Hi there! *Waving.* Shea here. This week I’d like to talk to you about words. That’s right, words. You see, words are important. I know that you know this but I want to remind you anyhow. As a writer, as a lover-of-words, it really bothers me when language is used to hurt and not to help.
What do you mean? you ask.
It’s quite simple really. Sometimes, loyal reader, I’m in a coffee shop or restaurant or in my favorite spot in Alden Library and an otherwise peaceful moment is disturbed by hate speech.
Let’s unpack that term, hate speech, semantically. According to dictionary.com hate speech is speech that attacks a person or group on the basis of race http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/race , religion http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/religion , gender, or sexual orientation. These are the kind of words that make a nice young woman or her friends feel unsafe, unequal, or unwanted. They’re Not Nice Words. They’re not helping words. And they’re probably not words you should use in front of your mother.
This is me taking a stand, officially, in writing, because I’m tired of hearing groups of conversing men assert their masculinity with words like bitch and slut (or worse). News flash, groups of otherwise decent and intelligent looking young men: no self-respecting man or woman is going to date someone who so disvalues women semantically.
But there’s more. Other kinds of hate speech, whispered phrases and hollered words that hurt instead of help. You know where I’m going with this, and frankly, you know you’re as fed up as I am with words hurting instead of helping. Even if you are a traditionally masculine white man who identifies as heterosexual you’ve heard these words, and you and I both know you know they’re not ok.
Let’s not beat around this linguistic bush, loyal reader. No matter who you are hate speech impacts your life and the perpetuation of hate speech is a Not Good Thing. So please use your voice to advocate for yourself and the folks around you if you’re comfortable and safe doing so. And for the love of words, loyal reader, please never forget that language is for helping, not hurting, and that hate speech is never ever ok.
Shea Daniels is a Student Volunteer at the Women’s Center