Thursday, 27 December 2018

Labels

I have been thinking about this blog post for many months. It first came to mind when my friend Alistair Green highlighted a brilliant campaign his company was involved in. The campaign was #Labelsareforclothes by River Island, which was outstanding. They turned stereotypes on their heads
Signing my debut novel Flight
Photograph by Candy Gourlay
while highlighting that labels are for clothes, not people.

This campaign came at a time when I was getting used to attaching a label to myself again. A label which for many years I haven't really spoken about yet now I was shouting about it...and with good reason. 

Like so many before me I have had lots of labels attached to me over my lifetime:

Daughter
Sister
Wife
Mother
Ex-Wife
Divorcee
Single Mother
Businesswoman
Carer
Student
Doctor
Lecturer
Senior Lecturer
Consultant 
Mentor
Grandmother
Writer
and then the label I mentioned above
Disabled Writer

I've been disabled for nearly twenty years. If my body hadn't misbehaved there's a good chance several of those labels might not have happened. Becoming disabled opened doors for me so I don't regret it happening. I have spoken about this before here.

In the main, I have kept quiet about my disability whilst working in academia, rightly or wrongly, proving to myself that I can achieve regardless. However, in the world of children's publishing where inclusivity is so important, it is vital that I shout loud about my disability and say, if I can do it, so can you. I must be honest this does not come naturally and has taken quite a bit of adjustment. I have spent my life fighting against any label I was given not just the disabled one. I never want labels to define me. There have been many ready to prejudge because of labels they were far too quick to attach.

There is a risk with any label that it will define you too much particularly if attributed by others, putting you in a box while potentially feeling limiting. Perhaps that's why rather than a disabled author I would instead see myself as an author who happens to be disabled as that is something I feel comfortable shouting about. I know it is all about semantics, but sometimes that is all it takes to give you the power back.

As we move rapidly towards 2019 make sure you define yourself the way you want to be, but be proud to be that person, whoever that might be. Don't hide it away. In the same way don't be so quick to attach labels to others. Give everyone a chance. #labelsareforclothes, not people.

A classic but it seems appropriate Gloria Gaynor's I Am What I Am



No comments:

Post a comment