The University of Wisconsin-River Falls has launched a new campaign to warn students who use potentially offensive language to “check themselves.” The “Check Yourself Educational Campaign” has set up a list of terms it has deemed problematic, including “ugly,” “crazy,” and “bitch.”
While many of the words listed on within the list are run-of-the-mill racial slurs or derogatory terms like “c*nt” and “f*ggot,” colloquialisms like “you guys” are also deemed verboten.
The guide they’ve published is said to help students “educate [themselves] about the language and the histories of oppression,” as if referring to a group of people with a term that’s colloquially understood to be gender neutral is actually offensive.
“Sometimes we say things without realizing the impact they may have on others,” suggests the UW River Falls campaign. “Take time to educate yourself about language and the histories of oppression. This list is not extensive, but touches on common identities and concepts. Read them. Consider them. Understand them. And Check Yourself before you use them.”
In addition to the prohibitions on innocuous, yet potentially problematic terms, the guide tells readers to never ask about a transgender person’s identity (except directly) or offer gender-oriented information about anyone when asked. Under its reason “why not” to do so, the guide deems the behavior “inappropriate” with no further explanation.
The guide warns against using terms like “b*tch” in any language, and words referring to female genitalia. It suggests: “Using words that refer to people with vaginas to express that someone is weak or emotional dehumanizes women and perpetuates misogyny and sexism.”
Unsurprisingly, there is no prohibition on calling anyone a “dick.”
Students are asked never to use the term “illegal alien,” because to do so is to reduce undocumented immigrants to “something less than human,” and that doing so “asserts that some people belong here more than others do.”
Use of the term “fat-ass” is said to reinforce “harmful assumptions that fat people are gluttonous and are fat because they have no constraints around food.” It adds that the term “also implies that there is an acceptable amount of food to eat and anything more is disgusting, or that enjoying too much food is disgusting.”
Well, is it?
“Ugly” also appears on the list, because it “can be connected back to white supremacist, ableist, sizeist standards of beauty.”
Synonyms for words like “worthless,” “bad,” “crazy,” “incapable,” and “unintelligent” are also on the list of prohibitions. The guide argues that such terms target disabilities and present people as objects for ridicule — presumably hurting their feelings. It does not present any alternatives, however, for how one might refer to anyone incapable of doing a job.
Perhaps workplaces that employ graduates of UW River Falls educated with this mindset can pay them in gold participation stickers.