I am not a newcomer to the concept of words as weapons. I know that words are powerful, and can be utilized violently to inflict emotional pain and trauma upon others. There are words and language that are triggering for me, and I try to acknowledge and respect as best I can, that there are lots of different words and images produced through language that are harmful and triggering for others. However, I often forget that some language is harmful in other ways for other reasons, when it is used to intimidate, and belittle, even when this is not the speaker’s intention.
I recently had an argument with my partner about language. I found a statement she used to be offensive, but not explicitly offensive, just subtly. Because of my educational background in Women’s and Gender Studies, I tend to critically analyze everything, and see the world through a feminist lens. It’s not really something I can turn off, but I wouldn’t want to anyway, I not one for the “ignorance is bliss” motto. However, in order to explain to to my partner why I found her words to be offensive, I found myself relying heavily on terms and vocabulary she didn’t understand.
For example, I used words like ‘homogenize’ and ‘exoticize’ which are common words for students and scholars in fields that critically engage with gender, class, race, ability, sexuality etc. but not necessarily for people with other educational and professional backgrounds, and in my partners case, not for a chef.
‘Homogenize’ sounds like milk.
And why is ‘exotic’ a bad thing?
Again, I found a need for a resource to breakdown and simplify these terms in order to gain a mutual understanding. It wasn’t that she couldn’t understand the concept of implicit racism, it was that I couldn’t give her adequate definitions to to help her understand my use of these terms. My use of foreign words restricted our conversation, and made for an unequal power dynamic where I was trying to explain my opinion, but unintentionally making her feel inadequate, and belittled.
But enough about me, are there words that YOU use that the people you are talking to do not understand?
With your help we can create a comprehensive list of words and terms to define, that we want to be able to define, that we want others to understand and also be able to define and explain. And with those words, we will create an illustrated compilation that can be used by people from all walks of life to communicate on a more equal playing field on the topic of social justice and EQUALITY!
Chalk with you later!