t think THOSE feminists, the uptight man-haters, really exist. Very few would say categorically that men shouldn’t pay for dinner or open doors (I tend to do both with my wife); the key is that both parties have to WANT that sort of relationship, and there has to be a recognition that she’s perfectly CAPABLE of doing all those things and that they’re equals either way. If you define feminism the way feminists define it rather than the way their enemies have tried to, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that label at all.


    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      You may be partially right about the association to media. I DID watch Saved By The Bell in my youth. 😉 As much as I wish I could blame tv for my perception, it’s not the only thing that led to that.

      It may surprise you to know that I actually know a few women who are just as I described because they believe that THAT is what it means to be a feminist, to be “liberated”. Way, way back in the day me, my sister and a few friends were headed out to eat. One of the guys we were with got ahead of us to open the door for us. A female friend of my sister (I think they were 12) got very angry at the guy for holding the door open. She told him her mother raised her to be a feminist and that “no man was going to treat her like she was weak”. The poor guy was so confused. As he so eloquently put it “all I did was open the door”! At my engagement party I was near the alcohol and my fiancé was across the room. He asked me to bring him a drink. I did. One of the other women looked at me, shocked. She told me I set women’s lib back 100 years. I admit it. I laughed at her.

      I think it’s fantastic that you perform these courtesies for your wife. I think they make a difference in a positive light. Those kinds of courtesies speak to cherishing and honoring a woman. They can make her feel beautiful, valued…or just put a smile on her face. I also don’t feel that they really have anything to do with feminism or women’s lib except that there are people who keep trying to tie them together.

      When it comes to issues of equality, body image, or other true “women’s issues”…I’m definitely on board. 🙂


  11. Professor Taboo says:

    Ah Kitt. Good post and reference to The Breakfast Club: “…just gives extremists the opportunity to muddy those waters.” I think sometimes some people just like to be flat out oppositional; like a 3-4 yr old.

    I’ve come up with a label/introduction for myself that I am always comfortable expressing in times and discussions like these: “I’m (Professor Taboo) from Earth. How can we serve each other?” When the topic has gotten really heated, that’s when I like dropping it. 😉


  12. August McLaughlin says:

    I’ve been saddened by what the term feminism has come to mean for so many–something far removed from what it’s intended to be. Thanks for this insightful post, lady! I’m so with you on your distaste for labels in general. Why can’t we all just be us/individuals/free? (Such hippies, we are! And I love it. ;))


    • Kitt Crescendo says:

      It IS a shame because much of what feminism is truly about is wonderful. I hate that the message gets lost so easily these days. So I stick to the things that matter and step away from the label.

      You’re right. Being a free spirited hippie IS pretty awesome. 😉


  13. amadiex says:

    You know how I feel about “labels” Nothing good comes from them. When you have to fight against an idea that someone has placed on you, it never ends well. You know I have never seen the breakfast club?!? >wonder what label that falls under?< 😛


Don't Be Shy, Reply!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s