Using writing, and meditation, and ice cream, and reading, and dreams,

and a whole lot of other tools to rediscover who I am,

after six years living with a man with OCPD.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Labels Help, Labels Hurt

from cheezburger
Labels Hurt
Today, I am participating in Slutwalk LA.  Why?  Because I am beyond weary of men, women, and children being assaulted. 

I am infuriated by the misconception that rape is about anything but power and control. 

I am disgusted by the crazythink that all girls and women have to do is "stop dressing like sluts" and we will be safe.

I've already posted about the myths of rape, like the idea that rapists are looking for sexual satisfaction - when actually, many can't get their rocks off.

Back on point - pretty much, nobody likes feeling "labeled."  Black, white, young, old, prissy, slutty... people can and do find all those labels objectionable at times.  Labels are often used to divide people in very ugly ways.  She is mentally ill - I am not.  He's poor - I'm not. 

We can hold ourselves superior to "those people," whatever those people are that we're not. 

If we are "virtuous" and dress "modestly," then those girls, over there, must be "sluts."  If we like to dress to show off our bodies and feel comfortable being open about our sexuality, then those women, over there, must be repressed prudes.  

from Joe Shlabotnik at Flickr

from xddorox at Flickr

When we look closer, we find out that, hey, the rich, the poor, the immigrants, the sluts - whatever we consider "the other," are actually... pretty much like us

Everyone deserves to be safe from being raped, assaulted, or killed.  Labeling some victims as somehow "less worthy" or "asking for it" does not reduce the number of attacks.  It simply reduces the number of assaults reported.  Which means that those who actually commit the attacks are still at large, free to attack someone else.

Labels Help
At the same time, labels can be helpful.  Especially for children, "labeling," or diagnosing a child with autism or a learning disability at an early age means that treatment begins sooner.

Diagnosing, aka "labeling" of mental illness allows for more effective treatment, and in some cases, appropriate medication.  Because there is still, sadly, such a huge stigma, nobody wants to be labeled mentally ill.  People who suspect their loved one might be mentally ill have to move very carefully, because their amateur diagnosis is unlikely to be welcomed with open arms. 

It's one thing to have someone tell you, "I notice you squinting a lot; let's have your eyes checked, maybe you need glasses." 

Quite another to have someone telling you, "It seems like you are anxious or angry a lot of the time; let's make an appointment with a psychiatrist and see if you... need help."

Those with substance abuse issues generally don't want to hear it, either.  "I'm not alcoholic, I just like to have a couple beers after a hard day at work."  They may on one hand insist they have no problems - and at the same time, expect you to let things slide if they misbehave, "You know I couldn't help it, I was drunk."

If we love someone with "problems," realizing it is them, not us - can be tremendously helpful in sorting out better ways to cope.  And to learn how to not enable, if we have been doing so in the past.  (See Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask, First.)

Attaching a label, in and of itself, doesn't help.  On the other hand... while the vast majority of those with mental illness are not violent, imagine if Jared Loughner's illness had been recognized and treated.  Or Ted Bundy's.

I think we can sort out whether a label is helpful or harmful.  Is it being used to hurt someone?  Is it being used to put the labeler in a position of Power Over, or to give him/her a smug feeling of superiority as compared to the person being "labeled?"  Or, is it simply identifying a possible problem so that the person can be helped?

Have you ever been labeled? 
Do you think some labels are helpful?