“To raise awareness of the impact of the words we use, a group of WIU graduate students, who were charged with a mission to create a project that would make the world a better place, have created the #MyWordsMatter campaign at WIU. The campaign, which began last semester, is picking up momentum across campus.” — Western Illinois University
For a Western Illinois University press release in early March, University Relations Director Darcie Shinberger interviewed AJ Lutz, the assistant director of communication and marketing for Western Illinois University Housing and Dining Services, who provided the background of the grassroots campaign #MyWordsMatter at Western.
Last week, the release caught the attention of Suzette Martinez Standring, a nationally syndicated columnist with GateHouse News Service.
In her piece, “Word choice matters,” Standring reflected on her own experience when she didn’t think about the implications of a word she used:
Years ago while at a cafe, I complained about buying a jacket at full price, only to find it elsewhere at 75 percent off. “I got gypped on that deal,” I told my friend. Nearby, a stranger cut in on us, “You shouldn’t use ‘gypped,’ because it’s a racial slur. It suggests that all Gypsies cheat and steal. The term is offensive.”
I retorted, “You know what’s offensive? Eavesdropping on other people’s conversations.” I left, annoyed at political correctness run amok. Yet once I realized the word had a racial element, I never used it again.
In her column, Standring also noted the #MyWordsMatter buzz.
“Unknowingly, eight classmates created a campus-wide movement among 12,000 students who now promote taking responsibility for one’s words,” she wrote.
Standring also interviewed Lutz and noted that he suggested ways to speak up in a respectful way that doesn’t create shame or anger in others.
Use reflective questions. For example, ask, “Do you know what you’re saying when you say ‘that’s so gay?'” Often people will admit it’s something they’ve heard, or common slang, but it gets them thinking. Use a kind tone, and a meaningful conversation may emerge.
Read Standring’s column at www.norwichbulletin.com/columnist/x168224319/Suzette-Martinez-Standring-Word-choice-matters and follow the #MyWordsMatter campaign on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MyWordsMatter.