Our Words Matter!

Just like the constant repeating of a brand or a jingle influences us to feel like certain brands are cool, or that we really, really need to buy that new iphone, the words we choose crystallize our perceptions, shape our beliefs, drive our behavior, and create our world-view.

Is a person who has experienced a violent situation a “victim” or are they a “survivor”?  When we say victim, it is easy to understand that the person experiencing the abuse is not at fault in any way, but it also gives the idea that the person is powerless.  When we say “survivor” we acknowledge their power and honour them for getting through a horrible situation.  In the end, it’s always up to the person who has experienced violence to decide how or if to describe themselves with any of these words.

Have you ever noticed that men and women often called different things for the same behaviour?  It might sound like it doesn’t really matter, but how often have you ever heard a man called “gossipy” or “bubbly”?  Do men ever have “a blond moment”, or do they ever “nag”?

The truth is that when a boy or a man shows leadership they are often praised for it and called a natural leader, powerful, aggressive (in a good way) and confident, while women and girls are called bossy, abrasive and humourless.  Even descriptions like “caring”, “compassionate” and “nurturing” tend to put the focus on traditionally female characteristics, rather than accomplishments.  Have you ever heard those words used to praise a man?

The words we use to describe men and women and boys and girls can build walls and reinforce a culture that puts limits on all of us, or they can make a more free, safe, and equal society.

What do you think?  Any words or phrases that really make you wild, or even just irritated?