So much for women's lib, research reveals that one-dimensional labels such as nerdy, emotional, boyish and flirty, as well as a string of complicated connotations including “Pretty women can’t be smart” and “Athletic women can’t be girly” have stuck with women from a young age.
Sadly, this has left many women feeling insecure, frustrated, paranoid and embarrassed.
The culprits behind these potentially harmful labels comprise - perhaps surprisingly - classmates, friends and siblings whose lasting remarks have caused three quarters of British women to feel they need to change themselves by either working harder or dressing/acting differently.
More worryingly, 75% of women agree that if they were called the same label for a long enough period, they would begin to accept this as the truth rather than challenge it.
Despite positive advancements in female empowerment, many women still feel that more could be done to stamp out the issue of labelling, alongside its negative effects.
British women feel that examples of well-rounded women in the media are most likely to end labelling in the UK. And while social media was called out as playing a significant role in perpetuating labels, it’s also thought of as a positive agent of change.
Identifying Your 'Label'
With half of British women admitting to frequently labelling others, and over two thirds agreeing that it takes just five minutes or less to assign a label to someone, the issue of stereotyping is clearly a big one. So how do we overcome it?
Gillette Venus, who conducted the stereotype study, has partnered with women's empowerment expert and founder of S.H.E. Summit Global Conference, Claudia Chan, to educate women in identifying their labels, so that they can then overcome them.
Chan suggests that if you believe you're being labelled there are a handful of ways to deal with it, without changing who you are.
There are two ways to determine if you're being stereotypically labelled, says Chan: "Firstly, take some time to reflect back on your life stages. Can you think of someone, or even you yourself, who may have boxed you into a category or label of some kind?"
"Since this really requires getting into a different headspace, consider doing it lying down, in a relaxed meditation pose, on a walk or in conversation with your partner, friend or life coach."
"Then, on a piece of paper, write down a list of stereotypical labels that were ascribed to you. Who assigned each to you? How old were you? How did it affect your perceptions about yourself? Which ones empowered you and which limited your perceptions of your skills or opportunities for your future? Do you remember decisions you made because of it?
"In this process, it’s important not to second-guess yourself. Trust your instincts and be open to what you may discover through the exercise."
Understand The Effect Of Old Labels
"Review the old labels you wrote down and try to trace back any decisions you might have made, consciously or not, that could have limited your potential", says Chan.
"For example, were you labelled the “smart” one in the family and when given the opportunity to explore your creativity, you chose to focus more on academics instead of taking art or musical instrument lessons?"
The campaign to get women to embrace and appreciate the other facets beyond one label is called 'Ands' with the hashtag #UseYourAnds.
"Identifying the decisions you made and any interests you may not have discovered due to your labels can get you thinking about new ANDs to explore today," Chan adds.
Replace Old Labels with New 'ANDs'
Chan notes that once you have a clear understanding of your labels, it's worth reflecting back over your life achievements and the skills you've honed or the passions you've developed which are contradictory to your beliefs.
"Write these items down and try to define them," she adds.
"For example, did you believe you were never a good writer but now do a lot of writing that gets praise? Were you told you were not creative, yet several of your accomplishments required creative skills?"
By reflecting on these new qualities - and where you want to focus your energy and self-identity in the future - you are helping to rid yourself of old false beliefs.
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Start Taking Action
Now that you’ve found new skills and achievements that disprove your labels, take actions that will allow you to explore these and realise more of your potential in those un-tapped areas.
"You could sign-up for a local art class or watch YouTube videos to begin to learn how to play that instrument you’ve always wanted to," says Chan.
"Moving from idea to action makes your new ANDs real, helping you to see your tremendous potential."