So many thoughts on this topic.
In many of the blogs I read there seemed to be at least one person describing Kathleen Hale as ‘crazy’ or variants thereof. I know I used ‘unhinged’ at least once–and I wish I could take it back.
Because words do have power.
Emotional abuse, after all, is often inflicted through words.
Simply because this word or that word don’t offend me doesn’t mean I can ignore the fact that they are offensive to many other people. I now know that certain words hurt people in certain specific ways, because those people have spoken up.
Society as a whole slowly, eventually wakes up to these things, though in the past it took decades for change to happen–change that is often challenged and uneven. Nonetheless, social change does happen and it shapes our language just as it shapes our lives.
Otherwise, we would still be calling homosexual men, faggots, and people of color, niggers, and any person of Latin American descent, wetback.
Yes, sadly, there are groups of people who cling to these derogatory terms, with the full intent to inflict harm (see Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptists for an example), but in general, most people agree that there are words that, on their own, are hurtful.
Personally I don’t see this as a matter of political correctness (that much maligned phrase), as much as a matter of taking a bit of care with the feelings of other people. Without obligation. Just because.
It costs very little in terms of effort and the benefits may very well be great.
Please note, however, that I am not on a crusade to change people’s behaviours or perceptions on anything.
In fact, I am pretty tired of having Ann Somerville (who labels me a tone troll and can go nuclear at the drop of a hat when discussing…well, pretty much anything else), show up everyfuckingwhere this week, to chide those people using words that imply mental illness to explain KH’s behaviour.¹
Whether we care enough about potentially hurting random strangers online (or in casual conversation) enough to think twice about how frequently, thoughtlessly, we toss out certain words, is up to each one of us.
Like the blogger blackout.
Like pretty much everything else in life.
As for me, I’m taking it as challenge. It will require a bit of effort to drop the crutches of habit and get into the habit of using other terms to express my bewilderment, indignation, shock, anger, etc. Kris very helpfully provided the link to this post which offers many alternative terms. Seems like a good starting point.
¹ I believe that Ann herself used the term cognitive dissonance at some point, somewhere in the many, many, many trails I’ve chased this past week. She may want to grab a mirror sometime.²
² Not going to hold my breath, though. I thought several members of my family were good at holding grudges, but Ann could easily teach them how it’s really done. Yet, she considers herself qualified to welcome me to adulthood.