What labels would you defend?
In a previous post I tried to illustrate that “identity” is a relatively new invention and that people use it in very different ways. I won’t argue the various meanings of the word and for sake of argument I will assume it has some sort of pragmatic uses. As I have written here, adding an adjective to slippery abstract words can help separate different meanings. So let me invent the adjective-noun phrase “defense-word identity”. My operational definition of that phrase will be:
defense-word Identity: something you call yourself which, if someone accused you of not really being that thing, you’d be offended or feel a rise in a negative emotion.
So imagine someone being accused as follows:
- You aren’t a real Christian
- You aren’t a real American
- You aren’t a real Atheist
- You aren’t a real Man
- You aren’t a real Feminist
To some folks, this would be offensive or disturbing. You get the idea. We all probably have defense-word identities — some stronger than others. But “Atheist” and “American” are definitely defense-word identities for me. Yet theists and atheists have both demanded that I recognize them as identities. But if they are, they certainly are defense-word identities. They will have to build other identity phrases with operational definitions if they want to claim I have identity in being an “atheist”.
Finally: Beware, if you are discussing a defense-word identity with a person, there is a greater challenge of productive dialogue.
Request of readers: Do you have any defense-word identities that come to mind? Have you seen any disappear over the years.