The Meaning of Words and Microaggression

The words ‘smart’ or ‘sophisticated’ are now imagined by some to be anti-social. Why? Because categorizing anyone as smart’ or ‘sophisticated’ is to think that some people are smarter or more sophisticated than others. And, making any distinctions between individuals is now more or less forbidden. The word ‘gay’ means happy. Today, of course, it also refers to homosexuals. It is certainly nice to imagine another is happy. Isn’t it? So, the word ‘gay’ is not sexist. Some think that use of a color word to describe someone is not nice. Why? Because its use somehow implies that the speaker is characterizing another in terms of their color. And, the other person may not wish to define themselves in terms of color. The words ‘man’ and ‘woman’ are sexist. Why? Because it is an affront to those who do not want to conform to the old, fuddy duddy gender roles.

Use of these words are forms of what is called”microaggression”. Microaggression occurs when one expects another to enact some role that is inconsistent with the way the person themselves conceives of their their roles. For example, if a man says to his wife, “Do you plan on cooking tonight?” This is microaggression because being a cook may be a stereotype that a woman might have rejected. The current level of touchiness is more or less okay. One should be aware of perhaps hurting others feelings. But doesn’t it all seem too…what’s the right word? Too weird.

It is hard to keep up with what forms of speech are now considered offensive. Fear of saying the wrong things invariably leads to fear of thinking the wrong things. Soon all nouns will be off limits. Very troubling.

http://williambernstein.com

https://www.nytimes.com/column/the-ethicist

http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newspeak

2 thoughts on “The Meaning of Words and Microaggression

  • Of course, modern day witches could say your use of the word weird is disciminatory—Shakespeare’s the “weird sisters.”

    I agree that sanitizing language and, for that matter, history could turn us into smiling, nodding yes-persons who never say anything meaningful at all.

    If we trace language we basically trace history. So perhaps everyone could potentialy say a certain word or phrase is harmful to them… because human history is by large part violent and unfair.

    A real problem… err “issue.” 😉

  • I imagine you are being ironic with the witches comment, that you are kinda agreeing with me. Certainly forbidding the word ‘weird’ is an example of my point that this ‘sensitivity’ has gotten out of hand. It is like ‘Newspeak’ from Orwell’s ‘1984’. But I get a sense too that you are sort of in favor of this banning of words because in some far fetched way certain words hurt people’s feelings. Yeah, since you want to change ‘problem’ to ‘issue’, I assume you are not especially
    agreeing with me. And, that what I thought was irony is not. Right?

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