It seems sad to me that people allow words to have this power over themselves. Words only have damaging qualities when you, the person having words directed at you, allow them to damage you. Derogatory terms for races, sexes, sexual orientations, religions, “curse words”… they are just words. Stop letting them offend you, and they stop being offensive.
"But my dear, Secretary," many will scream as they gnash their teeth, "you don’t know the historical pain and baggage attached to these words. Calling women cunts, African-Americans niggers, homosexuals fags… these are horribly destructive and hateful!" And I would agree that historically these words were very destructive. They were often hurled with hate an venom with little more than vemon and hate to explain why they were being thrown. And don’t misunderstand me. Racism, sexism, homophobia, and the countless other baseless fears and hates are incredibly destructive to both people and society as a whole. I would simply reply that we shouldn’t give them ammunition to shoot us with.
By not being offended when called these words, by definition, they cease to be offensive. It’s contrite, but that stupid little rhyme from childhood stands true. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Words only hurt you as much as you allow them to hurt you.
Doug Stanhope has a diatribe about this subject. (You can call it a comedy bit, but for some reason I see him more as an angry philosopher.) He says that if we stop being offended by words and teach others to do the same, some day you could walk up to a woman and say, “Hey, cunt!” and she would reply, “Actually, my name is Amanda.”
Words are just words. They can only offend you as much as you allow them to. They can’t physically harm you. Most of the people using these words simply want to get an emotional response out of you. Don’t let them have it. The next time someone throws a derogatory remark your way, laugh. The next time some calls you a name, respond with your actual name. It deflates the bigot and removes his perceived power.
Life is too short to fill it with hate and anger, both your own and that of those around you. I cannot stress this enough: Words cannot hurt you. They have no magical properties. Words are just scibbles on paper or elegant grunts. WORDS ARE JUST WORDS.
It seems I repeated myself quite frequently in this verbal exercise. Maybe the repetitive nature of this rambling mess will help to ingrain the message deep into your grey matter. I can only hope.
Your Humble Secretary