If there was ever anything that I can't stress enough, it's that words are powerful. And I say this as someone who got swept up in the "words are just words" bullshit that has ended in bizarre parodies of nazism that is basically indistinguishable from actual nazism, probably because they're actually nazis hiding behind the principle of Schrodinger's Douchebag.
Anyway, it's time yet again for me to share a piece by the incredible Ijeoma Oluo, who wrote on the power of words after an extremely unfortunate article was published by The Stranger on people who have de-transitioned. The article was written by a cis woman and was widely criticized for quoting extremely transphobic "scientists" and giving fuel to transphobes just days before the deadline for the transphobic group "Just Want Privacy" to turn in their signatures to get a horrific bathroom bill on the ballot in Washington State. Also, The Stranger is no stranger to transphobia, having built its legacy on the foundation of Dan Savage, a transphobic, biphobic, lesbophobic, aphobic, misogynistic white cis gay man.
Ijeoma spoke out against this article in solidarity with trans people, and the whole thing kinda blew up, concluding in the original author of the de-transition piece writing an ill-advised response to the responses piece that put the last nail in her coffin as far as I'm concerned. What Not To Do If You're Called Out 101 here.
The point is, words are incredibly powerful. Words are everything. They're how we think, primarily. They form every opinion that forms the foundation of every action we take. I can't stress this enough. And neither can Ijeoma.
When Your Words Are Weapons
There is no way to be an impartial writer and a responsible writer at the same time. Absolutely nothing we do is without bias. From the moment we decide what subjects to cover over others, we are showing bias. If you say you are unbiased, you are lying, and that’s not a very good start down the road of journalistic integrity. Therefore, with every choice we make, we have responsibility to be fully aware of the choices we are making and the impact that those choices may have on the community at large — especially when our work may impact marginalized communities with limited ability to mitigate the damage that our work may cause.
When you decide to write about marginalized communities you are responsible for what you know, what you don’t know, what you say, what you don’t say, and most importantly — how your words will be used to help or harm. Sometimes a writer will do as much due diligence as possible and still will fuck up and wind up providing the perfect weapon to those who wish to do harm. Even then, the writer should be held accountable for their part in that. We are never blameless for the words we write.
I'm very careful with the language I use on this blog. Everything I regret most in life involves a careless use of words. Because though sticks and stones can break bones, words can leave deep psychological scars that never really heal and can incite entire mobs of people with sticks and stones to attack someone to the point of their death so.
As a writer, if you try to convince me that words can't harm, I will lose all respect for you immediately.