A new word-discouragement campaign at Duke University has labeled phrases such as “Man Up,” “That’s So Gay,” and “Don’t Be a Pussy” offensive language that “delegitimizes” homosexuality and oppresses and insults people.
But as the campaign has gained national popularity, its detractors have bristled at the effort, calling it a politically correct war on words that will stifle free speech and suggesting its true aim is to redefine terms to control public opinion and – ultimately – public policy.
In fact, the “You Don’t Say” campaign creators have admitted as much.
“Language is a reflection of how we think about others and view the world,” Jay Sullivan, a student leader of the campaign, tells Duke Today. “My goal is to…. help facilitate discussion about how language affects many social issues, from race to gender and sexuality.”
The campaign consists of a series of black-and-white memes with students posing behind large pledges to avoid so-called offensive language.
“I don’t say ‘No Homo’ because it delegitimizes love and sexual identities,” says one.
“I don’t say ‘Man Up’ because the strongest people I know have cried in front of me, regardless of their age, gender or sex,” says another.
“I don’t say ‘Tranny’ because it’s insulting to transgender and genderqueer communities,” adds a third meme.
Other banned words include “bitch,” because it “insists feminism is inherently negative,” “‘fag,’ because it only serves to hurt and oppress homosexual men,” and “pussy,” as it “implies that having a certain feature is indicative of being a coward.”
The recently launched campaign has spread far and wide on social media and gained national attention in a variety of news reports. The effort is similar to the recent “Ban Bossy” campaign, and akin to other university student efforts that have banned the term “illegal immigrant” on campuses.
The campaign is a collaborative effort between a newly formed group at Duke University called Think Before You Talk and Blue Devils United, a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer student advocacy group.