Friday, October 28, 2011

Don't Call Me A Slasher !

They’re calling me a “slasher”. And I don’t like it. The word smacks of vampires and comic book villains.  Of which I am neither.

But then I am not much of one for labels in general. Labels denote black and white or red and blue status. Labels alienate. Labels imply there is no gray matter in the world. Labels are our culture’s attempt to fit into a box something that defies the status quo. If you don’t look like, think like, dress like or this case work like me we need to put a label on you.  Preferably something that insinuates just how different you are. Or maybe even squeezing in the labelers personal opinion about what they think of your choice.

Marci Alboher, author of the book One Person/Multiple Careers: A New Model for Work/Life Success has coined this term for the growing number of individuals (myself included) who draw their income from more than one area of expertise. The slash apparently refers to the slash mark used to separate these different jobs. In my case, that would be Writer, Business Coach, Speaker and Author of The Secrets They Kept. Except that I do not use slash marks to separate these parts of my business. I prefer commas. On my business card, I have spaces. That’s the kind of girl I am. I pause. I don’t slash.
Yet “slasher” is the latest in a string of labels used for members of The Gig Economy, those who have opted out of the traditional 9 to 5 job culture. These independent workers, entrepreneurs, self-employed, sole proprietors, freelancers, consultants and now “slashers” earn their living from more than one source.  They are not beholden to one employer, but several. They can sleep until 10AM on a Monday morning and work until midnight on Saturday and no one will fire them as long as they complete their project. They don’t always know when their next check will come in, but they know it will. They plan their own days.  They are the boss of them. They are generally happy people working at what they like and if they are really lucky, passionate about.

All these labels assigned to classify someone who wasn’t riding an elevator to the same office every day used to terrify me when I was still firmly entrenched in my supposedly “secure” corporate job.  They all sounded too rebel like and unsafe. But then that is what labels are supposed to do. Scare. Keep people standing still and not upsetting the apple cart.  Especially when they sound as inviting as “slashers.”

Think about all the unappealing labels attributed when people, especially women break the status quo. A woman dating a younger man become a cougar. A woman marrying a man much older than herself becomes a trophy wife.  A woman owns her sexuality and is on her way to becoming a slut. In the not too distant past a woman who never married was called a spinster. A mother is only called a working mother if she is working outside the home. A woman who asserts herself in the business place and perhaps makes an unfavorable decision is a bitch. A woman who knows and asks for what she wants very specifically is considered high-maintenance.

Do something unconventional and we create a label that implies something is wrong.  

I hear the word “slasher” and I don’t think of a slash mark on my computer keyboard. I picture a dominatrix-like figure clad in leather and wielding knives as she cuts and slices her way to a paycheck.  That’s not how I see myself, not how I want to market myself to a new coaching client, not how I want the readers of my blog or my novel to view me.

I am guessing that Marci Alboher’s intention was not for “slasher” to conjure up an image of a trail of blood left in the slasher’s wake. But nevertheless it has. At least for me. That’s the trouble with labels. We don’t always know what their impact will be.

In case you were wondering I won’t be introducing myself as a “slasher” anytime soon. I don’t think it would be good for business. But I’m thinking it  might make a great Halloween costume!

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