BY ANNA CURRENTI
I feel very strongly about being politically correct. I think I have social media to thank for this. Twitter has really opened my eyes to offensive slurs and shown me real people’s reactions to these words. I am in a lucky position to be a straight white female, so most offensive words don’t affect me. There’s always the usual ‘slut’, but that’s not the kind of word I’m talking about. I’m talking about the ones that make your insides squirm when you hear someone say them. Well I know mine do.
Often, the people who use these words have no connection to them, meaning they don’t understand the historical discrimination associated with, and the sheer offensiveness of, these words. I think that’s why many people can use them so casually, such as in a song. There’s the old line, “if they’re saying it, why can’t I?”
I’ve learnt that the communities of people who are affected by these words take them and make them their own, trying to give the word a different meaning after years of it meaning something so hurtful. That’s why you can’t say them.
One example I’d like to touch on is the use of f****t. It’s been in the media a lot recently, with Eminem using it in one of his songs to refer to Tyler the Creator. It caused outrage as expected. I recently learnt where the word is said to have originated from. In the 17th century, when witch trials occurred, people used to burn homosexuals. Worse, homosexuals were seen to be ‘lower’ than witches, so they would be thrown into the fire rather than be burned at the stake. F****t meant a bundle of sticks used for kindling in a fire. Hence, this is where the word came from as they would be in the same place as the sticks, ‘f*****s’, in the fire. Many people don’t know this, I only discovered this the other day whilst doing some research.
I think it’s important to always be open to learning about these issues. As someone who is not affected, it is an aim of mine to listen to those who do suffer and to try my best to do all I can to help.
People may argue my point with the whole “free speech argument”. Now, I am all for free speech, but I think free speech goes as far as offending someone. If what you are saying has the potential to offend someone because of who they are, whether it is their race, sex, sexuality, religion, disability, etc. Don’t say it… Because, chances are, if someone said something to you that you considered offensive, you wouldn’t be happy.
I am not discouraging free speech, I think it’s very important, I just think it’s also very important to take other people’s feelings into consideration before you speak. You don’t get to decide what someone finds offensive.