Terms & labels & definitions

For discussion of general issues pertaining to asexuality.
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ghosts
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Terms & labels & definitions

Postby ghosts » Thu Dec 18, 2008 3:44 pm

I tend to feel that all these terms, labels, definitions & so on that people are coming up with, especially on AVEN, are pretty vague, and I generally insist that this is fine. When people ask what "aromantic" is, what "romance" is supposed to be, and so on, I usually like to answer that it's whatever you want it to be. These are all words that people came up with, & there are a lot of definitions coming from different people. But there's often this assumption (especially with newer members, I suppose) that "aromantic," for example, is something definite, something factual. But it's really just a term to describe a concept, isn't it? My idea has been that it's more important to understand yourself & your feelings first, & to be comfortable with them, than to worry about finding what word(s) you should apply to yourself as ways of describing & understanding yourself.

At the same time, I'm not sure whether my attitude towards all of this is really helpful. If I just dismiss the notion that we should have stricter definitions, does that just muddy things up & confuse people even more? Is it fair of me to insist that a person can consider themselves whatever they want to be even if it doesn't fit other peoples' definition(s) of the word? I'm probably hypocritical about this at it is - I can be somewhat defensive about how "punk" is used, and how it shouldn't really be applied to some bands/musicians/situations that it currently is applied to. :P

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ily
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Re: Terms & labels & definitions

Postby ily » Sat Dec 20, 2008 4:27 pm

I'm with you-- I once went out with this woman, and was asked if we were on a date or not. I said, "It's whatever you want it to be". I thought this was a great answer-- laid-back yet cute, however, this seemed to annoy her to no end. I really couldn't enjoy myself at all, because she spent the whole time trying to define if it was a date, while I didn't really care to know.

I don't understand how people could see something like 'aromantic' as definite, when everyone seems to have their own definition of it. I mean, I've been active with the asexual community for 3 years now, and I still couldn't tell you what 'aromantic' means with certainty. Maybe people are thinking their own definition is the accurate one? I do see people making an effort to standardize these things, but that is probably more trouble than it's worth.

pretzelboy
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Re: Terms & labels & definitions

Postby pretzelboy » Sun Dec 21, 2008 5:41 pm

I think that a big part of it has to do with how we're taught to treat definitions. In school, we typically learn what the "correct" definition of some word is. We have dictionaries that we expect to tell us the "correct" definitions of words. In fields that I know a lot about, I have some idea of the debates and controversies involved, so I know to take things with a grain of salt.

Now that I'm in grad school in the social sciences and am regularly encouraged to challenge views on things--at least not to take them uncritically--it is fairly normal for me to disagree with some "established" view. However, that is not the approach that our educational systems take at lower levels. In highschool and below, a lot of education consists in telling students what is true. Here are the facts. Know them for the test. This is still true in college to some extent. I think that this way of doing things makes a lot of sense. The more people know and more they have developed critical thinking skills, the more they are encouraged not just to accept things, and the more they should be encouraged to form their own views. A person taking an introductory class disagreeing with a professor seems (in many cases) pretentious. However, someone doing their own research to publish in an academic journal disagreeing with their professor is perfectly normal.

If we look at things in the asexual community this way, I think that the problem that ghosts is talking about makes a lot sense. Newcomers (who don't know much about asexuality) expect there to be correct answers and settled definitions (like we're taught in school.) It's a kind of, "I want to know what the definitions are, and, based on those, figure out where I fit into the scheme of things." For those of us who have been around longer and who have a lot more knowledge about asexuality, we know that things really aren't remotely clear; they aren't at all settled. We understand that the vocabulary is really up in the air. But for a newcomer, accepting this could be, I think, a lot harder.

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ghosts
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Re: Terms & labels & definitions

Postby ghosts » Mon Dec 22, 2008 7:48 am

ily wrote:I'm with you-- I once went out with this woman, and was asked if we were on a date or not. I said, "It's whatever you want it to be". I thought this was a great answer-- laid-back yet cute, however, this seemed to annoy her to no end. I really couldn't enjoy myself at all, because she spent the whole time trying to define if it was a date, while I didn't really care to know.

I don't understand how people could see something like 'aromantic' as definite, when everyone seems to have their own definition of it. I mean, I've been active with the asexual community for 3 years now, and I still couldn't tell you what 'aromantic' means with certainty. Maybe people are thinking their own definition is the accurate one? I do see people making an effort to standardize these things, but that is probably more trouble than it's worth.

I think some people can be pretty resistant to the idea that definitions aren't set in stone - or they feel like they really need to label something? I don't know...

pretzelboy wrote:I think that a big part of it has to do with how we're taught to treat definitions. In school, we typically learn what the "correct" definition of some word is. We have dictionaries that we expect to tell us the "correct" definitions of words. In fields that I know a lot about, I have some idea of the debates and controversies involved, so I know to take things with a grain of salt.

Now that I'm in grad school in the social sciences and am regularly encouraged to challenge views on things--at least not to take them uncritically--it is fairly normal for me to disagree with some "established" view. However, that is not the approach that our educational systems take at lower levels. In highschool and below, a lot of education consists in telling students what is true. Here are the facts. Know them for the test. This is still true in college to some extent. I think that this way of doing things makes a lot of sense. The more people know and more they have developed critical thinking skills, the more they are encouraged not just to accept things, and the more they should be encouraged to form their own views. A person taking an introductory class disagreeing with a professor seems (in many cases) pretentious. However, someone doing their own research to publish in an academic journal disagreeing with their professor is perfectly normal.

If we look at things in the asexual community this way, I think that the problem that ghosts is talking about makes a lot sense. Newcomers (who don't know much about asexuality) expect there to be correct answers and settled definitions (like we're taught in school.) It's a kind of, "I want to know what the definitions are, and, based on those, figure out where I fit into the scheme of things." For those of us who have been around longer and who have a lot more knowledge about asexuality, we know that things really aren't remotely clear; they aren't at all settled. We understand that the vocabulary is really up in the air. But for a newcomer, accepting this could be, I think, a lot harder.


This makes a lot of sense. If you're used to the idea that most things are definite facts, you might not think about them very critically.

Of course, I do see a lot of this coming from newer people at AVEN who are often questioning what/who they are, & want exact definitions. I like how we try to encourage people there to try & come to a conclusion themselves about whether they are asexual or not. Many of these people will gradually see that all these terms that are being thrown around, including "asexuality," can have different meanings. But sometimes I wonder if it's becoming more common for people be asking for more strict definitions & expecting them, even established members. I don't know if this is a bad thing... I guess I would just feel boxed in.

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wintermute
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Re: Terms & labels & definitions

Postby wintermute » Sat Jan 03, 2009 11:08 am

I'm of the opinion that labels belong on tins.
Cicero wrote:"Neither can embellishments of language be found without arrangement and expression of thoughts, nor can thoughts be made to shine without the light of language"

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Dargon
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Re: Terms & labels & definitions

Postby Dargon » Sun Jan 04, 2009 10:56 pm

I have said this many times before, but often the problem is people what labels that define. However, most labels people wear, especially things as broad and difficult to explain as (a)sexuality, tend to describe rather than define. I, personally, like descriptive labels, however others seem to want a one word perfect description of themselves.

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wintermute
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Re: Terms & labels & definitions

Postby wintermute » Tue Jan 06, 2009 5:12 pm

Dargon wrote:I have said this many times before, but often the problem is people what labels that define. However, most labels people wear, especially things as broad and difficult to explain as (a)sexuality, tend to describe rather than define. I, personally, like descriptive labels, however others seem to want a one word perfect description of themselves.


You're probably right enough, although I'd put it another way - some people are looking for a label to be exclusive, and some are looking for it to be inclusive.
Cicero wrote:"Neither can embellishments of language be found without arrangement and expression of thoughts, nor can thoughts be made to shine without the light of language"