It’s an ostensibly pretentious sentiment when people say they don’t believe in labels. Those commonly referred to as moshers* used to bang on about it during my school days. Regardless of whether it was correct to label them thus, you know the type of people I mean: those who think they’re being original, but are actually just adhering to a slightly smaller set of fashion rules like a sheep that’s rolled in mud and announced: “I’m better than you. I’m so unique because I’m depressed and muddy and don’t like the same things as other sheep… well, apart from all these muddy guys who hang around the cattle grid with me and shout abuse at all the non-muddies for being conformist, to the point where all the cool independent shops have to shut down… in the Corn Exchange…” Hm… this analogy was tenuous to begin with, but now it appears to have morphed into my bugbear about the kids in uniform-black who hang around Leeds city centre making people so uncomfortable that local businesses suffer.

Anyway anyway anyway, I understand the primary need for labels. Labels are just names when you think about it and you wouldn’t want to find yourself pointing at something and going: “Could you pass me that thing, please? No, that thing. THAT thing!” But there comes a point where a name becomes subjective and transforms into a label rather than a definition and, being undefined, labels, like generalisations, are incredibly hit-and-miss; especially when you reach the realm of categories. Genres, for instance. It would be difficult to find a book you’d want to read without genres, but under which genre would you put The Well of Loneliness, or Maurice? Gay and Lesbian Fiction? Modern Classics? And why is there a section just for gay and lesbian fiction anyway? Why is it separate from everything else? You don’t get Middle-Aged Fiction, or Brunette Fancier Fiction. True, it’s annoying and unrealistic to read about heterosexuals all the time and perhaps you’re actively looking for fiction wherein the main characters are gay. But why segregate just this group of people? You don’t traditionally get Black Fiction or Jewish Fiction and if you’re sick of reading about Caucasians and Christians, you’d have to dig the old fashioned way*** to find books with a black/Jewish protagonist. And if everything is segregated like this, how will straight people ever learn enough about gay culture to wholly accept it? If we’re striving for equality, surely putting Gay and Lesbian fiction on a different shelf is kind of like pointing a finger and going: “These books can’t possibly mix with the normal books.”

My real issue, though, before I head off on another tangent, is people who try to label other people. And by “other people,” I mean me. I was recently much narked after having a row with a self-proclaimed feminist on Twitter who announced that I was no feminist after all and proceeded to tell me that I was middle class****.

Now I would never have called myself a feminist, mainly because I don’t really know what being a feminist entails and, since no two feminists have ever completely agreed with each other, I don’t think the feminists know either. I have my ideas and beliefs, however malleable, and they seem to tie in with a lot of feminist ideals, but I don’t see why that makes me a feminist.

Even more annoying than being labelled is being unlabelled. I never said I was a feminist and yet here was a girl I’d never met confidently announcing that I was definitely NOT something I had never claimed to be. Personally, I don’t see how she could make such a judgement after five 140 character exchanges with a stranger who looks nothing like her Twitter profile picture†. Outrage! I mean, yes, I believe that society has brought us up with some pretty topsy-turvy ideas about love, marriage, sex, relationships and family, and I believe that women have been horribly oppressed in the past (and maybe still are in some ways) and that it’s led to a lot of avoidable unhappiness from all corners, but why the hell does that make me a feminist? Surely that just makes me me!

And take people who say they don’t believe in bisexuality. Or that bisexuality is just greedy. How fucking ludicrous and downright childish! It is simply a case of desiring who you desire and you can’t help being attracted to people even if you’re deeply in love with someone else. It’s just human nature. Why does who you’re attracted to mean so much to everyone who isn’t you? Fine, say bisexuality doesn’t exist, if you want to; it still doesn’t change the fact that some people sleep with both men and women. Why does that actuality necessitate a label? And as far as being greedy: a person can be attracted to both women and men and carry on a perfectly monogamous relationship. Some women and some men, remember, NOT absolutely everyone. And not all at once!

Categories in politics are also tricky. I tend to vote for the big party†† that has the most agreeable points, as far as I’m concerned, which is all anyone can do, really. But it’s so hard to know where to stick your little cross when you don’t whole-heartedly agree with absolutely everything any of the parties promise… not that the promises of politicians mean anything at the end of the day. And even harder when some of the things that concern you the most aren’t even touched upon by any.

I believe the distribution of wealth is completely unjustified – does that make me a socialist? I’m not sure joining the EU is a good idea – does that make me a Tory? I tend to lean towards the left, but not always. I’m a greeny-libdemy-laboury-monster-raving-loony. But not completely.

I am me. Why do I need other labels?



* I believe they don’t make moshers** any more. I have been informed that they’ve been replaced with Emos. Or twats, as I like to call them.

** I used to get accused of being one of these. Easy mistake to make – I’m pasty and my natural expression is one of despair. I’m not despairing, it’s just my face.

*** Google, naturally

**** I’m glad someone told me. Didn’t realise with my history that’s what you’d call me. Tell me, do you get many middle-class people living in one room flats, sleeping in the cupboard because there’s no bedroom and living on soup?

† I really should change that, but it goes with the background

†† To stop the BNP getting in. I live in absolute fear that Nick Griffin will have some sway in the world, the arrogant, shallow, bigoted wanker.

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2 thoughts on “Labels

  1. Greg says:

    I am SO going to include a “Ginger Fiction” section in MY bookshop, and you won’t stop me.

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