Let’s All Get Offended

As you may have read, last night the offices of the Daily Tar Heel were visited by protesters who petitioned the DTH to adopt gender-neutral language and avoid using words like “freshman” and “chairman.” Even gender-specific terms like “chairman” and “chairwoman” have been voted down as they have been deemed offensive to intersexual people. To his credit, DTH Editor in Chief Andrew Dunn has said that the DTH follows the AP Stylebook and will not be changing that during his tenure.

But the protesters are absolutely right. I’m completely offended at the non-inclusive language that the DTH uses on a regular basis.

For example, they continue to use the terms “man” and “woman” or “male” and “female” in their writing. By pushing the false male-female dichotomy on our society, they are being offensive to intersexuals and making them feel like a small minority who shouldn’t be able to dictate the English language to the rest of society. The use of terms that distinguish between men and women only serve to highlight the differences between us and strengthen the sexual inequality inherent in our society.

For example, the differentiation in articles between men’s and women’s basketball teams inadvertently highlights the inequality between the programs in terms of attendance, stadium size and entertainment value. From now on, the DTH should refrain from identifying which basketball program it is talking about in an article. Also, player’s names should be made gender-neutral so we can’t cheat and tell which team they are talking about that way. From now on, all members of UNC basketball teams will take the first name of “Taylor” or “Madison.”

I also want to end the use of the term “March Madness.” While it is a widely accepted term in American slang, “Madness” is also an insulting archaic term for those who suffer from mental illness. The continued use of this term shows appalling insensitivity.

All movie and theater reviews will cease to use the term “actress,” as women in the dramatic arts fields will feel more equal and special if described by the masculine term “actor.” Actually, we’ll just get rid of the term “women” and call them “men” instead.

Actually scratch that, it’s sexist. We have to call them “persons.” Because nothing makes a person feel loved and appreciated more than calling them by a term that could apply to any Homo sapiens that has ever been conceived. Nothing is more inclusive than using a term that includes all of humanity. Actually, this might be offensive to other intelligent sentient life in the universe, so we’ll just use the term “sentients” instead. It’s very endearing.

The sentients at the DTH might want to further examine their sports page, specifically their reporting on mascots. For example, names like “Fighting Illini” that honor the memory of Native American tribes that our states were named after and who were all killed by other Native American tribes centuries ago are offensive to the descendants of these people, even though they don’t have any. The DTH should refrain from publishing such offensive and insulting mascots.

But it’s not just Native American mascots. As an American of Irish descent, the name “Notre Dame Fighting Irish” is highly offensive to me. We did not travel over here through Ellis Island just to be mocked by a university with a dancing leprechaun mascot. What’s more, as a descendant of protestant Irish, the use of the nickname “Fighting Irish” as well as associated green imagery by a Catholic university is highly offensive to me as it shows a distinct pro-IRA sympathy. The sentients at Notre Dame may not realize this, but their noninclusive language is creating a climate supportive of terrorism on another continent.

I would also be offended by the Syracuse Orangemen because I don’t want my heritage used for amusement purposes even though the origin of the Orangemen nickname has nothing to do with Irish, Dutch or Protestants, but they changed their name to the Syracuse Orange so they get a pass. Although the color purple might feel excluded and offended.

You may think this is going too far, but I don’t believe in being contained by the box society tries to put me in. In fact, using any sort of definition in any language automatically creates a boundary. By defining what something is, we are also defining what it is not. For example, when I saw “man” I am defining it as “not a woman.” When I say “plate,” I am defining it as “not a bowl.” By defining things, we exclude other things.

This is intolerant and not inclusive. To remedy this, I recommend the abolition of language. It is a tool of our patriarchal society which is used to oppress those who don’t fit inside its definitions. The solution is to stop defining things. That way, we don’t have to draw boundaries that might exclude some things. I realize this will make complex communication impossible. However, wolves, dolphins and chimpanzees manage to get along socially without language, so I don’t see why it should be a problem for human beings to do the same thing. After all, a lack of gendered language has allowed these species to form societies where everyone is equal and there are no dominating patriarchal hierarchies.

Now my fellow sentients, if you’ll all excuse me, I’ve got to stop using language now in the name of inclusiveness.


4 thoughts on “Let’s All Get Offended

  1. wgary Reply

    I have to admit that this parody, shall we call it, is a bit confusing. I've read more than my fair share of the New York Times and I've yet to be confused by their non-gendered language. It could be because I'm a mathematician/physicist, but I doubt it. From what I've witnessed here at UNC, everyone seems pretty intelligent to me. These protesters weren't arguing for the abolition of language, for the change of the members' names in the basketball team, for the change of the names, i.e. mens or women's UNC basketball team. I have a hard time understanding just how much they were asking at all. When I think transitioning from the language in the NY Times to the DTH, it's difficult for me to think of how much a change that entails. I guess, when it comes to the decision, to offend as few people as possible and making as small a change as possible, I don't see the big deal. Please tell me what the big deal is, because many of my peers, liberal or no, see this requested change as nothing more than a small change set to ensure against offending our community.

    • NJR Reply

      I'm assuming that the parody is meant to point out just how ridiculous the arguments for the change are. I have never once heard a girl express the sentiment that the use of "freshman" instead of "first year" was somehow demeaning to women. In fact, more than likely 95% (no stats on this, just conjecture) of the women on campus know what a freshman refers to, and are still able to sleep at night knowing that 1 year students, male or female, are being called freshmen.

      Here's the thing. A freshman isn't a freshMAN. Just like a woman isn't a woMAN. A freshman is just a freshman. We all know what it means and what it refers to. It honestly seems like these twits needed something to complain about and used this to satisfy that urge. They've blown this small "problem" WAY out of proportion. If a few hypersensitive girls feel offended at the term "freshman" then they will simply need to grow up.

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