These Students Prove That Challenging Offensive Language Needn’t Be A War Of Words

Students at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, have unveiled a project that aims to challenge offensive language based on sexual orientation and gender. 

The You Don’t Say campaign features images of students alongside explanations as to why they won’t use typically offensive terms and phrases, such as ‘that’s so gay’, ‘man up’ and ‘no homo’. The project’s Facebook page explains that the campaign “seeks to raise awareness around the misuse of language that relates to the LGBTQ community and gender issues” and that “these words dehumanize and marginalize many within the Duke community and beyond and it is important to understand why.”

“Some have said that the purpose of this campaign is to promote political correctness when we speak”, said Abhi Sanka, who took part in the project, objecting to the saying ‘no homo’. “[But] this campaign strives first to instill understanding of how words can make a difference in shaping identities. Thus, the campaign strives to push thought in a direction that can better improve the climate for marginalized communities in our society”.

To most of us, these people are just faces on a screen. But, in speaking out publicly, they’re putting themselves on a platform for their college peers to bear witness and now – thanks to the power of the interwebs – the world too. The campaign’s purpose isn’t to criticize. And it’s not to patronize. It’s simply to help people understand how loaded these terms are and, like bullets from a gun, how they can wound, regardless of intention.

The choice whether you use them - or not - is yours.

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