On Being a Hippie

I am called a "hippie" with a fair amount of frequency. Now, I'm guilty of throwing around labels willy-nilly too, so I know it's not always negatively motivated. How many times have I been on campus, seen a 20-something guy in skinny jeans and mentally shouted, "hipster!" So, I'm part of the problem and that's something I'm working. These rapid-fire judgments are based on appearance alone and that's what's so troubling about them.

When the label "hippie" is applied to me, it seems to come out of the mouths of those who don't quite know what to make of me and my life choices. So, they lump me into the only category they know that seems to fit. Except, it doesn't. The hippie culture was a very specific movement of a time a place that no longer exists and to which I don't really relate. It was a reaction to a political and cultural moment that has passed (or, at least, is very different). Just because I do some things that the hippies also did, like reject consumerist culture, or because I do some things that just seem similar to things that they might do, like eat a lot of whole grains, I get lumped into this category. I don't take this as an insult, but it just seems lazy, at best, and dismissive, at worst.

Silas and I made a trip to the library yesterday and while he gnawed on the pretend food in the play kitchen, I was able to read almost all of the newest issue of Natural Life Magazine (Mar/Apr 2012). In it, there was a really wonderful article by Erin Hofseth on this topic. She very eloquently summed up a lot of what I've been feeling lately:
So often when we make choices for our families that seem to go against the mainstream ideals of the culture that we are living in, we automatically get slapped with a label that works to belittle or devalue the conscientious decisions that we are making. The hippie movement advocated many admirable ways of living: nonviolence, connection with the earth and emphasis on community, but it was also a reactive social movement. The decisions I make as a mother are not reactive; they are thoughtful.
You should check out the whole article, but I was especially struck by that last line. Why does being thoughtful about the way that we live equate to being a hippie? She goes on to say that it's time to stop labeling one another and to start really engaging with each other, as that's the only way that real understanding can take place. I couldn't agree more.


  1. I have way too much to say on this topic to try to leave it all here - I've been called a "hippie" for years and I'm a bit older than you. I think labels make surface acceptance easier for those that just don't "get it" or worse, don't want to try to understand. Sad but true. But every once in a while you run across someone who'll ask and learn and understand and they are why I still have the patience to deal with the others.

  2. Oh, I love the last line too!!

    I often get the same label, I am not much for labels, so don't really give it a second thought. I just figure our way of life is different and sometimes people need to label it to either understand it or to make themselves feel better, so be it as far as I am concerned.

    I don't feel the need to label they way we live. We live with thought, mindfulness and make conscious decisions based on our own knowledge and experience.

    Looking forward to checking out that article, love that magazine.

  3. I'm really not sure why people need to fit some sort of label and why others have a need to give it to them. I will have to check out that magazine. It sounds very interesting.

  4. yes yes yes!!! i love what you have put into words here, and i love the quote as well. this is definitely something i think about and i love the way you've articulated "what it is about that" that bugs me. i, like you, want to be understood for my thoughtfulness about my decisions, not just have it assumed that i am just a pendulum swinging far away from a different extreme i grew up surrounded by. it's not reactiveness, which is a lack of thought really, it's a great deal of thought and care and time and research and work on believing in being myself. and being reduced to a label does work to undermine or undervalue the consciousness we bring to our parenting/living.

  5. Amen! Lots of our friends refer to us in a similar way (though not always specifically with the word hippy), or they refer to our lifestyle as though it's some kind of fad or something we're simply inclined to, rather than a very deliberate, mindful choice. Thanks for sharing those wonderful words!

  6. It's funny about what you say about labeling I'm seeing a lot of that lately. No one has ever called me a hippie but I like to hang out with those who are living more authentically to their true self. One look and you can label some one into a category didn't like it as a kid and I don't like it as an adult, now trying to teach my kids to proud of themselves and who they are in the midst of all this labeling .
    By the I love that Natural Life Magazine I recently discovered and want to subscribe. They always seem to have some parenting article that hits a good feeling in me. Looks like this article did it for you :)

  7. Oh yes, the name calling and labeling that always seems to take place. I was born in CA in the 60's, have long hair, live a lifestyle that is pretty much not the norm here and have heard HIPPIE used to describe me quite often. Times change,but unfortunately peoples attitudes often don't. Loved reading your words Courtney and really must check out this article.

  8. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this - well said! I'll have to see if I can find a copy of that article.

    I personally don't mind the idea of being called a hippie - in some ways, and maybe at a surface level, but still, it would make me happy, in that the way I'm choosing to live is different enough to be noticeable. Whether or not when you really get down to it, "hippie" is a fair description is another matter that's interesting to think about.

    As far as making lifestyle choices that are outside of the mainstream, it's interesting the timing - I was just at a class meeting for my sons' class at our Waldorf school last night where we were talking about others not understanding the choices we have and do make in how we raise our kids and live our lives. I think it can be very hard - from all "sides" - to really understand the choices that others make when it is about such fundamental issues as lifestyle and raising kids. I know I struggle with rushing to judgement, too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this!