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Are we obsessed with identity politics?

Labels affect our identity and the way we perceive ourselves in the world

By Leah Flint

Photo courtesy of fotologic via Flickr

With the emergence of TikTok and the increasing constant access to media, it is becoming more and more evident that aesthetic, looks and personal style are pressuring the youth to fit themselves into a specific category. Yet, it is not just the media that is pushing this agenda, it is also evident in society; whether this means that you are trying to set yourself uniquely away from your peers or that you label yourself as perhaps queer, black or even short or tall. Although there is the argument that society is becoming aware of their intersecting factors, i.e. gender, race and social class, why do we feel the need to state ourselves in labels, stereotypes and symbolism?

Wearing a shirt that says 'I AM VEGAN', takes away from the principle. Most of the time, you find people saying ’vegans are always pushing their agenda’. Perhaps the question people should be asking is if it’s actually vegans that are pushing this agenda? Or people who let themselves be defined by that one contributing factor?

Although as a society we have developed our awareness of intersectionality, many find the label they believe to affect their life directly to become the overall contributing factor of identity. I have also been guilty of this. As a mixed-race woman, I have found myself the culprit of racism as well as misogyny. However, because my race seemed to impact my life the most, I found myself obsessed with race politics. I would find myself fighting for race issues over topics that affect me as a woman. Although I stand by the fact that there is racism in the UK and I should continue to stand up for what I believe in, I shouldn’t let race define me.

By letting race define me, I am leading into what society wants me to think, that I am just another statistic of injustice, when in reality I am much more than that. This does not just apply to me but to others as well. As I’ve seen on social media, there is an upcoming trend of becoming ‘THAT GIRL’, meaning waking up at 6am, drinking green juices, perfecting your wardrobe and workout routine. I have seen first-hand how this has affected my friends around me; it became a constant pressure to be better and do better whilst making everything look 100% aesthetic. Personally, I found this to be another form of categorisation that is forcing people to form routines that fit into the 9-5 idea of capitalism. Of course, people have bought into it; it has become their new identity, because they are told that it is, due to the fact that they want to look like the people promoting it.

I have seen this same pattern in big companies such as Primark, New Look and other corporations that promote Black Lives Matter or Pride on t-shirts, flags and mugs. These organisations rely on self-identity. Although it is nice to see different people being celebrated and welcomed (I too have a Black Lives Matter mug), this celebration only lasts whilst it is trending and benefiting companies. Once finished, it’s out the window.

That is exactly why I no longer want to be defined by what society is telling me to be. I will not be buying into the idea that I have to be supportive of things that affect me, in order to make a difference. As humans, we are not that difficult to understand; we all just want to be understood and free. Instead, everyone is constantly telling us we have to be one thing or the other. Why can’t we simply just be what we want to be without giving it a name? Some may say it is a lot more complex than that, and it is naive to think that way, but doesn’t pushing labels make it a lot more complex than it is?


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