Labels Redux

I’ve writ­ten about my re­sis­tance to la­bels sev­er­al times. Yet af­ter The Shondes show the oth­er night I found my­self think­ing in oth­er paths. I was wear­ing my Don Hertzfeldt “Rejected” shirt, per­haps as a most­ly un­con­scious as­so­ci­a­tion with the mean­ing of The Shondes and the fact that I was go­ing to a show full of per­form­ers who are mar­gin­al­ized. Yet in ret­ro­spect I feel that in my dis­dain of la­bels I might have ap­pro­pri­at­ed one that I have no right to.

I’m a Catholic white mid­dle-class straight male. I’m any­thing but a shon­de, any­thing but re­ject­ed [ex­cept when it comes to get­ting a new job]. In my la­bel-dis­dain I think I ne­glect­ed to rec­og­nize that when peo­ple will­ing­ly la­bel them­selves [in con­trast to ac­cept­ing a la­bel] a sub­tle ex­change of pow­er takes place. This is prob­a­bly right in there with the recla­ma­tion of “nig­ger” and “queer” which I’ve un­der­stood in the­o­ry but nev­er in­ter­nal­ized.

By em­brac­ing the la­bel of a mar­gin­al group a per­son gains grist for the grind­ing away of the mill­stone sta­tus quo. Because the ac­cep­tance of the la­bel is willed in­stead of en­forced, my old saw about how la­bels lim­it more than they spec­i­fy changes. The lim­i­ta­tion now be­comes fo­cused [like a laser beam, Andy] and strong enough to bal­ance the ex­change of pow­er to those who don’t rec­og­nize this next bit. It is al­most like “Tom Hanks as Tom Hanks in Tom Hanks from Space”. By that I mean the la­bel-choos­er re­tains all the pow­er of la­bel­less hu­man­i­ty in ad­di­tion to the fo­cus pro­vid­ed by their cho­sen la­bel; to those who un­der­stand the rea­son­ing be­hind their choice. So, for ex­am­ple, The Shondes are even more pow­er­ful than the peo­ple who have cast them out re­al­ize. By go­ing on mak­ing rock as “just folks” who hap­pen to use shon­de-itude as a slap-back to so­ci­ety, they’re op­er­at­ing on a dif­fer­ent lev­el.

For me, my dis­dain of la­bels is prob­a­bly caused by the fact that I am so mainstream/​majority. I have no need to adopt a la­bel be­cause, at a fun­da­men­tal, self­ish lev­el, the world has al­ready set my plate the way I like it.

3 thoughts on “Labels Redux

  1. That fo­cused like a laser beam phrase was used of­ten by pres­i­dent Clinton back in the ear­ly 90’s. Yee haw.

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