Categories – what on Earth do I do??

Lately I’ve found myself wondering about some of the categories we place people in, and whether those people would find those categories welcome.

I was looking at a photo of a really pretty person on Tumblr and went to reblog it, when I got held up by the tags I’d put on the post. The post is here, but if you don’t want to click the link, it’s of a super pretty fat person in a dress. I’d initially thought to tag the post as fatshion, but then I had to think – would the original poster appreciate me declaring them and their outfit part of fatshion?

I know that if any outfit posts of me ended up being reblogged around, I’d be happy to have the fatshion or fat tag added – they have become part of my identity as I try to love my body. But would someone else like me to make that decision for them? If they consider what they wear to be fashion and not part of the sub-culture of fatshion, is it offensive to them that I declare them part of it anyway, simply because I see a fat body wearing a lovely dress? The person is gorgeous and wearing a beautiful dress either way, but I worry about labelling them as something they may not identify with, and indeed, with a label they might have problems with.

Putting labels on people is something that happens naturally, I think, but people have such complex identities and being accurate can be incredibly hard.

For example, here is a photo of me in the woods:

in the woods


(LMAO I know, super attractive photo) I would be totally ok if you wanted to tag this as “fatshion, girl, dress” – but apart from the dress tag, if you don’t know me, how do you know I’m fine with the fatshion tag? How do you know I’m a girl? I am a cis woman, but just because I present in this picture as feminine, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a plethora of identites that I could actually be. It’s really difficult to know how to categorise people and photos sometimes – one way to avoid the problem is to avoid tagging/categorising altogether, but if you want some organisation to your blog or whatever, you do have to organise somehow.


Similarly, something else that I’ve seen and have been curious about is the tendency of Sci-Fi conventions to have panels like “Women in writing…” or “Female characters….” – panels that revolve around that one aspect of a person/character. Is it wrong to group all women authors/characters together like that? By prefixing author with ‘women’ are we singling them out and separating them from ‘normal’ male authors?

I think that it is important to hear and draw attention to the experience of women, trans* and non-binary people within any cis/male dominated field, because without highlighting problems, how can anything change? But equally, you have to be really careful not to come off as patronising or othering. It’s a difficult line to walk – redressing the balance and ensuring that more than just white cishet male voices are heard, without suggesting that women or trans* people or non-binary people need their own space to play in, far away from all the serious, normal men. I will say that it’s very rare I’ve seen a “Girl cooties are in this panel, the rest are safe” attitude, but it’s easy to see why it’s a worry for people taking part in conventions.


In the end, I suppose we should always try not to assume too much about the people we see and hear – if we don’t know how someone identifies, then it’s best to be neutral, right?

Have you found this? Have you been mis-identified before? Have you given up on categories?


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