Wars were caused by them, stereotypes were created using them, and lives are ruined every day because of them.
I, Rebecca Agnew, am many things. I am a daughter, granddaughter, sister, auntie, student, writer, future journalist, anxiety riddled hypochondriac, "prudish" virgin, female, the list goes on and on. Those are my labels. Some have been given to me by circumstance, some I have given to myself, and some have been bestowed upon me by our society's concerning obsession with putting people in a box.
That's right, labels put people in boxes, and it is impossible to get out of them. No, labels don't actually shove people into boxes. This metaphorical box is the feelings of separation and isolation that one feels from being labeled. For years and years, we have been taught to see other people's differences, to categorize them so to speak. Instead of unity and inclusion, we have labels and separation.
Now, the labels themselves are just words and phrases and on the surface are not damaging. It is the assumptions and opinions that go along with them that are damaging. A perfect example of this is the slut vs. prude argument. I'm a 21-year-old virgin, and somehow that makes me uptight and prudish. Being called a prude is the bane of my existence. It makes me so upset, I want to punch someone in the face. Yes, I haven't had sex yet. Does that mean I am totally oblivious about or disgusted by it? Hell no. I am very educated and I am not afraid to talk openly and honest about it. But people don't see that, they only look at me through the label. What is even worse is the double standard behind it all. If I was sexually active with multiple partners, I'm a slut. You can't win with labels, and that my friends is the issue.
Labels create fear and hostility. They are made because someone is uncomfortable about another person's differences. Instead of getting to know a person, we slap a label on them at first glance and call it a day. We have been taught that certain groups are violent, scary, and dangerous. If you're a muslim, you're a terrorist. If you're latino, you're an illegal immigrant. If you're pro-choice, you support baby killing. If you're a christian, you're a homophobe. The list goes on and on and on. We are building walls between one another, and it is terrifying. Why are we hurting other people and committing violence over labels? We do not realize that everyone shares the same goal: to live freely and happily.
I don't know about everyone else, but I am downright tired and angry with labels. I refuse to let them define my life and make me degrade and disrespect other people. If we break away all of the hatred, prejudice, and assumptions behind the labels, we take away the power that they have over us. We say the United States is progressive and unified, are we really though? We have come a long way, but true unity will never be found until everyone realizes that only one label is valid enough to matter: human being.