The "Power" Effects of Labels
We Often use labels to refer to other people and to ourselves.Labels , as signifiers, acknowledge particular aspects of our social identity. For example , we might label ourselves or others as "male" or "female" , indicating sexual identity . Or we might say we are "Canadian" or a "New Englander", indicating a national or regional identity.The context in which a label is used may determine how strongly we fell about the label.On St.Patrick's day , for example , someone may feel more strongly about being an irish american than about being a woman or a student or a Texan.
Sometimes People feel trapped or misrepresnted by labels . They might complain , "why do we have to have labels?" " Why can't i just be me?".These complaints belie thereality of the functionof discourse. It would be nearly impossible to communicate without labels . People rarely have trouble when labeled with terms they agree with - for example , "man" , "student" , "minessota" or "australian".Trouble arises , however , from the use of labels that they don't like or that they feel inaccurately describe them.
Labels Communicate many Levels of meaning and establish particular kinds of relationships between speaker and listener.Sometimes people use labels to communicate closeness and affection for others . Labels like "friend" , "lover" , and "partner" communicate equality. Sometimes people intentionally invoke labels to establish a hostile relationship.Labels like "white trash" and "redneck" intentionally communicate inequality . Sometimes people use labels that are unintentinally communicate offensive to others. When this happens , it demonstrate the speaker's ignorance , lack of cultural sensitivity , and connection to the other group . The use of term such as "oriental" and "homosexual" communicates negative Chacacteristics about the speaker and establishes distance between the speaker and listener.