The Power of Labels, inspired by Joss Whedon’s Speech on Feminism


We’ve all heard the phrase, “Behind every great man is a woman who made him that way,” and nodded our heads in agreement and smiled knowingly to each other. There are women who believe that females are the superior gender, and men who believe women shouldn’t vote. There are people of both genders who are offended by the fact that the president is male.

There are those who think an African-American shouldn’t be in a leading role for Americans and individuals who criticize others based on color, race, and political stance. 


We all use them. “She’s an equestrian,” “He’s a painter.”


I had a discussion about association with my friend Jenny the other day, and we came to the conclusion that no matter what, people WILL associate. When someone says, “I love Coldplay!” I automatically think of my boyfriend. I associate their love of a particular band with my boyfriend and immediately feel a connection. 


They say when you go abroad, you start seeing people you know everywhere you go, but it’s just your brain working to make connections in a place where you recognize nothing. 

But here’s a problem with connections and associations:
They lead to discrimination. Expectations. Misunderstandings.

I’m not saying we need to cease all connections and associations. I’m saying, awareness and the Golden Rule is the key to peace.

“But last week, I saw a black person say he didn’t like coffee, and since you’re black, you must be the same way.”

“Um, all blondes are stupid, because this one time, a blonde thought such-and-such.”

“Girls are all emotional.”

What if we were to take a look at the individual instead of the whole? Instead of seeing the forest, let’s zoom in and look at the trees. Individually. 

Because, dude — I’m sick of labels.

Joss Whedon recently did a speech to a bunch of feminists on feminism and its moniker, and how he didn’t like the label itself. My favorite quote from his entire spiel was, “The word ‘racism’ didn’t end racism,” and I have to agree. But the media has to have a way to categorize everything neatly, and that’s how I see these specific terms: “racism,” “feminism,” and more —  they’re categorizations so that the media can organize every issue into tidy little piles. 

That’s not to say that I don’t believe that racism and feminism and all of that is real and alive and well. Because it is.

If someone walked up to me and told me that I shouldn’t date my boyfriend because he’s black and I’m white and it’s wrong, I’d likely tell them, kindly, to butt out and stop being a racist. And then I would realize that I used a term I can’t stand, and that I didn’t treat the individual like an individual, but like a whole. I categorized them in my mind. Maybe they had a really bad experience once, and they were merely looking out for me. Maybe they have tons of African-American friends and didn’t mean it like it came out. MAYBE, it’s how they were raised, and they don’t know any better. But to immediately become offended and label them a racist will not SOLVE the problem – it will merely give it a moniker and smooth your ruffled feathers. You will have lowered yourself to their standards. 

Maybe if, instead of becoming offended and reacting with anger to someone’s racist or feminist or what-have-you sentiments, we raised a white flag and had a conversation with them and got to know their point of view, we could somehow communicate to them WHY their connections and associations are hurtful and harmful to society. 

Maybe if we’re kind instead of defensive, we can do more to change society’s labels than standing up and saying, “You’re WRONG, and we’re RIGHT.” 

Maybe if we ALL shared an open mindset instead of insisting that the offender have one while we negatively reproved them with a closed mind to THEIR point of view, we’d change the world.

We’d shake the world.