The Weight of Words 

By Cheveyo Baker

We tend to go through life saying things without giving our words a second thought. However, this can be a very harmful practice, especially as we move towards a society that has grown to accept more individuals for who they are. There are normalized phrases and words people say that continuously perpetuate the idea that it is okay to look down on people based on attributes and ideas outside of our control.. The sooner we address our own imperfections and prejudices, the sooner we can begin to unlearn the actions that have allowed us to hurt others.

 One particular phrase that leaves our mouths often is, “That’s so gay,” or numerous other variations of the  phrase. While some may look at this particular phrase and think nothing of it, this can be detrimental to the LGBTQ+ community. Most times when this phrase is used, it has a negative connotation. This phrase and many other phrases that associate particular activities and actions with “being gay” perpetuates the idea that being gay or apart of the LGBTQ+ community is a negative aspect of someone’s identity. From constant scrutiny faced by the LGBTQ+ community and a growing teenage community that continues each day to figure themselves out, to normalize these phrases means to normalize a constant condemning of the community. This forces teens and really anyone in the community to feel as though they need to hide their true identities.. What needs to be realized by many people is that being a part of the LGBTQ+ community is not a choice. For people to consistently condemn someone for something they cannot control, normalizing this language will push our society backwards in terms of acceptance.

 Another set of phrases that needs to leave our vocabularies are “Be a man”, “Man up”, or “Boys will be boys”. When these phrases are used, an agenda of toxic masculinity is not only pushed further, but it is accepted. To say “be a man” gives the impression that men need to act and behave a certain way. This concept applies to any gender that has a gender role. In particular, an expectation of toughness and hardness is bestowed upon men, resulting in dangerous behavior being displayed by those who feel as though they need to either subdue feelings or act overly macho. This, more than anything, hurts women tremendously. When the phrase “boys will be boys” is used, it is used mostly to excuse violent and abusive behavior displayed by men. With the acceptance of this behavior, we belittle women who attempt to speak up about their experience with men who abused them. When this behavior is enabled, we are allowing fear of being ridiculed to overcome justice. This should not be allowed.

 Something we should also be wary of is taking the time to speak about other people’s clothing or other material things. The privilege of purchasing really nice accessories or items is not afforded to everyone. You can never know the true financial situation of another person. As a result of COVID and other issues in the United States of America, there is an increase of families who struggle immensely with finances. Many of these people have to sacrifice glamorous things. If you take the time out of your day to criticize how someone else lives, you are potentially throwing salt on their wounds. Think of the things you say and never assume someone is as privileged as you. Think of your actions and simply choose to be kind.

 While there are a multitude of other phrases to cover that should leave our vocabulary, these are some of the most prominently heard in our everyday lives. To revert back to a society in which we are condemning individuals on the basis of sex, sexuality, race, religion, economic status is bad. We do not want to return back to the ugly time period where only those who were white, rich, and cisgendered held power over others. Though this dynamic is still fairly prevalent in our current society, we have begun to realize that we do not need to live under this hierarchy. We have begun to fight back by realizing that words hold weight and choosing to stop using those words can go such a long way to making a better world.