Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
This childhood response to name-calling is not entirely true. We are all sensing creatures, affected physically and emotionally by others. We are vulnerable.
Sometimes, though, we just need to get over it.
I vividly recall the days when my three siblings and I were in elementary school. With just a year between each of us, we partook in the typical childhood fighting, including name-calling.
I also vividly recall my mom’s response. After telling the name-caller that we don’t call people retarded, stupid or idiot, she turned to the “victim.” “Are you retarded?” she would ask. “Then why does it matter what someone calls you?”
Sometimes, we just need to get over it.
Frankly, I believe that people today are offended way too easily. The “You Don’t Say” campaign encourages oversensitivity to simple words.
Man up. No homo. Tranny.
Yes, the phrase man up finds its origins in gender norms. I believe in gender norms. So yes, I am saying that men have an inherent strength—stoicism—that women do not naturally possess. I am not saying men never cry, I am not saying that women never remove emotions from the equation. I am saying that men and women tend to differ, having different strengths and weaknesses.
Yes, the phrase “no homo” implies that showing affection for someone of the same sex is inherently bad. I believe that homosexuality is wrong. So yes, if I say “no homo,” it is because I do not want people to mistake me for a homosexual. I am not saying that homosexuals are not kind and talented people. They are absolutely friendly and gifted individuals, but everyone makes mistakes—in my opinion, homosexual acts are mistakes.
Yes, the word tranny implies that a person does not fit the traditional labels. I believe that a person is the gender that matches his sex. So yes, to me, tranny means that the person is unable to correctly identify his sex, an act that I will not condone because I find it to be immoral. Still, however, I will treat these people as I treat my friends.
How do I treat my friends? I attempt to do so with love and respect.
Love is putting the other person first. One might ask why I cannot take this language out of my speech if it helps a friend. I cannot do this because putting others first does not mean silencing my beliefs and lifestyle. Hypersensitivity to words and phrases is harmful to constructive debates. When groups try to slowly remove phrases from language, ideas are lost. Why can we not just take these phrases at face value? “Man up” means that I think it is the man’s job to take control in emotional situations. Maybe you disagree. That is fine. We do not have to agree, but we do not have to take offense at each other’s beliefs or the expression of these beliefs either.
This leads to my second point, which is respect. Respect, to me, is listening to another person and considering what they have to say. I have read and researched the “You Don’t Say” campaign. I have spoken to people about their thoughts on the subject. I think I have an understanding of what the campaign is aiming to communicate—that it is a bad idea to use this language because it harms a group of people.
Now, I am asking that people hear what I have to say. I do not want to intentionally hurt these groups, but I do not want the expression of my beliefs to be slowly stripped from me. After time, hypersensitivity erects barriers in communicating certain ideas because the words to do so are publically unacceptable. It also discourages the expression of diverse opinions, because people fear hurting someone’s feelings. Instead, we should openly state our viewpoints, as I just did with the words “man up,” “no homo” and “tranny.” What one says in such debates may be insulting, but that is a part of healthy dialogue. My opinions will undoubtedly displease some group, but hypersensitivity makes it difficult to confront reality and to be real with each other—two capabilities necessary to respect.
I do not aim to offend anyone by using these words, but living in harmony with so many dissonant beliefs requires the ability to use words in whatever way one thinks necessary. A person may argue, though, that these words are offensive only when someone is being purposefully derogatory by using the words, rather than simply using them to state opinions. Sometimes, these words are used in order to deliberately hurt a certain group of people. To this, I have just one piece of advice:
Maggie Hammerle is a Trinity junior. This is her first column in a biweekly series during the summer.