In the Blog

How we choose the words we use

February 3rd, 2010     by Julia Horel     Comments

Being a word/books person, I do a lot of thinking about the power of language. The more progressive blogs and new sources I read, and the more I talk and think about feminist and progressive issues on a daily basis, the more I notice the words people drop into casual conversation that make me pause.

Language is more powerful than we realize. At its best, it can facilitate communication, bridge huge distances and build communities. But as we’ve heard, with great power comes great responsibility, and I believe that as feminists, it’s important for us to be conscious of the words we choose when communicating and to avoid problematic and alienating language as much as possible - not only to avoid offending or alienating others, but to hold ourselves to the highest standards and set a positive example.

Problematic or triggering language is all around us: everything from “that’s so gay” to “what a pussy” to “that exam totally raped me.” Examples like these are obvious, but some that are more often overlooked include “that’s so lame” and “you’re insane” (ableist, physically and mentally, respectively). Personally, expressions that are dismissive of mental/emotional differing abilities (“insane,” “crazy,” “stupid”) are ones I’m currently working on eliminating from my vocabulary.

I’m not necessarily advocating becoming the language police, and I know that different social situations have different standards of communication. It’s just something to think about.

I’ve only given a few examples in this post. What are some of your personal language peeves, and are you working on being more conscious of your words? Do you call out others who use problematic language?

Tags: in my opinion..., miscellaneous

« Who Do We Look Up To? (Is 3rd Wave Feminism Lost Without Leaders?)

Mammoliti’s curfew: A good idea in theory »