sparr (sparr0) wrote,
sparr
sparr0

Damaging communication and people through weaponization of language

One potential goal of communication is to move a factual idea from your head to my head, something about the state of the world.
 
A different goal of communication is to implant a feeling in my mind, making me feel happy or angry or sad or worried.
 
Often, these two goals are compatible, and capable speakers/writers can accomplish both more often than the average person.
 
When you prioritize the second goal, specifically for negative emotions, at the expense of the first, you engage in "weaponization of language". That is, using words to propagate emotions regardless of how inapplicable their meaning might be to the given situation.
 
If there are people who are helped by emotions being attached to those words, you are hurting them. If there are people helped by effective communication of the ideas connected to those words or connected to the words that would better convey the idea you have in mind, you are hurting them.
 
Most frequently encountered example: You are upset about being touched in a societally reasonable way, such as a tap on the shoulder on the subway to get your attention about blocking the door. You choose to describe the other person as a "consent violator". You did not choose this phrase because you expect it to convey the most accurate picture of what happened to people who hear you. You chose this phrase because you are angry and you expect it to be most effective at transferring that anger to the people who hear you. In making this choice, you are hurting victims of actual consent violations (i.e. the things that typical people think of when you say "consent violation"). You are watering down the words, so later when one of those actual victims uses these words to describe their situation, the listener will give it less weight. You are hampering every future discussion of consent and violations by adding an additional degree of uncertainty.
 
More recent less common example: "misgendering". When you use this word you know that you are evoking emotions associated with someone using "she"/"woman" to refer to a transgender man, or vice versa, or increasingly now using gendered words to refer to a nonbinary/genderneutral person. Most people do not think that "e" and "they" and "ze" are different genders, just different words for referring to nb/gn-ness. Using "misgendering" to refer to the situation where I use "they" instead of "ze" is detrimental to all future discussion about issues around gender and pronouns, and devalues the pain and struggle of transgender individuals who are frequently actually misgendered.
 

If you don't want to cause those outcomes, you should refrain from engaging in this behavior. 
Tags: badfaith, communication, gender, language, pronouns
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