Monday, March 12, 2007

What's in a Label

We decided that it was time to update our living room look, and it was time to start investing in furniture that we were proud of, that was of our choosing, and not the usual hand-me-down pieces. So, after a bit of research on what could be 'cat-friendly,' we ventured off to Queen and Roncesvalles, a great neighbourhood here in Toronto that is full of antique and vintage home decor stores.

We found a few great pieces that were out of our budget, but then we found it. It. A perfect couch and chair set that suits us and the cats. Vinyl, caramel coloured, retro, and in our price range. We both loved it, which is also a great selling point. A week later, when it was time to go and pick it up (in or rented 2007 red Dodge Ram), we were informed about some great details of our new seat set. Besides telling us that it was from the 1950-60s, the dude told us it was a Knoll. We both swooned - and fell for our set even more. Just because he said it was a Knoll. That's how much labels mean, i guess.

The power of labels carries into our lives all the time, whether it's when buying things (even when buying indie artists/DIY crafters' things!), what music you listen to, what you eat or don't, and of course, as the comments in my last post can agree to, how we label ourselves.
I work with women who are labeled with intellectual disabilities. At one time, a more derogatory term was uses here in Canada (and still is elsewhere), but i think the best way to be labeled is how we identify ourselves. Once a person with a disability is labeled by some professional due to an assessment, that term carries along with them for life and claims their fate - in school, at work, where they live, and how they live. Labels can be very damaging, and unfortunately, we all feel the need to use them.

For example, i label myself as a feminist and vegan. These are words that are important to me and i'm proud of them, but may not have the same connotation with others - my feminism includes lipstick, heels, and being able to walk at night without being afraid. It also means i don't agree with institutions like marriage and motherhood, but i have gotten hitched. Hypocritical? No - because i define myself the way i want to and my life choices are in sync with my ideals. I think feminism has many different streams, and while some of us are more passionate about one part of it (i.e. i am very passionate about violence against women issues), there are many different kinds of feminists and feminism.

Being vegan also allows me to make choices that i want to - i eat 100% vegan, when i know what i'm eating (there have been some oops while in restaurants), but i don't always wear 100% vegan shoes. My definition allows me to wear shoes i love because i am also a shoe horse, but i prefer vegan-friendly shoes. It is not up to others to label me, but i also know that most vegans are more complete ones than me.

My problem is when others tell me what i am, and label me as something when i wouldn't. Just like the women i work with, my voice and decision to be who i want to be is then controlled by others. And then, we all suffer from having a lack of community, and may feel that we don't fit in anywhere. I have been lucky to find such a great network here and feel very accepted, but i know that sometimes that isn't the case. If i want to be a feminist, than i am! If you feel that you are one, then you are!


Blogger Neva Vegan said...

This is interesting because of course the labels of feminist and vegan mean different things to different people. I feel I'm both a vegan and a feminist, but I've sometimes been called a bad one of either. Or sometimes people make judgements about me based on being a vegan or feminist or for living in a bad neighborhood, or whatever.

Thanks for this thought provoking post.

2:16 PM  
Anonymous Vegan Scott said...

I don't think labels ever fit a person exactly. Anyway, I'm a vegan and I have a self-defense blog.

You might like the Vegan Forums.

7:15 PM  
Blogger Carla said...

Nice new furnishings!

Labels! I use labels a lot, I try to make them with compassion and understanding.

We librarians have a labels issue with whether the people who use libraries are patrons, readers, clients... In a previous library job, when listing people's names, I had to tick yes or no for all kinds of dichotomies like "Female?" and "Canadian?"...female can't always be yes or no if the person is trans, and Canadian, well I didn't want to decide whether a Quebecois or Native person should be identified as Canadian.

That's neat that you made the connection with the Knoll label.

I'm a vegan feminist, too. Two "heavy" labels that can make or break a conversation with a stranger.

4:03 PM  
Anonymous Jodi said...

Labels are everywhere.

I believe that everybody at some point in their lives has been privy to the labelling game.

Children, teenagers and adults all use labels with themselves and with one another.

For instance, I was a very shy child and was often picked on by other kids and of course, labelled because of it. I had a very difficult childhood.

Now, as an adult the opposite has happened. I can and will be very outspoken on various issues and I often find people become offended at my honest opinions and views.

I will be the first to admit that I can be outspoken to the point where I have put my foot in my mouth and unintentionally offended someone.

As a strong, opinionated and confident woman I refuse to keep my mouth shut about issues and things that I feel strongly about.

I have (finally) found my voice and I won't shut up. So what if people call me a bitch!

Today, I had a heated debate about the value society puts on having a formal university education and how misguided I was as a teenager when I was told in high school that a University degree was very important. (I have 2 degrees BTW)

Anyway, I ended up offending someone who held their degree and University experience very close to their heart.

At first, I felt bad for being so outspoken and bold, but at the same time I also felt empowered for standing my ground and not being afraid to speak my mind.

12:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm also really interested in the issue of labelling, especially when it comes to vegetarianism/veganism. Actually I made it the topic of my anthropology/sociology thesis. Labels can be a large influence in people's lives, but I also think people can overcome/transcend them, especially if they are adopting a label that challenges the status quo already. Everyone I interviewed exercised their vegetarianism or veganism at different levels and it totally made me question labels even more than I did already, and what kinds of assumptions we make. I mean, these were all people I felt were "my people," who understand the animal rights thing, dealing with family, figuring out meals at restaurants and on holidays. But then they were all very individual, and often went veg for totally different reasons... and then those reasons gave the rationale for specific choices, like if they would consume non-vegan things if they were free, or whether it went into areas like shoes or clothing, etc.

Anyway, I'm glad you brought it up, people can be so inclusive and exclusive based only on labels when sometimes it seems irrelevant when you look at the whole person and where they're coming from.

12:28 PM  
Blogger Sandra said...

Sorry I missed this one. Very interesting and well-written post. I agree completely with your take on labels.

And that couch .... wow ... so great!

5:48 AM  
Anonymous Galxekat said...

I can't believe you got a new couch! I loved that green velvet one! (what happened to it?) What's hard is having strong feelings about labels, and always needing to defend your thoughts on it. Like when you show with a friend who just doesn't get it.

2:04 PM  
Blogger The Alt Martha said...

Well, I'm a crafting, cat loving, vegan, feminist and proud of it (point taken about all the label issues though). I love how fag was transformed from being a derogatory term into one of endearment between gay men (or maybe that is just in my circle?).

Anyhow, way to go on the furniture. I know how hard it is to maintain a nice environment with the feline presence. I opted for a metal furniture set (meant for outside) that I cozied up with cushions and pillows as well as an old metal twin bed that I made into a day bed/couch. The cats now just shred my comforters on the couch rather than the couch (you can't win). I did recently get a pink vinyl cube footstool from a thrift store that my cat adored but she ripped it to shreds regardless. I hope your felines are better behaved than mine!

4:12 PM  

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