The Anti-Dictionary: Things We Shouldn’t Say

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Currently, people are adopting offensive terminology and using them in casual conversation, without realizing they are contributing to a bigger problem that perpetuates hate towards certain minorities. So, here’s a list of things NOT to say, to avoid further ignorance:

“That’s so gay” is used in a negative context, implying that homosexuality is dumb, stupid, or illegitimate.  This degrades an entire sexual identity and marginalizes them further in a country where “equality” is supposedly one of its central ideals. And, no, saying, “I am pro-equality, so when I say ‘That’s gay,’ I don’t mean it in a hurtful way!” doesn’t change the fact that it is, in fact, hurtful.

 “No homo” implies that there is a reason someone should get defensive for being loving toward someone of the same sex – for fear of being labeled as gay (as if it’s the worst thing in the world). This fear highlights the ever-present discomfort and lack of support for homosexuality. Additionally, saying things like “no homo” implies that it should automatically be construed that someone is gay if they are emotional with someone of the same gender. Personally, I don’t want to live in a world where I can only express love and human kindness toward my romantic interests if I don’t want my sexual orientation to be questioned.

 “Be a man” is used interchangeably with “toughen up,” implying that men are not allowed to be emotional, or show any signs of fear, insecurity, etc. (things considered to be “weaknesses”), for their masculinity to go unquestioned. This phrase also implements sexist ideals, like expecting women to not be tough, strong, or brave.

(see my previous article for a longer explanation: http://mvhsoracle.com/opinions/man-up-man-down)

 “Don’t be a p*ssy” is a phrase usually used by males to goad their guy friends. Pretty much another way of saying “be a man,” this modern-day chide says that anyone with a vagina (namely: women) is weak, or a wimp. And, since this “sentiment” typically follows a guy being emotional, or telling his friends he doesn’t want to do something that may be risky in some way, it invalidates his feelings, as well as challenges his masculinity.

 “B*tch” is a degrading term used to dehumanize women (as it technically means “female dog”). Men also often use this word interchangeably with p*ssy, again with the implications that to be a woman is to be a weakling. However, nowadays, this term isn’t even always used to intentionally insult women – it’s just common vocabulary, and sometimes even considered “endearing.” Rappers, high school boys, and even teen girls, refer to girls they like as b*tches. It’s scary really; this word is completely accepted into our vocabulary, and yet it encompasses sexism and the objectification of women without us even doubting our use of it.

 “Fag” and “dyke” are demeaning terms for gay men and lesbian women, respectively. They continue to ostracize homosexuals and are only harmful to the positive evolution of our society toward a more accepting and egalitarian future.

“Dude, you’re gonna get raped,” is something I have heard many guys say to their friends, in reference to losing a video game or sports game. Rape is not something to be joked about; it is an extremely serious issue that should not be brushed off or taken lightly. Rape victims are still often blamed for the crimes committed against them, and are told to stop making rape a big deal “for attention.” This kind of nonchalance surrounding rape contributes to rape culture and the turning of a blind eye to rape in our society. Losing your voice and free will regarding sex can hardly be compared to losing a round of Call of Duty.

 “That’s so retarded” equates mental disorders with stupidity and anything distasteful. It isn’t fair to make light of mental disabilities that people have, and to make a joke out of something that affects some people every day. You never know who has a sibling, cousin, parent, child, etc. with a learning disability, so you could be offending anyone around you. Just like “that’s so gay,” this phrase makes an entire group of people feel like an outsider in their own community.

“Slut,” “ho,” “whore,” “skank,” etc. are all terms used to slut-shame girls for their sexuality, clothing, and so-called “provocativeness.” The truth is, girls should be allowed to wear whatever they want that makes them feel beautiful and/or comfortable without having to worry about being judged for it. Slut-shaming is just an excuse for people to look down on others, and an excuse for rape culture to continue to exist.

“N*gger” is not a synonym for “bro.” It is a racist word that was (and still is) used to oppress and dehumanize black people throughout history. If you are not black, you don’t have the right to appropriate this term to your liking; it’s offensive and cruel, and it perpetuates the racism that still very much exists today.

 Disclaimer:

Some black people use “n*gger” to refer to their friends because they feel it empowers them to use the very same slur on themselves that was used to torment and enslave them. And, as a white person, I don’t think I have a right to suggest they do otherwise – they are entitled to that much.

This also goes for girls using “b*tch” and “p*ssy,” as well as homosexuals using terms like “fag.” I think the general rule is if you were/are marginalized by the term, you can use it to refer to yourself and other friends who are okay with it. However, there’s a fine line because, for example, a girl calling another girl a whore is still slut-shaming, if used to judge/insult her. We have to use our own discretion to be conscientious of the impact of name-calling, even if it is done with the intent of being affectionate.

But some people find this empowering, and who are we to stop people we have oppressed from empowering themselves in a country that continues to marginalize them?

Links that inspired this article:

http://www.upworthy.com/some-words-are-up-to-no-good-even-if-they-seem-harmless-think-its-time-to-get-rid-of-these?c=ufb1

https://www.facebook.com/thinkbeforeyoutalkduke

https://www.facebook.com/youdontsayduke

Shayda Dehnow
A senior this year, Shayda is nostalgic, stubborn, and a feminist. She loves acting, J.D. Salinger, 80s rom-coms, slam poetry, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Oh, and she cries too much.
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8 Comments

  1. Sensible MVHS Student on

    I disagree these are words and that’s all they are. If there is no harm meant in them then most likely there is no harm done. I believe people have the right and almost should use these to lighten the mode when they are joking around.

    • Hmm…I think that whether or not harm is meant by them, harm can still be done. Using “gay” to mean “stupid” — whether you support gay rights or not — still has homophobic implications. Same goes with the rest of those terms in regards to other offensive implications.

  2. Shayda, you're awesome! FYI... on

    I love this article and totally agree with the majority of what you said- but one thing that many people don’t realize is that “pussy” is the shortened form of the word “pusillanimous”, which means “timid, cowardly”. Though it may have evolved to be understood that way, It’s not actually slang for the female genital region.

    • Thanks, I didn’t know that! However, as you said yourself, many people don’t realize that that’s where the word “pussy” comes from, and still continue to use it (thinking that means “don’t be a wuss” in the context of a girl being stereotypically depicted as a fragile damsel in distress) so I feel like there’s a bit of gray area there.

  3. It’s not like there isn’t a derogatory term associated with the male genitalia.
    Just sayin’

  4. While I agree some of these are highly offensive I would caution that censorship, even for a good cause, can be a dangerous game.

    • I agree, I’m not saying we should be arrested for saying these things, I just think it’d make for a better society if we ourselves chose not to use these words in these negative contexts.