Please, Chose Your Words Wisely… And Don’t Grab My Pussy
Although most of us know that Donald Trump is just a joke of a person who lives to market off of the poor and has no idea how one functions as part of the 99%, his words still manage to hurt the best of us. The way you chose language to express yourself has a great impact, because what you say to one person might get repeated over and over again. Therefore, when we have one of the world’s most watched moronic person say awful things about women and their bodies, my biggest worry is always whether people will repeat his words over and over again, and how we can get them to stop. Language is a lot more important than Donald Trump makes it seem, and in order to educate others about this we must also watch our language.
As a Women Studies major in Santa Monica College I learned a really valuable lesson about helping others dismantle their way of thinking and usage of language. The lesson began with the fact that, at this moment, me being a student is a privilege, because there are a lot of different factors in people’s lives that don’t allow them to pursue a higher education. Therefore, a lot of the language that I learn and am able to use to express my anger towards the societal and systemic oppressions that hurt us, is not language that other people in my life have knowledge of. This does not mean that my friends and family are not affected by these same institutions and societal norms, it only means that they might not know how to fight against these norms or might not be aware of them because the point of instituting oppressions is so that people see them as “normal things in life”. When trying to dismantle the language that blames the victim, criminalizes sex work, dismisses the oppressor, etc., it is very important to pay attention to the language that we use when talking to others, as well as the language we use when trying to educate others.
Taking the first step of changing the way that your loved ones see the way society works and the language that they use to describe certain people starts from within. Although I didn’t mean for this to get really meta, the truth is that we need to realize the mistakes that we’re making when we wrongfully judge others, or the language we use to describe people, or what we say to children when trying to teach them a lesson, because we are a product of our society and although we might feel enlightened and educated enough to know better we still make plenty of mistakes. As bell hooks states perfectly in her book titled Feminism is For EVERYBODY,
“Before women could change patriarchy we had to change ourselves; we had to raise our consciousness”
bell hooks brilliantly spends some time in her book reminding us that we cannot get very far in educating others if we continue to repeat vicious cycles of problematic language and thought. Consciousness raising for ourselves is what will keep us humble and reassure us that it is o.k. to make mistakes, but to never excuse ourselves and allow us to repeat those mistakes over and over again.
Once we’ve realized that we’re not perfect and we’ve made sure that we call ourselves out for any ignorant judgements we make, we can can start sharing our knowledge with our loved ones. Calling out a friend or family member is extremely important because when you care about someone you care about the way that they think and express themselves to others.
(Disclaimer: It is not always safe to call out a family member or friend due to certain circumstances that do not need to be explained, and this is OK. Please make sure you are safe before calling out a friend, family member, coworker, etc.)
While researching the topic on changing the language we use when talking about marginalized groups to marginalized groups I ran into an article by Kai Chen Thom titled 9 Ways We Can Make Social Justice Movements Less Elitist and More Accessible. Chen highlights the way we can talk to people and educate them without sounding like a snob, because in our society education has been made a privilege and not everyone has the privilege to higher education. The 9 steps in this article are basically stating that we must remember where we came from, who we’re talking to, and to praise the progress and the want to change rather than the language they are using or lacking. Most importantly, we must always remember that we are trying to help one another, rather than fighting one another. Therefore, when talking to friends, family, etc. who may not be as fortunate as the educated crowd, we must remember that our language to express similar things might be different and to not let our words make us seem superior, because just like Trump, we are not.