Tuesday, 30 August 2016

LABELS ARE FOR BOXES


Hello everyone! How have y'all been doing? Not gonna lie, I'm a bit nervous to write this post, but I'm also very excited and happy to finally share this with all of you. If you have followed me for a while, you might remember a post I wrote some time ago, called Labels and Boxes are for Organising. Well, a month or five ago, I was talking to a dear friend of mine about prejudices and labels, and how people go around and label everything they come across. Jokingly, we discussed how silly it would be if people would actually be carrying label makers with them, and how stupid it would look if they actually printed those labels and physically put them on random strangers on the streets. Because, if you think about it, that's what we do, mentally: we see people we don't know and we instantly have our opinion ready, labelling them as we go.

After joking around for a while, the idea of a label maker stuck with me, and after some brainstorming and thinking out loud, I decided to create a blog project around it. I knew I wanted to challenge myself, and break out of my comfort zone, and that's how the idea of a short video saw the light. I contacted a couple of friends who all have to deal with labels almost on a daily basis, and I brought them together in front of a camera to try and capture the essence of what labels do, and how harmful they are, but also how we can overcome them. 
Together with Justine Demarey, who was my rock during the shooting/editing process of this campaign, I created a moodboard, a story, a concept, the whole shebang that comes with making a film, however short it may be. On the day of the shoot itself, I got help from Eva, the same friend that sparked this whole project with our labelling discussing, and I couldn't be more grateful for her help and patience. 

Of course, the video speaks for itself (or at least, I hope so), but to round things out, I (with some help from my all time fav second opinion, Annebeth) thought it would be a great idea to give my dear cast members a chance to speak up and use their voice. I have been very vocal of my opinion on labels and stereotypes on my blog, and to change things up a little, I wanted to share some different voices with you.  All five of us, the people in front of the camera, have completely different backgrounds. We differ a lot, be it in looks, culture or beliefs, but we all have this in common: we get labelled, regularly. We all deal with it in different ways, but this was my way to unite forces, and show the world that I am, no, we are more than the labels they put on us. Try to put us in boxes, we will only prove you wrong by breaking them.

Now, let me introduce you to some of my awesome cast/crew members! Unfortunately, Nasser, who is 30 years old and works as an employee in a supermarket (the other guy in the video), was not available for further quotes, but I asked my director and right hand Justine to share her thoughts with me.


Naomi, 22, studies children pedagogics. I got to know Naomi through Annebeth, at a blogger event, and we immediately clicked. She's one of those people that adds sparkle to your life, and brightens up your day. She has learned to love her body, and man, does she rock it!

Naomi: Growing up with magazines and media telling me I would be so much happier or look so much better with five pounds less was hard, and it started messing with my head. It wasn't until my teenage years that I started getting into feminism and body positive blogs, and I stopped reading popular magazines that only tell us what we're doing wrong. Slowly but surely, I realised that it is not I who is in the wrong, but society, choosing to put a label on me because it's easy. It's easier to go with what the media tell you instead of questioning what is happening around you. Right now, I know that size is nothing but a number, and it says nothing about the person I am inside. I have too many things in life I work hard for, and too many places to be, things to see and people to meet to worry about the prejudices of others who don't know me. 

Delphine, 19, studies commercial science. Delphine and I went to the same high school, but I feel like our friendship has mainly developed over the past two years. Delphine is an amazing, kind person, with a bubbling personality, and even though it took some persuasion to get het involved in this project, I am so proud of her for stepping out of her comfort zone and killing it.

Delphine: I had very strong doubts stepping into this project, because I already imagined the comments I would get. "She's doing this for attention", "What is she trying to obtain through this", "Why is she even in this video". After a lot of thinking, and getting some second opinions, I realised that I had to do it, if only to prove those comments wrong. Labels are a real problem, for almost everyone, and we need to talk about it, spark a discussion. I decided to take part in this plan, because I hope that this video convinces people to think twice, and to not  judge a book by its cover. We are more than our appearance, think about that next time you want to judge someone on the streets. 

Rébécca, 24, is studying to become a style consultant and working in retail at the same time. When I was searching for someone with African roots for my project, I stumbled upon Rébécca via-via, and I immediately knew she was the girl I needed. She is spontaneous, has the most open, gorgeous smile, and when we met for the first time, we immediately got along. She's a gem!

Rébécca: Labels only exist because of prejudices and ignorance. As I grew older, I have learned not to care about what others may think about me, and accept me for who I truly am, flaws and all. It is my life, my mind, my body, and I will rock it unapologetically. If everyone would embrace their true selves, or at least be a little more accepting and tolerant towards others, the world would be a much prettier, more peaceful place. 

Justine, 20, is a film student at Narafi in Brussels. We met through a mutual friend, and we have known each other for quite some time, but this project was actually the first thing we really bonded over. We went to Pride together, worked together, and we have talked numerous hours, discussing a lot of interesting topics like feminism and #BlackLivesMatter. Justine and I are both kids of the internet, and we both have a huge passion for social issues. No wonder we clicked instantly.

Justine: I didn't have second thoughts when I got asked to work on this project. Labels are, unfortunately, part of our daily life, if we want it or not. Filming was a lot of fun, but it was also confronting, and hard at times. The deadly silences that fell when those labels were put on each person proved to me why this video had to be made. I hope that after watching this video, people realise that we shouldn't be trying to capture human beings in words, let alone insults. I also wish for people to see that we can't let irrelevant labels rule our lives. Being yourself in a society that constantly critisises everything and everyone is one of the hardest things you can do, but it is also one of the bravest and most beautiful things you can do. 

Now, I want to address you, dear reader. Labels are something that everyone has to deal with in their lives, be it once in a while or every single day. Share your experiences, your thoughts, something that happened to you or a moment when you overcame your labels. Use the hashtag #labelsareforboxes on any social media outlet to let your voice be heard, let's unite, and together, rip those labels off. I think sharing experiences can be empowering and helpful, so don't hold back if you feel like it!

To bring this post to an end, I wanted to get something out of the way, something that I think is quite important to think about: we all use labels, in one way or another. Labels are really embedded into society, and we basically get taught to use them. This was something I was struggling with as well: I have been a strong voice on the internet, shouting of every rooftop how awful labels and prejudices are, but for a long time, when I saw someone who looked different than the grey mass, the first thing that popped in my head was "oh, he's gay" or "damn, she shouldn't be wearing those shorts with those legs". I felt like a total hypocrite: online, I was the first to correct anyone who used labels or boxes, but in practice, I was no better. Or was I?
Everything clicked into place when I read something that changed my life and mindset for ever. I am not sure how exactly it was formulated, but it comes down to this: the first thing that you think when you see something strange, new or different is what you have been taught. It's almost an automatism, influenced by education, upbringing, environment or, in large, society. The second thing that you think, and that mostly follows your first thought almost immediately, is what you think, what comes out of yourself, your own input, regardless of what you have learned. A comment I read on this interesting article puts it very clearly: your initial thought is a mark of your upbringing, and the second thing you think is a mark of your character.
For example: my initial idea when I saw something 'strange' was to judge it, label it, immediately followed by a second thought that said 'hey, let people be, if it doesn't affect you and it makes them happy, who are you to judge?'. As time went on, I got more aware of my thinking process, and I noticed that my second thoughts replaced my former initial ideas, the longer the more. By now, I have kinda taught myself not to judge and not to label, or at least, to try my best not to. Of course I still some times have judgemental initial thoughts, as an automatic reaction, but being conscious of my thinking and how quickly we some times are to judge or label, and reminding myself that no one is perfect has really helped me to find peace in my head.

I am extremely proud of this project, and even more proud of everyone involved. I can't thank them enough for their time and effort. To everyone who helped me out in one way or another: thank you for helping me bring my piece of mind to life, thank you for being awesome, thank you for being you.

To you, dear reader: thank you for watching, thank you for reading, thank you for taking time out of your day and spending it on my little corner of the internet. Your support and comments mean everything to me. Lots of love, and talk to you soon! 


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