It's Time To Meet the UMass Students Going Beyond Labels

It's Time To Meet the UMass Students Going Beyond Labels

What's it like to live a life free of labels?
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Stereotypes exist. Women are inherently weaker than men. Asians are good at maths and sciences. Gays are flamboyant and promiscuous. There was a time when society actively acknowledged those stereotypes, creating exclusion laws and protecting people’s rights because of who they were.

But it has progressed, in a way -- people are people, regardless of their race, gender, orientation or any categorical label. Most people no longer consciously single others out derogatorily because of who they are.

But what about subconsciously? Might you avoid starting up a conversation with someone because of the groups they associate with? Would you automatically judge someone because their appearance is similar to a group you don’t particularly like?

You may, and the judgments you make may hurt someone without you meaning to. They’re not quite through a fault of your own -- they’re known as unconscious stereotypes, ones that you might not actively use to classify people, but occur anyways.

There are plenty of campaigns on campus out to fight against active stereotypes, but there aren’t any dedicated to rooting out and reflecting on unconscious ones. This is where the campaign (un)labeled comes in.

Conceived by a group of students in an advertising practicum, the campaign is dedicated to helping people realize that subconscious stereotypes still exist and that it’s not too late to recognize and reflect on them. Originally, the challenge stemmed from the Anti-Defamation-League, which put out a call to college campuses to create a campaign that was able to reach as many students as possible.

“We [looked] at hate groups that were around us and [looked at] people we could try to reach by doing this campaign,” says Pascale Froehlich, a member of the campaign. “We thought about UMass, and how UMass generally considers itself pretty liberal.” Liberalism and non-hatefulness, however, don’t quite seem to go hand-in-hand.

“People say ‘I’m not hateful’ and they don’t realize they are hateful,” she explains. “We’re not saying you’re hateful for having unconscious stereotypes, we’re saying you might not know that you have them, and realizing you have them and making a change is more productive than just saying ‘I’m not hateful’.”

It’s tempting to ask what sets the (un)labeled campaign apart from all of the other groups on campus: after all, they all strive towards somewhat of a similar goal.

“There are a lot of great support groups on campus,” Pascale acknowledges. “We don’t want to copy another group because it’s not going to be effective when they already have such a presence on campus. We stand out because there isn’t a group that focuses on unconscious stereotypes, and because [we are] a group that can bring other groups together.”

Another thing that sets them apart is their intention to target as many people on campus as they can. “I don’t think there’s a group yet that necessarily targets everyone on campus,” she says. “We wanted to target as many people on campus as we could, and we thought that targeting unconscious stereotypes was the best way to do that.”

As a social media campaign, (un)labeled puts a lot of emphasis on the amount of effort that it takes to participate. “People don’t necessarily have to do much,” Pascale says. “They just have to reflect and realize that even though they consider themselves as liberal doesn’t mean [they] don’t have these implicit stereotypes,” It’s a campaign that could flourish in an environment where supporting causes can mean that you have to go all out for them or risk being labelled as someone not dedicated enough.

“UMass, at least in the past, has been known to be a very activist campus.” she allows. “It can be stressful if you just want to be a person. You know how there’s a ton of active people on campus, but there are people who don’t want to be totally active?

Maybe they’ll agree with the campaign, but they don’t feel comfortable going out and rallying -- we want to target people who are actively trying to make change but also the people who aren’t really comfortable going out to change society but at least they can make a change to themselves.”

The campaign’s message (to live an unlabelled life) is one that resonates even with the members. “It’s part of my own self-development,” she reflects. “We all do it -- we all have our own unconscious stereotypes...It’s something that you have to reflect on, and I think that it’s important for future generations that we can grow up treating people as individuals. Doesn’t sound like a hard thing to do, but it is hard. Humans love to categorize people.”

It seems especially true when looking at the campus’ annual climate report, which played a part in fueling the campaign. “I already knew that we’re not very diverse as a campus, but I was surprised that the efforts the campus has made to diversify aren’t really working out,” Pascale says. “I know the campus makes a lot of effort to diversify, but year to year, the numbers [of people that feel the campus has diversified] don’t change.”

“I think this might have to do with that there aren’t enough support groups for people on a campus that is predominantly white. I wish that UMass maybe changed their tactics or found other ways to be more inclusive.”

She’s fearful that the lack of diversity at the school may affect the diversity of its attendees. “When people visit the school and go on tours, maybe they don’t feel comfortable because we’re not that diverse, and that’s why they choose not to come here. I’m scared that that might be the case. Obviously [because] Massachusetts is predominantly white, and [because] it’s a state school...UMass makes so many efforts to diversify, I’m confused as to why there isn’t more diversity.”

Diversity is more important now than ever, especially in a campaign that aims to encourage it through asking people to think about their unconscious stereotypes. “In today’s society, there’s a lot of campaigns pushing back on the progress we’ve made,” Pascale explains. “There have been a lot of groups that have popped up and said ‘it’s okay to be racist again” and that people like ‘femi-nazis’ are taking [their issues] too far, that they should just chill out.”

“It’s not about chilling out, it’s about doing the things that we’ve been saying and normalizing them. I believe one of the main ways to do that is to attack unconscious stereotypes.”

Recently, the campaign hosted an event geared towards attacking unconscious stereotypes and revealing them. Inspired by a Heineken ad, the group felt that they could simulate something similar to the ad and produce the same results. “Can you meet someone on campus that you wouldn’t necessarily have a conversation with?” Pascale asks. “Can they look past their unconscious stereotypes and have a conversation?”

The event, titled “Beyond the Label”, almost sounds like the premise of a speed-dating event at first: two people sitting in a cubicle are given questions and time to answer them in the hopes that they will facilitate a conversation. “It’s not speed dating, but more of a conversation,” she laughs. “They’re going to have questions to ask each other. If they go through the questions and feel like they don’t have anything else to say each other, that’s fine, but we’re hoping they get inspired to have a conversation with each other.”

“I don’t think that anyone’s going to change their perspective, but I want them to realize that there are tons of people on campus that -- even though they’re different -- doesn’t mean that you can’t have a conversation with them.”

Unfortunately, for those that missed it, the event seems to have been a one-time-only opportunity, as many members of the campaign are graduating. However, footage from the event (and other students’ stories) can be found on (un)labeled’s website for all to peruse and learn from, hopefully, to work towards eliminating unconscious biases and to create a more diverse campus.

Cover Image Credit: Serena Wong

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Things To Know Before Dating A Firefighter

You'll learn how to tell the difference between different kinds of sirens.
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There are just certain things you are going to want to know before dating a fireman. In my experience, I had to learn along the way. But at the end of all the calls, constantly smelling his gear in the car and sometimes even cancelled plans, I sure do love my firefighter!

SEE ALSO: 10 Reasons To Date A Country Boy

You were promised a list, so here it is:

1. If they are even within 20 minutes of the station, they will always leave you to go on a call.

No matter the circumstances, if you have a fireman on your hands, he will jet to the car and be on his way.

SEE ALSO: What It's Like To Date A Police Officer

2. Meeting nights are not something you try and fight with them about. They are going to leave and you do not have to like it because it wasn't up to you anyway.

I have learned that these nights are not optional. Yes, other people miss them, but not my firefighter.

3. No matter where you are or what you're doing the minute they hear a firetrucks horn, they're looking for it and hoping they're not missing anything good.

You will learn the lingo. Structures, fully involved (the good stuff) smoke alarms, cat in a tree (ehh I mean they are fireman...soooo still good stuff).

4. They know the exact difference between an ambulance, cop, and, of course, a fire truck siren.

Which means that you will have to learn, too.

5. You’ll have to accept that when he has to do hall rental cleanup, you're going with to help.

You fold the chairs and he stacks them. And Im talking at like 12 a.m.,1 a.m.

6. When you come around the firehouse, there will be jokes made and they'll mess with him about you or even you about him.

Honestly it's a giant bromance going on and they prey on this kinda stuff.

7. At first, you won't really have a name to the fire guys. Until you're around long enough.

You'll just be Boyfriend's name's girlfriend.

8. The fire pager goes where he goes.

Next to the bed, in the car, next to your bed, your living room, EVERYWHERE. And even if it's not the real pager, it's the dog app that I can never remember the name of so dog app it is. (Say that really fast to get the full effect).

9. They will probably wear their station shirt/apparel at least 4-5 days a week.

AT LEAST.

10. If you've got a good one, you're always put first. The list will always go "You, the firehouse, me, everyone else."

But secretly they always want to put the firehouse first.

11. You will learn and know more stations, trucks, members, and chiefs than you will ever want to admit.

Unbelievably true.

12. When you're driving and you see a fire station, you'll have to look at it.

If its an amazing building, you'll have to remember the name. And then you'll have to tell him about it. And then you've just proved number 11 correct. Add it to your list.

13. Never make plans while he's on a call. You can never know when he'll be back.

Even if the calls are short, they could stay at least another hour washing the trucks and being boys, of course.

14. In case you didn't understand the severity of the first one, if you are on the phone and you hear the pager go off in the background, just tell him you love him and hang up.

Because if you don't, he will. "Got a call, Love you, bye." Mid-sentence is always what you want to hear.

15. You'll never want to watch "Ladder 49" again.

You will cry like a baby and then want to make him quit.

16. Outside of the stations, fireman tend to forget that fire isn't a toy and it's pretty damn hot.

*Playing with the lighter fluid or burning things on the stove*
"No it's alright, I'm a firefighter."

17. You will start your own station shirt collection.

From NYFD memorial shirts, a station from where you're vacationing even acquired old shirts of his, you will have started your own pile of station shirts.

18. You can't get angry or upset when he is unavailable because he's going to go to the firehouse for the fifth time that week, or if there's another fire prevention thing to do.

You can't be mad because he's doing what he loves and also because a man in a uniform isn't too shabby.

There are a lot more things to know before dating a fireman, but the rest you'll just have to learn along the way.

SEE ALSO: 5 Things To Know Before Dating Someone With Anxiety

Cover Image Credit: Pinterest

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Our Sexuality Is A Moving Spectrum, So Moving Around On It Is Totally Normal

Understanding that labels aren't one size fits all

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Human sexuality is a large topic that is often never completely discussed. Human sexuality is divided into four parts: Sex, Attraction, Identity, and Expression. Each four of those categories are all on a spectrum, there's no simple clear-cut definition of gender identity, gender expression, biological sex and who you are sexually and or romantically attracted to. Labels have become a huge thing in society but what's so problematic about labels is they are never one size fits all.

When I came out I thought it was easiest, at that time, to label myself as bisexual…I wasn't sure everything that I felt, I didn't want to "shock" anyone, and didn't feel that the label lesbian fit. There have been growing pains since then and I settled into the label of gay. I didn't find myself being attracted to men or actively pursuing relationships with men but I hated the label lesbian, so I choose gay. As I've been becoming more and more self-aware and self-confident though, I find myself transitioning into the label of queer.

Queer could be seen as derogatory by some, but I personally believe it's the most empowering label. I find it the most inclusive word. Wikipedia defines queer as "an umbrella term for sexual and gender minorities who are not heterosexual or cisgender". To me, that means I am most definitely falling under the vast category of LGBTQ, and I am open to love within that community. I do not actively pursue relationships with men and do not consider myself as bisexual, but in the same breath, I wouldn't say that I'd completely rule out a relationship with a man. Does this make me pansexual? Honestly, I don't personally identify with any label right now besides Queer.

I think we all need to realize that sexuality is a spectrum. Everyone seems to completely grasp and understand that other things have spectrums, such as autism. Yet when it comes to sexuality: sex, attraction, identity and expression, everyone's much more comfortable if we have clear label markers. Well, society, wake up. It's the end of 2018, and we've come a long way, we've fought for tolerance and acceptance, and it's time to start opening our minds a little more. Why do we all need clear definers for things? Why can't we just…..be? I was having a great conversation with someone the other day and we agreed that if two people are happy and partners understand the ins and outs of their personal relationship, why does anyone else need to question how it works?

I took a human sexuality class in college and it was the most interesting and best class I've taken to date. One day we had a speaker come in who was a transgender straight man and was married to a woman who identified as a lesbian. They both have their own identities, stand by them, and they love each other for exactly who they are. Many of you might be scratching your heads and think how does that happen… and honestly, why do we need to question it? I think it's absolutely incredible and beautiful when two people find pure joy and love in one another.

Do not ever feel pressured to put a label on yourself for ANY reason in your life. And if you choose to, don't at all feel obligated to stick to that label. People grow, and learn more about themselves, their wants and needs. Nothing is more attractive then someone who's able to say you know what…that fit me then, but right now that doesn't feel right and I've found what better fits me. Coming out isn't always a one-time thing, its okay to change your identifier. There was a beautiful piece, written by a friend, about this topic that you can check out here.

Educating yourself about things you don't fully understand is honestly the most LGBTQ friendly thing you could do. Don't ever be afraid to ask appropriate questions and say things like "hey I think that's super awesome, I support you, would you mind sharing more with me so I can better understand you?" Learn about yourself, don't be afraid to question anything, don't feel the need to label yourself, or scared to take off a label that no longer suits you. Be confident and trust your heart and your intuition, they're never wrong.

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