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.