Societal labels are what we use to categorise ourselves and other people in society. They can be automatically applied to you, such as skin colour, body type and disability, or assigned by you, such as gender, sexuality, belief systems and ideologies. These labels can sadly be used for discrimination, or can be empowering or useful. It is also completely valid to not restrict yourself to a label if it does not completely fit who you are 🙂
Unfortunately, a lot of the time when someone fulfils or puts on a label, they are judged or discriminated against. For example, if you are a person of colour then some people might horribly use their preconceived views on people of colour and be disrespectful towards you. Another example is if you classify yourself as a feminist then people might judge you for having those specific beliefs. It is completely unfair to experience negativity about a label that represents a part of yourself, so it is important to not encourage this behaviour in society.
Positively, labels can be very empowering for people by letting everyone know that they are happy and confident to be a certain way which can inspire others to feel proud of their labels. Some examples include if you state your sexuality then you feel proud of who you are, or by having a religion you are happy with what you believe in. Labels can also empower people to join together as a united group to help solve the injustices and inequalities of the world. An example of this is how an environmental activist would feel satisfied by sharing their label with the world to join like-minded people and resolve environmental issues.
Labels can also be useful for identifying the needs of society through recognising the large groups and their values. One example of this would be how a large amount of people labelling themselves as feminists would suggest that we should strive for gender equality in society.
It is also important to note that labels you can designate yourself might not completely capture who you are, so don’t feel pressured to categorise yourself under a specific label if it doesn’t feel right. This might include not picking a religious label, even the label of “no religion”, as your views about religious concepts, such as the afterlife, might fluctuate or make you indecisive. Another example would be your sexuality as there is no pressure to define it under a label as soon as possible, it is completely valid to wait until you know who you are in that respect.
I additionally want to emphasise that we should never just associate someone with the labels that they adopt or apply to (even if they are proud of them) as they are so much more than one or a collection of labels. For example, a person with a disability should not be defined by their disability as there are so many other unique and lovely things about them.
Ultimately, be proud of who you are and what you believe in, whether you label yourself or fulfil a certain label, or not. If someone else labels themselves or fits under a label, respect their characteristics or beliefs and hopefully we can continue to create positivity in society.