I’ve been listening to the cast recording of Les Mis, and thinking of Jean Valjean, and how much I adore him, and how heartbreaking a character Javert is. And hearing Valjean sing about how he is 24601–he’s defined himself with a label placed upon him, unjustly, by an unjust society and an unjust world. And that got me back to something I’ve had on my mind for several weeks now: Labels.
Artists are traditionally resistant to labels.
Despite a large body of work in films, TV, theatre and concerts, I am viewed by many as a Jewish artist. I do not resent the label, except for the fact that I disapprove of labels in general.
I don’t care what people call me, labels have the negative value of making smaller boundaries for people.
I don’t put labels on myself.
I had gotten to a place where I truly believed everything I was called: ‘not sexy,’ ‘not funny,’ ‘too intense,’ desperate.’ All those labels they gave me, I took them because there wasn’t a trace of my true self left.
I love round people, I love skinny people. I love people in general; we’ve got to get past labels and stop being so critical about everything.
We are too quick to put labels on things. It is my profession. I get up and paint. Everyone wants to put a label on it, but I am a free spirit, so I fight against that.
What I really resent most about people sticking labels on you is that it cuts off all the other elements of what you are because it can only deal with black and white; the cartoon.
Whatever labels are being pinned on me have nothing to do with me.
I’ve never concerned myself with the labels people want to put on you. What matters to me is my own estimation.
It’s just someone has labelled us as having a different label to do what you do. I find that labels are the worst thing in the world for artistic expression.
Labels are for cans, not people.
Labels are for filing. Labels are for clothing. Labels are not for people.
My feeling is that labels are for canned food… I am what I am – and I know what I am.
That’s a lot of quotations to illustrate something that’s been on my mind a lot lately. Any time I begin to label myself, or to believe someone else’s labels that zie places on me, I instantly start to sweat and get gut-wrenching cramps of wrongness.
The fact is, we cannot label ourselves or anyone else without immediately restricting who and what we (others) are. If I tell you that I’m a woman, you’ve already put a label on me, whether you know it or not. If I tell you that I’m a round woman, you’ve put another label on me. I have no children. Another label. Drive an American car. Another label. Write novels. Another label.
And the interesting thing is that all of those labels you’ve just placed on me have nothing to do with me, and everything to do with you.
If you’re a misogynist, that “Woman” label means you automatically fear or distrust me. If you buy into the whole “women have to conform to an ideal size and shape,” my roundness means you have stamped me with the label of “Unattractive” or “Fat” or “Sexually unappealing.” If you know nothing about my history of trying to have children, you may label me “selfish” because I don’t have children, or because I haven’t adopted.
So those labels you have put on me say nothing about me.
But it’s more than other people labeling me. It’s how I label myself. I caught myself today thinking about how I felt when I was vegan/vegetarian, and thought perhaps I need to return to that lifestyle. But then those gut-wrenching wrongness cramps started again, because I fail. I fail every day. I can’t be 100% vegetarian or vegan. My life doesn’t work that way. I can eat vegetarian 90% of the time, vegan 50% of the time. And there are so many labels—flexitarian, ovo-lacto vegetarian, pescatarian, blah blah blah. Why do I have to label it?
Thus, whenever I catch myself beginning to apply a label to myself, I stop. I am infinitely more complex than any label or group of labels can even begin to express. If I buy in to the labels I or anyone else places upon me, I have already begun to limit myself.
Unlimited. That’s me. That’s you. That’s every person on this earth. Let’s let go of the labels, and let’s fly.