Words: Sticks and Stones? Or Shaping How We See Ourselves?

Redux and with comment by: BettyJean Kling

PhD Sociologist Georgia Platts  a bodacious blogger on TMU posted the following blog post which I thought was one of her very best and then removed it because we came to odds about  censorship.  Please note Georgia posts twin pieces at my blog and at hers.

She censors my comments at her site what you see here in red will not be found at BroadBlogs. Georgia is not blogging with us anymore however in the interest of Sticks and stones and how we see ourselves – this incident absolutely needs to be discussed. Although she removed the original and all the comments – I have retrieved them and replaced them except for the one that she destroyed and alleges is a threat from me.

MY original comment is included within this piece the others appear as comments as best as I can recreate them from email accounts any omissions are accidental or were just not found. This is a very valuable study and your comments are greatly appreciated.

Originally Posted on November 10, 2010 by BroadBlogs

A friend once told me, “Words are nothing but frequencies in the air. If you don’t give them meaning, they won’t mean a thing.” Ever since he said that, I try to live my life as such.

This was a response to a blog post I made asking whether “whore” should be the “w-word.”  

“Words are only words” is great advice if you can pull it off. But most can’t. And really, words affect us all, whether we realize it or not.

As it turns out, language directs thought.

In the 1930s two anthropologists, Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf, learned that the Hopi Indians had no words to distinguish among the past, present, and future. Yet English uses a variety of tenses to describe specific points in time. Americans are intensely time-sensitive. Hopis? Not so much.

The anthropologists concluded that words are more than labels. Language affects how we see the world, ourselves, and how we behave.

Women are more likely to respond to a help wanted ad if the job description is “mail carrier” and not “mailman.”

In fact, we use male terms to describe humanity so much – man, mankind, brotherhood, fellowship – that when people are asked to think of a person, a man comes to mind.

When women or people of color are called words that are disrespectful and demeaning, they – along with everyone else – can internalize the notions, experiencing the words as reflecting some sort of real reality: They aren’t worth quite as much as others.

Words like whore or slut are especially powerful because women’s sexuality has long been connected to profound shame. The n-word takes African-Americans back to a time of degradation and dehumanization.

Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words can also hurt us when they dig deep into the unconscious psyche of indignity and humiliation.

Georgia Platts

 

1-freemenow, on November 10, 2010 at 12:33 pm said:

You are absolutely right – just ask anyone at whose expense “a name” is used.
What bothers me however is how women are easy targets and no one and no law protects them. Case in point: Imus was fired for called some innocent women Nappy headed Ho’s .

It was the “nappy” that got them fired. “Ho” should have been enough!

In my opinion the sexual slavery of women since the beginning of time, and which still continues in the form of sex trafficking right now – “ho” represents the objectification of women on the whole. This objectification is just as nasty, just as degrading a term to females as the “N” word is to people of color or any other derogatory terms used toward a group of persons.

As a survivor of child incest, teen rape and marital rape because those who used me thought of me as an object – nothing more than a cunt, bitch or ho to be used, slapped about and screwed – I have earned the right to feel the sting of these terms. Further, from my vantage, never truer words were spoken than came from John Lennon’s song ” Women are the Niggers of the World.”

I am stunned that so many women fail to see this for what it is given the statistics of abuse and it is amazing to me that women of color don’t seem to mind being slaves – so long as they are not black ones!

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15 Responses

  1. Poetri says: November 10, 2010 at 11:45 am
    I once heard a quote from Ernest J. Gaines, it stated, “Words mean nothing, and action is the only thing, doing, that’s the only thing.” I believe this is very similar to the quote that of your friend. I do believe that words mean something because, although the characteristics of derogatory words are irrelevant, the are considered arbitrary because the only people who believe them are the people who are saying them. You gave reference to African Americans and the n-word; although that word does not mean a thing to me, a group of persons used it to dehumanize and justify specific, malicious behaviors. Both whore and the b-word, I wouldn’t say are used exactly in the context of the n-word but the concept is the same because both of those words are used to degrade women. We must understand words, especially if they are aimed at us, because if we are oblivious to the name calling, we can definitely be affected negatively. A person can only internalize things for so long. You are right when you say that, “Words are only words,” if you can pull it off. This is the hard task. It is very difficult to pull it off all the time but for less demeaning terms (depending on the person), it is very possible.

  2. Georgia Platts says: November 10, 2010 at 10:25 pm
    I do think that the power of words can be lessened with effort, but words can get into our psyche in ways that we aren’t conscious of, making them that much more difficult to overcome.

  3. freemenow, on November 11, 2010 at 5:01 pm said:

    Considering women are constantly demeaned and objectified and our politicians are treated unequally to our males and if you look at the way our females are depicted in our media and in rap music- I really don’t see how anyone can logically claim

    “Both whore and the b-word, I wouldn’t say are used exactly in the context of the n-word”

    Further to say “A person can only internalize things for so long. ” that might refer to the use of the “N” word which refers to holding down the people of color and is not longer done openly however we are still openly degrading women and using these words prove it.
    In fact, my original comment was censored over at broadblogs http://broadblogs.com/2010/11/10/words-sticks-and-stones-or-shaping-how-we-see-ourselves/ to protect everyone but women which proves my point.
    It’s open season on women and we protect everyone else’s sensibilities.
    I want to know why my open honest feelings might be an affront to anyone but calling me a bitch or a whore is tolerable?
    For my uncensored comment about how these sticks and stones affect me and many other women please visit and comment https://freemenow.wordpress.com/2010/11/10/words-sticks-and-stones-or-shaping-how-we-see-ourselves/
    I was allowed to leave the above directing readers to read the sentences omitted.

    I thanked Georgia. It is understandable Ms Platts must protect herself and her employment and as I stated – we can’t be found with nigger in print but cunt, bitch whore is perfectly ok in our fine institutions.

  4. I assume the blogger to whom I was communicating went over to my blog as he replies he appreciated my honest and uncensored feedback!

    I wrote to Georgi and asked if she edited my comment and requested an explaination of what was expected.

    I assured her in the future and I would submit
    according to the rules.

    I also asked for a copy of the original so I could post it on my site where I do not censor these things when comparing derogatory terms between racism and sexism. She sent me the original showing I used the term in citing John Lennon’s work. Note – I found her insinuation a bit snarky!

    She responded:
    Here’s the original.

    And yeah, I was worried about offending my readers — worried some might not come back. I guess your readers are used to it.

    In future, maybe you could tone it down on my sight.

    Thanks.

  5. 5-Poetri says: November 10, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    I welcome your honest and uncensored feedback, it is definitely needed. I do understand, without a doubt the horrors that women face and the abuse that women face every day. I only say that the w-word and the b-word aren’t used in the exact context as the n-word because on one hand, the b-word and w-word is sexism and the n-word is racism.
    Women, who wish, can hide being a woman by wearing baggy clothes, or taking testosterone pills, and choosing their sexual orientation, on the other hand, one cannot hide being African American. I don’t want to give off the impression that being a woman does not have its issues because it does, they are just not the exact issues that African Americans face, although many are similar issues.
    Sexism and racism does exist. Using the n-word is done very openly. I really can detect it because I am African American, as you will know sexism exist because you are a woman. My argument is to say they are not exactly the same. Racism and sexism can be noted as a ton of feathers and a ton of bricks; they both weigh the same.

  6. 6- freemenow,
    I disagreed vehemently. I felt as if he were asking me to hide under a burqua and I also directed him to the current and continued slavery of women in the sex trade however- Ms. Platts deemed my reply unfit and removed it in its entirety cutting off all dialog between this gentleman and myself regarding the subject she herself brought up.

    I wrote to her asking for a copy and was told I had attacked this kindly Gentlman for no reason and it woouldn’t be tolerated. I again asked for a copy and again told her that if I had attacked I was not above an apology. I said this several times but also insisted on a copy of this attack. She refused saying she had no time to find it .

  7. Broadblogs In response to freemenow on November 10, 2010 at 2:47 pm:
    :” Comments that seem, to my sense, hostile will be edited or deleted entirely.”

  8. I replied through email Thu 11/11/2010 9:59 AM
    I will refrain from commenting on your blog- I am however surprised – and I will let you figure out why.
    I value your posts so continue to post on my site- we allow open and honest discussions where women are allowed to defend themselves.
    Kindly return to me the answer you found so repulsive.
    I will be happy to apologize should it be necessary.

  9. Every request was answered with find it yourself- or some variation thereof.

  10. 8- BroadBlogs says: November 11, 2010 at 8:26 pm
    To freemenow: Just fyi, I don’t allow hostility in my classroom or on my blog. In both cases I expect people to present their differing opinions, but it must be done respectfully. And I won’t allow the n-word at all on this blog.

    I wrote to her at least 3 times that I would not use the N word on her blog. That had been settled hours earlier. That she refuses to prove I had attacked anyone and saying she doesn’t have time to find the proof is completely unprofessional.

  11. How we met ?
    August 2010, Georgia wrote a piece entitled “Why Are We More Offended By Racism Than Sexism?”

    https://freemenow.wordpress.com/2010/08/18/why-are-we-more-offended-by-racism-than-sexism/

    I thought I finally met a PhD who got it! I had her on my radio show.

    Your thoughts please ? Both on the Gentleman of color and Georgia for censoring me. I am waiting for a copy of my comment because it may indeed have been out of line for her site but an honest response suitable I believe for this one.

    Oh and I am NOT more offended by racism than sexism, APPARANTLY Georgia is .

    And I am not closed to an honest and open discussion APPARANTLY Georgia is .

    And I have the guts to discuss these things but APPARANTLY Georgia doesn’t.
    Maybe when women stop shrinking we will get somewhere, especially those of us who are in charge of educating our young women. I think the responsibility is even greater to open this communication without fear of being called racists!
    For the last three years we women have learned that we will no longer go to the back of the bus for anyone – take the white guilt and shove it!

  12. SWPAnna Friday, November 12, 2010 6:56 AM

    Georgia picked a fight she can’t win, copped your personal power and must now rationalize. That she doesn’t “have time” is revealing. Throughout my career, I’ve encountered people who covet my personal power conduct back-alley style approaches to take it from me via such “partnerships.” She has entered an agreement to defend the gentle, innocent, never-say-a-negative-utterance person of the male gender – not unlike the progressives pamper Obama. The wolf in sheep’s clothing uses predatory skills to induce you to express yourself while his “partner” builds him up in contrast to your “fair game for reprimand” candor. Ignorant women who have sociology insight but lack respect for the tactics of the “armed” must be held in a separate arc, not fought. She is tapping you to drain you of your power without personally going through the experience process to acquire it legitimately, as you have. Consider the phenomenon of women sending letters to men in prison proposing marriage to serial killers! It isn’t love, NOR IS IT RESPECT FOR THE MAN that motivated her to interfere with the discussion. It was the LUST FOR THE POWER THAT YOU EXUDE. Hold your power to yourself and stay pretty. She has shown her hand, given you advance warning of intent to disrupt your mission to hijack it to her own agenda. Transcend.

    Respectfully withdraw yourself from a power struggle that does nothing but drain your resources and wastes your time, energy and audience. We ‘played this game’ with Hillary, Obots and the Press in 2008. Wiley black men are on a roll, cleaning up while the wimminz try to get their share of attention. To the Social Studies world, it is a pity party for the guys trying to deal with crazy ladies. To the Women Organized, Mobilized, Empowered – and (remind me; what was the “N” for? – maybe it’s interchangeable for the word that you just labored to link to negative connotations.)
    The guy entered the discussion and needed no blog monitor to protect him against an above-board, candidly open entity such as yourself. If he’s got any integrity, he can thank his partner, respectfully ‘take it outside” her control, and proceed to put on his big boy pull-ons to entertain a legitimate discussion.

  13. Georgia flipped out over this one. —–Original Message—–
    Sent: Friday, November 12, 2010 6:56 AM
    If you continue to send comments like this to me, I will stop posting on your blog.
    And with that she removed all the comments:

    Georgia came into my blog and removed all evidence of our discussion about the so-called attack and her continued refusal to produce the evidence while she continue to make the accusations.

    Truth be told – There was no attack – She refused to produce it and yet would have you believe that I attacked an African American male on her site without provocation.

    Once she realize I might have a witness to the discussion we had back and forth before she wiped out all evidence and refusal to show me the evidence of such an attack.

    • I tried to post my support of you on this yesterday, Betty Jean, but the entire post was gone – which I discovered after hitting the submit button.

      Then, I amended and tried to post there, over there, but thought maybe you had deleted the post and was through with.

      If you don’t want my comment here BJ, just delete it:

      —–

      I was up until 4 am this morning over how to present this gnawing “argument” in my head – with the primary goal of surviving censorship, while attempting to speak my own opinions, freely.

      I believe the response(s) are precisely, yet another, layer of a conditioned imposition upon women to watch their step in attempting to point out disparities in progress in the protection of “classes”, including a disparity in intense sensitivity between sexist and racist slurs.

      Such “sensitivity”, I believe, should include a woman’s right to express her sensitivities to the disparities in how often sexist slurs are used, even in the headline of a blog post, without regard for their impact (sensitivity).

      Freemenow’s effort to make a comparative point, however uncomfortable to hear or contextually awkward it may have been stated in someone’s opinion, was spot on, considering the topic.

      I thought her point was well-put in pointing out blatant differences in the intensity of public reaction to, and disregard for, sexist slurs compared to that of racist slurs.

      She was proven right in her censored attempt to bring attention to how her own, as well as, many others’ intense sensitivities to sexist slurs can be completely disregarded – overlooked or completely overshadowed by the largely accepted and protected, intense sensitivities to the use of racial slurs.

      The disparity in “intense insensitivity” exists, primarily because publicly confronting all of the layers of sexism and misogyny is relatively new. Defining and/or protecting the platform upon which we stand – in our fight to root out every aspect of bigotry and prejudice – by exposing the damage they cause – or sharing with others how subtle they can be, yet sting like a fiery dart, discriminate and oppress – especially when masquerading as something else – is all a part of the road to real progress.

      Here is what I would like to say to Poetri, in an effort to make a “respectful” appeal to at least consider my viewpoint, as a woman, in differences between racism and sexism:

      Poetri:

      There is no way that I would even attempt to argue your point of racism and sexism as having different qualities (“not the exact same”, as you said). In fact, I would agree.

      As a woman, I experience “Sexism and Misogyny” and “Bigotry and Prejudice”as one and the same as.

      I also have no desire to hide or change my gender, as you suggest I could as one of the primary differences in color verses gender in our respective battles to protect oneself from bigotry and prejudice. Yet, in having been born female, I am exposed almost daily to the potential of sexualized aggression and/or gender violence, simply because I was born female.

      In the United Sates of America, my gender is exploited and debased in a plethora of ways still, that African Americans, any ethnicity, are specifically protected from under federal law. To even verbally assault you with racial slurs, if charged by you, could be prosecuted as a hate crime.

      I applaud the fact that you, or any ethnic, religious and cultural group, have that recourse. I would protest today against any entity or individual that would challenge the necessity of such laws. They are necessary, because racism not only epitomizes inhumanity, left unbridled – unprotected under law – racism will justify the most atrocious of abuse of human beings – even murder.

      The reason that women continue to be exposed to domestic and/or sexual violence and abuse or endure the most profane “words” in the degradation of our gender – publicized at will – is because our humanity is not protected under law – despite overwhelming evidence that our gender is the most targeted in the world for acts of violent crime and oppression.

      There has been a paradigm shift toward racism in America – along with a a greater understanding of the global dependencies of all nations, and their people, upon each other. Racism certainly still exists, but it is inarguable that it is on a steady decline. Undoubtedly, the effects of our history of racism persists, but there is real hope today that the laws enacted to protest one’s humanity from racial hate are socially and culturally respected, as a rule, rather than an exception.

      However, physical and sexual violence against women, which includes the blatant use of sexism and misogyny, are not on the decline. Hundreds of millions of females die each year around the world – targeted because of their gender. Women are grossly under-represented on the political and legislative front, as well as, intentionally oppressed from making socio-economic progress around the world, because of their gender.

      The figures supporting those assertions are staggering, Poetri. Why? Because the female gender is an unprotected class. Because the subjugation of women has been so normalized. Because the majority of crimes committed against women and girls are viewed in a somewhat different light – domestic and sexually motivated. All of those same crimes, however, would be categorized as hate crimes if disproportionately committed by one group against a more vulnerable group. Thus, the crimes committed against the humanity of women and girls go on and on and on.

      Yes, “racism” and “sexism” are not the same – in how their impact upon our respective humanity is viewed and treated.

      Until they are, women and girls will continue to suffer what most nations would find intolerable, if committed against “protected classes” of human beings.

      I ask you, as an African American that has an innate ability to understand the up-hill battle to insure one’s protection under law from all targeted violence, discrimination and oppression – and the opposition to exposing every aspect of systemic bigotry and prejudice – why females are not protected as a “class”?

  14. Georgia,
    Regarding your comment “If you continue to send comments like this to me, I will stop posting on your blog.”

    First- I own my womanhood and I don’t respond well to treats and refuse to be censored or have any of my authors censored on my blog for expressing themselves as women. Perhaps you should read SOCIAL CONDITIONS INSPIRED WOMEN TO SPEAK UP — IN SPEAKING UP WOMEN CHANGED HISTORY Lois Phillips, PhD

    “In the nineteenth century, the prevalent view was that . . . “ only by robbing woman of all her intellectual and creative resources can man protect his usurped power. He will not even let you speak . . . particularly not in public, or to other women, for the public arena, which is a source of influence and intellectual improvement, has also been monopolized by man.”

    Next presenting yourself as a Sociaologist in the 21st. Century, I am disgusted that you have applied to me and now to Anna this dehumanizing formula. In this instance, the demonstration of double standards was pretty blatant on your part right down to the part of accusing me of provoking a male writer and then defending him when he asked for no defense and clearly stated he appreciated my honest and uncensored feedback!

    You stepped in and closed the discussion, you accused me of an attack no one but yourself has seen and now yoou refuse to produce the evidence.

    Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

    I suggest you think long and hard about what happened here both for your sake and that of your students. You took this personally- ruined the entire intent and skewed the outcome and I would never trust the efficacy of any of your work.

    Who but women could represent women? You want to rely on brainwashing from those who would have you believe something about women that is not true. Therefore, you cannot be an unbiased representative of women. And you have tampered with data that could have been useful had you been looking for the real answers rather than trying to prove what you think you already know. Very poor science. Very poor!

    Such is the state of Education today and we wonder why our staus has fallen- our educators …

    You will find you are no longer registered or welcomed at my blog.

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