Do Labels Make Identity Worse?

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Sometimes we let our interests define who we are. Someone who says "I like My Little Pony, it's a cute show" sounds so much different to someone who says "I'm a Brony". In this article, I will
discuss my thoughts on why labels make things worse.

Submitted: January 27, 2018

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Submitted: January 27, 2018



Labels are there to make us feel like we belong somewhere. We feel like we can connect to others who share our labels. It's a great way for us to make friends with like-minded people, but what happens when you let that label define who you are?

Almost anything can be a label, and it would be wrong to say that all labels should be abolished. When someone asks you what your job is, you would much rather say "I'm an archaeologist" than "I travel abroad and examine artifacts which have previously been buried for centuries". But job titles are not the same as the labels I'm about to describe; these labels are ones we really do not need in our lives and honestly seem to make things worse.

While a label can help you find others of your kind, they subconsciously cause people to treat that label as an identity tag - by both the "wearer" and those around them. This can either attract others with the same identity tag to the "wearer" or it can cause others to treat the "wearer" poorly and with much disrespect. Personally I had problems when I was a kid because I identified as a goth and then an emo, which caused people to ridicule me, but as I got older I dropped the identity yet continued to wear dark clothes, and those around me began to label me as a goth or emo, anyway. This could have been a positive or negative reaction from those who met me, but as someone who had dropped the identity it can sometimes be irritating to be associated with a group you're not part of. It must be even harder for people who have never labelled themselves as anything at all but somehow became associated with a certain trend because of something they did. 

However, my major problem with labels comes from modern-day society. We now have the internet to thank for all of these different labels appearing seemingly out of nowhere. People see these labels and decide whether or not they are in that crowd, and when they choose to don that identity tag, they can become a whole different person. It might sound impossible, but from what I have seen it happens almost all the time. Many people will change without even realising it.

Years ago I used to buy My Little Pony toys because I was a little kid who thought they were cute. I had quite a few of the characters and I had only watched one episode of the show at someone's house. I'm not sure which generation it was, all I know is that it was the one which was popular during my childhood. Pretty much every little girl had a My Little Pony figurine whether they liked the franchise or not, usually because relatives would buy them as gifts if they did not know the child's interests. Either way, My Little Pony was a popular toy brand and I have fond memories of playing with my ponies as a kid. 
But all of a sudden a new "My Little Pony" series is released and I find out that grown women enjoy the show as much as children do. There is a new label for the fanbase, and these My Little Pony fans call themselves "Bronies" or "Pegasisters". Stereotypically, a Brony would be thought of as a grown man who collects My Little Pony merchandise,watches the show, and views the show inappropriately. Of course, this does not apply to all people who identify as a Brony or Pegasister, but this is how most outsiders view the fandom, and even some people within the fandom see it this way, too. The reason this stereotype exists is because of the label. The "Brony" label basically describes someone who is a huge fan of the show, but labels like this one come with a check-list to see if someone can actually earn this title. When I first heard of this label, I shrugged it off and told others I was a Brony, too. But I found out that I didn't meet the standards because I wasn't as into the show as others were, I just liked collecting the merchandise of certain characters. The Brony label encourages people to meet certain standards if they want to earn it, and because people find out it exists they feel the need to pursue it. This is usually when people just casually enjoy the show or secretly watch it when it's on; long ago people would just tell others "Okay, I'll admit it, I watch My Little Pony", but in today's society we have groups of people who dedicate their lives to being a Brony and they tell others "I'm a Brony, deal with it". Instead of enjoying the show in their own way, they have to meet the standards the internet has set for them, and they have to go over-the-top and let it take over their lives.

This could also be said for furries. A "Furry" is someone who draws anthropomorphic animals and has a "Fursona" (an anthropomorphic animal alter ego who they portray themselves as online or at conventions). Once again, as someone who had an anthropomorphic animal as an online avatar and enjoyed art involving anthropomorphic animals, I once again made the mistake of referring to myself as a "furry" before actually taking a look at the furry community. Once again, this is not the case with all furries and I have met a lot of nice people who identify themselves as furries, and there was a time when they didn't cause anyone harm. However, it has come to my attention that now being a "furry" is not just about being in a fandom dedicated to anthropomorphic animals, but is instead it is a lifestyle. I have seen tutorials on the internet where people give advice to others about coming out to their friends and family as a furry as if being a furry is the same as being homosexual or trans. People have filled their lives with drama because their families think they're weird and seem to be ashamed of them, but all of this could easily be avoided if someone just said "I enjoy drawing humanoid wolves and I happen to enjoy any work of fiction involving anthropomorphic animals". When you come out to others as a "furry", you'll either have them doing online research and seeing the worst aspects of the community or they will recognise the label and associate it with the stereotype of the furries who believe that actual sex with animals is okay.
I personally feel that the furry community has been destroyed. I used to adore furries, but now it seems as though people have misinterpreted what the community is actually about. Many people associate furries with "furry porn" and again I must emphasize the fact that not all furries are into this, but many of them are and many of them take things to another level where they admit to finding animals attractive. I have met people in real life who have confessed that they find horse genitalia arousing and they have strong crushes on fictional anthropomorphic characters such as Judy Hopps from the children's film "Zootopia".
All of this has happened because of the label. People read about furries on the internet and related to some of the things mentioned about them, then chose to follow the other "rules" to being a furry. Many will argue that they have always been a furry and that it relieves them to join a community where they can express themselves, but I feel that if the furry label didn't exist then the lives of these people wouldn't have been terrible. In fact, I imagine that they would have most likely shrugged off their interest in drawing animal characters. 

Bronies and Furries are the two prime examples of large communities which can sometimes take things too far. My Little Pony characters will often be sexualized, as will characters from films such as Zootopia. And I will be honest, this over-sexualization of children's animated characters has deterred me away from certain franchises. I used to love My Little Pony, as I said before, and I also really enjoyed the messages in Zootopia. But unfortunately Zootopia became very hard to enjoy when many fans ignored the messages and preferred to draw Nick and Judy doing things which left my mind scarred. I also find it sad that a show like My Little Pony has a sexualized fanbase, since I will look at my old My Little Pony merchandise and can't help thinking about the amount of grown men who genuinely feel attracted to the characters.

Someone may say that I am attacking the fanbases mentioned, but let me just point something out: I am aware that anyone can be attracted to anything. Anyone can have bizarre fantasies which they usually keep to themselves. But I don't see an army of Spongebob fans who themselves "Spongies" and openly admit that they are attracted to Sandy Cheeks or Mr. Krabs. No doubt there are people out there who do view these characters in such a way, but they are not gathering together, following the "rules" of a label and rubbing their interests in our faces. I can at least watch Spongebob and not remember speaking to people who admitted their dark fantasies about the show.

Labels are responsible for calling out people and making them act a certain way. We now live in a society where labels = lifestyle. Either people use their labels to define themselves, or people around them only see the label and nothing else. I've been an anime fan for years, but suddenly the term "weeb" has appeared and now people who know me will use that word to describe me. 

I personally think that labels need to go.

© Copyright 2019 P.A. Wesker. All rights reserved.

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