DISCLAIMER: Explicit or triggering language is used in this article.
Slut. Faggot. Whore. Cunt. “That’s gay.” “You’re so retarded.”
If these words don’t make you feel uncomfortable, why not? It’s not a criticizing question, it’s just part of a profound realization that our society has become so desensitized to words with hateful roots. We barely take the time to stop and think what they mean. And the words above just skim the surface. The list goes on and on with racial slurs, sexist comments, religious and political criticisms, and verbal bullying in general.
And if these words do make you feel uncomfortable, how do you stop them from being used? It’s hard to stand up to others and call them out for using words that are offensive, even if you do it in a polite way. Most of the time it’s our friends or family – who we don’t want to embarrass or alienate by reprimanding – especially if they are not using the words in a directly derogatory way.
So how do we stop this epidemic of bad words, bad language, and bullying in our world, in our communities, and on our campus? Let’s talk about it.
On Monday, Sept. 30, Student Government Association (SGA) Programs Board held the first discussion of a series called “St. Mary’s Speaks,” which focuses on major issues in our culture and world today. Monday’s discussion was titled, “Bad Words, Bad Language, and Bullying on our Campus,” and was facilitated by Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life Joanne Goldwater and Director of Campus Programming senior Anuli Duru.
Duru started the series because she “was tired of the silence. There are and have been many issues on this campus and in this world that few of us know of, but most are unaware of or don’t realize the extent that the issue is severe,” she said. “Language is a beautiful thing but in many ways, we’ve distorted it to have ugly meanings and to hurt or attack one another – and this one way that bullying, discrimination, and hatred thrives,” Duru stated. “Yet if we have the power to create these words, we also have the power to destroy them – and that requires dialogue.”
The group talked about how to tackle the issue of hurtful language on campus, agreeing that it starts with us. Simply being aware of the words we say and paying attention to what others say is a good first step. Checking ourselves and our words, not being afraid to let others know if they are using offensive language, and simply talking about it in an appropriate setting – it will only work if it starts in the grassroots.
Duru mentioned that the program was successful because “everyone was engaged…even after the discussion ended, the dialogue continued on. It was so great to see people continuing the discussion and it gave me hope that we are making a difference one step at a time and one voice at time.”
Duru will be holding more discussions throughout the year with the help of professors and staff members “to give everyone an opportunity to speak, to listen, and to learn.” The next discussion will be held on Monday, Oct. 28 at 8 p.m. in Cole Cinema. The topic will be “How Can WE Solve World Hunger?” with Assistant Professor of Philosophy Barrett Emerick.