The Problem in Our Language

The Problem in Our Language

Rayner Reinhardt, Staff

As a young woman growing up in the blue-state, liberal county of Baltimore, I’ve yet to personally experience the prejudice that so many girls and women face every day.  

Of course, my peers and I are aware of it. We feel bad that it happens; we want change for these people; we stay silently grateful for the position we’re in. We think that we’re on the right side of this issue.  

Sure, we give ourselves the title of “feminist,” and it’s a rightful one. I believe that if you want the equality of everyone, you’re a feminist. But, I see people, myself included, who think that this is enough.  

We’re proud to be feminists, and we want change, but what are we doing to encourage it? 

As young women, and young men, we need to start somewhere. The issue of our language, the words we use to communicate, is one that we need to solve. 

It’s rare that I see anyone, girls especially, stand up to the sexism engrained in our dialogue and descriptions—and I admire the ones that do.  

We continue to hear guys, and girls, use derogatory slurs for women; we continue to stay silent and let it happen.  

It’s not a rare occurrence that the words “slut,” “whore,” or “bitch” are thrown around Catonsville. Most of the time they’re not even used to attack the sexual lives of girls—not that this is acceptable either. Teenagers have begun to use these words not just as insults, but as pet names or fillers.  

I have personally been subject to names like these, sometimes in a joking way and sometimes not. Most of the time I pay no mind, but I’ve recently begun to realize how contradicting they actually are. They’re not jokes, even though we sometimes perceive them this way. They create a false sense that shaming women is acceptable.  

We have yet to neglect this sexism; we forget to acknowledge the ammunition these words carry. 

They are slurs, attacks on a woman’s sexual lives.  

They’re hostile toward a woman’s choices, towards her body and her life. Meanwhile, several men live similarly free of shame.  

Words have power, and the way we speak impacts a person intentionally or not. The term “microaggression” has been coined as verbal indignities that communicate hostility and offense toward, most often, people of color. But this doesn’t mean that microaggressions can’t be used against women or any other marginalized group. I’d argue that the sexist slurs thrown around are microaggressions, too. They can easily be, and often are, used as weapons against women.  

This is where we can combat sexism. Refrain from using slurs. Call out guys, and girls, for using them. Let it be known that these words are detrimental to the progress of women, because as long as we use them, we will never erase the image of women as inferior.  

Why should we hold women to a higher standard than men? Why should we continue to use these words that degrade a woman and her choices?  

We shouldn’t.