Other Humans Are Just Different Genres, Labelled Badly

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Imagine that you are a writer of romance. Sometimes steamy, sometimes so heart-breaking that grown men in their forties have scowled at you on the street.

Then, imagine that all the people who don’t regularly buy books – which, in case you don’t know, is a far larger number than the book-buying public – think that every single book in the romance genre, including yours, is the exact same as Fifty Shades Of Grey.

If that means nothing to you, let’s say, then, that you are a parent. You are but one out of billions of parents around the world. However, let’s say the biggest cultural event in parenting this year is the blockbuster Mommie Dearest. Suddenly, all non-parental people think that you behave like the titular Mommie. Whenever they see you, they shield their dogs (and it’s nothing to do with your sheepskin gilet).

Last week I was riding high on a post about fiction genres which went viral. (I love going viral: it’s so much better than having a virus, or giving someone a virus, or even being in the general vicinity of a virus, which can be exhausting, particularly when you’re trying to pretend you’re not repulsed).

It went nuts for 36 hours. Pure delighted with myself, I was. And then it was Friday night, and the eyes of the world were on Paris, and Europe looked different.

Other Humans Are Just Different Genres Labelled Badly

Look. You lot are thinkers. In general, people who read blogs are thinkers. You’re open to different points of view from the mainstream, even if that’s partly because you’re a bit left or right of centre anyway. So I’m probably preaching to the converted, here.

But I’ve been looking at social media for the past week, and the reactions to events in Paris, throughout Europe and the Middle East, and even on Facebook (if you can call that a place, and the thought doesn’t depress you enough to stop reading immediately).

All this insanity makes blogging about other stuff really hard. And yet, I suppose everyone has their different thematic approach.

After a week of Europe looking different, and after seeing stuff I both agreed and disagreed with, and stuff which made me feel righteous, and stuff which made me feel disgusted, and stuff which made me feel sadder than a kid whose parents refuse to let him watch The Late Late Toy Show, I started thinking about it all in terms of fiction in general, and fiction genres in specific.

I got to thinking about how so many fiction genres are badly labelled. And how human beings go around labelling EVERYTHING. We see something new or foreign, we try to work out how we feel about it, and 2.9 seconds later, we’re trying to hammer that square peg into the round hole in our brains which says “INSERT BROAD GENERALISATION HERE”.

 Other Humans Are Just Different Genres Labelled BadlyAnd that’s why, after Fifty Shades Of Grey, the long-awaited answer to the question of what women actually want apparently became “a psychotic billionaire who abuses them”. It’s also why women’s fiction is flouncy stuff which only women would want to read; it’s why all social media is vacuous and narcissistic; it’s why all bankers are pitiless and corrupt; and it’s why, in Western Europe this week, all Muslims are terrorists.

I know it’s hard not to do this. For instance, there is one particular suburb of Dublin I really don’t like. I’ve yet to encounter somebody from this particular suburb who hasn’t been a total pain in my arse. Still, I don’t meet new people from this suburb and immediately sneer at them. This is not because I’m fabulous (hardly: I just dissed an entire suburb). You could say it’s because I haven’t met enough of its people to judge. But really, it’s because I understand (unfortunately) where they’re coming from, just because we look the same.

All other cultures or religions are just a different genre. And perhaps you and I just haven’t read it yet. And perhaps the current bestseller in that genre is just a terribly poor representation of the genre.

There is plenty wrong with the world at the moment. And, also at the moment, it looks like it’s getting worse. If only we might stop making broad generalisations when we don’t know what the hell we’re talking about.

Other Humans Are Just Different Genres Labelled Badly

Because by generalising all the time, we’re playing into the hands of the bad people, on both sides, at the same time. We’re being manipulated by the very people who disenfranchise us – and I’m not talking about refugees, here. It’s people like you – yes, you with the job and the penchant for mood lighting: be it through the control of wealth, power, or territory, you too are being disenfranchised by tiny numbers of people. It doesn’t matter where you live, these days.

And I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the thought of being taken for a fool, and then being treated like an amoeba, and going through it all with a fist in the air saying “Yeah! Too right!”

Perhaps, refusing to slap a label on an ill-fitting genre might be a start in the counter-revolution against the ongoing propaganda war which every single one of us is losing.

* Please note: No gingers were harmed in the first image in this post. Tara Sparling Writes does not sanction cruelty to gingers.

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  45 comments for “Other Humans Are Just Different Genres, Labelled Badly

  1. carousel1234
    November 19, 2015 at 7:53 am

    Facebook is a place? That scared the bejaysus outta me! But I did read on. And I’m suitably happy that I don’t have to be labeled anymore. I just write bloody brilliant books. 😉❤️📚

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jack Tyler
    November 19, 2015 at 8:49 am

    I used to THINK I wrote bloody brilliant books, but if I had your insight I might actually amount to something! This stands for me as your best effort yet, and I’ll be linking it in several places. My greatest unrelated takeaway from Paris was the wave of superimposed tricolors on Farcebook. “Show your solidarity by reposting your profile picture,” and when you did, it put a little French flag over your picture. You want to show your solidarity? Send money. Take a relevant skill there, medical or psychological, and exercise it. Run for office and work for peace, or join the army and hunt terrorists. It wasn’t that long ago that Americans renamed French fries (you call them chips, I think) “Freedom” Fries because the “cowardly” French refused to join us in what has turned out to be perhaps the most questionable war in our history. An awful lot of people marked themselves as superficial posers with those French flags on their Facebook pictures.

    Liked by 2 people

    • November 19, 2015 at 9:49 am

      I know exactly what you mean about the Facebook thing, Jack, it makes me feel icky. I didn’t have a problem so much with the superimposed flag as the inference, when a fad takes off, that if you don’t do the fad thing yourself, that you don’t support the cause/hate the terrorism/think the children are our future, etc, etc.

      Bandwagons in general are a pain in the arse. I’m all for knee-jerk reactions, but I just wish people would have a bit more originality. There’s a group of young Muslims from Ireland, for instance, who organised to go to Paris at their own expense to donate blood.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Jack Tyler
        November 19, 2015 at 2:57 pm

        Thanks for “getting it.” I was worried about catching hell over this comment, but I needed to say it. Those little flags are emblematic of everything that’s wrong with social media. See, I’m 67. My active youth was spent in an era when, if you were outraged about domestic violence, for example, you made your outrage known by rolling up your sleeves and volunteering in a women’s shelter. My generation took to the streets and stopped a war. Nowadays, if you’re outraged about something, you leave a comment on a discussion group, or put a flag on your Facebook profile. Problem solved. I don’t know what the ultimate destination of this “uninvolved outrage” is, but I’d like to be a fly on the wall…

        Liked by 1 person

        • November 19, 2015 at 3:36 pm

          That statement is depressingly true, Jack, I agree completely. Today’s outrage both begins and ends in a pathetic online comment. I’m going to go now to make an effigy of all the worst offending websites; you’re all invited to the bonfire. That’ll, uh, show ’em. A bit.

          Liked by 2 people

  3. November 19, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    My instinct is to write something pithy, but not today. In the reaction to Paris I thought about the predictable outpouring of antagonism towards Muslims, and I thought about a volunteer I knew recently; from France, a Muslim, and no more related to the monsters of ISIS than a polar bear.

    But as commentators keep saying, that’s what the monsters want. To generalise and attack back, giving them further justification for their warped continuation of the fight.

    I try not to generalise, but when it comes to Facebook I’m happy to say that all Facebook CEOs with the surname Zuckerberg are absolute. . . . agh, the wi-fi connection’s gone down. Drat

    Liked by 4 people

    • November 19, 2015 at 2:07 pm

      …they are absolute billionaires, Chris, yes, I know what you were trying to say there. By the way, did I tell you I’m starting a new service to finish other people’s sentences with 50% extra shaping the things they didn’t know they wanted to say until I said them? I’m calling it ‘The Opinioninator’. It’s going down a storm right now for some reason.

      Liked by 3 people

      • November 19, 2015 at 5:31 pm

        If it’s a free service that might explain its popularity. Either that or…

        Liked by 1 person

        • November 19, 2015 at 5:36 pm

          …it perfectly expresses what you can’t be bothered to think yourself. I agree. Oh, look! There’s something over there!

          Liked by 1 person

  4. November 19, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. November 19, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    Reblogged this on Jan Hawke INKorporated and commented:
    Don’t know if this’ll go viral but I’ll help all I can.
    As for labels, boxes, bandwagons… it’s all guff and yet human as hell. We’re herd animals and easy to manipulate into gobbling up shite or throwing projectiles at a perceived ‘big, bad’. Dare to be an individual, but remember no (hu)man is an island – and always do your own thinking for yourself I says. Not that anyone listens… grumble… groan… grump…. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • November 19, 2015 at 3:38 pm

      Sad how easily manipulable we are, isn’t it Jan? Thank you for the reblog. (I took a break from reading inspirational quotes to type this comment)

      Like

  6. November 19, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    Great post Tara, I hope this goes viral.

    Liked by 1 person

    • November 19, 2015 at 3:39 pm

      I don’t reckon it will, Donna, nothing positive ever does!! I reckon last week’s post only did the business because it had the word “hate” in the title… how depressing.

      Liked by 2 people

      • November 19, 2015 at 3:42 pm

        That is true unfortunately. And hate only fuels more hate.
        Depressing me on a Thursday when I should be looking forward to the weekend! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        • November 19, 2015 at 3:45 pm

          Don’t be depressed, Donna. Cheer up by imagining yourself baking me the world’s largest cake. Or a savoury tart which would make an overpriced wine bar weep instead. Your choice. 😀

          Liked by 1 person

  7. November 19, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    LOVE this post and find I can’t even be funny about it. I actually took a break from that “place” called Facebook this past week for the exact reasons you articulate: the compulsion too many humans have to LABEL, to generalize (yes, I used that other spelling! 🙂 ), to shake a fist at and reject that which is different, and so on. One finds that exercise, even viewed from afar, to be wearying and just a little soul-killing.

    I think the notion of seeing our diversity through the filter of “different genres” is an excellent one. Different genres are hardly worth killing over or hating on or relegating to boats returning to a war-battered locale. We cross over genres without blinking an eye, even a tad excited about immersing ourselves in something new. Would that we did that in real life!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • November 19, 2015 at 5:11 pm

      There are many things we should be doing, Lorraine, but when it comes to Facebook, there are about 1.5 billion things I’m glad we’re not doing in real life…

      Like

      • November 19, 2015 at 5:26 pm

        No kidding!! Can you imagine us all screaming and yelling at each other like that over dinner?? Oh, yeah… some people DO do that! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  8. November 19, 2015 at 4:14 pm

    Reblogged this on After the Sucker Punch and commented:
    I love the way book blogger Tara Sparling thinks, and her take on recent events, seen through the filter of books and wise humor, is a good one to share.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. November 19, 2015 at 8:21 pm

    Great post, Tara. Fear is a terrorist’s tool, but also a tool skillfully employed by those with a divisive agenda. Fear induces the primitive parts of our brains to identify villains and vent all responsibility for our helpless anxiety. The problem is it’s a vicious cycle that manifests exactly what it means to control. Only by stepping back and “not judging each genre by a single book” can we begin to rationally and compassionately make choices that will interrupt this endless spiral into our own annihilation. Hostility breeds alienation and hostility. Love paves the way to peace. It’s the only way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • November 19, 2015 at 10:33 pm

      Put beautifully, Diana, I’m not going to interfere with that other than to say how much I agree. Which is a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. November 19, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    A new (and clever) way of making each of us reconsider how our brains are coping (or failing to cope with) with currents events. During the Expenses Crisis I had a hopeless discussion with a friend who was convinced that ever politician was a greedy, power-hungry fraudster. I’ve not known many politicians in my life, but the ones I have work exceedingly long hours, listening to everyone’s woes and trying to make the world a better place. Many people assume my friend is right.

    Liked by 1 person

    • November 19, 2015 at 10:36 pm

      Agreed, Hilary… I know life is complex and our ability to generalise drives evolution through learning and innovation, but it seems like we’ve gone too far with that talent at this stage.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. November 20, 2015 at 6:12 pm

    I know this is a tad serious (apologies) but thinking people see and read labels all the time, they may then disagree with the label but they are aware of that label. It is usually the thinking person that places that label in the first place. Sure “fifty shades” was called “A Romance” as was “Rebecca” by Daphne Du Maurier, and Gloriana by Michael Moorcock and all three could not be more different than each other and pretty much none of them “A Romance” by today’s terms yet all are in the classical definition. The same thing applies with people, A Muslim perhaps, but with a sectarian identity of Shia, Sunni, Sufi (etc) all with differing views upon the Quran. As Individual as any romance. And then there is the person themselves, even more individual, even more difficult to label yet we do. Muslim, perhaps, Suni Muslim (for example) for the more learned, Abdul, Mohammed or what ever their name happens to be for the most thoughtful. For you are then narrowing down the definition, tighter and tighter until he/she is no longer labeled by ethnic origin, race, creed or colour but to the tightest definition possible, “Ahmed my Neighbor”, “Rashid, My friend”.
    All religions have been guilty of Murder but few people have.
    This applies to all religions.
    Apologies again for being so serious.
    On the positive side I did blog last night upon the plight of the Haggis, now an endangered species.

    Liked by 1 person

    • November 20, 2015 at 10:41 pm

      It’s okay to be serious, Raymond, this is a serious thing, and I was also being serious with my jester’s cap on. I hear you. I suppose I’m just hoping that the negative connotations of certain labels we get nowadays wouldn’t become so normalised. On the other hand, I am rather looking forward to perusing the Haggis.

      Like

  12. Todd Duffey Writes on Things
    November 21, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    Tara, your writing leaves me nodding speechlessly (yet mumbling unintelligible HURRAHS) and shaking the proverbial fist of which you write. A mass perception change is on the horizon; it will take literary leaders like yourself to remind us all that we are, first and foremost, the same. And second, that our individual uniqueness doesn’t have to distance each other.

    Write on!

    Like

    • November 22, 2015 at 5:34 pm

      Gosh, Todd. I think I broke out in a rash, there! Thank you very much, but you should know that Irish people are fundamentally allergic to such effusive compliments. I’m glad to report I had a glass of water and a lie down, so I’m feeling much better now.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. November 23, 2015 at 12:14 am

    I just had a rant about labels myself on my own blog recently, although it was about the ‘disabled’ rather than the terrorists. Although, by my deductions, terrorists are probably the epitome of the truly disabled in society, since they build themselves on hate and destruction and fear. Killing for a cause never works, as history demonstrates over and over again, when will they realise? Sod the cause, that’s not why they’re doing it. And blowing themselves up as martyrs, they’re forgotten about the next morning. What a crazy world we live in. It would be a nice place if it wasn’t for the humans.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. November 23, 2015 at 1:07 pm

    Labelling is a fascinating subject, Tara. I’m not sure that it’s avoidable but there’s a lot to be said for detailed labelling, like on some food produce. It might be a start if we adopted that approach to people. At least, it would break down SOME of the generalisations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • November 23, 2015 at 2:04 pm

      If only every single event didn’t have to be broken down into headlines of ten words or less, it might, Jean. I often wonder too if social media has ended up making us tabloid journalists of our own lives.

      Like

      • November 23, 2015 at 5:26 pm

        I think SM is making us implode like when you hold a tabloid paper against a fire place to try and get the fire blazing. There’s a lot to be said for the old-fashioned bellows, methinks.

        Liked by 1 person

        • November 23, 2015 at 10:44 pm

          There is, but unfortunately there’s far too much bellowing on social media to be heard…

          Like

          • November 24, 2015 at 7:06 pm

            Depends how you define ‘bellowing.’ I’m talking about that little hoosh sound at the fire that is the exact opposite to bellowing as we’ve come to know it on SM.

            Liked by 1 person

  15. November 24, 2015 at 12:12 pm

    Perceptive as ever Tara!

    Here’s my gross generalisation: the greatest evil in the universe is… wait for it… the knee-jerk reaction! And that seems to be what faceplace and similar hangouts are all about.

    Generalisation #2 (# also stands for “number”, kids!): Nuanced thinking, as showcased in the above blog post, is the answer! Wait, what was the question again? Damned if I know! And it’s ok not to know, kids. (I find myself thinking that social media is populated by kids, not the alleged adults who are actually posting their knee-jerk reactions to the #attacks (yes, kids, this time it’s used as a hashtag) before the #bodies are #cold.)

    But anyway, to the main moralising moment of the comment, and indeed Generalisation #3: It’s ok not to know! You do not have a solution to global suffering at your typing fingertips, kids—how could you?! And your fingertips and braintips have to work hard to come up with even a remotely intelligent response, let alone the kind of response the horrible world deserves—and that thoughtful people like your deservedly viral (!) self can provide, Tara.

    In summary, keep on blogging in the free world! *Insert parent-provided-label here

    Liked by 1 person

    • November 24, 2015 at 4:20 pm

      Thanks, Daniel. I suppose if the majority of the social media response was intelligent – or even merely thoughtful, we wouldn’t be talking about this in the first place. And then what would I complain about? We wouldn’t want to see me waste away for want of ire and bile (although I’d rather be moaning about less scary stuff, truth be told…)

      Like

  16. November 24, 2015 at 8:33 pm

    Well said! And just wait till you hear what I have to say about the Irish!

    Liked by 1 person

    • November 24, 2015 at 11:40 pm

      I’d like to hear it, Graeme, but I’m afraid my ears are stuffed with potatoes, and I’m too drunk to read.

      Liked by 1 person

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