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BY Lauren

Is Labeling a Real Issue?

Do you think someone can be a famous socialite and work at McDonalds? Can a beautiful, rich woman marry a poor, ugly man? Can a person with low-functioning Autism be the most popular kid at school? Well, if you think like most– the answer is no.

Beautiful women only marry rich men. People who work at McDonalds are either uneducated or have special needs. A person with Autism would have nothing in common with typical teens.

Where would you feel most comfortable eating with your family- An elegant bistro with a dress code, a casual, neighborhood pub or off the dollar menu at a fast food joint?  Well, if you think like most, you would feel comfortable in the restaurant that reflects your financial category: high class, middle class or low class. A Target brand purse does not belong on the table of an expensive bistro, right?

What is your favorite type of music? Country? Are you a redneck? Is your favorite type of music rap? Are you a member of a gang? Is your favorite type of music indie? Are you trying too hard to be unique?

What is your favorite quote? Is it Thomas Jefferson? Does that mean you are educated? Is it by Britney Spears? So you are an airhead?

Are you offended yet? You should be. The world is jumping to conclusions, and it isn’t fair. Whether we are online or offline, we are pressured to fit ourselves into pre-defined labels.

I think maintaining this conversation is critical to the progression of our society. The power struggle that “is” high school bullying does not stop on graduation day. “Social labeling” thrives on, right besides us on our journey into adulthood; the only difference is that it manifests itself more inconspicuously. Rather than popular, you become “influential.” Rather than beautiful, you become “healthy.” Rather than smart, you become “successful.”

In high school, I was labeled an outcast. Purple hair, rock n’ roll and Salvation Army clothing become “who I was.” Never mind that I volunteered with a local non-profit each month, never mind that I loved to write my own poetry and never mind that I still went to the movies every weekend with my father. I was an outcast; labeled to be a trouble-maker and rebel even though I was anything but.

I refuse to allow our next generation to feel that same helplessness against social labels. I want them to feel empowered to create their own identity, beyond the predetermined labels of what others deem to be “popular,” “healthy” and “normal.” That is why I will proudly wear a “Defeat The Label” sweatshirt. By wearing this sweatshirt, I choose to become an ambassador of the DTL mission and inspire others to open their mind before their mouth, to jump to acceptance before judgment and to let their actions speak louder than their words. Join me.

So tell me– is labeling a REAL issue?


Written on January 12, 2011 by:

Lauren Todaro joined The Friendship Circle in March of 2009 as the Assistant to the Director. As a writer and advocate for equality, she is consistently on the search for creative ways to bring more social advocacy and awareness to the Metro Detroit community. Have an idea? Email her at [email protected]

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