Bigots keep trying to tell us the meaning of words, I have bad news for them
I have repeatedly seen bigots use the “correct” meaning of words in order to try and invalidate and oppress minority groups. An immediate example is the use of singular “they/them” pronouns. Ignoring the fact that the singular use of these pronouns outdates the use of the word “you“, there is further discussion that needs to be had.
The bigots are going to hate this.
Language, at an essential level, is the use of non-verbal symbols and organised sounds. We have, ad a society, decided that particular shapes, sounds, body movements, facial expressions, and actions mean things. The meaning of these things has arisen from our collective agreement. To put it another way, language is a social construct.
Because language is socially constructed, even if words have prior meanings, we can collectively choose a new meaning for those words. This has happened many times throughout history, and in some cases, we have invented entirely new linguistic conventions where prior ones have not been able to convey what we need them to.
The fun thing about language is that you can repurpose it with very few negative consequences. Don’t like a change? Don’t use it. These changes can have huge positive impacts when made in the right spirit.
Language is the biggest social endeavour in history. It is a work of art, and each of us is the artist. By experimenting with language and altering it, we can create new images that we never thought possible. Language is the social construct that controls all other constructs because without it, we can not convey information. This is why we need to honour the words that describe a person’s identity. They are using language as a tool to dismantle normativity. Each time a person uses the words that feel right to then, and not the words they’ve been told to use, the weaker the chains of normative oppression become.
The people who are so attached to their understanding of words that they can not fathom new uses are not the future of the human race. In order to meet the future, we must first cut loose the chains of the past. Normative thinking has so conditioned the bigots that they react with fear at the suggestion of making even the smallest of changes. Mankind can not survive with such aversion to change, and we need to recognise that growth, like many changes, is not always a matter of personal comfort.
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