Check “No”: We Are Not Our Labels


In my 21 years on this earth, I have learned one lesson: I will always be defined by a series of check marks. My college application process came down to a series of boxes that I did or did not fulfill. Each job I apply for is a check mark in a box. Every time I represent myself to the world, a handful of my characteristics are checked off on that proverbial list, and I am limited to it. And I don’t like being limited.

Everyone has had that relationship that we have angst over because the significant other “doesn’t like labels.” You cringe every time you hear, “Why do we have to define everything? Why can’t we just let some things be undefined?” But why can’t we? Why does society feel this need to put us in boxes? Why is everything a label?

There is a sense that when you attempt to step outside of your predetermined role, it’s looked down upon. Contradictions mean you haven’t made up your mind or that you’re just confused. No one is allowed to be unabashedly unrestrained. Everyone is given a label and a box to check. White. Female. Educated. Male. Black. Uneducated. Gay. Straight. Upper class. Lower class. Feminist. Republican. Minority. Majority. We play the roles we are given, and straying is not accepted.

I can be educated without being privileged. I can be pro-women without being a feminist. I can be feminine while being tough. I can be a believer without being religious. I can be analytical without being a skeptic. I can be conservative without being Republican—and I can be liberal without being a Democrat. I can be ambitious without being blind, and I can be irresponsible without being careless.

My mother is more than her gender. My father is more than his lack of a college degree. My boyfriend is more than his sexual orientation. My minority friends are more than their skin tone, and my religious friends are more than their God. My sister is more than her job, and my friends are more than their parent’s class level.

I come from a generation that challenges everything, every day. We are not the Greatest Generation—not yet. But we are shaped by these labels and boxes that our lives are squished into. Why do we accept them? Why do we narrow each other into these boxes? Why do we dismiss everything that everyone else says “because they couldn’t understand?” When did we decide that it is best to devolve ourselves into a checklist on a job application? When do we realize that we are harming each other and closing the communication gap?

We are more than these boxes. We are more than these labels. We can be who we want to be, we can contradict ourselves. We can change our minds, and we can step outside of boundaries. So why do we let ourselves be confined?

Embrace your contradictions.

Tell us your contradictions and step outside your box. Tweet us @litdarling.

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Note from the Editor

Every single point Hope makes in this piece summarizes why I started Literally, Darling. I wanted a home on the Internet for a generation who are more than the targeted Google ads in the sidebar. For people who aren’t defined by their stereotypes or limited by some of the boxes they fit into. LD is a home for those of us who are more than just the sum of our parts, who are walking contradictions, and whose face shown to the world is but a mere glance at who we are, what we care about, and what’s important to us. Society likes to write off our gender and our generation as too young, too lazy, too self-obsessed; blame us for the lingering recession; and condemn us for trying to figure our way forward in life without a guidebook. But not here, not on my site, and not with my writers. We’ve had six months of being nothing but exactly who we are and of throwing off labels used to sideline us. Since we’re growing by leaps and bounds every day, our readers seem to appreciate it and are finding a home here too. So on our anniversary, this is my vow to you—these six months were just the warm-up act.

Katie Racine

Editor-in-Chief & Founder 

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