08 August 2005

Labels and Categories

I have some more errands to make today. I need to pick up my suits from my tailor (I had two tailor-made, plus the other two I have; my Dad insisted that I bring those to Buffalo coz I'll be needing it for formal and religious activities, which I agree). I also need to make some more phone calls, this time, in order to canvass for a new set of tires (remember this?) I went to the vulcanizing shop a few days ago and they were sorry to tell me that my flat tire is irrepairable. I partially expected that, but was still optimisitic, that's why I brought the tire to the shop. But then, if I could stick three fingers in the big gashing hole, then hope is all lost. Oh no, my wallet is gonna be dented again...

Ok, start of rant portion...

I was reading Phanja's blog the other day and came up to a brief mention of categorization of humans (This rant of mine actually was inspired by Phanja's mention of the Turkish dilemma of whether to call themselves as European or Middle Eastern). You know, everything from nationality, race, skin color, sexual orientation, that kind of categorization. My first opinion regarding that was that these categorizations can be a pain in the ass. Why? Because these categorizations, these labels, force into you a certain set of stereotypes, a set of things that people expect of you the moment they know your label. An that can be a pain in the ass.

Sexual orientation, for example, can be divided into as few as three (straight, homosexual, bisexual) to infinite (have you heard of the gender continuum?). The races can be divided using many different ways, ranging from the fewest selections (Caucasoid, Mongoloid, Negroid) to something with more choices (ie. the ones we usually find on the Internet: Caucasian, Asian or Pacific Islander, African-American, Hispanic-Latino, Native American, etc).

It would not be a problem if every person fits a certain category. But most of the time, that doesn't happen. Take me and my sister for example. We consider ourselves as "fake Filipinos." We have the looks, yes, but the mind is absent. We feel that certain Filipino traits are abhorrent and undesirable (Filipino tendency to be late, the very clanish setting, etc). That's why most of our friends think that we are very arrogant, stand-alone people who are very opinionated and rash. If they weren't our friends, then they would be very annoyed with us. It's just that they know our backgrounds that's why they can put up with it.

But then, as Phanja has said, it is very humanly natural to categorize everything. It's just how the brain works. It seeks rationality and reason on every thing on the world. This is where the contradiction starts. Why does categorization have to be so innate within us even though at some situations it can be detrimental for us?

As a linguistics major, I have a lot of experience in categorization. I do that all the time in my data analyses. And I have to admit, I sometimes categorize things in my life that most people usually don't. Let me give you an example.

I have what I call a Philo-Erotic Continuum Theory. It is a scale of the correlation between a person's closeness to another person and the type of relationship they have. If A doesn't share anything with B, then they are strangers, gradually increase the amount of things they share with each other, and they become acquaintances, to friends, to best friends, to lovers. It is a simple scale from 1 to 10. It has the implication that if you have a best friend, then you share almost everything with that person. If you share everything, I mean EVERYTHING, then sooner or later that person will be your lover.

Example over.

Anyway, I am just disturbed at this topic. We having a brain that can process and categorize many different things, with humans trying to be rational, at the same time, that tendency has a side effect of producing stereotypes that can damage the well-being of those who are the exceptions.


  1. I think you should just realize you make an assumption and be prepared to change your position. We all put others in boxes initially, but most people aren't prepared to take people out of their boxes even when evidence shows they don't belong in their initially given box.

    Here I go. I make no sense anymore...

  2. Sense? It is hard to make sense in this world. All the people can do is try...

  3. Good point. Too many people get caught up with the "labels" and forget about the people underneath them.

    Let's all thank the "politically correct" for that one... darnit, I just did it myself.

    Oh, and what is the "gender continuum"?