Maybe this is the language major with a minor in women studies in me speaking, but I think the things we say are just as important as the things we do. The words we use reflect our biases in ways we don’t even realize, and it is only by being aware of these biases that we can begin to reduce the affect things like misogyny, sexism, and ableism have. Here are a couple words/saying that really make my blood boil.
That’s so gay!
Nothing that can be referred to as “that” is gay because gay is a sexuality and only living things have sexualities. Yes, I realize you don’t mean anything to do with homosexuality. Really what you’re saying is “That’s so uncool/stupid/something else bad!” That’s what makes it so bad. You are perpetuating the idea that gay = not right, and that’s not right.
Girl push-ups/you throw like a girl
I understand that as a whole girls are in general less physical than boys, but just like the above example, whenever you attach an unattractive quality with a group of people, you are encouraging the idea that that group of people also has that unattractive quality. In this case, being a girl is being equated with being not as good as a guy. I’m not okay with this.
You’re such a girl/pussy/bitch/cunt/sissy!
Has anyone noticed that the worst insults for a girl or a guy involve calling her/him something related to a girl? It’s not only that I disagree with this kind of language in the first place, but by using it (even if you think you’re “reclaiming it as a woman”), all you’re doing is saying that there’s nothing worse than being a girl.
That’s so retarded!
See “that’s so gay!”
Hey guys! (When referring to a group of girls or boys and girls.)
I’m so guilty of this one as well, and it’s a hard habit to break, but it’s an important one. When you qualify a group of people as “guys” you are erasing women from the picture. You are saying that the norm is male while being a female is outside of the norm. Again, this creates that whole hierarchy thing with women on the bottom.
Maybe the language we use, especially if it’s infrequent, doesn’t seem like a big deal, but as readers I would hope that you would all know otherwise. Language has a kind of power. It can create, and it can destroy. When you choose your words, you are helping to create our world. Choose wisely.
What do you think about language and how it affects our reality? Any words or phrases that set your blood boiling?