I adore language. I like talking about words and word origins and I am also interested in exclusionary language structures, in how slurs creep into daily life and are used thoughtlessly and with little awareness. I talk about language a lot here and in other places, which might lead you to believe that I think language is really important.
I do. But I also don’t think it’s the most important thing. And there’s an interesting trend I am noticing in online activism where language is being used for pro forma activism, and a form of dog whistling; ‘I corrected you about the use of [word] in your post, so I’m an ally to [community] and my work here is done!’ Often, this becomes a tool for derailment, where suddenly people are talking exclusively about a person’s language choices, and not engaging with substantive content. A very solid discussion and argument is neatly dismissed and ignored because one person says ‘but you used a bad word in the fifth paragraph, and now we all have to argue about it until you have abased yourself sufficiently to satisfy us.’
I see this perhaps most strikingly with disability. I sort of get the impression that some people seem to think that the bulk of disability activism is about running around correcting the words people use, and you can stop there. That’s all that needs to be done. They ignore commentary from disability rights activists pointing out that language is not the problem,it’s a symptom of a problem.
(Source: se-smith, via sanaa-tamir-is-leaving-deactiva)