Avoiding Ableist or Sexist Language Won’t Make Us Less Fun!


I found this amazing campaign on a website and decided to share on my facebook wall.  As stated on the website , “The following are images from the “You Don’t Say?” Campaign out of Duke University. The premise of the campaign is to encourage people to think before speaking as the words one delivers can have negative implications that were never intended in the first place, especially to those around us.

These phrases are often said with harmless intent. But how do we really make those around us feel? Perhaps it’s time for us to actually think before we speak?”

 The images show different persons holding different signs  -

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When I posted this wonderful piece as my FB status update, I added-

 And I don’t say “Don’t be a retard” because it is Ableist .

 As expected, some do not agree with the campaign or my statement. Not many of us are familiar with Ableism and how just like racism or sexism, it exposes some group of people to discrimination and derogatory treatment . I always wanted to write something about ableist language but felt there are already some good blog posts on the subject, so I just end up referring people to those posts. When attempting to respond to some of the comments on my FB wall, especially the comment below,  I realised my response was so long it is a blog post in itself, so I made it a blog post. Happy reading!

 Oh come on, that’s so stingy! There’s a reason why they are called “proverbs”, the word itself is only offensive if you don’t read it in context.

Also some words, like “Pussy” don’t refer to the female gender,the etymology derives from the Latin words “pusillus” and “animus” combining into “pusillanimous”, meaning “Very Small Spirit / No Courage”.

Also the term was used by many ethnic groups to describe Cats.

Now I’m with you for equality and against sexism, but I think there’s a line. If you take things all to serious, people will dismiss you as militant, a militant mindest can never create a common understanding. So what I’m trying to say is that you should have a bit of self-humour, I mean those proverbs derived over hundred of years, they are part of everyday culture and used all around the word, even by LGBT people who don’t think they’re offensive. If you really want to change the world, you can’t just deny everything, embrace it with all it’s faults and change it slowly over time. Forbidding someone to say words is the same as forbidding someone to be gay. People say those proverbs but they don’t mean them, they don’t project “Man up” with gay people or “pussy” being negative just because it’s female, we use them because they are proverbs, but we aren’t thinking the stuff that’s written on this image. When we say “Pussy” we don’t mean “Ohh you’re such a female, females are all weak, so you’re a coward”, no, we just mean “You’re a coward”.

It’s dangerous to interpret that everyone who’s saying these proverbs is a sexist or albeist, that’s just not trueYemisi, as much as I respect and honor your opinion, but I can’t be in on this one with you.

The sentiments expressed in the above comment are similar to the ones I have heard people express whenever the subject of sexism, ableism or even racism comes up. Therefore, I will try and respond to it as thoroughly as I can.

  • “Oh come on, that’s so stingy!”

There is nothing stingy about asking people to think about the impact their words would have on others before they speak. It does not matter whether your intent was to hurt or just be funny, what matters is the impact on the persons concern.

  •  “There’s a reason why they are called “proverbs”-

 I don’t know what your idea of ‘proverbs’ is but I can tell you that calling people “pussies”, “bitches”, “retarded” or  using the expression “This is so gay” to refer to something you think is stupid, have nothing to do to with proverbs. These are not proverbs; they are insults, derogatory insults.

  • “the word itself is only offensive if you don’t read it in context.”

These words are even more offensive when they are read in context. If I am called a “bitch” or “cunt” by a man or even another woman, I know this has to do with my gender and the stereotype of what a nasty, manipulative, ambitious or aggressive woman is. Fathoming the particular stereotype they are referring to would be apparent from the context of what led to them calling me a “bitch”, “pussy” or “cunt”. The context makes the insult and sexism much more apparent.

When a man is called a pussy by a fellow man or even a woman, the context makes it even more offensive. Studies and 422634_2822985968404_1512899802_nexperience have shown that one of the worst insults you can throw at a man is to call them a “Pussy” or a “Woman”. Call a man a pussy, he either punches you in the face or go all out to prove that he can ‘man up’. Tell a woman she acted like a man and she goes all grinning and even offer you a “thank you” because this is considered one of the highest compliments you can give a woman. This is sad.

Whenever people are called out on using the word pussy as a derogatory remark, the defence is always invariably aimed at an attempt to inform us about cats. This does not in any way take away from the fact that ‘pussy’ in the context used does not in any way refer to cats, but to vaginas and its supposed weakness and all other negative stereotypes typically associated with being a woman with a vagina.

  •  “Now I’m with you for equality and against sexism, but I think there’s a line”.

No. For me, there is no line to be drawn when calling out sexism, racism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia or ableism. If it is bad, it is bad.

  • “If you take things all to serious, people will dismiss you as militant, a militant mindest can never create a common understanding”-

It does not matter what people take me as, what matters is what I take myself as. l do not allow people to define me, I define myself. Also, others acceptance or dismissal of me is not a validation of the rightness or wrongness of my cause.  Just saying, I do not seek validation from others before I act or continue to act on issues I care about.  Also, opinions are like assholes, we all have one. So I won’t lose sleep because my perceived ‘militancy’ would supposedly stop people from having a common understanding. The foundation of my activism is based on the fact that every human being is born free and equal in rights and dignity regardless of sex, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, circumstances of birth or any other status. If there is no common understanding around this basic fact, it still would not stop me from acting decisively to assert this fact.

  • “So what I’m trying to say is that you should have a bit of self-humour”76562_507127119315763_786930123_n

It is self-humour when I am laughing at myself, but it is no longer just self-humour when I am laughing at myself at the expense of another. For instance, if I say to myself “Oh, I am so retarded, how could I say that!” Well, it is not just laughing at myself but actually insulting those who are medically diagnosed with such condition. Deliberately laughing at myself while using insulting and derogatory language to describe the medical condition of another is no longer self-humour, It is downright irresponsible and mean.

  • “I mean those proverbs derived over hundred of years, they are part of everyday culture and used all around the word, even by LGBT people who don’t think they’re offensive.”

Again, these are not proverbs, not even close to it. Also, because something or a language is part of everyday culture or usage does not make it right or wrong. Culture is not a determinant of right or wrong.  Also, when a word is used, it becomes normalized. However, we must always remind ourselves that because something is considered normal does not mean it is always right. ‘Normal’ only means it is common, not that it is correct or right.

And most importantly because you do not find the word ‘pussy’, ‘bitch’ or ‘so gay’ offensive, does not mean everybody else should not find it offensive. And vice versa. The fact that some blacks call themselves niggas does not mean it is ok to call every black person a nigga. And the fact that a black person is comfortable calling himself a nigga does not mean he has the right to stand on a podium and call every other black person in the audience a nigga.

If a gay person is OK with the expression ‘so gay’, they should not get so defensive when others call them out on enabling a negative stereotype about a sexual orientation or gender identity.

A woman might be OK with calling herself a bitch, but it is not ok to go around calling other women she disagrees with, ‘bitches’. This only serves to enable, entrench and enforce the patriarchal, sexist and societal stereotype of women.

  • “If you really want to change the world, you can’t just deny everything, embrace it with all it’s faults and change it slowly over time .”

Sorry, this is definitely not my philosophy of life.  I am not intent on changing the world; I am concerned about making the world a 577637_10151010819121873_455428710_nbetter place, starting with myself and my interactions with others. This includes being conscious of how my words and actions impact on those around me. Also, this definitely includes how I make people around me feel through my actions and words.

And why “change it slowly over time”? The impacts of my words and actions can be immediate. Surely, I do not have to wait a decade before I am comfortable enough to tell people not to call me a “pussy”, a “bitch” or use the word “retarded” or “so gay” to describe people. I think it is a matter of urgent importance and I don’t have to take it slowly. I’d rather the world evolve quick enough to play catch up and understand that words can immediately hurt  and that the impact of these derogatory, sexist, ableist or racist words can take a lifetime to heal.

  • “Forbidding someone to say words is the same as forbidding someone to be gay.”

 No, this is definitely not true. You have the choice to say good things or bad things to people. You also have the choice to make people feel good or feel bad with your words and actions, but you do not have the choice to make people be gay or not gay. BTW, I can forbid someone from saying hateful things about me by going to court to enforce certain rights including invoking the laws against hate speech, but I cannot forbid anyone from being gay , lesbian, bisexual , intersex or transsexual or left handed.

  • “People say those proverbs but they don’t mean them, they don’t project “Man up” with gay people or “pussy” being negative just because it’s female, we use them because they are proverbs, but we aren’t thinking the stuff that’s written on this image. When we say “Pussy” we don’t mean “Ohh you’re such a female, females are all weak, so you’re a coward”, no, we just mean “You’re a coward”.”

 Oh, I can’t even begin to explain just how wrong this statement or sentiment is. When a man is scolded with the remark “Don’t be a pussy”, he is not being told “Don’t be a cat”  and it is surely not just telling him not to be a coward, it is more than that. It is generally meant to mean “Do not be that disgusting, weak vagina” and we all know this. Men do not get offended for being called a “pussy” because they were likened to a cat or a coward; they get offended because they were likened to a woman, more precisely, a vagina.

Also, when a man or even woman refers to a woman as a “bitch”, they are not conjuring up the image of a “dog”. The word “bitch” has come to be synonymous with negative attitudes attributed to women e.g Manipulative, Mean, Aggressive, Controlling etc. All attributes that are deem undesirable for a woman to exhibit in a patriarchal society. We can try to kid ourselves and pretend that those words just mean cats and dogs, but burying our head in the sand like the ostrich would only make us part of the problem not the solution.

As someone else admitted on the post thread “I call myself a bitch sometimes. Most times, others do the calling.” Yes, I alsoLOUDMOUTH BITCH used to call myself a bitch like a decade ego, and more recently I used it in an attempt to reclaim the word “bitch”. However, there is a very thin line between reclaiming a word and entrenching a stereotype.

When people call me “bitch”, I simply let them know if their definition of a bitch is an aggressive, assertive woman who won’t let anyone treat her like a doormat, then yeah, I am. But the thing is, I don’t have to redefine myself to suit stereotypes.

As someone also said on the post thread- “And true I usually mean “pussy” as just 2 things – a vagina or a pusillanimous individual – mean, petty and egotistical.”- The possibility that a person who uses the word ‘pussy’ to describe a man or a woman they disagree with is thinking of the latin word  ‘pusillanimous’  or even knows that such a word exist is almost  nil.  When they use the word pussy to describe a woman and when they use it to describe a man, you can add “weak” and/or “vain” to the meanings. The question is, why would we as women agree with anyone that our vagina is “petty” or  “egoistical”? Why would anyone who identifies as a feminist help entrench such sexist language? The only explanation I have for this is that it has become so normalized that we can’t even see it any more. As someone else rightly opined on the post thread:

“you have to know then that language influences thought as well as the other way round. if small children learn pussy to be an insult it has an influence on their view of the world. Sexism is subtle and it proves this through your outrage about this article. You wouldn’t call yourself sexist though you don’t see how sexism has itself already established in the language, you don’t even see it there anymore”

 I believe that we all are still learning and we owe it to ourselves to be better humans. Being conscious of how our words and actions affect others and impact on our society is part of our duty as human beings who want a better world. Every little helps to make the world a better place for all.

  • “It’s dangerous to interpret that everyone who’s saying these proverbs is a sexist or albeist, that’s just not true”

Yes, not everyone who says these words are intentionally sexist or ableist, but the onus falls on us to be better human beings. 481866_543604339002200_820756368_nIgnorance is not an excuse, especially when the issue has been brought to our attention, and we have the means to do our research. I once also carelessly used words  like lame, dumb, mad, psycho, retard and recently ‘religitard’ became the favourite word for believers who make stupid remarks, not because I was being willfully ableist but because I knew no better. But then , it came to my attention, I did my research and realized that it is not about how throwing such words makes me score cheap insulting points, but about how it makes those really affected feel and how my careless actions entrench ableism and support sexist stereotypes. I cannot after knowing this, in all good conscience continue to use these words.

There was a time I would happily scold homophobes, biphobes, transphobes or  religious fanatics who leave stupid comments on my wall to go take their pills or asked if they have just escaped from the psychiatric ward. These might feel like a good retort but now I understand that these kind of statements entrench the stereotypes of mental patients as ignorant, violent, disruptive people not fit for the ‘normal society’.

 Also, this kind of attitude stigmatizes mental health patients. It makes it even more difficult for people with mental health problems to come out and seek help.  The sad case of Clara Chime, the wife of the Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu state comes readily to mind. Even her family preferred to have her locked away in a room by her powerful husband rather than let her seek help and risked being publicly identified as someone with a mental health issue. The family would rather avoid the stigma than help their daughter seek the best professional help possible.

Supporting persons living with disabilities goes beyond demanding rights from government for them, we must also do our 558635_452575621435167_122256581133741_1696293_265476766_npersonal bit to make them feel wholly welcome in the society as human beings with all rights, respect and dignity intact. I was at a workshop specially for LGBTs with disabilities and I must say I learned a lot, and one of the important things I learned is that you must listen to those who are affected and ask them how they prefer to be addressed. Please let us get informed about the different words out there that further disrespect and stigmatise persons with disabilities and let us avoid using these words. This is not to say we will all agree on what words constitute ableism and which do not. For example, i use the word stupid but some are of the opinion that it is ableist. I certainly do not think persons with disabilities are automatically stupid because of their medical condition, therefore I do not consider the word stupid to be ableist. I guess we won’t always agree, but it is good to make an effort to minimise the pains our words or actions might cause others.

  •  “Yemisi, as much as I respect and honor your opinion, but I can’t be in on this one with you.”

Thank you for respecting my opinion. I do hope you will look beyond this being my opinion and take the time to do a little research and reflection of your own. It is not about being on this with me, it is about being a better person than we already are and making people around us feel the best they can and not the worst they can. Thank you.

Below are links to other enlightening posts on Ableism:

Comments

  1. njuhgnya says

    That asshole is a real piece of work!

    “a militant mindest can never create a common understanding”

    Typical ineffectual (pussies!) moral relativism; placing the onus of empathy onto stigmatized people to force them to tolerate ignorant microaggressions is nothing but a cowardly way of ignoring real, tractable problems. These ostensibly liberal “allies” are really just neutral bandwagon jumpers who happily shout down anyone who offends their delicate Just World view. Heaven

    ““It’s dangerous to interpret that everyone who’s saying these proverbs is a sexist or albeist [sic], that’s just not true” HAHA! ONLY THE MOST USELESS, COWARDLY SCUM WORRY ABOUT BULLIES’ FEELINGS. It’s interesting that this fool used the word interpret, as if the usage of derogatory words is simply a matter of opinion. It really shows their woolly, self obsessed mode of “thought”, I refuse to find “common understanding” with a disingenuous ass who actually thinks labeling banal acts of evil is dangerous. Heaven forbid an innocent person get their precious feelings hurt!

    ableism is obviously a thing and every coward who prefers to ignore it is worse than useless.

  2. Maureen Brian says

    Excellent stuff, Yemmy! Thank you.

    I think we should start a fund to buy your young friend an etymological dictionary -- though there’s a good one online -- from which he could learn that …

    * pussy -- does not come from Latin at all (that’s a made-up-after-the-event excuse) but from Old Norse where puss = pocket or pouch, compare Low German puse = vulva

    * gay -- as a word has been around since at least the fourteenth century but only started to mean homosexual late in the nineteenth century -- as in-group language in more or less closed groups; it became more widely used after the 1940s when writers on psychology started to use it and only in the last couple of decades has it become a multi-purpose insult!

    Keep up the good work!

  3. opposablethumbs says

    Bloody good takedown, Yemmy. Thank you!

    Back when DaughterSpawn was still at school, she tried out deliberately substituting “oh that’s so homophobic” … it didn’t catch on (at a long 4 syllables instead of the snappy 1, it wasn’t going to) but it was a good discussion-starter.

  4. Radimus says

    “opinions are like assholes, we all have one” THAT is a proverb. lol.

    I do wonder though, you say you don’t allow other to define you. I agree with this and have a similar mentality having been quite chubby in my youth. Others insults just didn’t affect me. Hell, if anything I got and appreciated most of their ingenuity. My physical conditioning isn’t all there is to me nor has it ever really been one that I cared that much about (as is evident by my size 48 waist lol) if at all.

    However, because I enjoyed and fun great humor in the jests of others I began to look upon insults as more of a humors test to see who could get the biggest laugh out of group. Nothing was ever off limits. What this meant was that everyone was forced to have thick skin. Though admittedly, we didn’t often use phrases like the ones in the campaign. Insults were tailored to the individual for the best affect. The phrases “no homo” and “gay” were often used but not in the way these pictures play out. No homo was used when something sounded accidentally sexual and could be misconstrued as an advance. This later became “phrasing” thanks to Archer fame.

    “Gay” or “Oh, that’s gay” was used but again not with the meaning prescribed by this campaign. It was another way of exclaiming something as ridiculous or silly.

    Now obviously, these terms can cause offense even if not intended but no more so than words like “fuck” or “goddamn it” to certain people. The words only have the ability to offend those able to be offended. That is why I mention you not allowing other to label you. I was never insulted by mere phrases regarding my weight, class or looks so i don’t understand how others could allow random people to insult them.

  5. Meggamat says

    To be fair, homosexuals re-purposed the word “gay” to suit their own agendas, so it does not seem altogether unreasonable that now a group of people have re-re-purposed it to mean “lacking in merit”. Also, Clara Chime may not be mentally ill, that was an allegation made by her husband, who is hardly unbiased.

  6. hoary puccoon says

    Radimus--

    May I point out that your weight is largely under your control. If you don’t want to exercise or eat right, you are perfectly free to go around with your 48 inch waist and laugh off whatever jibes you get.

    My cerebral palsy, however, is not under my control. My 32 inch waist may protect me from heart disease, but it doesn’t protect me from the, “Oh, you’re such a spaz,” digs I sometimes get. And it really doesn’t protect people with much more serious cases than mine, who not only get treated as globally incompetent, but even get wrongly treated as retarded because they cannot enunciate clearly.

    Being gay or from a minority group is much more like my situation than yours. Homosexuals and minority group members cannot eliminate their sexual orientation or ancestry by joining weight watchers. Even if they “pass” or stay in the closet, they will have to pay a very high emotional price for the denial of their true identities.

    Before you judge other people by your standards, you might take a long, serious look at what they are really facing.

  7. Maddie says

    I never thought of “psycho,” “mad,” and these other words in that light before. I was once fussed at by using the word “pussy” in a poem about a dog I used to hear distant male relatives call that. (I was like, “Mirror to life, can’t help it if it isn’t always beautiful.”) I didn’t pay it any regard, because I really identified with the dog and furthermore rarely use the p-word, besides, the poem wouldn’t have been as powerful if it didn’t piss off the reader a bit, first. (I lost the poem; I’m disappointed, because the professor made me think well of it.)

    Some of this language has actual uses. I’m socially retarded (but I read Kevin Mitnick, so it’s cool); people get mad at me when I say that, but it’s the truth. It’s been told to me by doctors before. (Honestly, I think it might be because I’m more open-minded than the average doctor around here; maybe that’s what’s making me appear socially retarded to them.) The word “psycho” has some sting to me, but I shrug it off when it’s applied to me, because I reply with, “That word just isn’t me.” Mad is still a great word, though, and I’m saying that as someone who’s owned it. Mad can mean a number of things, like Mad Hatter, and is associated with eccentricity and style. If someone says to me, “You’re mad!” I’m going to say, “Not currently, but thank you, anyway.”

  8. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    Radimus @ 4, congratulations on exemplifying the problem. The fact that you were able to shrug off insults and even use them as a springboard to comaraderie doesn’t mean others are “allowing” people to insult them. I mean, hooray that you, for whatever reason, had enough self esteem and/or emotional support from family and friends to do that but not everyone is so lucky and those who aren’t don’t deserve to have people like you superciliously put the burden on them to not be hurt when others mistreat them. Your perspective isn’t everyone’s perspective. It never ceases to amaze me how difficult a concept that is for some people to grasp.

  9. Yemisi Ilesanmi says

    @Radimus

    “opinions are like assholes, we all have one” THAT is a proverb. lol.

    No, it is not a proverb, it is just a random saying inspired by the fact that the internet is replete with opinions, most of it held by assholes. If that is what passes as a proverb to you, well, you obviously have not heard a proverb before or you heard a proverb but couldn’t work out its meaning enough to understand that it was a proverb.

    Others have made good responses to your comment, but I would like to add that because you don’t mind having insults thrown at you for your 48 inch waist or because you have developed a thick skin to the hurtful words and also learned to cope by engaging in throwing back ‘befitting’ insults to others, does not make the bullying right. The fact that you can shrug off insults from friends and strangers alike is not a reason to wonder at those who refused to be treated like they are less of a human being because they don’t meet social standards, stereotypes or for something they had no say in, like their sexual orientation, sex or race.

    The solution to bullying or degrading treatment of others is not to ask victims to develop thick skin or a sense of humour, but to condemn bullying and work towards a better society for all. When I say I don’t allow people to define me, it does not mean I ignore or pretend that bullies aren’t real. I can assure you that I do not tolerate any kind of insult or degrading treatment from others and would never advise people to just accept such treatments as a ‘normal’ thing. Hate speech kills, it should never be normalised.

  10. Radimus says

    “No it is not a proverb”
    “A proverb: short popular saying, usually of unknown and ancient origin, that expresses effectively some commonplace truth or useful thought.”

    Seemed to fit the description pretty close to me.

    I think people may have missed the point in their dash to assume I am insisting that others ‘man up, stop being little bitches and deal with it.’ My weight and subsequent 48 inch waist is simply not something I am ashamed of and therefore see no insult in people pointing it out. If I were gay, transgender or what have you those would also be a part of who I am. Someone pointing out what I am doesn’t affect me because I am already aware. They mean as much to me as “You mother wears combat boots.”

    However, this does not mean I am without the ability to be offended. If my wife were to insult me on a personal level or bring my abilities to raise out son into question that would offend me. Those are values I hold vitally important and it is a intended insult toward me. There is not other way for that comment to mean.

    Now someone making a comment and using the term “mother fucker” in exclamation doesn’t not offend me. My wife is a mother, we do engage in coitus (sorry for the visual folks) but I am very aware that the comment is not directed at me nor the other men or women in the room that also engage in sexual relations with mothers.

    Now if I’m being addressed as “You mother fucker!” That I would take (admittedly mild) offense to but only because I am aware that the term is meant as an insult. Now the reason I admit that the offense I would take from that is mild is because it depend on who is saying it. A stranger? Couldn’t give less of a rat’s ass what their opinion of me is. Nor does their opinion of people who lay with mothers (trying to find different ways of saying this just for fun.) It means as much to me as (and I have heard these used in a negative light before) “breeders”, “cracker”,”honky” or “white boy.” Apart from honky I am admittedly a breeder (as my adorable son’s existence will confirm) I do in fact have extremely pale skin (being of Scottish decent) and I am extremely dedicated to holding on to the fun aspects of life (playing video games, collecting toys and such) so I can’t even argue with being referred to as a boy.

    Words have only the power we allow them. So these words used in common passing I can not find the harm in. Though admittedly it may simply be because I am rarely offended by much of anything random people say.

    “When I say I don’t allow people to define me, it does not mean I ignore or pretend that bullies aren’t real.” Nor am I suggesting that you do. Again there is a world of difference between insults directed at you and something said around you. Much like Atheists will say to Theists when they claim that our speaking out against God offends them, “You have the right to be offended but that’s simply how you are choosing to take it.” And while you have the right to be offended by the terms mentioned above others have just as much right to use them.

    I personally feel that something like this campaign pulls people apart rather than together by making people enemies with each other over words we choose in everyday discussion. It also have the reverse affect on those who are trying to offend as it alerts them to the term that offend. Much like news reports warning parents about their kids snorting lighter fluid. It’s not going to stop the kid that is curious about it and if anything just let them know that such a thing is possible.

    Again, I feel compelled to clarify this(as i may have poorly stated it prior). I am merely talking about the terms used above and how I personally use them and how I see others use them. I’m not talking about them being used to disparage or demean people. In THAT context, I am with you 100%. But I think it’s assumption that is leading people to be offended by phrases like “That’s gay”, “Man up” or “No homo.”

    TR;DR??

    “Look at that homo over there!” is directly insulting and offensive
    “Hey man, that shirt really brings out the color of your eyes. No homo.” Is indirectly insulting at best.

  11. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    Radimus @ 10:

    You wrote a lot of words which didn’t say very much but your TL; DR at the end works as a nice, concise summary of how widely you’re missing the point.

    “Look at that homo over there!” is directly insulting and offensive
    “Hey man, that shirt really brings out the color of your eyes. No homo.” Is indirectly insulting at best.

    It’s not about insults. When one says “no homo” they’re implying a number of things. First, they’re implying that complimenting someone is indicative of sexual attraction as evidenced by the fact that their next words are to disavow any sexual attraction. File that under the heading of “Toxic Masculinity.” It also implies that meaning it flirtatiously is something shameful or embarrassing as evidenced by the fact that they preemptively apologized for it just in case. Now, you’re probably going to claim that, because you understand that being gay is nothing to be ashamed of and that it’s entirely possible to compliment another man without meaning it “in a gay way” that you’re not offended and that gay people shouldn’t be either. Well good for you, but that’s not the point.

    The point is that the perpetuation of these ideas (that the only motive for a man to compliment someone is as a sexual advance and that being sexually attracted to others of your own gender is shameful) is bad. It helps perpetuate a culture in which people who aren’t properly hetero are actually in physical danger. It’s not about being personally offended; it’s about a climate in which people lose jobs, family, friends, their lives because of these attitudes. The purpose of eradicating this kind of language isn’t to avoid offending people; it’s to eliminate these harmful attitudes because they cause real harm up to and including getting people killed.

  12. hoary puccoon says

    Radimus @ 10--

    So you, a young, white, male, Gentile, able-bodied heterosexual, whose only, slight deviation from the pinnacle of status is being overweight, are going to tell the rest of us that “words only have the power we allow them.”

    That may be true for you.

    But in 29 US states, the mere rumor that someone is a homosexual can be enough to get them fired. And they have no legal recourse. The “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” rule about homosexuality in the US military, which later was so roundly condemned, was President Clinton’s best option at the time to protect service members from being dishonorably discharged simply because of rumors. “Words only have the power we allow them?” Maybe you should explain that to some of the brave and honest soldiers who were discharged through no fault of their own, because of rumors.

    And take a look at the birther movement against President Obama. Or the endless trashing Elizabeth Warren took from Scott Brown during her campaign for the US Senate. Oh, in both cases, it is totally denied that the issue was race. But that was all words (except for the war whoops of the Scott Brown supporters.) And, let’s not kid ourselves, the issue in both cases was race. Does the fact that Obama and Warren won their elections make those displays of bigotry any less shameful?

    “Words only have the power we allow them” may be a good motto for somebody who will never be accused of anything worse than being overweight and out of shape. But you are hopelessly naïve about how words are used in less innocent situations, to label someone as “the other” who therefore doesn’t deserve equal treatment-- who, in the worst cases, isn’t even given the right to going on living.

    You say that being teased about your weight doesn’t bother you. But you seem awfully eager to equate the treatment that you have received with the treatment people who really do have disabilities, or are gay, or of the wrong ethnic group, get dished out to them. If you really aren’t bothered by the words directed at you, why do you keep harping on them?

  13. Radimus says

    @ Seven of Nine (but unfortunately @ 10 lolz) and @ Hoary puccoon above at 11

    “(that the only motive for a man to compliment someone is as a sexual advance and that being sexually attracted to others of your own gender is shameful”

    WHAT!? How did you draw this conclusion. Are you even reading these posts?

    and I quote:
    “No homo was used when something sounded accidentally sexual and could be misconstrued as an advance.”

    It had nothing to do with the idea that male on male contact in a sexual way is wrong. It had everything to do with how the phrase sounded and that it sounded like something someone would say if they were making a pass at you.

    Another example is asking someone to grab something out of the bag that’s hanging on the back of my seat.

    “Where is it?” he asked not immediately knowing where to find the d20 I told him he could borrow.

    “It’s in the main pocket.” I informed him too busy with my character sheet to reach around and get it myself.

    “Ugh!” he exclaimed “I can’t find it.”

    “Well I kept losing it out the top so I shoved it in there pretty deep,” I said as everyone’s eyes looked up from their work having only overheard the last portion of the sentence. I cleared my throat as playfully mumbled “No homo?”

    Now that is a fairly accurate display of some of the goings on in my old circle where that phrase was used. What exactly about that translated to hate speech? As I stated before it was all about the unintentional sexual innuendo.

    We weren’t laughing about being gay. We were laughing at the hastily chosen words.

    “So you, a young, white, male, Gentile, able-bodied heterosexual, whose only, slight deviation from the pinnacle of status is being overweight, are going to tell the rest of us that “words only have the power we allow them.”

    The ironic racism of this comment delights me. I don’t recall mentioning my race. But isn’t it ironic that a heterosexual white person is singled out as being some how unable to understand the the plights of others. I laugh that it never occurs to people that someone could understand them with out first being them. How very Suey Park of you.

    Are you aware that there are parts of US where the majority by a very high margin are black and Hispanic? And in those area’s a nerdy white kid could get singled out almost daily for being different. And even when that nerdy white kid goes to a white school he singled out for being the poor son of a fisherman? Or how about also being ridiculed for working with mentally disabled children in his spare time? Or being friends with a homosexual kid and being assaulted and ridiculed for being gay yourself just by association? Nah none of that is valid. I’m just a white guy and everyone knows white people are all well breed high born snobs like the Lannisters.

    I’ll also point out that those of us that didn’t vote Obama in the last two elections simply because we didn’t agree with his track record or ideas were labeled racist by association. And politics just like this campaign do nothing but drive a wedge between people who should be working together to solve important problems.

    Like actual violence toward homosexuals or minorities. Not worrying about what common used word offense what group of people today. I am sure you’ve all said “god dammit!” just as much as me and never given a care what a christian thought.

  14. scenario says

    I agree that all of the statements above are racist, ableist or sexist. Using words like gay or pussy as an insult is saying that there is something inherently wrong with being gay or a woman. It is saying that they are 2nd class citizens. Looking it up in a dictionary and saying that you really meant a different definition is meaningless. One person as an individual may understand it to mean something different but that doesn’t override the meaning that most people use.

    This is different than one site stating that on this site we will be using a specific definition for a word. The most common words this happens to are theory and racism where there are specific scientific meanings to the words different than the common usage.

    “Now I’m with you for equality and against sexism, but I think there’s a line”.
    No. For me, there is no line to be drawn when calling out sexism, racism, homophobia, biphobia, transphobia or ableism. If it is bad, it is bad.

    I somewhat disagree with this statement. With the quotes listed above most people who think about it would agree that they are sexist etc. But if one person or a very small group of people believe that something is an insult is it wrong to use it? I’ve been told that the word negotiate is a sexist word and should never be used. Just about every word has someone, somewhere who considers it to be inappropriate. How many people need to consider it as inappropriate before it should not be used? The key words are if it is bad, it is bad.
    Who gets to decide?

    The owner of the blog has the right to ban anything that they want to ban but they cannot expect that others will automatically follow their example on other sites.

  15. hoary puccoon says

    Radimus @ 10 “I do, in fact, have extremely pale skin, being of Scottish descent.”

    Radimus @ 13 “I don’t recall mentioning my race.”

    It’s obviously pointless to argue if you change your story from one post to the next. I’m out.

  16. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    Radimus @ 13

    Now that is a fairly accurate display of some of the goings on in my old circle where that phrase was used. What exactly about that translated to hate speech?

    Who even said anything about hate speech? Christ, you’re dishonest.

    “No homo was used when something sounded accidentally sexual and could be misconstrued as an advance.”

    It had nothing to do with the idea that male on male contact in a sexual way is wrong. It had everything to do with how the phrase sounded and that it sounded like something someone would say if they were making a pass at you.

    That you even think you’ve contradicted anything I said with these words is kind of amazing. Your original words that I quoted were of a hypothetical person complimenting the color of another person’s shirt followed by “no homo.” You’re now saying that complimenting the color of someone’s shirt sounds “accidentally sexual” and yet claim dismay that I would hear an implication that the only reason men would pay a compliment is as a sexual advance.

    If you can get from “I like the color of your shirt” to “accidentally sexual” in one step like that, you really have no grounds on which to deny that people tend to assume sexual intentions when men pay compliments and also that doing this to another man is a problem. Had your hypothetical person been complimenting a woman on the color of her shirt without intent to make a pass, would he have said “no hetero” or something similar? I submit that he wouldn’t have and that there’s a reason for that which isn’t harmless.

  17. Radimus says

    @ 15 “I don’t recall” is not the same thing as “I never.” For kicks consider that my earliest draft of that comment had the joke “But again I’m too lazy or pressed for time (you choose) to go back and double check.” Opportunity lost. Now here I stand corrected.

    But it doesn’t negate anything else I said in the comment.

    @ Seven of (wait now it’s mine? Am I just that big of a nerd I filled that in all this time or am I that exhausted) Mine @ 16

    “Who even said anything about hate speech? Christ, you’re dishonest.”
    “Hate speech kills, it should never be normalised.” -- @ 9

    Don’t worry. Happened to me too. :)

  18. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    Radimus @17,

    It’s always been “Mine” but so many people automatically read it as “Nine” that I hardly even notice the error myself anymore. It’s a reference to 7 of 9 anyway so all good.

    The fact that I didn’t remember Yemmy using the term “hate speech” doesn’t make it any less dishonest for you to attempt to rebut me by referencing it as if it has fuck all to do with anything I said. I mean, I know my ‘nym references the Borg but we’re not actually a hive mind here. I was specifically talking about implication and harmful attitudes that are perpetuated by language that has roots in bigotry. Your usage of “no homo” doesn’t quite fall under the heading of “hate speech” in my opinion (I’m sure a strong argument could be made that it is though I doubt one would get very far trying to take legal action because of it) but the continued use and defense of it certainly helps perpetuate a culture in which hate speech is often tolerated.

    At this point it’s pretty clear you’re not here to engage in good faith so toodles.

  19. Radimus says

    ” It’s a reference to 7 of 9 anyway so all good. ”

    I’m actually kind of insulted that you thought I needed that explained. lol.

    ” I was specifically talking about implication and harmful attitudes that are perpetuated by language that has roots in bigotry. Your usage of “no homo” doesn’t quite fall under the heading of “hate speech” in my opinion (I’m sure a strong argument could be made that it is though I doubt one would get very far trying to take legal action because of it) but the continued use and defense of it certainly helps perpetuate a culture in which hate speech is often tolerated.”

    And what I am getting at is I don’t see the correlation you seem to see between using this phrase amongst friends and there being violence toward homosexuals. Is there magical power to these words where every time I say “no homo” a skin head is suddenly urged to beat up a gay teen?

  20. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    Imagine being a closeted gay person constantly hearing men say “no homo” in response to anything that could be construed as sexual innuendo. It sends the message that being homosexual yourself or accidentally implying someone else is homosexual are things that must always be disavowed and/or apologized for.

    Now add that to all the other vaguely homophobic things people say on a constant basis.

    Think about how common it is to reserve the terms “husband/boyfriend” and “wife/girlfriend” for hetero couples and say “partner” when we’re talking about same sex couples. It sounds superficially harmless but it still has the effect of othering gay people when you insist on referring to their relationships in a different way, using a term which works equally well for “someone I play doubles tennis with” or “someone who has been assigned to work closely with me at my job” or “someone who has been assigned to the same lab station in chemistry class” and other sorts of casual associations.

    And so on.

    It’s not about something happening as a direct result of something you say when there’s nobody to hear but a few of your friends who aren’t inclined to commit a hate crime (judging by your resistance to the entire idea of eliminating this kind of language, I don’t really believe that you refrain from using it when you’re less certain of your audience). It’s about the wider culture that gets built up and maintained as all of these little, ostensibly trivial, things accumulate. Gay people hear it and feel excluded. Bigoted people hear it and feel justified in their bigotry. The children of bigoted people go to school and see nothing wrong with tormenting that boy who is rumored to enjoy watching My Little Pony. Other children witnessing this bullying don’t say anything lest they become the next target.

  21. carbonfox says

    Soon-to-be Duke grad here. I wasn’t involved in setting up this campaign, unfortunately, but I have seen the fliers around campus and I love the message. I’ve also overhead people — mostly older white men, as it were — complaining about how these fliers were “suppressing their free speech”, although with the caveat that they, being super gentlemanly gentleman, would never stoop to such language anyway. For the most part I ignored these comments, but I did get into an argument with one employee who was being so vociferous about how his free speech was being suppressed that I felt obliged to point out that the posters were merely encouraging folk to CHOOSE not to say these hurtful words, and that he needn’t fear governmental or institutional retribution should they spew from his mouth. I’m sure you’ll be surprised to hear that he doubled down with accusations of “PC police” and nonsense about our society being “over-sensitive”. *sigh* But for the most part, I think the campaign has sparked progressive dialogue on campus amongst the less close-minded folk. :)

  22. noxiousnan says

    Hoary puccoon @6, I’d respectfully ask you to take your own advise:

    ”Before you judge other people by your standards, you might take a long, serious look at what they are really facing.

    You may want to educate yourself about fat stigma and the near impossibility of long term weight loss before you dismiss a problem you don’t appear to know anything about. You did allude to minorities who may or may not hide or eliminate that which targets them for abuse, but fat is one of those that cannot be hidden.

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