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Ruban's blog: Sticky Labels

clock Released On 21st Feb 2022

Ruban's blog: Sticky Labels

Hands up who has bought a shiny new thing, only for the whole unwrapping experience to be tainted by the unnecessarily sticky label that reaffirms to you that you got a great deal, but simultaneously chooses to remind you that you never needed it in the first place with the awful goopy residue left on your new toy? Labels are funny things. Used to conveniently classify and provide information on objects but also loosely, and perhaps unknowingly, used for similar purposes when we think of people, even down to the red colour coding warning us of imminent danger to our health. Labels can be useful but are mainly a dangerous tool of preconceived, stereotyped and often unfair thought process when it comes to people. Women have been fighting the labels that have been plastered on them for simply being women for decades now and while things have improved vastly, there is still a proportionately low number of women in senior positions across top-listed businesses and government.

However politically correct or new age we try to be, unconscious bias is sometimes unavoidably ingrained into our psyche, often as a by-product of our upbringing and childhood, but also slipped into the media we consume. Despite the UK Advertising Standards Authority banning gender stereotypes to sell us more things back in 2019, it did not stop the Government as recently as January 2021 being forced to withdraw two ‘Stay at Home’ Covid-19 ads in a week after depicting women staying at home to simultaneously hold a child and iron, read books to two kids, and to be a dab hand with a mop and a pair of marigolds. All whilst the only male figure (Boris?) sat on the couch living the Life of Reilly.  These days, even before children are brought into this world, we’re shoving them into gender biased social norms, by blasting blue or pink confetti out of cannons to TikTok sound-tracked humdrum to reveal to the world the addition of a new boy or girl to the flock. I guess we must shoot something out of a cannon to let people know, but can’t we just shoot some carefully sculpted papier mache genitalia to be more precise?

What does it mean to be a man or a woman to you? Does it have to mean something? Maybe if we asked ourselves what it means to be <insert your name here>, we can understand our principles and beliefs that make us who WE are, not what our gender, sexuality, age etc dictate we should be. How much conflict, negativity and self-doubt are brought about through the labels we believe in or are led to believe in? Does it stop us from achieving our true potential because our confidence has been knocked to pieces because “a person like me (based on age, gender, ethnicity) should be doing A, B, C”? Do we stop a friendship and relationship from (ever) developing because we have already cast an aspersion?  

Labels can be wide-ranging and equally debilitating. As a father who is very much involved in my children’s lives, I still often sense the feeling that it comes as a great surprise to some people. To some, the label ‘father’ comes with an image of the bumbling man who can be barely left alone with the fruit of his loins without losing one in a supermarket and teaching the other how to belch the alphabet. Any positive physical achievement (“look how he kicks, he’s going to be a footballer!”) is attributed to the father, while anything else is clearly the handywork of mum. However, mums are equally able to be mentally crippled by the sheer number of labels associated with being a mother. New mums have enough to deal without the pressure of being a ‘bad mum’ for bottle feeding their child or making a puree without the freshest produce from the local organic shop. Whether its people labelled as ‘quiet’ that are often cast aside as not having an opinion or too boring to hang around with, or those who are laden with the cultural expectations of being a son or daughter, labels don’t seem to be particularly useful on anything apart from goods in a shop.   

Ruban is a husband to one amazing wife, father to two wonderful young boys, and a willing slave to all three. When he is not dancing around with a child on his shoulders or ferrying them around on piggyback, he can be seen attempting to kick footballs, save worlds on his Playstation and occasionally audit some things for a lucky City insurance firm.

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