Metrosexual--You Just Can't Keep the Bullies Down

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I despise labels.

I think I've made that clear before in entry after entry, but in case I haven't. . .

I despise labels.

Other than scientific names and nomenclatural assists, human beings most often use labels as offensive weapons. A label is simply a tag that then typifies everything about a person. A label in many ways serves the same function as a car surrounding a person. Once a person is in a car, it is no longer people we are dealing with but cars. We can weave in and out, cut others off and do the most amazing things that most of us would not consider doing outside of a car. But within a car we are insulated from humanity--our own and that of others. So too with labels--we insulate ourselves from the humanity they are presumed to define.

Those who take labels upon themselves do so for a myriad of reasons, but it does not lessen the onus of the label. When I am dealing with a communist, I am no longer dealing with a person but with a mass of ideology. That we so easily fall into the habit of labeling is a sign of intellectual laziness and of a certain desire to define ourselves outside of the label.

The most recent example of this is a label imposed by persons who are afraid of what deviates, even by a small amount, from supposed norms. I don't even know for certain what a "metrosexual" is. Seems to me that this is some variety of heterosexual who can now be despised for his or her supposed differences from all those around him or her. By my reading a metrosexual has a heterosexual's orientation with a "homosexual's" interests. Now, what precisely describes a homosexual's interests and why do they fall outside the realm of what a heterosexual man should be interested in? Can a heterosexual man read and enjoy Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, and the collected works of Angela Thirkell? Can he delight in the works of Gilbert and Sullivan and Cole Porter? Can he have any interest outside of his car, his toolbox, and the Sunday game? From my reading, it certainly doesn't seem like it. A metrosexual (whatever in the world that might be) is a man who is hardly a man at all (as defined by those, who I suppose think they know what a man is).

Metrosexual is another label, even more useless and damaging than others that have arisen. It is a label designed to narrowly circumscribe the interests that a fully heterosexual male might consider. What idiocy! As though because a label has arisen I intend to sit around all day watching Spike TV and CNN, drinking beer, and waiting for the next season (for whatever sport) to start.

I'll admit it. I despise competitive sports. Greater damage has been done to our society and to me personally in the name of competitve sports than nearly any other facet of our entertainment industry. Early on I swear I tried, but I could not fathom the interest in one group of men or another chasing around one form of spheroid or another to some end that didn't seem exactly earth-shattering. Nope--just don't see the attraction--haven't for a long time, probably never will. I don't despise and hate it as I once did--when those who were interested in these things used them as a bludgeon for those of us who were not conversant (thus my header).

I see the label metrosexual as a way of distinguishing where there should be no distinction. I do not self-identify as a metrosexual (fortunately, for one thing I don't dress nearly well enough, and my taste in Hawaiian shirts is enought o refute the label for life). Even if my fashion sense did not exclude me automatically, I would still refuse to accept a label such as this which is designed to set apart.

When will we learn that separate is never equal. A metrosexual, separated out from the heterosexual mass, will either be greater or lesser, as indeed a homosexual, distinguished from the general humanity of male sex will be regarded either as greater or lesser depending upon his surroundings. Why is this a necessary part of our interaction with one another? Why do we insist upon hurtful distinctions? How does it help us navigate society and serve the Lord? I don't recall the great saints spending their time telling each other, "Well so and so is a well-known metro." They even accepted and embraced the humanity of those who disfigurements and diseases had far removed them from the ordinary run of humanity.

Labels do not help us to grow in love. The finer the distinction, the greater the possibilities for thinking of reasons why we need not love the person as an image of God.

As with all labeling--I repudiate and reject it. The labeling disfigures us, dismantles us, makes us less than human. It serves no useful purpose except to breed prejudice and disregard. Think about it--what do you think of when someone says, "NASCAR fan" or "Country Music Fan" or "Marilyn Manson Fan" or "Barbara Streisand Fan." The words themselves conjure a reaction, usually gut-level. They breed a prejudice that alienates us from the humanity of the individual. All on the basis of what we like in the world of entertainment--hardly a significant criterion for judgment. And yet we are so anxious to feel good about ourselves that we seize on any label, any pretext for forming a difference that will somehow enhance our own status--most often at the cost of another's.

Reject labeling. In your Christian walk refuse to identify any person as anything other than a person--someone made in the image and likeness of God, someone loved beyond all bounds, without reservation, without qualification. Prepare yourself for heaven where all will be as they are without label or insignificant distinction. Make the kingdom of Heaven on Earth, by refusing to classify and pigeonhole God's most marvelous and wonderful creation.

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What is repugnant to every human being is to be reckoned always as a member of a class and not as an individual person.

-- Dorothy Sayers, Unpopular Opinions

I'm a Roman Catholic! :-)

Seriously, labels do help us in some ways, provided the labels are accurate. Recall Genesis, where God created the animals and presented them to Adam to be named (labeled).

By labeling myself as a Catholic, for example, I self-identify with other Catholics. I have other labels, too: Dad, Son, Husband, Attorney, and so on. These labels are good beacuse they help people understand (to some extent) who I am, what I believe, my role(s), etc.

It's when labels are used to ill-define certain subsets (or even obfuscate the truth) that those labels become bad or worse. "Pro-choice" is the biggest lie of all time. Other labels simply perpetuate some characature or otherwise false state or condition, like "metrosexual" (artificial), "gangsta" (evil), "feminazi" (characature).

Dear Barrister,

I agree with much of what you say, and I suppose it is the unspoken subtext of what is here. There are labels--which I view as the useless, endless, divisive, and harmful proliferation of tags and there are taxonomies. As a taxonimist, I realize the importance of real identification--identification with the purpose of analysis, understanding, and integration--not identification based on superficial characteristics that can be used for harmful discrimination.

It is important to be able to distinguish between species of octopods, thus assigning each its own position in the taxonomy. It is harmful to identify octopods as fierce human-threatening predators. First, it is untrue, and secondly it is vague and undefined.

So, when I speak of labels, I am speaking largely of the multiple reinventing of oneself via these discriminatory devices.

However, I will go so far to say that all labeling has harmful effects. The usefulness of labeling ends when the harmfulness begins. Thus self-identifying as Roman Catholic is all very well and good but it ends when that self-identification becomes a triumphalist crow at the rest of the world. On the other side, it ends when the label becomes an excuse for discriminatory practices.

Note the title of the piece. "Bullies" is undeniably a label, an identifier but it does not function as a brand.

I suppose the distinction is very subtle, but it is one of the reasons I avoid labels. If someone asks me my faith I tell them I am a Catholic--meaning I attend a Catholic, Christian Church--it is less a label than a shorthand for meaning.

I go on too long. Suffice to say that even the most innocent of labels is used in ways that makes one question the utility of distinction--particularly as it comes to people. Seems to me that every person is distinctive enough to require his or her own label rather than lumping with the general mass of this group or that group of people.



Yes, I caught the undercurrent in your post, thus my use of the iconographic smiley.

I also concur that labels can be and often are harmful. Some kids, for example, self-identify as "goths." With that label comes a whole host of potentially dangerous actions and thoughts, from dressing in all black (rather mild) to perpetual moroseness (potentially dangerous as it can led to depression, loneliness, and despair) to drug use (obviously dangerous), and it seems like one cannot assume that label without also assuming everying that goes with it.

I just got back from vacation and I saw a ubiquitous form of labelling on the beach: tattoos. 70% of the young people between 16-20 had at least one.


I despise labels.

Why don't you tell us how you really feel? :-)

I think "metrosexual" was coined by John Derbyshire at National Review to describe himself (similarly, but less formally, to when John Podhoretz coined the term "neoconservative" to describe himself). It (roughly) describes someone with what today is called "conservative" political sensibilities, but with blue-state urban personal interests. A "metrosexual" is in theory a normal down-home Bush voter who happens to be more comfortable at the opera next to the Kennedy's than in the pit stop with the Gordons.

You make a very good point in the car analogy. But at some level we do have to deal with people without getting to know them all intimately. To the extent that labels are signposts to what is pertinent in a particular interaction, I think they can be useful. But your, um, soft-spoken cautions are (as always) appreciated.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on August 22, 2005 9:25 AM.

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