The phrase “watch your language” isn’t limited to four letter words and racial slurs.
Words and phrases we use colloquially, no matter how insignificant they may seem, can be offensive. The words freshman, fireman, and policeman alone excludes the existence women and others to do not identify exclusively as male.
Here are few other examples that you may hear or have used:
1. “That test raped me”No, it didn’t.
Was the test hard? Maybe. Did you study enough? Allegedly.
293,066 women the age of 12 and older are raped each year. Using the word “rape” to describe the difficulty of a test belittles the emotional, physical, and mental trauma that survivors have experienced.
1 in 5 women on college campuses have been sexually assaulted. So there’s a very good chance that using that phrase in a classroom with hundreds of others, someone will be offended. Remember that survivors are not just “women.” They are mothers, daughters, sisters, cousins, friends, and so much more. They are men, too.
Try: “That test was hard”
2. “That’s ghetto”Is this “ghetto?” In the world of gifs it is.
According to Dictonary.com, using ghetto as an adjective means, “noting something that is considered to be unrefined, low-class, cheap, or inferior.”
Beyoncé is not unrefined, low-class, cheap, or inferior. She is performing her song “Get Me Bodied,” in which she encourages women to “pat your weaves ladies.”
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the art of weave, patting your head as opposed to scratching is smart…not “ghetto.” In order for extensions to stay in one’s head, they must be sewn onto braids. If done correctly, they are relatively tight so that they can last a decent amount of time. Fervently scratching can cause the braids to loosen, in turn loosening the extensions. So, the next time you see someone patting their head, just know they’re doing what’s best for their hair, not being “ghetto.”
Regardless of how smart, attractive, or well off you are…remember that ONLY he without sin may cast the first stone. So put that verbal stone back in your pocket.
Try: “That’s interesting”
3. “The weather is so bipolar.”
About 2.6% of the adult public lives with bipolar disorder, meaning that those individuals have extreme, uncontrollable changes in mood and behavior.
If the weather is 70 degrees one day and 30 the next, you know when it’s going to happen. You can easily check the weather app, add a few layers, or bring out your favorite shorts and call it day.
For those with bipolar disorder, there is no picking and choosing. There’s no waking up in the morning and checking a mood app to see what the day is going to be like.
Bipolar is a disorder, not an adjective.
Try: “ The weather has been changing so much lately”
Remember it’s not always what you say, or how you say it, but the repercussions that matter. So please, watch your language.
Note from the Author: The Catalyst Conference is a weekend long conference, sponsored by UNC’s Campus Y, for high school students that focuses on promoting awareness of and evaluating social justice issues. Lauren Martin, Judy Robbins, and Dana Mansfield, 2015 Workshop Committee Co-Chairs, created the Activism Workshop that inspired this piece.