War on Words

Stanford’s recommendation to eliminate harmful language backfires

War on Words

Brynn Friesen, Web Editor

Karens — we know them as the privileged adults who disrespect employees, belittle others and are high maintenance. We also know them as something to harmlessly joke about.

According to Stanford University, though, this term is derogatory and should never be used. Instead, they suggest using “entitled woman” or “demanding woman” because this nickname “ridicules” disrespectful privileged women.

What does not make sense with this is how saying they are entitled is any better than using the nickname assigned for a person acting in a derogatory way toward others.

While the Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative provides various words that should never be used in any instance, there is an astounding amount of terms that should not be considered harmful.

In addition, the list failed to mention so many disparaging terms commonly misused by people, including homophobic insults.

By placing the term “karen” on the list — a nickname for entitled white women — thus deeming it harmful, it disregards any actually derogatory phrases not listed in the statement. 

While many people would love to be educated about what they should and should not say, with society finally making more of an effort to get rid of certain words or phrases, this list does not do so in an effective or proper way.

Carleton College professor Deanna Haunsperger has a physical disability, and she believed the list left out multiple ableist terms commonly used historically and currently by people across communities. 

And, while she found that many of these listed terms were offensive, she recognized it excluded multiple sayings that are actually harmful.

Additionally, there are multiple words and phrases used as a saying or to describe something, such as “have the balls to,” “abort” and “take a shot at.” 

They say “give it a go” instead of “take a shot at” because it is too violent. Say “cancel” instead of “abort” because it apparently always relates back to the act of abortion. Say “bold” instead of “have the balls to” because it relates back to masculine anatomy. 

Each of these phrases is commonly used as a harmless way to describe something and should never have been listed in a directory of damaging terms. 

Instead of the multiple listed, Stanford should have introduced their students, faculty and the online community to actual slurs and offensive phrases to avoid. 

This list does nothing to effectively educate society on what they can and cannot say, failing to educate its intended audience on the importance of omitting certain words from daily vocabulary.

The involvement of some of the words overshadows the terms that are valid in the reasoning of why it should either never be used or be substituted for a better version. If statements such as the Stanford List continue to be released, society will never fully learn and understand what it truly should be avoiding and what might be offensive to others.

Stanford, already having taken the list down, should now release an improved, less transparent version of what phrases to exclude. This way, people would actually be able to learn what is acceptable and what is not.

It is time to abort — sorry, cancel — the mission of trying to find any and everything offensive and take a deeper look into what should actually be done away with in society today. If this is not done, how can the derogatory language we hear ever be truly eliminated?