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mopaul Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 06:26 AM
Original message
should an adult be offended by name calling?
we were taught as kids that sticks and stones will break your bones, but names will never hurt you. i believe that old canard even today.

it takes two people for an insult to work. the insultor, and the insultee. when you were a little kid with glasses, the other kids called you four eyes, and it actually hurt you, and that is one of life's bitter little lessons. many of those hurts and slights roll over into your adult life.

i am overweight for instance, and i suppose if someone was mad at me and wanted to hurl a hurtful insult at me, he might call me fatso, or lardo or tubby, all of which are true. but i have learned to deflect the hurtful and malicious bullets like superman.

if you're having a political discussion with a rightwinger and everything is going along smoothly, and he suddenly calls you a whiny spineless liberal, how do you react? do you get all huffy and indignant and explode, LIKE HE WANTS YOU TO, or do you simply laugh and burn his ass good? see how it works?

what if you're a woman, and another woman calls you a bitch, in jest?
insults delivered with a sense of humor are more or less acceptable.
Black folks often use the word 'nigger' when speaking to each other, but it's a tricky proposition for a white man to utter that word around a black man. the word 'bitch', (female dog) is an interesting example. that's one of the oldest insults in the world, calling someone's mother a dog, but how silly is it to be insulted by it?

if someone throws an insult at you, deflect it, you're an adult.
if someone uses a word that shocks or offends you, grow a spine and get over it. if you are insulted by the insultor then the insultor has bested you, and you fell into his trap. some people, who call others dirty names and hurl insults, get a big charge from seeing you blow up in indignation. DON'T GIVE THEM THE PLEASURE.
simply deflect insults outright, don't react to them, or toss a few back if that's how the idiot wants to play.

words are simply sound vibrations that float a few feet out of your mouth and vanish forever like the wind. words cannot actually hurt you, unless you let them.

rightwingers like ann coulter and bill o'reilly are experts at this little insult game, a person can get all worked up and violent if he lets himself fall for the insultor's trick.

a lady i know was offended by my referring to overweight people as 'fat people', she herself is a large woman, and i too am rather portly, and i asked her, "what shall i refer to big folks as?" she didn't have particular word to substitute for 'fat'.

i remember when blacks folks were called 'colored people', and that went on to become 'black', or 'african-american'. crippled people are now called 'disabled', and the word 'queer' has been all over the road for a hundred years. the word 'cunt' often considered the ultimate insult to a woman, is an old english word that pre-dates chaucer, and it wasn't meant as an insult, just another word for vagina.

so i don't care about the word bitch, or the word faggot or the word nazi, and if i run into a word on a computer monitor screen that offends me, i'll live. i try not to be a receptacle for the insultor.

my mother always told me, "if you can't say anything nice about a person, that person must be a real ass-hole".
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ayeshahaqqiqa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 06:34 AM
Response to Original message
1. Works most of the time
I do have a problem when Muslims are maligned and told that their faith is one of idoloitry, hatred, etc, etc. On other boards, the pure hatred of Islam and everyone Islamic gets rather chilling at times. The ones that worry me the most are the ones who think it would be a good idea to kill all Muslims in the US.

Names don't bother me, but threats like this do.
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mopaul Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 06:39 AM
Response to Reply #1
4. as an american atheist, i support islam
and i believe absolutely in freedom of religion. but religious insults are some of the oldest and most effective. i don't like islam, OR chrisitanity, so at least i'm an equal opportunity atheist.

my mother hates islam, but only because she is ignorant of it, and only knows what she sees on t.v.

of course most muslims are wonderful peaceful people, and good people are welcome in america, of all creeds. the bad ones in any religion, make them all look bad.

i understand why you're worried though. i hope the world's great relgions can find the things that connect them, instead of divide them.
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Nobody Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 06:36 AM
Response to Original message
2. But words do hurt
I remember the sticks and stones rhyme as a child and I never believed it. Words hurt. Tell a child that he or she is stupid over and over. Do you think that kid is ever going to be confident about getting a passing grade in school? How about exams for career certifications?

Consider ethnic and racial slurs and slurs based on gender. Yes, they hurt. They also expose a person's true attitude toward these groups. Why do you think that most civilized people don't use them?

A finely crafted insult can be fun, I enjoy a good insult contest as well as the next person. Shakespearean insults are highly amusing. But they don't get personal, they're clever, and they're not based on a specific person's personal characteristics. Slurs are using a club when a rapier would be more appropriate.

Note the nicknames for Bush we've been using. There have been many creative ones, some of my favorites include: The Commandeer in Thief, Dumbya, Occupant, The one who put the Duh in Duh-bya.

Insults aren't necessarily a bad thing, but let's be wittily creative as opposed to disrespectfully bludgeoning.

A reference for verbal attacks and how to deflect them: Suzette Haden Elgin's series beginning with "The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense". She deconstructs the sticks and stones myth in the first chapter.

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WildClarySage Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 06:37 AM
Response to Original message
3. Context counts.
If my best friend called me a bitch, it wouldn't bother me at all. I'd just ask the skank what her problem was.

If my husband called me a bitch, I'd be checking out divorce lawyers. (Ok, not really... probably...)

The context of the insult is what matters. A LTTE the other day in our local conservative hackrag called a newspaper referred to "sodomite couples" which managed to insult and offend a number of folks in our community. Many of whom aren't gay. One can be insulted on behalf of others.

And I think that turning off the ability to be insulted means that you also lose the ability to be complimented. Because if you discount the opinions of others, you must necessarily distrust all positive opinions as well.

But up to a point, I agree with you. Someone who chooses to call me a fat bitch is really revealing more about themselves than they are about me, and I have to wonder what kind of emotional garbage they are carrying around if that's the best way they know to relate to someone else.
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Fitzovich Donating Member (179 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 06:43 AM
Response to Original message
5. Words Do Count
I believe we need to choose and use them carefully. We are entitled to think and believe what we want but, words can be exceptionally offensive to others and we need to be aware of that. Offending someone does not gain the speaker anything in a discussion other than hurt or anger. It serves no real purpose.
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sandnsea Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 06:49 AM
Response to Original message
6. Just don't call me cupcake n/t
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Mr_Scarecrow Donating Member (228 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 07:23 AM
Response to Original message
7. Language is what separates us
from most animals. Scientific fact that a person's emotional state can affect their physical state. So the sticks and stones myth is just that. Words are powerful and important. If someone insults me, it hurts for several reasons: 1) It may reveal my own personal failings (e.g. I walked onto the beach a couple years ago and someone made a remark about my weight - a reminder that I had been lazy and given in to overeating), 2) It may remind me of unpleasant memories like being teased as a child, 3) It may remind me of the cruelty of which man is capable, 4) It may be a stepping stone to physical violence.
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bearfartinthewoods Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 07:44 AM
Response to Original message
8. should anyone have the right to say what does or doesn't offend another?
recently i've read people claiming that the bitch protesters are choosing to be offended and others saying that "it doesn't bother me" as if that means anyone who is bothered is deficient in some way.


1 a obsolete : an act of stumbling b archaic : a cause or occasion of sin : STUMBLING BLOCK
2 : something that outrages the moral or physical senses
3 a : the act of attacking : ASSAULT b : the means or method of attacking or of attempting to score c : the offensive team or members of a team playing offensive positions d : scoring ability
4 a : the act of displeasing or affronting b : the state of being insulted or morally outraged <takes offense at the slightest criticism>
5 a : a breach of a moral or social code : SIN,

sorry, i don't see being offended as an issue of choosing whether or not to be offended. maybe you have control over what offends you but that doesn't mean others do as well.
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bearfartinthewoods Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 07:48 AM
Response to Original message
9. i hope El doesn't mind if i repost this excellant piece regarding offense
it got buried right at the bottom of a thread that took me four tries to download. i think it says it all.

I came out of self-imposed exile from DU to post on this issue

There are some things haven't been covered, and I have a response to some of the wrong-headed notions I've seen expressed.

First, I commend Skinner on re-thinking this issue re use of the word "bitch" at DU. I see that as a step in the right direction of addressing the sexism that is rampant at DU, so I'm very positively impressed. And whichever staunch and courageous women here at DU made this ENOUGH of an issue that got his attention, good on you. I gave up.

One needs only read through some of the posts that have been made in these threads to see some (just some) of the sexism -- from trivialization, dismissiveness and ridicule of the concerns and explanations about why it's sexist and ought not be used in a "progressive" forum to downright hostility -- all of which are tools which have been traditionally and historically used to fend off women's concerns about anything and everything.

Now, this isn't a First Amendment or "free speech" issue. Your Constitutional rights are guaranteed against government censorship, not private property (e.g., internet disussion forum) censorship. When some of you are calling for "free speech" above all is really a demand for license -- the questionable "right" to say whatever you want, wherever and whenever you want to. That doesn't help build community, it doesn't model civilility, and it's not the way our society works.

I too am shocked this even has to be discussed. Like some of the other feminist women here, I've always been deeply and quite personally offended by its occurrence here, and the tolerance for it. Just as Slinkerwink points out, it's equivalent to various racial and other slurs and other hate speech. I'm not black, so I can't know if African Americans feel exactly about "nigger" as I feel about "bitch" and other sexist slurs, but roughly equivalent should frankly be more than enough. AND we shouldn't have to prioritize categories of offensivenesse when we're talking about the systemic practices that keep whole classes of people oppressed.

Here's one of the things about the word bitch that hasn't been discussed (at least not in the threads I've read -- and I haven't read all of them). The connotations (implied meanings) of the word refer to denigrating stereotypes about women that have been used to keep us "less than" and unequal for millennia. A "bitch" is a pushy, complaining, nagging woman; a woman who doesn't know her proper place, or how to "act like a lady."

The fear of being called a bitch has keep women from speaking up for themselves, kept them from expressing their own inner strength, kept them from rocking the boat, kept them from doing better than the boys on tests or better than the men on the shop floor or in the office suites. It's kept their mouths shut, their comportment "ladylike" and meek instead of empowered. On and on.

I despise Ann Coulter and Condi Rice as much as any of the rest of you, but when you call them "bitch," you send the message to all women that they must stay in line "or else" and the message to all men that it's okay to denigrate women because they are women. And you send a message to the women of DU that this place isn't really home for us.

Some have said that language can't hurt anything. It's only words. It's the "idea" behind the "phonetics" that counts, yadayada. Here's why language matters. Language reflects how we as a culture see things and even think, and affects how individuals within that culture sees things and think. There are no two ways about it -- language is a self-enforcing mechanism for culture itself. When the culture changes, language changes; when language changes, the culture changes.

I don't remember which language it is, but I read some time ago about that members of that culture aren't particularly self-reflective and especially don't think about the past because the language doesn't really have a past tense. There's no way to say something like "Ten years ago we did such and such." That's one example of how language affects the way we think: no past tense = no past to talk about or think about.

Here's another example, and it pains me to even have to mention this because it reminds me that so many younger progressives have a dearth of knowledge and understanding about what went on just in my lifetime -- what conditions were for women BEFORE "the women's movement" and what we went through to get where we are today -- all of which frightens me about how easily those gains can be lost.

Anyway, in the bad old days one of the things we women fought for was more inclusive language. If someone spoke about "the Chairman of the committee," the visual image everyone (yes, everyone) got was of a chairMAN. If they used the term "chairperson" or (eventually) the less awkward term "chair," the image was more gender-neutral. It introduced the subtle notion that a woman could be chairing the committee.

Now that may seem unimportant, perhaps even quaint. But in the bad old days, it was a BFD. Over time, changing the way people thought about who could chair committees or meetings helped open up the opportunities for women to do just that. And that's just one example.

Similarly, the use of the word "mankind" in the history and sociology and other books. It implied that the men of our species were the only ones who ever DID anything. "Humankind," however, implied that men AND women were involved in whatever it was that book or passage was discussing. BIG difference, especially since women had been written OUT of history books (or more accurately, never put in them to start with). Whatever women did just wasn't "important," or noteworthy, or even noticed at all.

Language matters enormously. As long as women, a still very oppressed class, can be treated in verbally abusive ways (as a group, as individuals in that group, or as members of the classoutside the group -- i.e., an Ann Coulter or a Condi Rice) in "polite" society and progressive discussion forums by being called "bitch," our job of achieving full equality is made all the harder.

There is no GOOD or acceptable reason for using gender-specific insults to describe any woman.

I myself am also going to stop using the word "bitch" as a verb -- as in to bitch and moan. It STILL stereotypes women, no matter who it's applied to because it refers to someone who is bitching "like a complaining woman."

As for "bitchslap," I still don't know what the real meaning of the term is -- several different and contradictory definitions have been posted. It's not a term I would have ever used, and I always cringe when I see it. It still contains the word "bitch" and that still stereotypes and degrades women.

Unlike what some here have suggested, it doesn't really matter whether the person using these terms are specifically thinking of "complaining women" when they use "bitch" or any of its derivatives or not, that's what the word essentially refers to, unless it's specifically referring to a female dog.

On a related note, what's all this anti-PC crap? Do you all realize that the backlash against "political correctness" was started back in the late 70s (if not earlier) by the rightwing as a way to get to hang onto their racism and sexism? I know -- I was there. WERE YOU? Why is an essentially rightwing argument being made here? Political correctness never meant ANYthing other than being careful not to say sexist and racist things in public -- making verbal racism and sexism (and other decidedly non-progressive speech) socially unacceptable. What the hell is wrong with that?

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buddhamama Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 07:50 AM
Response to Original message
10. it's not words
rather their meaning, context that hurts.
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Rockholm Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 08:02 AM
Response to Original message
11. I would say yes...
Some of your argument I can agree with, but let me give you my latest experience.
While inside the Massachusetts State House last week, rallying in support of my right to marry, I have a 15 year old black kid walk past me with a sign saying "homo sex is a sin." I looked over as he went walking by and he called me a "faggot."
Yeah, got to say that words hurt.
Words hurt a lot more than the old sticks and stones. See, to me, while that kid calling me a "faggot" hurt me deeper than just his pathetic insult. It showed me that this kid has been taught hate and intolerance from somewhere. One would hope that his hate will one day temper towards acceptance, but you know, those men who killed Matthew Shepard probably were taught to hate those who are different. Let's hope this kid sees the light.
Words hurt and words kill the human spirit.
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nothingshocksmeanymore Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 08:04 AM
Response to Original message
12. It isn't even ABOUT adults getting hurt. It ISN'T even ABOUT offense.
Edited on Wed Apr-07-04 08:09 AM by nothingshocksmeanymo
Listen if it were about hurt and offense in the BIG picture (as I believe it IS for some in the small picture) I wouldn't waste my breath. So, Mo, my friend, let me turn the questions back on you.


Is the language of violence TOO abstract for some to care about given that we raise young men and women into it?

Given that we humans have language precipitate every idea we have?

DO WE REALLY WANT TO CREATE A CULTURE OR VISION or WORLDof bitches, cunts, fags, niggers, and bitchslapping?


Doesn't the BASIC RESPECT it takes to create that world of vision have to start somewhere?

If not, why? Why bother posting here? Why bother giving a shit about politics?

Why bother giving a shit about war when one's life is so hell bent on resisting giving UP the language of war?

Is it not TELLING that we now describe people's tempers as being "ballistic"? (i.e.NAMED AFTER A FUCKING MISSILE?)

No, MO...I keep banging my head against a wall asking people to stop and THINK about that which they CREATE..which they ACTUALLY bring to bear with their words thoughts deeds..etc.

One of the modern day philosophers...not a terribly religious one stated that when we die...if we exist at all, we exist in the space of the thoughts we created while on earth.

I say that's WHERE we exist right fucking NOW..and guess what...those thoughts are FASHIONED from language.

So..react ALL you want to someone bringing it up but it isn't about offense, adulthood, or any such thing...

IT IS ABOUT THE REALITY WE LIVE IN THAT WE ALL KEEP BITCHING about completely INAUTHENTICALLY given that the future we are creating is being created with a RATHER extreme resistance to owning up to our past..which past GAVE US THE LANGUAGE that is GIVING us our future.

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lapislzi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 08:56 AM
Response to Original message
13. coulda woulda shoulda
Good points all, mopaul...however, not everyone can deal with this subject in a mature way.

I'm with you. If you call me a fat commie bitch, it says a helluva lot more about you than it does about me, but I will still probably be offended by both your boorishness and your choice of words. Ad hominem attacks are always the lowest form of discourse. I wouldn't dignify one with a response. And there you have it. I'm offended. OK, so what; I'll get over it.

But there is even a nugget of truth in that freeper e-mail that circulates here from time to time. You don't have the right not to be offended. There is plenty of offense in the world if you look around, and the choice is yours to be bothered by it or not.

I try hard to craft my discourse so as not to offend people. I would never offend anyone intentionally, and I think intent and context are both important factors to consider when debating this issue. Much offense stems from ignorance. I grew up in a household where the word "Jew" was used as a racial epithet, and to this day I am not comfortable saying it, even to describe a follower of the Judaic faith. Bias is an awfully hard thing to overcome, especially if you don't even realize you're biased.

I'd like to believe the best of the people on these boards; we are, after all, on the same team.
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mopaul Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 09:04 AM
Response to Reply #13
15. people can change....i have
i too try to temper my words, but sometimes people are still offended. my father used to use the word 'nigger' a thousand times a day, now he would rather die than utter that word. he changed over the years. and the word 'jew' was uttered as a curseword when i was a kid too. catholics were 'salmon snappers', young people were 'dirty hippies', and democrats were 'commies'.

the very words we use as insults change too. queer has gone from acceptable, to unacceptable, to acceptable again, sometimes it's hard to keep up. gay is preferred over faggot, lesbian over dyke.
handicapped over crippled. it's all interesting as hell to observe.

but like you say, we are all on the same team, and we are all learning as we go.
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lapislzi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 09:10 AM
Response to Reply #15
16. That's MACKEREL SNAPPER to you, mister!
We were poor micks who couldn't afford salmon. Salmon was for Episcopalians!
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DemLikr Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Apr-07-04 09:01 AM
Response to Original message
14. Thanks for the wisdom, Mopaul. n/t
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