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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Labels Like ‘Metrosexual’ Cause Resentment

(U. Nebraska) My fiance T.J. told me that a colleague recently called him a ‘metrosexual.’ “What in the wide, wide world of sports is that supposed to mean?” I asked him. “Does it refer to someone who habitually has sex with large cities on subways? Because if there is something you haven’t told me yet that I ought to know about?”

“It is now the politically correct term for ‘sissy,’ and you used to get your ass kicked for being one,” he explained. “Someone in the media coined the term several years ago, because we apparently don’t have enough labels for people yet.”

When I Googled the word ‘metrosexual’, I found that it described a guy who knows about wine, musicals and fashion trends, hand cream, hair conditioner and shopping. A metrosexual also doesn’t think boobs, beer and monster truck racing are the only possible topics of conversation, grooms his nails, avoids bar fights, pulls his hair back in a Jedi tail and knows the difference between raspberry and mauve.

I haven’t ever heard that term before, and neither has anyone else I asked. Perhaps that explains why, when I told my son that I was dating T.J., he replied, “Oh really? I thought he was gay.” No, he’s supposedly a metrosexual. Apparently we have to invent a new orientation to explain why a man would concern himself with such things as grooming. After all, everyone knows straight men haven’t any sense of style, right?

It doesn’t bother T.J. in the least if people think he’s gay; it bothers him that they feel the need to assign him a label and pigeonhole him into a stereotype– no matter what the stereotype is. The basic problem with stereotypes and labels and categories is that people will react to the label instead of the person, either positively or negatively. And that, in turn, sometimes causes people to change their behavior and personality in order to avoid those reactions.

Although some people try to cultivate a stereotypical label, others try so hard to avoid it that they end up resenting the members of the group that they are perceived to represent. I’m sure everyone has met guys who think they have to engage in “gay-bashing” conversation so that others won’t think they themselves are gay.

This breeds homophobia and hatred in general. Not cool. Hatred generally prompts retaliation. In the recent Newsweek Tip Sheet Back-to-School issue, there was an article about homosexual relationships that was written by a homosexual man. In it the author seemed, in parts at least, to get in a couple of strike back-type digs. In one paragraph he discusses a situation as an “insidious transition (that) leads to a relationship that is frighteningly heterosexual.” What, exactly, is frightening about heterosexual relationships?

My son tells me how everyone in his school has at least one label. “You see a girl in a mini-skirt with a lot of makeup and people will say she’s a whore. Or a small guy who is good at math is automatically a dork. Lots of people avoided last week’s homecoming pep rally — they called it a ‘prep rally’ — because they didn’t want to be labeled as being part of that group whether they really wanted to see the football game or not.”

That’s very sad.

I don’t have any idea how people label me. I suppose it’s either because I’m too insecure to interact with most people, or else it’s because I have a superiority complex and don’t care. To be quite honest, I’ve never given the matter enough thought to figure out which one it is and put a label on it.

Perhaps if we all concerned ourselves more with who a person is as opposed to being worried about what he or she is, and stopped labeling, stereotyping and pigeonholing people into categories with erroneous connotations, we could get rid of some of the fertile ground in which seeds of hatred grow so beautifully.

Like the way T.J. replied to his co-worker; “Actually, I’m not anything. I’m just T.J.”