Tuesday 27 March 2012

Labelling people

A few days ago I wrote a post on Do labels help? Children with difficulties. You can read it here.

It prompted some lively debate on twttier and attracted some interesting comments on the post itself.

I've been giving quite a lot of thought to this subject and wondered why we give labels? and not just in cases where a correct diagnosis and labelling can support an individual with medical, physical, finacial and education needs.

23 years ago I started my working life with The Spastic Society...'you can't call it that. it's derogatory to people with Cerabel Palsy, lets change it's name to SCOPE' good move for 2 reasons, people still call one another 'spastics, spazzies' I've challenged many child in my teaching as to what they mean by using that word and how it can offend others.

But who decides on the label, why do we need to put ourselves and others in categories?

Gypo, Pikey, Gay, Lesbo and many, many others are used as an insult, used often to describe someones beahviour at a moment in time and usually rarely aimed at the group of society that 'own' that label.

So it made me think about what label(s) I have, whether they are right or wrong, this is what I think I am, going back to when I was born.

White British
Future Olympic gymnast
Unmarried Mother
Child Welfare Officer

Now obviously some of these labels remain unchanged, I'm still someones daughter, sister, aunt, wife and Mother and other labels such as friend come and go.

I missed one label out on purpose as I don't know where it happened in life but it's probably the only label that is me, where I didn't make a choice, where it just happened, but it's not a label I ever use to define myself, that makes up my identity and that's 'Straight', nor do I use the term 'non disabled or enabled'

You read through my list of lables and at various times in my life you can use those labels to judge me, based on your experiences, based on your social norms and values.

You picture me as a little girl, who loves her gymnastics, but where did it all go wrong? I was a single mum, how old? ah well probably in her teens, married out of lonliness, divorced soon after, had an affair, married someone rich, that's how she was able to give up work and retrain as a teacher'.But you'd be right and you'd be wrong. That's just a few of the assumptions people have made of me because of my labels

What made me a SAHM? being an expat, that's all, plain and simple.

Unless you've met me you'll not know me, you read my tweets, you make judgements on the written word, you put me into categories and label me....but that's life, I do it to you also.

So what labels do you give yourself? What have you been labelled as? Do labels really help you? or Do they hold you back?

Don't forget to read the post first on labelling learning difficulties as this post is more generic.


  1. I wrote a reply to your post the other day and then deleted it all before hitting the comment button....I hate labels. I think labelling people is just pointing out differences and lets face it, we are all different, and wouldn't life be dull if we weren't.. But I don't want to label anyone as different, I don't want to drawn attention to the difference. OK so maybe some people have differences that mean they need more support - a mental or a physical difference! and if giving them a label means they are able to get the support they need, so be it...But on a day to day basis, I don't want to know about a person's label, I want to know about the person! Many people have problems for which there is no label, does this mean they cannot get help - this is where the SWAN label comes in I guess - but isn't it insulting to label someone as having something wrong but we don't know what!

    Perhaps I am wrong to think as I do - Is it wrong to want to see people without labels...I have always hated to be labelled and indeed even now, my lovely S, always introduces me as Louise or Lou his wife - never my wife Louise....because I am Louise first and foremost and his wife 2nd...My kids do the same thing - they will say "this is Louise, my Mum" and in return I always do the same "this is A, my daughter"...The label is always secondary if used at all, because it is the person that matters!

    Lou :-)

    1. my middle son sat me down and announced he was straight...i laughed at him then asked him why he told me that, he said its because people feel the need to announce this stuff if they are a lesbian, bi-sexual or homosexual, why not the 4th option

  2. I think we impose alot of labels on ourselves, which tends to make us want to label others to identify differences. Take football teams, especially on Twitter for example.

    Maybe it is a positive thing as it gives a sense of community (Christian, LFC supporter etc) and helps us find people with a common interest; obviously not the horrible negative ones.

    Interesting thoughts. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I label myself as a redhead, because redhead's are for some reason picked on. I love my red hair. Sometimes, I do say I am disabled for the simple reason I am but I don't look disabled which is another problem in itself. Generally though, I will say I still look good but my body hates me. I believe labels are fine, if you are describing yourself, because well I am talking about myself and this is how I choose to do it.