Posted on April 20, 2015

Abelist, Homophobic, and Racist Words and Phrases We Need To Stop Using

Education

By now, most people recognize how harmful words such as faggot, cunt, and the n-word can be. However, a majority of the time, people say words that they don’t even know aren’t appropriate to use. Although we may not see these words as offensive or harmful, we need to recognize how hurtful they can be, and then eliminate them from our vocabulary. And don’t worry! There are alternatives which actually communicate what you’re trying to say much better anyway.

 

1. Mental illness is not a passing feeling.

What we sometimes say: “I’m so OCD about this project!”
Sure, you might be super neat, but that does not mean you “are OCD.” People with OCD struggle immensely to control their compulsions which can lead them to articulate in self-destructive behaviors because they cannot stop. Those with OCD must often undergo various types of therapy which may or may not include medication. OCD is not just a desire for things to look pretty and neat, or a recognition of anal attitudes. It is an illness that can completely dominate someone’s life, whether treated or not. And when not take seriously by peers, it becomes twice as stressful.
What we actually mean, and what we should say: anal, neat, picky.

What we sometimes say: “The weather is so bipolar today!”
The weather may be erratic and all over the place, but it does not suffer from manic-depressive disorder. Your friend may have changed her mind about something often and seemingly for no reason, but it does not mean she will one moment be manic one moment and the next suicidal and depressed. Bipolar disorder is not the simple swinging back and forth between two things, or sad one moment and happy the next. Bipolar disorder involves extreme changes in moods that occur for weeks on end, that can destroy people’s lives.
What we actually mean, and what we should say: erratic, all over the place, unreasonable, back-and-forth, unstable.

What we sometimes say: “I can’t believe I got a bad grade on that test, I’m so depressed!”
Maybe this one is a little more personal for more, but it really bugs me how often people misuse the word “depressed.” Depression isn’t necessarily just a passing sadness where you feel a little down for a couple days. Depression is something that can feel like it takes over your life and consumes every part of you. Depression has been so romanticized by the media and sites like Tumblr (although there can be good support resources on there), that people have a very distorted view of what depression is. Depression is not always obvious. Life with depression feels impossible to get through at times. One might be feeling sad over something, but that does not necessarily indicate depression. People with depression can truly be triggered by the smallest things, and jokingly throwing around the term “depressed” can make less of their struggle. Turning a serious illness into something light and annoying rather than something that can end one’s life is not okay.
What we actually mean, and what we should say: upset, bummed (out), sad, blue, disappointed.

What we sometimes say: “Man, he’s such a psycho!”
Psychosis involves being disconnected from reality, which is often seen in illnesses such as schizophrenia or dissociative identity disorder. Hallucinations, delusions, dissociations; these are the symptoms of psychotic conditions, not “being a crazy asshole.” like soap operas and action films like to suggest. People with mental illness may suffer a psychotic break which may lead them to engage in dangerous behavior, but this still does not make them a psychopath nor in any way similar to the so called “psychos” that the media loves to glamorize. However, many people who are criminal and “psycho” do not even necessarily have a mental illness. Often, these criminals are white and have the privilege of saying they suffer from a mental illness to get out of jail time. People of color are seen as “terrorists” or “thugs” while a white person who commits an equally terrible or worse crime is seen as “mentally ill.” This demonstrates the institutionalized racism often present in the American justice system, and societies view on mental illness.
What we actually mean, and what we should say: Evil, strange, criminal, monster, unhinged.

 

2. Enough with the ableism

What we sometimes say: “That’s so dumb, what are you, retarded?”
Being mentally impaired, or handicapped, is not a choice. It is an intellectual disability that severely infers with one’s life, not to mention how the world views and treats anyone with a disability. Just because someone has said or done something daft, does not mean you have the right to call it or them the r-word. Someone’s condition is not a joke.
What we actually mean, and what we should say: Daft, foolish, silly.*
*These are very relative to the situation you use the word in, Using alternative words does not give anyone the right to insult others simply because they are not inherently offensive words.

What we sometimes say: “That is so lame!”
Being lame does not mean uncool. Being lame means you are physically impaired from using your legs, yet even within this context it is still an offensive and outdated term. If a person who has use of their legs, they should not be using a word describing a physical inhibition to describe something they are not a fan of.
What we actually mean, and what we should say: Uncool, cheesy, tacky, corny.

What we sometimes say: “You’re too obsessed with that, what are you, autistic?/An autist?”
If you’re going to insult someone, then at the very least use a word that doesn’t insult millions of people around the world, and that actually makes sense in the context. Having autism severely impacts one’s life and to use their condition to insult a person who is behaving in a way you think is strange, is simply not okay. The “logic” for this word being used as an insult comes from various characteristics of the Autism spectrum such as preoccupation with specific interests and a high level of focus. To turn this into something “weird” and “disturbing” shows a strong misunderstanding of the condition, not to mention just a general closed minded look at someone’s passion for their interests.
What we actually mean, and what we should say: obsessive, nerdy, geeky.

 

3. Let’s also stop using sexuality as an insult

What we sometimes say: “I’m not doing that, it’s so gay!”
Again, congratulations on having a gay friend. But like any other slur that singles out one group, this does not give you the right to use it. Say what you mean and mean what you say. If you think something is cheesy, say that, do not call it gay unless you actually mean something is homosexual in nature. In that same sense, saying “no homo” after saying something is a lot more homophobic than you might think. By saying “no homo” you are basically alienating yourself from the homosexual lifestyle because you’re afraid of being associated with it, and it’s not cool to be a bigot.
What we actually mean, and what we should say: cheesy, corny, tacky.

 

4. Can the racism and cultural appropriation!

What we sometimes say: “Urgh, her hair is so ratchet today!”
Ratchet is a term often used to describe a woman who is seen as un-classy and poorly dressed. It typically means dirty and undesirable when used in the most common sense. This word is often used to target African American women to degrade them and make less of their appearance. It’s also used in a self-deprecating manner to describe one’s own hair or style, but that doesn’t make it any less racist when coming from a white person.
What we actually mean, and what we should say: Messy, un-managble, frizzy, untidy.

 

5. We should also stop using words with historical negative connotations that are offensive, or degrading.

What we sometimes say: “He’s such a tough nigga!” (often followed by: “What? It’s not as if I’m saying the n-word, they say it all the time in hip-hop!)
On top of using the full n-word, let’s stop appropriating the term nigga. One of the most common defenses for using this word for white people is the fact that they have black friends, or that they are simply quoting rap lyrics. But that does not give one permission to use a word that has been historically known to degrade and make lesser of black people. Even this slang version of the true version of the word is offensive because of its origins linked back to not only times of slavery, but of segregation.
What we actually mean, and what we should say: friend, pal, bro, chum, mate, etc.
*Note: People of color may use this word when talking to one another, not that they ever need permission from anybody, but that does not give white people a reason to use this word. You have not suffered because of this word or been made less of because of this word. People of color who use this word are taking back its meaning and when you use it, you are making this reclamation of the word almost impossible to achieve.*

What we sometimes say: “They’re so ghetto!”
I feel like most people genuinely do not know why this word should not be used to describe things. Historically, ghettos have been places of segregation and poverty, and often crime. Ghettos, in America, are often areas of segregation of African American communities. Often, these areas experience a poor quality of life, due to poor community funding and institutional racism. Some African Americans may use the word as a positive term as a term of unification within their community. For the most part, however, ghetto is not positive word and by using it to describe a style, we appropriate the word. We make lighter of the historical struggles of groups of people who have been ostracized from society and who are to this day ostracized to the ghetto. On top of African American history, there are and were ghettos all over the world, notably also in Jewish communities, so there are also anti-Semitic connotations when using the word incorrectly.
What we actually mean, and what we should say: Trashy, dirty, street-style, street.

Sometimes, we don’t know how much our words can hurt other people. And it’s necessary to educate ourselves on the meanings of words. If someone says they are offended, it doesn’t take much to do further research and understand why. By doing this, we can truly learn how to properly and civilly communicate with one another.

 

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Posted on April 16, 2015

How Being Raised Catholic Made Me a Better Feminist Atheist

Opinion

My parents did not send me to Catholic school because I was deemed a bad child in my youth. They didn’t do it to discipline me. They sincerely thought Catholic school would help to build and instill good values within me. I went to church twice a week, once at school and once with my family, and I never questioned what was presented to me. I believed what I was told and obeyed without question. On one hand, my parents had a very good point; certain parts of Catholicism encourage helping the less fortunate and being honest in the face of dishonesty. Religion and faith are meant to be guidelines for how to live a just way of life. They can serve as a comfort in times of distress. However, when the values of a religion, such as Christianity or more specifically, Christianity, become a stifling and controlling force, it is a problem that is rooted in societal values.

As a California girl, with nine years of a Catholic school education, I can tell you that I once considered myself religious. I used to follow the rules of my religion to the letter and obey everything I was told. I was taught to remain abstinent; leading me to be scared of sex. I thought that if I engaged in premarital sex, I would suffer fatal diseases and have seven children to support. I thought supporting gay rights would make me a lesbian and believed that being a lesbian was in itself, wrong. I thought anything that my church deemed wrong would send me to the fiery pits of Hell.

Last year, I was a senior in high school and, like a lot of high school seniors, I had no idea where I was going to attend college. The one school I had my heart set on had let me down. I had applied to a couple of schools in North Carolina, basing my entire opinion on North Carolina off the coolest, most liberal town in the state, Asheville. After visiting my school, UNC Wilmington and the area around it, I thought, “Hey I could do this. It’s not so bad.”

One thing I discovered with coming to college in the South was the religious fervor that runs rampant in many parts of the area. I think religion, in general, is a great comfort to many, and there are many wonderful religious people out there. If you want to believe in a deity and practice your faith, I am totally okay with that. What I am not okay with, however, is the idea of someone telling me how to live my life, or saying that my sex is inferior and using religion as a basis for that sexist opinion. I am not okay with anyone or any group attempting to control who I am, overtly or passively.

One day, this desire to remain myself was tested. I was walking around campus with my roommate minding my own business when I saw a gathering at the amphitheater. Curious, I walked over and saw a religious group holding signs advertising the people who were sinful and going to Hell including, but not limited to, homosexuals, those who drink, those who have premarital sex, and liberals. One of the members of the group refused to even talk to a woman. A man would call any girl wearing shorts a whore, even though it was 85 degrees and humid. And this was of course because men know better than women, I mean it says so in the Bible that women are sinful, right?

Well needed retaliation.  Photo by Anton Bielousov

Well needed retaliation.
Photo by Anton Bielousov

Another time, I was having a discussion with a friend of mine and he asked me what faith I follow. Being the open person I am, I told him about how I choose not to follow a faith or believe in a deity. Rather than just accepting my answer or even initiating a debate, he invited me to come to church and learn more about Jesus. My friend was raised to believe that the be all and end all was believing in Jesus. He was taught that people who do not believe are essentially sinners and cannot be saved. In no way was he trying to be hurtful or offensive, this is how he was raised, yet due to this upbringing he was not taught that it’s simply not OK to treat people like this. Often, people of strict faith or upbringing are taught that others are inherently wrong if they do not think or act the way that they do. They are taught to defend their faith at any cost, even if it means denying the basic human rights of others, or even verbally attacking them. This kind of behavior is often seen in abortion protestors who will commit violent acts and say terrible things because others are going against their personal beliefs. Rather than trying to understand the views of others, they are taught that only they can be right and everyone else must abide by what their faith community dictates.

Here is my big problem with the two scenarios I told you about earlier. Aside from the idea that I can’t be a good person without Jesus telling me what to do, I have a real problem with cis-men thinking they know better than me, particularly about female issues, and mansplaining things to me. I know this might come as a shock, but I am a big girl and I can make my own choices about what faith I choose to follow or to disregard. I do not need anyone, even a man (whoa!) telling me how I should be living my life.

Maybe it was going to Catholic school or maybe it was growing up. But I have a serious problem with organized religion, such as Catholicism, as an institution. In my personal experience, I have not seen these types of religion as a unifying and hopeful force, which is what I believe religion is supposed to be. Rather, I have seen them often used as a method of control. Perhaps the voice of the fundamentalists overpowers those who are truly good religious people. I have been learning about Jesus since preschool. I could probably recite half the bible for you at this point. I am a big girl. I can choose to believe or not believe in what I want. And from my experience, I have experienced organized religion as a sexist force.

However, I do believe religion does have the best intentions. I believe it is meant to be a unifying force that can bring hope. In order for religion to truly be fair though, there needs to be a change within the institution to become more inclusive. I see my feminism as a tool to combat against oppressive forces within religion and to help make it a more equal institution.

If you are religious and want to learn more about making religion a more equal institution, I encourage you to learn more about feminist theology. Feminist theology combines religion with feminist theory and strives to make religion a more inclusive and equal institution. I highly recommend looking further into it if you want to incorporate your feminism into your faith.

 

 

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Posted on April 14, 2015

Dismantling Ignorance: Affirmative Action Isn’t What Got Me Here

Race

After a transfer, major change, and a few dropped courses I finally became senior in college. Throughout my years spent attending the University of Tennessee Chattanooga, many things have changed but the one thing that has remained consistent is the presence of a question or statement that implies affirmative action helped me get into school. It is a query I have to field at least once a year but, despite numerous interactions with the inquiry, the situation is never easy to handle.

My institution’s diversity is similar to the national average of about 74 percent of White students, 12 percent Black or African American, three percent Hispanic or Latino, and one percent Asian, with the remaining students identifying as either two or more races or non-residential alien. Since I’m often surrounded my mostly White students and usually the only Black student in my class, I often encounter racist situations. In the discussions I’ve had about academic acceptance and higher education, the conversation has inevitably shifted towards university efforts to improve opportunities for historically marginalized groups i.e. affirmative action. While I am incredibly grateful for affirmative action and view it as a pivotal moment in our nation’s attempt to irradiate racial injustices, grappling with a 1960s policy in a 2015 educational setting is not without its challenges.

If you are unfamiliar with Affirmative action, the policy was the result of the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement and was introduced as an effort to provide equal opportunities for racial minorities. Initially intended for employment purposes, President Kennedy used the term in a 1961 Executive Order, urging government contractors to “take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed and treated during employment with regard to race, creed, color, or national origin.” However, it wasn’t until after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed an Executive Order in 1965 requiring government contractors to utilize affirmative action policies that colleges and universities began to adopt similar recruitment strategies.

Since I don’t attend a historically Black college or a university with greater ethnic diversity, I have often dealt with people, the majority of them White, voicing their opinions on how I ended up at this school. The most upsetting instance occurred in the spring of my sophomore year. I was working on a group project and after my group received an A, one of my group members turned to me and said “I’m glad we worked in the same group. You’re really smart and it’s great that affirmative action enabled you to attend this school. Without you I don’t think our project would have been as good.” To this day, it remains as one of the most jarring experiences I’ve ever dealt with. Though this interaction is less aggressive than the overt racism I’ve encountered, it’s no less offensive. While it is intended as a compliment, the implication that my intellect is somehow surprising or would have gone unused without affirmative action is horribly upsetting and attacking. Despite the passive nature of comments and discussions surrounding affirmative action, they are the result of very real and overt racism which further marginalizes minorities.

Due to America’s larger racial climate I believe there is a lot of misinformation surrounding affirmative action. Instead of discussing the history of the policy, why it was implemented, and how it intersects with our current institutions of higher education, Black people are accused on pulling the ‘race card’ and using the policy to get into college because they’re too lazy or unmotivated to work hard. Since racial inequality still thrives in America, especially in academic environments, affirmative action is still immensely beneficial. However, its benefits are often applied to Black individuals and People of Color with a broad brush and, due to the assumption that all POC benefit from affirmative action, their intellectual achievements are often ignored and their academic achievements are attributed to government policy and not personal merit. In my experience, this has certainly been the case. Because of these assumptions my academic environment has been significantly impacted.

While I both assume (and hope) the enquires and comments I have received were not intended to offend me, the microagressions have altered the way I interact with my academic environment. I feel a stronger desire to prove my intellectual value and show that I have earned my spot at the institution. In conversations about affirmative action, I feel a need to mention that on the ethnic background question of my college applications, I choose “prefer not to answer.” There have been numerous times where I have felt uncomfortable in class discussions due to the assumptions people have about my race. At times I have been positioned as “proof” that my presence in a mostly White classroom shows that affirmative action is no longer necessary and equality, at least in academic setting, has been reached. However, my ability to obtain a degree has come from a place of privilege unknown to others in the Black community. I have been fortunate enough to grow up with access to good school systems and numerous other socio-economic benefits, so I cannot stand as proof that academic inequality is dead since I am not the mouthpiece of the Black experience. Just because I have succeed in this academic environment, that does not mean others will as well. However, despite the numerous frustrations, I am grateful for my educational experience.

The racial inequalities I have had to navigate throughout college have been incredibly beneficial. Since I have never had to grapple with the very prominent reality that my high school was not underfunded or incapable of truly preparing me for college, my eyes been opened to larger inequalities my privilege allowed me to ignore and I began to explore what affirmative action means to other people of color. It has also given me opportunities to discuss racial injustice with others and learn new ways of interacting with people and navigating these heated discussions. Affirmative action was and is a great policy that has given countless individuals access to higher education, but it does not and should not usurp their academic achievements and accomplishments. I am a person of color at a predominantly white institution and no, affirmative action isn’t what got me here.

 
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Posted on April 9, 2015

Why I Stopped Defining My Sexuality

LGBTQIA

I used to be so adamant about my heterosexuality. In middle school I identified as straight and I wanted everyone to know it. I was largely reliant on qualifiers to make sure the person I was talking to knew exactly where I stood. Phrases like “Well I’m straight but…” were commonplace, and I never once wavered from heterosexuality. There were two factors responsible for my definition: fear, and lack of information.

When I moved from New Orleans, LA to Knoxville, TN when I was eight, my family moved to an area where I often felt out of place and unaccepted. As a result, I made every attempt to neutralize the attention I drew to myself. I wanted to be “normal.”

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Posted on April 7, 2015

Black Excellence: Why Blackout Day Should be Every Day

Race

Friday, April 3rd was a beautiful day for the online black community. For the second time the hashtag #blackout was used all over social media (more specifically, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram).

The first Blackout Day began on March 6th 2015 by Tumblr user T’von . The goal was, and always will be, for people to highlight the beauty of blackness. Many members of the online black community, myself included, uploaded selfies to our social media accounts with the #blackout hashtag. On top of this, many non-black allies uploaded pictures of influential black celebrities or pictures of their loved ones with the hashtag.

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Untitled-3
Posted on April 4, 2015

Understanding My Internalized Racism and Seeking Solace in An All-Women Black Community

Education/ Race

I distinctly remember the day a classmate described me as the only black student in my entire program as an undergraduate. You’d think I’d be shocked by this statistic but truthfully, I was more shocked with myself: I hadn’t even noticed.

I am a “mixed” woman in my twenties attending art school in Los Angeles. What I realized in this moment was that I was so entirely used to being the “only one” in so many public and educational settings, I had (flat out) gotten used to it.

Prior to attending California Institute of the Arts, I was pretty oblivious to my African-American culture. My family, my high school student body and the city I lived in were completely white in majority. Because this part of my identity was never celebrated, I learned to ignore it and internalize feelings of isolation and resentment.

This was certainly a case of internalized racism and these feelings were the outcome of identifying myself as non- white as opposed to black. This means I saw myself in terms of what I wasn’t instead of what I was. It seems like such a small distinction in thought, but it really took a toll on my opinion of myself as a woman of color and as a whole individual.

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migm
Posted on April 3, 2015

Embracing Ugliness: Ugly Shyla’s Rebellion Against Sexism and Social Norms

Herstory

Shyla grew up in the south, where doing something deemed “unladylike” or combative would lead to people telling her to “stop being ugly.” Looking at Shyla, with her bright blue hair, facial piercings and gothicly-inclined style, it’s not hard to see why she was often the target of criticism by southern conservatives. But that didn’t stop the fine artist from expressing herself. Instead, she took “Ugly Shyla” as a nickname, became an alternative model, and started making an army of “ugly dolls,” her fine art pieces that often represent feminist issues.

TRIGGER WARNING: Violence

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Posted on April 2, 2015

The Princess Who Saved Herself: The New Feminist Fiction For Young Girls

Q&A

We cannot stress enough how important it is for young girls to have role models other than the Disney princesses, and the DreamWorks damsels they’ve grown up with. Though children’s books and films have been doing better at straying from the traditional princess-needs-to-be-saved-by-a-prince story, the world could still use more strong female protagonist on every media platform.

The Princess Who Saved Herself fully understands this by providing young readers with a protagonist who is not only a young strong girl, challenging traditional female constraints, but also multi-racial, embracing her heritage and culture.

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41st AFI Life Achievement Award Honoring Mel Brooks - Red Carpet
Posted on March 16, 2015

10 Ways to Combat Sexism By Adopting These Celeb Responses

Pop Culture

Both subtle and blatant sexism seems to overwhelm the media. Women in pop culture are subjected to sexist remarks and expectations from interviewers, directors, co-workers, and the like. Navigating the entertainment landscape is a challenge, and these ladies face severe scrutiny from both outside and inside the industry. They are often expected and forced to deal with frustrating situations from non-consensual pictures taken of them to obvious sexist interview comments. They handle these, and more,  with grace and ease. While it often becomes exhausting to watch, the way these ladies handle sexist culture is refreshing. We can all take up their powerful responses!

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