Full disclosure: I hate politically correctness. HATE. I also think people are far too sensitive. And now, on with the show.
I read a blog last week, in which the author railed against an anonymous commenter who complained about the use of the word “retarded” to describe something not-so-smart she had done. Anonymous commenting is part of blogging. It’s a thing we all complain about, but it’s not going away. I’ll even admit to using it as a tool once, myself, when I felt something needed to be said, but I didn’t want to deal with the fallout of saying it. ONCE. Generally, I’m cool with the fallout.
Anyway, this blogger went on to describe all the other “offensive” words that might be used on the blog, inviting the anonymous commenter to stop reading if he or she was bothered by these things.
I’ve always been of the opinion that words are just words. They only have the meaning that we give them. And while I still think that’s true, I also think that words can be incredibly powerful. Just because I don’t assign a particularly strong meaning to an individual word, doesn’t mean that someone else doesn’t.
I’m not very careful with my words. This is actually something I’ve really been working on for the last couple of years. While I’m not easily offended and I think, in general, most people are too easily offended, that doesn’t really give me the right to just say whatever I want. Specifically if my words could be harmful to a group of people.
The first thing I started with was “gay.” Yes, I know, the gays use it to describe things. That’s their prerogative, much like the n-word. It’s so easy to slip up, though. Saying “that’s gay” about something that you consider weird or abnormal or stupid is a subtle message, even if you don’t think you’re sending it. Even if you don’t believe that being gay is some sort of aberration (it’s not).
To me, that’s the difference between saying something is “gay” and saying something is “retarded.” Not that I think it’s really all that okay to call things “retarded.” (I do it, though. I’m working on it.) At least when you say something is “retarded,” it can reasonably be tied to the actual usage of the word (but it pretty much sucks when it’s used as an insult, I rarely do that). Calling something “gay” because you think it’s stupid or different or abnormal isn’t really something that can even be tied to the general usage meaning of the word “gay.”
In case you’re not sure what that is, you can click here for a definition. As such, it can mean happy, homosexual, or (and I found this surprising) promiscuous.
I’m not suggesting that we all fall into only politically correct speak. I’m just suggesting that we all think for two seconds about the words we use. Whether we like it or not, words are powerful. So think about whether you really want to reinforce the prejudice against gay people (even if that’s not your intention). Don’t we already have enough of that?