Monday, August 22, 2005

Using WHORES: an email exchange

I posted something on the discussion board referring to the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) as "whores" for their relationship to big business. Someone read it and sent me this private email taking offense at my use of the word "whore." my response follows.
From: Eloriel
To: Yurbud (Professor Smartass)

I guess you haven't read DU rules lately (or ever?)? Some language -- including "whore" -- is no longer acceptable here:

While specific words are not automatically forbidden, members should avoid using racist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise bigoted terminology. This includes gender-specific terms such as "bitch," "cunt," "whore," "slut," or "pussy," and terms with homophobic derivation, such as "cocksucker," which are often inflammatory and inappropriate. One common exception is the use of the phrase "media whore," which is permitted.

And why would you want to risk offending DU women with your sexist language in the first place?

I don't get it.

From: Yurbud (Professor Smartass)

I chose whore because it has more impact and takes up less space than prostitute.

It was also not meant in any way as an insult to women but to describe an economic relationship that we have no other equally insulting term for. If you have an equally effective way to make the same point with a different word, I'll consider using it.

It is more important to express things with the appropriate emotional force to get people's attention AND be accurate about what I'm describing than to avoid offending someone over a word that in this case probably has no connection to their life.

On the other hand, If you are a sex worker, I did not mean to insult you, anymore than I would mean to insult janitors if I said Bush isn't qualified to be one.

You would have a point if I used that particular word to refer to a woman simply for being a woman or in a way that I wouldn't refer to a man, like "that bitch" or "that whore." As far as I know, I have never posted anything like that about a woman here.

Like most people here, I have noticed that many female Senators and Congresspeople have acted with more courage and conviction than their more cowardly and compromised male colleagues. I would vote for Barbara Boxer for president without reservation, and I wrote Medea Benjamin to encourage her to run against Dianne Feinstein in the primary again because she would do a better job as senator than any other man or woman.

You probably know all this intuitively, just as you might use "bitch" to mean complain without thinking it's degrading to women.

Keep your eye on the ball here. We're talking about how to recover our democracy, and being insulted by this is on the level of which fork to use first at a formal dinner.

I recognize your user name, and I think we have often agreed on things.

But if you spend your time worrying about issues like this, you are likely to be frustrated and end up annoying people who would otherwise be your natural allies.

You might notice the exception at the bottom of the rule you cited.

In short, as a friend and ally, I ask you to grow the fuck up.

PS: I urge you to post this concern on a public board for discussion.


psyop samurai said...

Bad case of "the nannies" about, and well-meaning people are susceptible. One particularly virulent strain renders the patient oblivious to any notion of "context" or "hierarchy of significance".

Should we miraculously survive the all-out emergency we find ourselves in, we really must address these matters. And it's not the open-and-shut case some would have us believe. We inherit a culture and a language derived from that culture which is not our personal creation. We must use that language effectively. How could you possibly have a discussion about the DLC and *not* use the term "whore"?

To me (and I'm a gay male), these gender assignations seem arbitrary and meaningless. Why identify with them? Yes, there's bias reflected in language, rooted in historical circumstance, and we should be aware of that, but I don't think you can just censor it away. In fact, you can do more harm attempting to.

Of course, the "nanny" question extends beyond issues of gender. Personally, I think some folks need to toughen up a bit, and worry less about imposing the correct standard and more about a person's intentions.

Then again, I find "cocksucker" hilarious in just about any context, so maybe it's just me. :)

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