Certainly a young friend of mine recently insisted that his mates just didn’t like labels and would prefer not to be labeled by others or to apply them to themselves. Guess that makes them anti-labelists!
Whatever the pros and cons of labels I’m not sure we can or indeed should live without them. I do however sympathise with my friend to a certain extent. Labels can be used in ways that are very unhelpful.
It’s not good to fly labels like colours behind which we ride into battle against others with different labels.
It’s not good to use labels to limit, tie down and dismiss others.
It’s not good to use labels flatten difference, obscure the peculiar and oversimplify reality.
Antipathy towards labeling is part of the postmodern turn. According to Zygmunt Baumann’s excellent Modernity and Ambilvelance a certain approach to labeling is deeply characteristic of modernity's obsession with classifying all of reality and its deep unease with the ambivalent. The postmodern critique is to be welcomed, reality is not susceptible to neat, Dewi-decimal-type classification and we do violence to reality, including the reality of people and their bodies, when we insist on fitting everything into our predetermined categories. But we needn’t use labels in such a way and I reckon we can’t and shouldn’t live without labels at all.
We need labels to denote collectives who share common characteristics, commitments, convictions and associations.
They also come in handy to locate people.
And those who would deny our need for labels are surely also in denial of the inescapable and indeed immensely valuable corporate dimension of human identity.
So I vote for labels, I thank God for labels, labels help give clarity to my identity. As long that is you don’t use my labels for the negative purposes outlined above and as long you recognise that labels are not fixed but fluid and living, with meanings on the move, then I really don’t mind, go ahead, label me.