Students at one St. Paul, Minn., based-school are going to have to start watching their tongues, for a new campaign introduced on the campus seeks to ban words like “girl,” “derp,” and “lame” in an effort to halt “oppressive” language.
First reported by Campus Reform, Macalester College’s Department of Multicultural Life has launched an initiative called the “More Than Words: Inclusive Language Campaign.” Designed to “raise awareness about the importance of using inclusive language,” the school’s campaign bans words including “derp,” “you guys,” and “girl.”
“I think we underestimate the true impact of our words, especially because we only live from our own viewpoint, really, and we never really see the value that our words may have on another person’s point of view and their history and their identity,” a student said in a video promoting the initiative.
“I joke around with my friends like, ‘Don’t be a wuss. Don’t be a girl. Come on, just do this.’ And I never really took the time to think about what that meant and how loaded that phrase was,” another student featured said.
According to a website explaining the “More than Words Campaign,” the initiative seeks to “help people to think about how their seemingly meaningless daily interactions, behavioral patterns and language are tied into pervasive sociocultural beliefs, histories, and systems.”
Students at Macalester College were first introduced to the campaign by a handful of posters encouraging them to stop using words like “girl” — as in “don’t be a girl” — “gay” and “retarded,” Campus Reform reported.
But the school has since deployed a second wave of posters that multiplied the suggested words students should refrain from using.
Daniel Surman, a senior at Macalester, told Campus Reform the new batch of posters included words like “crazy” and “derp,” as they could offend individuals with disabilities. The poster encourages students to use alternative phrases like “unpredictable or erratic,” or “that’s ridiculous.”
“And that’s when people started being like, ‘Is this seriously happening?'” Surman said of his classmates’ reactions.
Other words the college discourages students from using include “lame,” “invalid,” and “spaz.” The website states such phrases have an “oppressive impact in our society.”
“Our culture is heterosexist, it’s racist, it’s patriarchal, it’s transphobic, homophobic, agist, ablest, all these isms, right, and all these different kinds of inequality,” SooJin Pate, a visiting assistant professor of American Studies at Macalester, said in a video about the campaign. “Our language, the language that we use, not only reflects that culture, but it also creates it. And so if we aren’t conscious about the power of words, that words have the power to destroy, and it also has the power to empower others and ourselves, then we will unwittingly perpetuate inequality in our society.”
The campaign encourages students to become more aware of the words they use, because if they don’t, they “may inadvertently use the power of our voice to oppress and degrade others.”
According to Campus Reform, students have not been punished for using what is deemed to be offensive language.