Have you ever met uppity, know-it-alls on social media who try to debate you with facts and textbook definitions meant to validate opinions. Well, according to Everyday Feminism, they are using their dick-tionary. Don’t be intimidated, especially when engaging with serious topics like racism. And, whatever you do, don’t be suckered into cracking open a dictionary which expresses only the opinions of cisgender, white, male gatekeepers of language.
Everday Feminism editors even provide a long, tedious, not-so-funny cartoon to illustrate their point. Their advice is to seek specialized dictionaries that are written with specific groups in mind. These definitions will more accurately capture the essence of words as they are used in certain environments.
For instance, take the word racism. Webster’s defines this word as “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” Translation – when you look through the lens and attribute a person’s actions or capabilities to the color of his or her skin, you are being racist.
Switching to the Urban Dictionary (a Wikipediaish version of a dictionary) gives a much different perspective on the word racism. Pure bullshit. For those that need a little more explanation, the second definition explains that racism was “a term that used to mean prejudice towards one or more races.” (Note: that’s Webster’s definition in a nutshell). “In modern use, this word is used by people to explain the behavior of people of other races, whether race is called into the issue or not.”
Wait, what? So that might explain why a heated discussion on, say, climate change can lead to a charge of racism. If people aren’t acting right and actual facts are elusive, simply calling them racist can end the debate, leaving one feeling quite superior.
Thankfully the editors aren’t advocating we burn our traditional dictionaries. They actually do come in handy when trying to spell a word or playing a challenging game of Scrabble. Personally, I think Everyday Feminism might be onto something, especially when I see what words precede and follow racism in my old, white, straight man dick-tionary: