Opinion: Female students are labeled like groceries

In a recent survey of South women, 62 percent of respondents reported they had been called a "slut," "tramp" or "whore" by their classmates.

Seventy-eight percent said they had been called a "b—-" for showing confidence or assertiveness, and 70 percent said they had been called a virgin or prude in a degrading way. Fifty-two percent of these students said they were often labeled in this manner, and 34 percent said they were occasionally labeled.

For commodities such as medicine and fruit, labels are a matter of convenience and organization. When applied to people, however, labels promote stereotypes and serve as a control measure. Without labels, the distinction between ketchup and spaghetti sauce would be unidentifiable; but branding women in this manner is as limiting as it is destructive.

When asked where labels emerged and who they affect, one high school student said, "They were assigned to us by men, but are continually perpetuated by all of us. We fall prey to encouraging these labels ourselves, and of course, labels are limiting to anyone who falls under them. That is a given."

Another student said, "The roles could never be reversed. We’ll always be portrayed a certain way, and for change to occur, we have to do it collectively. "

What if no labels apply to a girl? When asked what box she fit in, a girl said that she didn’t "fall under any given label," and, as a result, "people are confused. They don’t seem to know how to act with me."

Another student said "a lot of people, both male and female, seem sort of threatened."

Indeed, we have grown so accustomed to pigeonholing individuals that aberrants may bewilder us. Some things are meant to have labels; ketchup is not the same thing as tomato sauce, nor is low-fat the same thing as skim. People, however, are not. Women in particular are categorized on a daily basis. Like produce and poultry, women are stamped with fixed labels – and the aisle is narrowing.