On profanity,slurs and censorship
#1
A frequent question that arises is difference between profanity and slurs.
When asked the difference
G.I. explains
Quote:Well, profanity is using words like "fuck", "damn", "shit", etc. They are considered impolite but aren't used as a stigmatizing term for any one particular social group (especially not an oppressed group).
Then there are words like slut, nigger, dyke, kike, bitch, whore, fag, beaner, chinky, tojo, spic, etc. These are words that are/were/will be specifically used to marginalized, dehumanize a group of people (usually historically people who have been oppressed violently, politically, economically).
The former set of words, while "dirty", don't target any said class of people and are "neutral" and don't carry a social stigma. They are also largely context free and any insult where they are employed are localized (i.e you aren't insulting a whole group of people unaffiliated with what is irritating you).
The second set of words otoh, imply that the group associated is what is wrong and hence when you insult someone as being associated with said group (nigger--blacks, kike-Jews, beaners--hispanic, tojo/chink--asians, slut/whore/bitch--female, fag-LGBTI, etc).

So when one says " "You work like a nigger" or "My work is such faggy shit" or "I've been kiked out of my money"--it is implying negative connotation towards these groups that has commonly been used against them .

(Niggers are lazy, bad work is bad like gays, Jews are money stealing manipulators, etc).

There's also a lot of accompanying research data that jokes and insults that are gendered, racialized, homophobic, etc create alienation of these sub-groups in social settings like work, school, peer groups, etc. This has been especially studied recently in detail wrt gender and homophobia. It has also been considered a causal issue in homophobic acts towards students and coworkers in facing hostile environments and increased hostile behavior.

Such discussions always turn into slugfests as suggestions of how you can avoid discomfort to marginalized groups if you wish to, are often read as do it, or you are a bad person.
Which is unfortunate.
hopefully with the features of "see more" in comments , bumping up of posts, likes and notifications away, such a discussion can be attempted in a more civil manner here, with features such as hyperlinking and quoting , this is a much better place to mitigate flame wars, and preferred for any obviously controversial topics, to those who have already commented on the relevant topic on the group, quote yourself, i will start with my own response.

If words are empty without context ,there are no problems, but words are not empty without context, context decides what a word means,context shapes the word, so does our tone,our speed of speaking and on facebook , sometimes smileys and sometimes using capital letters.
It is true that we do not know the word means without knowing the context, but let us not use the word empty for this, use ambiguous, use incomplete but not empty.

And just so you know I have watched the video, i infact posted that video sometime back but in a different context.

Banning or avoiding certain words simply like fuck ,shit etc. seem stupid,but about bitch and fag, it makes sense to simply not use them and ask people for the same , and no-one is asking for a ban here.

Humbug was offensive because you could not question , now you can, now you can call a hoax a hoax.

Quote:"Banning or even avoiding the usage of certain words is not the solution to such issues, education and reclamation of those words"
Ok firstly if it is so, should we not be more interested in doing what we think is the solution rather than pointing out what is not ?

About reclaiming, educating, again as i said this many times before the words that should be shunned and the words that should be reclaimed are not black and white but shades of grey ,there can be words that should be more reclaimed rather than shunned and vice-versa

So let us take some examples, nastik , the hindi equivalent but not equal of word atheist, nastik means anyone who does not believe in vedas now why is that offensive word? because one does not simply not believe in vedas when vedas are so divine, if you do , there are moral judgements against you, there are violent resistance against you, but this is not something you should be ashamed of , you should be proud of it, that even when world followed it as sheep ,you chose not to as long as there was any evidence, you call yourself nastik proudly , and the word becomes acceptable, though reclaimation is till on, we still like to wear t shirts, proud to be an atheist (atheist and nastik have similar histories,but now nastik means same as atheist) similar words are kafir ,infidel .Infidel and kafir were like death threats, but this should not be, so what do you do? you call yourself infidel,kafir ,godless,atheist proudly and the words become acceptable,also this stance becomes acceptable.

Gay has similar history, there is nothing wrong in being attracted to same sex, so one should not be ashamed for being gay, but people felt that it was unnatural ,that it was ridicule worthy, gay became synonymous to stupid or extremely emotional ,there was stereotyping, gays wear pink,cry a lot, are sexually desperate and are mostly fashion designers, reclaiming is on here, the same word should not mean two different things , one that you are made to feel guilt for and the other that is wrong (stupid) ,reclaiming is working, it always was worth reclaiming, and atleast in humanist circles it means what it should , a homosexual man, nothing more or less.

slut meant dirty/untidy /woman ,it soon started to mean sexually active woman , this transformation was easy , since sex is dirty ,it was offensive because women were not supposed to be sexually active or independant, but again this is not something you should be embarrased about , you should be proud of being sexually independent in a patriarchal society.

But there is a little difference in above two cases, you don't mind being unbeliever/veda denier but you would mind being called dirty and untidy, using the same word for dirty as well as sexually independant was wrong, but reclaiming worked and former meaning is now obsolete, again even if it was not, being called dirty is not that bad, there were a lot of questions about reclaiming of slut,but let us magnify the differences in reclaim worthy and shun-worthy words

Come bitch , bitch means both a female dog in heat, and a sexually independant woman, it also means professionally independent now, there has been a lot of reclaiming here, infact not even sexually independent , in 1400s it meant any woman who dates? now why the same word for a woman as well as a female dog? because a proper woman does not date, if she does , she was as good as a female dog,with no self control,no self esteem,no morals.

There has been a lot of reclaiming here, but this has not worked well, why because the connotations are hard to go
Ofcourse the word is used liberally now, like life is a bitch (which is not that bad ), but the problem is similar to , man that movie is so gay, why is it gay, why is it not badly directed or too cheezy, the problem is in using the same word for different meanings,
Reclaiming did work for some parts , but it also made the word easy to use anywhere, and this allows usage of a word that means both a sexually independant woman and a female dog (among other things due to reclaiming) , but reclaiming cannot be said to be successful till either of these two become obsolete.
Furthermore, this is not just a negative adjective, it is dehumanising,which makes this slur a class apart from others and highly shun-worthy as compared to others.

In same class(rather much worse IMO) is cunt, it reduces a human to an organ, it is sexual objectification, there is no way to go on reclaiming this.

reclaiming works when something that should not be considered bad is considered bad, in case of fag and cunt there is nothing to be proud of , what is there in being proud of in being a packet of sticks used to burn homosexuals or simply a sexual organ?

but ofcourse english changes, and fag is used differently now but this is >>not because of reclaiming<<, witches and heretics meant fags too, but now it is mostly homosexuals but ofcourse it also means ciggerette , but why use a such a word for cigarrette, why not simply say cigarette ?

A common attribute of slangs is that they can mean a lot of different things, they become slurs when one of this is a negative adjective and one a group of people with a common attribute that has nothing negative about it.

Another common argument is that ,
Quote:asking people not to use certain slurs is useless because there will always be other words.
This is the Perfect Solution Fallacy
A similar argument is there is no use in making drug abuse illegal because people who are addict will manage to get drugs some way or the other.

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#2
This is not the Perfect Solution Fallacy. In the case of other solutions, like drugs for example, the solution will ensure severe curtailment of use if not completely eradicate it. In such a case, an appeal against a ban is ill advised.

However, in the case of Language, censorship or even voluntary retirement of certain words from the lexicon will not curtail any marginalization as alternatives will quickly replace them and with equal impact.

Moreover, the argument is not for the preservation of words like "nigger" that have been invented specifically for the purpose of abuse, they MUST go. But for words like "bitch" and "fag" that have alternate original meanings, but have been twisted to mean something offensive, that can be reclaimed.

The whole argument started because the following article advocates that such words should never be used:
http://nirmukta.com/2012/02/21/bitch-and...ng-to-use/

This is not only wrong but also futile.

Futile because, if given up, they will be replaced by other words swiftly and with the same impact.

Wrong because that would mean that anyone who uses such words in their original context will be viewed with disgust, even though they don't mean any harm.

Despite the fact that words like "bitch" and "fag" carry a historical baggage of years of oppression and abuse, one should also note that they were originally intended for something else and that it should be completely fine if someone wants to use them in their original context or even in the colloquial (non abusive) sense that prevails today.

Words without context and tone are empty and why that is so, is explained in these videos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncbnAY9vbKw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdZ05oUZ0sE

Hence, when used in a neutral context, they should be perfectly fine.
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#3
I wish not to argue further on this , at least from my side , before I clarify certain things.

No one is saying that if one doesn't do this ,s/he will be labelled immoral, dishonest etc. No one is *judging* a person nor anyone wishes to.

All that article , and commentors in FB are saying is , a request for instrospection on this issue in light of preventing *avoidable* discomfort to members of marginalized groups , and that too *voluntarily*. There is no moral judgement , no self patting , no conceit or 'sense of achievement' in this. Just plain introspection and voluntary action.

It's a sincere request. Please read the article and comments in light of this .

If during any of my comments in FB discussions, I came as aggressive , patronizing, judgemental , then please accept my sincere apologies for this.

Thanks
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#4
Quote:This is not the Perfect Solution Fallacy. In the case of other solutions, like drugs for example, the solution will ensure severe curtailment of use if not completely eradicate it.

And wouldn't asking people not to use those words curtail it's usage?

Quote:In such a case, an appeal against a ban is ill advised.
Who asked for a ban on anything? there have been suggestions on why not to use certain words, but it would always be voluntary.

Quote:However, in the case of Language, censorship or even voluntary retirement of certain words from the lexicon will not curtail any marginalization as alternatives will quickly replace them and with equal impact.
Well instead of saying any marginalisation , say will not curtail marginalization much .then we have something worth discussing, you should not simply claim that it would not work.


Quote:Moreover, the argument is not for the preservation of words like "nigger" that have been invented specifically for the purpose of abuse, they MUST go. But for words like "bitch" and "fag" that have alternate original meanings, but have been twisted to mean something offensive, that can be reclaimed.
I did not take up the word nigger in my original reply.It is a completely different category.

Quote:The whole argument started because the following article advocates that such words should never be used:
http://nirmukta.com/2012/02/21/bitch-and...ng-to-use/
Ok from here onwards i do not know if you are replying to me or the article,so let us simply refine the questions and pose them to the poster, I would post my comments but i do not wish to speak for the poster of the article.

Quote:This is not only wrong but also futile.
Futile because, if given up, they will be replaced by other words swiftly and with the same impact.
As long as they would not be instantly replaced by other words , you cannot use the word futile, say not much useful and we have something to ask the poster, though i must say, that these words came out in a time when gays were considered worth burning, time has changed a lot, so it would be very difficult to make any word that means both something to be burned and a homosexual, and make the word socially acceptable.
Action of shunning such words in itself entails a lot of consciousness raising and education on why they are wrong.
I cannot form a question worth asking, as long as they have any use, unless they are detrimental/wrong,we should not waste our energies on expressing why they should not be practiced, unless ofcourse they are wrong,then we can ask the poster some questions.

Quote:Wrong because that would mean that anyone who uses such words in their original context will be viewed with disgust, even though they don't mean any harm.
Ok that is taken , a common argument against this is we can hate the sin , not the sinner, but that is unrealistic, it is very difficult to find an argument stupid but not the arguer, a comment contemptible but not the commenter.

So combining this with the above argument maybe a question worth asking would be
Asking people not to use such words at all does not have much use (controversial) ,that is fine, but it also entails a moral judgement against those who use them(not controversial) , not as a slur, and considering that the word of fag as cigarette has become common , do these articles do more harm than good by creating an environment that does not help much (controversial but debatable ,not to use the word futile) to help the marginalized group, but does create an uncomfortable environment for people who have no wrong intentions.

does that deviate much from what you wished to ask?

It is however unfortunate that this question is worth asking,ideally it should not be,perhaps this video would pre-empt the need of that question, but if it does not, i suggest the question does not use extreme words as futile.




Quote:Despite the fact that words like "bitch" and "fag" carry a historical baggage of years of oppression and abuse, one should also note that they were originally intended for something else and that it should be completely fine if someone wants to use them in their original context or even in the colloquial (non abusive) sense that prevails today.
What if usage of this words in any way, does help in carrying forward the baggage of oppression , would it still be completely fine?
Perhaps we can refine(for the poster to respond) it as
Despite the fact that words like "bitch" and "fag" carry a historical baggage of years of oppression and abuse, one should also note that they were originally intended for something else and that it if someone wants to use them in their original context or even in the colloquial (non abusive) sense that prevails today, then we should not shun it(or it is not worth pointing out).
Or better , perhaps "then we should not shun it in public"
because IMO in humanist circles, this should not be an issue, i think people would be progressive enough not to make value judgements about someone being pointed out, and not to mind when pointed out.

Quote:Words without context and tone are empty and why that is so, is explained in these videos
:
Do not use the word empty as i have already said why in the above reply

Quote:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncbnAY9vbKw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KdZ05oUZ0sE
The video talks about profanity not slurs, the distinction is made clear in the above reply.
And the video talks about censoring words ,banning words not shunning them.

Quote:Hence, when used in a neutral context, they should be perfectly fine.
Why do you use the word "perfect" here, usage of such can "deceive the jury" .
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#5
(23-Feb-2012, 08:33 PM)Priyabrata Mahapatro Wrote: I wish not to argue further on this
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Thanks
Sorry i was creating my reply when you posted this, did not wish to push you into an argument.
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#6
(23-Feb-2012, 07:57 PM)Aamil Syed Wrote: However, in the case of Language, censorship or even voluntary retirement of certain words from the lexicon will not curtail any marginalization as alternatives will quickly replace them and with equal impact.

Use of offensive language has two parts two it
1. The language
2. The mindset.
If the mindset is not treated, other efforts might turn out futile.
BUT changing the language itself is one step towards changing the mindset. Once one starts introspection and understanding the sensitivity of the issue, its a start.

Also language is great tool to subconsciously create stereotypes and such mindsets. So cleansing of language is not totally futile. But ofcourse its not a sufficient condition. Mindsets have to be changed on different fronts as well.

(23-Feb-2012, 07:57 PM)Aamil Syed Wrote: Moreover, the argument is not for the preservation of words like "nigger" that have been invented specifically for the purpose of abuse, they MUST go. But for words like "bitch" and "fag" that have alternate original meanings, but have been twisted to mean something offensive, that can be reclaimed.

The whole argument started because the following article advocates that such words should never be used:
http://nirmukta.com/2012/02/21/bitch-and...ng-to-use/

I think you are reading too much into the title. That never is not intended literally. If there is some paper that lists all possible words that were used for a female dog, and it contains the word bitch, I don't think anybody would be objecting to that. The never here stands for "avoid as much as possible to the extent of not using it unless until absolutely required".

(23-Feb-2012, 07:57 PM)Aamil Syed Wrote: This is not only wrong but also futile.

Futile because, if given up, they will be replaced by other words swiftly and with the same impact.

The assumption that "other words will replace the current ones" mean that we are working on language cleansing ONLY and not on mindsets. Its obvious that if people don't change their mindset this will happen. But as I have already written, and as other members have already pointed out, this is to be practiced in conjunction to other aspects. Curtailing use of such offensive words/phrases helps in stopping the spread of "casual attitude towards sensitive thing". Infact as I have already said it can stop subconscious spread of bad notions.

(23-Feb-2012, 07:57 PM)Aamil Syed Wrote: Wrong because that would mean that anyone who uses such words in their original context will be viewed with disgust, even though they don't mean any harm.

Not meaning harm is absolutely no case (I will elaborate this in an anecdote at the end of this post). About moral judgements etc, you are confusing self introspected restraint with stigmatization. Nobody is proposing to make the words as some kind of taboo.

(23-Feb-2012, 07:57 PM)Aamil Syed Wrote: Despite the fact that words like "bitch" and "fag" carry a historical baggage of years of oppression and abuse, one should also note that they were originally intended for something else and that it should be completely fine if someone wants to use them in their original context or even in the colloquial (non abusive) sense that prevails today.

Wanting to reclaim the words is not a bad idea. But it totally depends on the associate costs and benefits. There is definitely some cost to the reclamation but absolutely no benefit. So I don't see any strong case. Even if there is some benefit, it has to be approved, intersubjectively, with first and foremost a "go" signal from the group that is apparently marginalized by the words/phrases.

Finally I just want to tell a personal anecdote about me realizing about my usage of an "offensive phrase". I was discussing with one of my colleagues about how I find Abhishek Bacchan extremely ordinary looking and I uttered the phrase "Ekdum rikshewaalaa jaisa dikhta hai" [Looks like a rickshaw waalaa].
From my tone, context and ofcourse my intent it will be absolutely clear to a person, who is from my native place, that I just meant to say that Abhishek Baccha looks ordinary. But it immediately struck me how offensive that sounds if understood carefully. It is downright derogatory. But believe me when I say that I had never, till that date, realized the offensive tone, just because I must have picked it up as casual usage from my relatives/friends.
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