Words with Friends

I recently went out for dinner with a group of friends, we had a brilliant night and I laughed till I cried. However, during a light-hearted conversation, the word ‘slut’ was bandied around. I was among people who are used to my outspoken tendencies, and they didn’t bat an eye when I protested that using ‘slut’ to describe a sexually active woman was unacceptable. Even if I’d been in less forgiving company, I would have piped up anyway, because I have come to understand the intense importance of words.

The words we use shape our attitude to the world around us. The desperate souls fleeing death and persecution in the Middle East and North Africa are now called ‘migrants’, instead of the more accurate term, ‘refugees’. The vast difference between a refugee and a migrant is choice. In countless interviews I’ve seen the victims of this crisis repeat that they want stay in their homes and continue to live their lives in peace. This option is not available to those who now have no home and no nation. We forget this simple fact, because the media has re-branded them as ‘migrants’. The implication being that they are free-loaders, ready to descend on Britain’s shores and suck the life out of our country. The simple exchange of a word can alter the attitude of nations.

The Hollywood Access tape of Donald Trump boasting about grabbing women ‘by the pussy’, is a master class in the importance of words. His defence that the recording was ‘locker room banter’, is as wispy as his glued down hair. This feeble excuse has an undertone of  ‘boys will be boys’, and this is just the way guys talk in the locker room. This is offensive to men in general, as is pointed out in this article by former NFL player, Chris Kluwe. Although Trump’s remarks in the tape are vulgar and offensive, they’re hardly surprising. He’s let loose a river of verbal sewage on the Howard Stern radio show, using sexist language that would be at home on an episode of Mad Men.

If Trump does get in, and I’m hoping against hope that he doesn’t, we’ll be living in an age when the leader of the one of the world’s super powers thinks its permissible to aggressively objectify women and incite racial hatred. It’s always been important, but now more than ever it is vital we remember the value of our words. Choose them carefully; remember that words define the world around you. To quote Samuel Becket, words are all we have. They are what separate us from animals, words are the building blocks of our society and culture. Do not tolerate offensive language; if you hear someone using abhorrent vocabulary, politely and firmly tell them that it’s unacceptable. Words can take on a life of their own; they gain traction and power. Bigoted, ignorant terminology is not ok, don’t give it space in your life.

Feature image http nationalreview.com