Ever call someone a sissy? Watch out. You might be a homophobe — at least according to Yale University.
Some weeks back, Yale’s Freshman Class Council held a contest to design the T-shirt to be worn at a Yale–Harvard game. The winning design featured a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald: “I think of all Harvard men as sissies.”
Clever, no? That’s when the PC-police stepped in.
After Yale’s LGBT Cooperative objected to the word “sissies,” administrators decided the T-shirt would offend lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and leaned heavily on the Council until they scrapped the design. The result: another word sacrificed on the altar of political correctness.
What a bunch of sissies.
This recent controversy, unfortunately, reflects a growing trend on many college campuses, including Penn’s. Student minority groups have become far too sensitive about the language that others use. Not only does this cause an absurd level of political correctness that stifles campus discussion, but it also trivializes the real injustices these groups fight.
Such idiocy doesn’t exist only at Yale. A student here once told me I should spell “woman” as “womyn,” because the former spelling had the word “man” in it, representing our oppressive patriarchal society. Two years ago, a student publication on campus pronounced some straight students like me guilty of “heterosexism” because we have the gall to assume that most people we meet aren’t homosexual.
It’s amazing we can still communicate, given all the words we’ve blacklisted. Say “policeman” and someone may accuse you of being “gender-normative,” even if the officer identifies as a male.
Of course, sensitivity is fine in moderate doses. I’m the first to call someone out for intentionally using words that insult specific groups of people. I don’t think the word “fag,” for example, should be on any Penn shirt because it demeans homosexuals.
But Yale’s student leaders weren’t homophobic. “Sissy” doesn’t have anything to do with homosexuality. It’s about one’s courage — or lack thereof. (I’m an expert on the word, having been called it multiple times in middle school.)
Even Penn students like College freshman (or freshperson?) Ray Bailey — who said he could see how the word might offend — said Yale was “being too touchy about the whole thing.”
According to the Yale Daily News, students in Yale’s LGBT Coop claimed the word was “a thinly veiled gay slur.” But when you look at every word in terms of your racial, gender or sexual identity, almost every word is racist, sexist or homophobic in some way.
Well-intentioned Yale administrators aren’t helping the situation. As Penn History professor and free-speech advocate Alan Kors puts it, “what’s troubling is the set of expectations that universities have encouraged students to have when they come to campuses.” In short, many colleges treat their students like children, not adults.
It’s this “hyper-sensitivity” — where no group should be offended in the slightest manner — that leads to a stifling PC atmosphere. Students have to think so hard before they speak that they stop talking about certain subjects altogether. The university’s role as a forum for lively discussion and debate ultimately suffers. “If we’re afraid to talk to each other,” Kors said, “we’ll never get to know what we should try to change.”
And that’s probably the worst thing about political correctness — it trivializes the real injustices many people still face in society. Important discussions about violence against women or gay marriage transform into petty quibbling over grammar. When many women still don’t receive equal pay for equal work, or a gay man can’t serve openly in the military, should we really focus on the use of the word “sissy”?
Common sense — not sensitivity — must be our guide.
Ashwin Shandilya is a Wharton senior from New Market, Md. He is the former Marketing Manager and Editorial Page Editor of the DP. His e-mail address is email@example.com. Penn vs. Sword appears on Thursdays.Comments powered by Disqus
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