The need to slap a label on every single person is getting out of hand. The other night, while telling a bad joke involving baked goods and a great deal of profanity, I was accused of being a hipster. The punch line was a tough one to follow unless you strongly grasp irony, and while several people in my group of acquaintances gave a chuckle, one girl turned her nose up at me. Her voice dripping with sarcasm, she growled, “Wow, you’re so ironic. You trendy little hipster you.”

Color me confused, because I’m about as non-hip as a person can get. I mean, for God’s sake, I have a collection of plastic dinosaurs in my bedroom. Since when does that make a person hip? And since when have hipsters been able to corner the market on concepts like irony? So either I’m a hipster without knowing it, or people have an obsession with tacking on labels that don’t exactly fit.

For those of you who are living on the moon rather than campus, people tend to give the bare-bones definition of hipster as someone with a hoity-toity taste in independent music. These are the cats who can explain the difference between the “electrosonic” and “shoegaze” genres, plus list 99 reasons why your favorite band sucks. But increasingly, “hipster” indicates an entire lifestyle. It’s claimed that they dress a certain way (thrifty), live a certain way (vegan) and even think a certain way (dog-eared copy of “Catcher in the Rye”). This, coupled with hipsters’ reputed sense of entitlement, means that everyone else is supposed to revile them. God knows you don’t want to be called a hipster, you stuck-up jerk.

Just go and ask someone who, for all intents and purposes, is a textbook example of a hipster. You’re likely to get similar answers: “God no, I’m not one of those.” “Maybe I like this band, but I’m not like them.” “I think I’d kill myself if people thought of me like that.” So should we believe them or the people who are branding them? Are these hipsters some sort of snobby hive mind, or are they individuals expressing their beliefs and interests?

The answer is clear — like all labels, hipster just doesn’t fit.

I would like to think that grouping people into convenient stereotypes had gone out of style in high school, but apparently that’s not the case. I can’t even count how often I hear people sneering about fraternity brothers and sorority sisters, as if the simple act of wearing a polo shirt somehow automatically lowers one’s IQ by about 20 points. But some of the smartest and hardest-working people I know are involved in Greek life. The truth of the matter is that there is almost a compulsion to stereotype.

We want to feel special. Otherwise, we wouldn’t waste so much time categorizing everyone else. In high school, there’s a myriad of social groups that we construct for ourselves: the jocks and the nerds, the preps and the punks. Certainly some types of people tend to stick together, but how many do that based on label rather than personality?

And while we tend to put others in groups and sneer derisively at them, we categorize ourselves. Because let’s face it, it’s much more time-efficient to look at a person’s clothes and friends and smack them with a label. It’s also an easy way to feel inherently superior to someone.

But I think the obsession with belonging to — or distancing yourself from — a particular group can have detrimental effects on what you get out of life. Consider the movie “Juno.” When I discussed it with people who knew about so-called hipster culture they sneered. “God, it was trying too hard to be quirky. It’s a trashy hipster movie.” But those who were unfamiliar with hipster counter-culture thought it was cute, and took the quirky humor at face value.

I’m not saying you’re shallow if you didn’t enjoy “Juno.” I’m saying that some people get carried away with assuming everyone belongs to a particular group. So don’t judge just because someone has horn-rimmed glasses or an ironic T-shirt. It’s starting to feel like a war zone out here; labels are flying in all directions, and I’m afraid they’ll start to stick.

Eileen Stahl is an LSA junior.

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