Some people get fed up with not knowing if what they are going to say will offend someone.
I remember perhaps ten years ago, when I posted meme on LiveJournal. I’ll share the content of the meme now, but you may not want to read it if you have trauma related to sexual abuse. The meme was: “If one forces sex on a prostitute, is it considered rape or shoplifting?”
The reason I shared it, was because I was caught up in my philosophical amusement of the question. What I didn’t consider was that for some people, that meme made light of trauma.
I lost some friends over posting that, and I didn’t know why back then. But I never posted a rape meme again, that’s for sure.
Around the same time, I lost another online friend after saying that something I didn’t like was lame. I’d been using “lame” that way since I was a teenager at least, never stopping to consider that it could be considered insensitive to people with physical impairments.
Even now, I find myself wondering, “Is there a better phrase that I can use than ‘physical impairments’? Are these people truly impaired, if humans can produce technologies advanced enough to meet the needs of those impairments, and we can design our cities and buildings in a way that demonstrates equity and accessibility for all?
And here, some may say I’ve gone too far. But have I? And have you gone far enough? Perhaps we can, as we say, meet in the middle.
A decade ago, I was flabbergasted that my use of the word “lame” was found so intolerably offensive.
Now, I don’t use that word anymore. You might think based on how flabbergasted I was when I was called out on using it, that ceasing using it may result in some sort of disease or horrible outcome.
I am happy to say, ten years later, I am a survivor of making a minuscule omission in my lexicon for the greater good.
Have I ever missed using “lame” in a derogatory context? No. Not even a little.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, I invite you to look up ableism. Google Chrome still underlines it as a typo, so don’t feel badly if you don’t know it.
Anyway, so, here’s an idea. How about we stop pretending that it is such a big deal to make slight changes to our vernacular to be more sensitive to others?
The trauma that is triggered in others by our words is greater than the effort it takes to pause and realize that in the end we’re all just human beings.
We all have wounds, traumas, and tragic backstories to contend with. It’s so damn shortsighted to parade through life insisting on saying whatever you want (“Because, like, free speech, totally”) and that is all party hats and unicorns, but when someone triggers you? Presses your buttons? Sticks a dagger in your wound and gives it a twist?
What then? Where did the unicorns go?
Also published on Medium.