Sunday, 15 June 2014

Harmless Words

On Facebook I often see a caption that states, "I am a freak and I don't care. Share if you agree".
I will never share this.
As someone who grew up with disabilities, I was often called names and one of those was "Freak".
Homophobia and Transphobia also contributed to my sense of isolation - to the extent that I took the side of the bullies and also considered myself a "Freak".
Thus this caption disturbs me as I can't help but interpret it as others falling into the same trap I did of siding with the bullies of this world.
I guess it is supposed to be empowering - a "We're all different. So why worry about being different?" kind of message - except I don't find the language at all empowering. Why use the word "Freak"? Why label ourselves in such a way?
To me, it would be the same as stating, "I am a tranny and I don't care".
The word "Tranny" is as loaded with hate as the word "Freak", so I would very much care if I or others saw myself as a "Tranny"!
I suppose, though, that there is an argument of trying to claim back these words of hate.
People point to the word "Nigger" and say that word has been claimed back. I disagree.
For, even though the black community now use that word amongst themselves, if I were to call someone "Nigger" I would cause just as much offense as ever. And I don't refuse to use that word because the black community now use it but because I have been educated as to how offensive that word is.
So what claiming back has actually taken place? The black community have not claimed that word back from anyone. It still exists with all it's potency but people now choose not to use it.
And that I believe is the key to all this: We need to be making better choices.
You can't force people not to use words. No matter which word you ban, another will arrive to take it's place.
Instead we need better education and kinder hearts so that the desire to use words as weapons is no longer there.
After all, it is not the weapon that causes the harm but the person who uses it.