Language Matters

by Shaker SarahMC of The Pursuit of Harpyness

[Trigger warning.]

I really love this comic from Principia Comica:

[Click to view bigger.]

Why do people use the word "rape" to describe annoyances or hardships that don't come close to being like rape? I bet much of the appeal, for such people, is the shock value of using a word for sexual assault to describe something that has nothing to do with sexual assault.

Implying that failing a test or getting killed in a video game is as traumatizing and horrible as rape trivializes rape. I have never been raped, but I have a strong reaction to the misuse of the word (usually by men). Maybe it's because rape is a crime committed primarily against women. "Killed" and "murdered" don't rub me the wrong way; I think it's because both men and women are killed on a regular basis, by people of both sexes. Our culture does not apologize for murder, deny that it occurs, and immediately blame the victims for what happened to them. And murder goes unpunished far less often than rape.

Maybe it's because of the unapologetic, brash tone people tend to take when they misuse it. When people throw the word around casually, I feel as though they are dismissing rape and failing to put themselves in others' shoes. As the comic illustrates, people who'd use the word "rape" in that context have a massive blind spot when it comes to a threat women live with their whole lives.

People can be so clueless; but they also show a real disregard for others' feelings and comfort (that, or they delight in it). Does anyone have good strategies for confronting people who use triggering or otherwise offensive language in their presence?


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