Societal labels are an interesting thing. Labels are simultaneously extremely harmful and helpful to individual personhood. They are harmful in the way that we usually think. Based on having certain attributes, society projects stereotypes onto a person which may characterize them in a false, hurtful, or incomplete manner. Moreover labels are limiting and often don’t include room for all of the complexities that make up an individual. Even positive labels – like labeling someone “the smart kid” – can be detrimental because these labels place a social expectation on the individual being labeled to be “the smart kid”. The anxiety of living up to that expectation can be overwhelming – though the intent behind that label may be benevolent in nature.
On the flip side, societal labels can be helpful because they often create a culturally and politically discursive space for minorities. Meaning that, for example, the label “gay” may not include all of the intricacies of an individual’s sexuality, but it does provide a political space for individuals engaging in homosexual relations to gain political traction, proper representation, and equal rights in a society. Moreover, the label “gay” also creates a culturally significant space in which individuals can find a community in which they feel less isolated from the (generally oppressive) majority. Labels are simultaneously limiting and a means for progress. This is confusing because it makes it incredibly difficult to say definitively if societal labels are, on balance, more harmful or more helpful to individual personhood.
Billy and I made a video which examines the more negative effects of societal labels. This video stems from a place of feeling a lack of control over the labels other place on you. In the end, we hope to convey the message that the only one who can properly define you is you. Others may try to categorize you or put you in a box, but at the end of the day you are the arbitrator of your own happiness and you are the only one responsible for defining who you are.
Check out our video here:
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This is a follow up discussion to my “Makeup Struggle” video. Here I talk about the commercialization of beauty in America – specifically focusing on new media and the power of “Like”. I focus on the commercialized sense of social value/social worth that we place in “likes” on social media and the impact that this has on individuals.
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I’ve always been someone who doesn’t regularly put on makeup. I don’t have anything against makeup, I just choose not to wear it. In the video below, you can watch as I struggle to put on some make up in a faux-makeup tutorial. But really, the message here is that no matter what – if you choose to wear makeup or not – you are beautiful just the way you are.
Here is a video we made in response to the Big History Project’s question “What Does It Mean To Be Human?”
I was limited by the video response requirements to a two-minute analysis of this question. Here is the original script that I wrote before I had to make cuts for time.
Hey everyone, it’s Chloe Mays here from the Gen-Y Blogger YouTube Channel. The Big History project has been encouraging people to answer one of life’s biggest and most elusive questions: what does it mean to be human? Let’s find out.
This is a much more difficult question than it appears to be at first glance. I began to approach this question by formulating what sort of attributes make an individual person a human being. I thought of different mental faculties or physical capacities that may contribute to a shared sense of humanness. But then I realized that I was taking individualized attributes that may apply to one person or a group of persons (even an exceptionally large group of persons), but that these attributes are in no way universalizable to all humans. For instance, there are people who lack certain mental or physical capacities that many humans share in common, but we wouldn’t say that those individuals are not human.
Needless to say, I nixed that approach pretty quickly – otherwise this video would become an excuse for the twitter tag #NotAllHumans, and I don’t want to be responsible for something like that.
So, then I decided to think about what human society has that the animal kingdom does not. I concluded, after much thought, that what makes humans different from other animals is our unique set of motivations for action. While many species of the animal kingdom (including humans) are motivated by self-preservation and pity, or empathy (especially in the case of other social animals), humans are motivated by something more.
What is that “more”???
I believe – al la Rousseau – that this uniquely human motivation is perfection. Now, this isn’t to say that every human gets up every day with the expressed goal of achieving “perfectness” – this isn’t even to say that there is even something that is conceivably “perfect” that humans can achieve. Instead, what this means is that humans are humans because we are uniquely qualified by our general capacity to reason to be motivated by perfection. By the desire to be both better than others, and, in turn, better than our selves. This motivation drives humans to compare themselves to others – not only in the desire to preserve one’s self and have pity for others like other animals – rather, this comparison drives us to seek domination over other humans as a way of augmenting our own happiness.
There are three particular ways in which I see this manifested in our society – social inequalities, our sense of morality, and in our capacity to innovate.
Let’s look at some examples of social inequalities, starting from something simple. Right now, as you are watching this video, you have made judgments about me in comparison to what you believe about me and what you believe about the ideal version of that would look like – deciding if I’m more or less adequate in comparison to your idealized version of what I should be like.
This motivation for perfection creates social inequalities in our society because it creates a value system that favors a good reputation among one’s own social group and stigmatizes certain groups of humans or human attributes outside of one’s own social group to create a strong divide between the more perfect “us” and the less perfect “them” – where the “us” and “them” are defined uniquely for each human being in their particular social situation.
So far as I know, there are no other animal species that maintain prejudices over others of their kind because of something that they perceive others of their kind as having or doing that makes them a less perfect version of that species. And yet we see this rampant in human society in everything from something simple like the way we dress (so that people see us in a certain way compared to others); to more complex and deep seeded judgement-based comparisons like racial, class, sexuality, and gender-based prejudices. It is, sadly, in this way that I feel like I can practically reduce the whole of human society down to Sneetches from Dr. Seuss
In this same way, the motivation of perfection drives humans to create systems of morality and to pass judgement on others (justified or not) for their actions. Where there is the morally wrong – and those who commit morally wrong acts – and the morally right. We align ourselves with different systems of morality – though they may be incredibly similar, there are always differences in individuated morality usually (but not solely) based on religious, social, and class-based ideological differences. And we align ourselves with the “us” who are morally right and just and the “them” who are morally corrupt and wrong. Humans then use this gross comparative perfection-driven reasoning to justify social inequalities and treating other humans as something less than human – or simply refusing to recognize another’s humanness because they don’t meet a certain moral-based criteria.
However, it’s not all bad. This motivation of perfection also causes humans to innovate and create amazing things – to interact in such a way that we are in constant competition with each other to create modern marvels, to build better and dream bigger, to be or do the “next best thing”, dominate the field or place we are in, or simply to be better than our neighbor. To be or do anything that sets us apart from (and typically above) others. In doing so, we have co-evolved and maintained uniquely human reciprocal relationships of collaboration and competition to fit our rapidly changing landscapes. This motivation has caused us to innovate and adapt to our own innovations in a miraculous way that is both beautiful and uniquely human.
So, I guess, in closing, I’d like to say this. While being human may mean that we are motivated by forces that cause us to create an “us” v. “them” divergent mentality, seeing and recognizing the unique differences in every human and appreciating, accepting and celebrating those differences instead of homogenizing others to your ideal standard. That’s the most human act of all.
Thank you so much for watching this video and remember to stay beautiful!
This week has been a roller coaster of epicness – from the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act (which will allow millions of Americans to maintain their access to healthcare), to their Fair Housing decision (which will help prevent discriminatory housing practices), to today’s Marriage Equality decision (allowing every American the freedom to marry the person they choose). Love wins!!!! I couldn’t be more excited for our win today. I only hope that the momentum from this day will generate more positive changes in every marginalized community to come.
I’m not ashamed to say that I cried when I saw news of the decision. I cried, not because we had won a long and hard battle on the road to equality (thought that may have been part of it), but because it felt like I had found this missing piece of myself that I didn’t know was missing. While I recognized the inequality behind not granting specific government benefits to same-sex couples and felt bitter about being a second-class citizen in regards to my right to marry, marriage was (and is) not something that’s even on my radar at this particular point in my life. So, I suppose it never truly felt like something had been missing in my life, until the ruling today. I never had to struggled with the hardship of wanting to share my life with another woman and not being granted the access to do so in the eyes of the law. There was never a moment, for me, in my life where I had to stare at the hole that was missing and recognize it’s emptiness… until today. Today, I saw myself, not for who I am, but for who society labels me as. I saw all of the missing pieces – the rights that I cannot lay claim to, the social inequalities and prejudices that make up my every day life.
I am proud of who I am. I hope for the day that society won’t see me as a bunch of social labels, but will instead just see me. See Chloe. For my personality and intellect instead of my social circumstances.
While the Supreme Court has been on a roll, it is still a long and difficult road to end social, cultural, and political discrimination in this country. Today was an incredibly historic day. While there are still many strides to be taken on the road to equality, this was a very important step in the right direction. Thank you to all of those brave souls who have come before us and paved the way for today’s victory. Thank you to the justices who saw to it that all should be equally free in the eyes of the law to marry the person whom they choose. Let us maintain the momentum of the past few days and continue to work hard for change, justice, and equality for all of our fellow Americans and citizens of our shared world.
Let us introduce ourselves! We’re Chloe and Billy Mays – siblings who hope to take over the world share our journey through this crazy life with you. Everything form the funny things in life, to the more serious personal, political, or social based things life throws at us. We hope that you subscribe to our channel and join us on that journey =)
My brother Billy and I have officially launched our joint YouTube channel! He will also be joining me on all Gen-Y Blogger social media platforms.
Our YouTube Channel is dedicated to looking at life from the perspectives of two similar, yet distinctly different siblings. Growing up is hard to do, and no one should ever have to feel like they’re going through anything in life alone. We hope to share our stories with you so that you can laugh with us, live with us, and know that you are never alone.
Although my friends and I totally had the coverage from New York of New Year’s Eve running all night long, we completely missed everything good that happened with side adventures to YouTube. But that’s okay, because that’s what YouTube is for – when you’re so busy watching YouTube that you miss out on the things happening in real life and need to see them after-the-fact on YouTube. One of the many things that happened that night was a performance of “Let it Go” by the wonderful and glamorous Idina Menzel. During her performance, Idina may have missed a note or two which caused the haters to come out in full force. People were tweeting things like “It seems that Idina Menzel’s alter ego Adele Dazeem performed today instead.” While this is hilariously clever, this generation is a bit too plugged in to appreciate live performances and the talent of artists’ shows (which I plan to ramble about more in a different post). Idina Menzel replied with a classy and non-confrontational tweet quoting a prior interview she had:
First off, the tact and grace with which this response was constructed blows my mind. But what I really appreciate about this response is not only that it is a perfect reply to people who attend live performances and expect an exact re-hash of the studio recordings (lame), but that it is also amazing advice about redefining success as something reasonably attainable. Idina encourages everyone to accept that you will make mistakes, and that success lies not in eliminating all short-coming, but in facing them head on and overcoming them.
Something that my mom taught me is that “Can’t Just Means You Don’t Want To” – (which, of course, doesn’t include the medical incapacity to do something). What she meant by this is that when you’re down, when you’ve failed, or when you’ve dug such a deep hole that climbing out seems like an impossibility, that really you’re just so down on yourself or just so afraid of the work ahead that you’re impeding your ability to do whatever it is that you say you can’t do. For instance, when I was little and we were at the park, I tried to do a pull-up on one of the monkey bars and failed miserably. I told my mother that I can’t do pull-ups. She replied, “Can’t just means you don’t want to. Practice, and one day you will be able to do one, but if you tell yourself you can’t, it will never happen.” I have gone my whole life not being able to do a pull up because I’ve let my failures stop me from ever making progress in that department. My brother, however, took my mother’s advice and now can do pull-ups for days.
Idina is absolutely right, “You can’t get it all right all the time, but you can try your best.” And, moreover, if you put hard work into overcoming all of the obstacles and short-comings along the way, you’ll be able to move mountains. Okay, maybe not mountains, but you’ll be in the proper mindset to take on the world.
For anyone who has been living under a rock for the past decade or so, JK Rowling is a British novelist best known as the author of the Harry Potter series which have sold over 400 million copies worldwide – becoming the best selling book series in the world and, later, the highest-grossing film series in the world.
JK Rowling has a reputation of responding with witty and/or heartfelt remarks to fans on her Twitter page. It seems like she really takes time to connect with her fan base in an intimate and meaningful way. Yesterday, she replied with this Tweet in response to a fan’s question, “@jk_rowling it’s safe to assume that Hogwarts had a variety of people and I like to think it’s a safe place for LGBT students”
Canadian post-hardcore turned indie rock band The Reason is my current musical addiction. I found their album We’re So Beyond This (2007) while meandering through the dark depths of iTunes looking for a local Colorado band. I cannot even begin to describe how much I’m in love this this album. The band, sure, is very good, but this album is a well-thought-out work of art.
The album opens with a fast-paced, short, anthem-like song “My Broken Legs” which will have you searching for the repeat button on your iPod almost immediately. The song is a brilliant opening to the album, getting the listener pumped for what’s to come, but leaving them wanting more. Later in the album, “Unquestionable” gives us a fun instrumental intro that feels like the guitars and bass are speaking to each other, conversing alongside the lyrics. The 7th track on the album “If My Tongue Could Talk” takes a slight deviation from some of their other songs and almost sounds like something that could have easily been a song by an early Three Days Grace. Their title track “We’re So Beyond This” features Sara Quinn of Tegan and Sara who provides a perfect compliment to Adam White’s powerful and raspy vocals.
I could go on and on about each of the tracks which each have something special to offer the audience. But, what I think I like most about this album is how much the music meant to each song – which is really refreshing. So many songs are composed of a really simple chord structure that a 10-year-old could pick up in minutes. It takes a lot of courage to switch genres like The Reason did, but that didn’t stop them from putting their heart into this album and for that I’m extremely grateful. Adam White’s powerful vocals, Ronson Armstrong’s groovy bass lines, the dexterity of James Nelan and Jeremy Widerman’s guitar riffs, and the thoughtful beats of Cam Bordignon on drums make this a truly fantastic listening experience.
Pro Tip: for some unknown reason, listening to this album while playing Pokemon Yellow on the GameBoy makes you feel like a real bad ass.