If we were to legally curb language that is deemed offensive, how would that work in practice?
For starters, are we really asking for the regulation of our language to be placed at the mercy of an institution, perhaps even a government?
An integral part of our society’s functioning lies on the freedom to use words to express ourselves. We are ultimately sharing our unique worldviews with one another, and the more we engage with one another, the more we grow, transform and learn. This is a collaborative process.
For example the other day, I was helping a new writer with his understanding of English vocabulary. He said to me, “thanks for explaining the word plethora. It means a lot.”
So, ask yourself this question: Would you like your language regulated?
I Don’t Want to Sound Racist, but,
Everyone in the Klu Klax Klan looks the same to me
Here in the UK, the term coloured, which refers to people of colour, is now deemed outdated and inappropriate. My mum still uses this term, she forgets. But does this make her a racist? Of course not, is this debate really that black and white?
My mum doesn’t tolerate inequality of any form. Being the silver surfer she is, my mum asked me if there’s an app that tells her which of our relatives are racist. I told her the best app out there for that kind of thing is Facebook.
My mum is very culturally sensitive. Only the other day, she said to me, “Lee, black people have always set the trends within popular culture, they were even sitting at the back of the bus before it was cool.” Thanks for that mum.
Now I Understand Why Women Drivers in Saudi Arabia Are Only Allowed to Turn Left
The hot topic at the moment is gender politics. And rightly so. Society is playing catch-up.
Some take the view that if you misgender someone, whether intentional or not, you are transphobic. But compare that if you will, with the fight for women’s rights in countries such as Saudi Arabia. Some would argue that in such countries, progress is only a stone’s throw away. But should we not prioritize our activism on those who need the most help?
I’ve been misgendered numerous times in my life. Did I ever view those that misgendered me as transphobic? No, of course not, my parents brought me up to treat everyone equally. Back in the 80’s, my dad was an activist for women’s rights. My mum wanted to be as well, but as my dad always used to say, “who would look after the kids?”
Let’s be honest, a world without women would be a pain in the ass.
Prejudice is not just expressed by language, it also manifests itself in our behaviours and actions, like the cancerous behaviours they are. Even if we were able to curb our use of certain language, what would we do about non-verbal behaviours?
To clarify, I am not advocating we do nothing, when we find the language of others offensive. But, ultimately, are you agreeable to having your language regulated?
Originally published in MuddyUm, 6th November 2019.