"She's really pretty for a black girl. She doesn't have those grotesque features black people have."
"Why is that woman nominated for an Oscar? She's not pretty. And she's fat."
"I don't want him seeing gay people kiss. I just don't want him to see that."
"Well, if she's gonna act and dress like a slut then that's how she's gonna be treated."
These are things people I know and am close to have said to me in conversation. They're not bad people. But they've said some stuff that perpetuates sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic and misogynistic notions that are deeply embedded in our society. Most of the time they are completely unaware that what they've said is in any way wrong.
I'm not pleading innocence here. I've said some stuff in the past that is not only reprehensible, but goes against everything I believe as a person who wants to see progress in this world. With age, awareness and learning, I've come to understand how mighty the tongue can be as a weapon against the discriminated.
The world works hard enough to remind us what we are is not right. Long ago, I made the decision that I have no interest in assisting in keeping these ideas the norm.
It's not something you learn overnight. When you want to "be the change" it becomes a constant exercise in checking yourself, checking your privilege, calling people out and encouraging them to call you out.
When people complain about the world becoming too PC, they're in effect complaining they can't continue to marginalize people already being discriminated against. Sorry you can't crack a "go make a sandwich" joke or a rape joke or make fun of "ghetto" people. And really, aren't these anti-PC whiners often the same people who take to the Internet when their privilege is questioned or challenged?
Language is a weapon used every single day to oppress, and as we're once again seeing, to downplay the sexual assault of a woman.
With the Stanford rape case and totally bullshit sentencing of convicted rapist Brock Turner holding major court in the media and on social media, language and its power has been even more present in my thoughts.
When Turner's father, Don, remarked that his son's measly six-month jail sentence was "a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20-plus years of life," it enraged me, and millions of others, who believe there is no excuse for rape. When Brock Turner himself says he's going to work to educate high school students on sexual promiscuity, or says he wishes he was "never good at swimming or had the opportunity to attend Stanford, so maybe the newspapers wouldn't write about me," it takes even more away from the victim and further perpetuates rape culture.
These statements downplay the severity of what this pile of human garbage did. And afterwards, he and his team dragged her through a long court process where they attempted to excuse the crime he committed. And even when the jury unanimously agreed that he was guilty of rape, Brock Turner was given a measly sentence because, well shucks, it was his first time. How. The FUCK. Is this okay? Let's not pretend his privileged white background didn't come into play here.
It wasn't just 20 minutes of action. It was a crime. One of the most heinous ones a person can commit, and more often than not people find a way to use language to treat this crime as if its not that big of a deal. Or, it's the fault of the woman. As I once said, we are all asking for it in some way, whether because of our clothes, our level of intoxication, our dating habits, our sexual history or any number of bullshit reasons. On top of that, we women have to live in a world where rape is downplayed, mocked, joked about and even excused on a daily basis.
As the victim so beautifully and eloquently said in her court statement that has now been shared widely across the Internet, "It is deeply offensive that he would try and dilute rape with a suggestion of 'promiscuity.' By definition rape is the absence of promiscuity, rape is the absence of consent, and it perturbs me deeply that he can't even see that distinction."
Swimming didn't get you written about in newspapers, Brock Turner. Raping a woman did. If you haven't read her statement, I encourage you to do so.
While you may not be a rapist, and agree it's an abominable act, you may not realize that the language you use, laugh at or excuse encourages rape.
When you call a girl a ho for wearing a short skirt, and say she shouldn't complain about the attention she's getting, you're encouraging sexual assault as an excusable act and placing blame in the wrong place.
When a woman rejects you and you call her a bitch or continue to pester her even though she said no, you are perpetuating the idea that no is not a valid answer; that no means yes.
When your friend makes a rape joke and you say nothing, your silence says rape is not a big deal.
Check your language. Check others' language. Do not let language be a weapon against those being victimized by it. Use it to protect them and fight for them, and to advocate for a world that is safe for them.