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Bigot. Sexist. Misogynist. Anarchist. Narcissist.
These words are loaded with impact, hence the reason they’re used to death. So much of our media is littered with these types of words that though the sting remains, they’ve begun to lose their meaning.
I agree that there are conversations we should be having, not just as a nation, but everywhere. There are collective narratives that need to be examined and discussed. There are societal norms that aren’t healthy.
However, the words we’re using have become muddied and ineffective.
For example, to label a man a misogynist or a sexist because he compliments a woman for being attractive is not exactly correct, but we hear about it all the time. What do those words actually mean?
a person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against women.
So if I’m following that logic, then a man complimenting a woman’s appearance means he thinks she’s inferior? Not hardly. Two years ago, the President was accused of being sexist for doing this very thing. Regardless of your political affiliation, does anyone honestly believe he discriminates against women and blatantly claims men are superior? Because that’s what sexism is.
Even Jerry Seinfeld recently commented on the overuse of the words racist and sexist. I have to agree with Jerry, I don’t think that people know what those words really mean anymore.
Let’s take a look at another one:
When I was younger, this word was rarely used because it was such a severe accusation. Now, people are being called “bigots” simply for having a different opinion. Not for being intolerant, but for disagreeing, for religious reasons or otherwise.
The fact that these words are being thrown around casually has diluted the meaning, but not the inference. The inference is that you really ARE those things you’re being labelled, but the call to action those words used to encourage is gone.
This morning, Seth Godin’s blog post on Name Calling addressed this very thing. (If you don’t already follow Seth, he’s just about the world’s greatest marketing genius.) Seth is a master when it comes to the impact of word choice.
I truly believe that these words are now being used to incite rage, rather than to encourage change.
There is nothing effective about complaining that your boss is a narcissist, if the truth is that they’re a little materialistic.
You can’t have a meaningful conversation about the government if you’re immediately calling someone an anarchist just for disagreeing with current policies.
There are dozens more words we could think of…extremist, racist, feminist, zealot, etc. Let’s be fair when we’re throwing those words and labels around. They may not mean what you think they mean.