UNH Speakers Bureau
From "That's so gay!" to "You run like a girl!": The Power of Language in Harming Others
This presentation is especially well suited for school children (Gr. 7-12), as it tackles many of the phrases and slurs heard commonly in schools today. It begins by discussing how powerful people use language, especially in ways that threaten or harm people from traditionally oppressed groups. It follows several examples, including the way the word "colored" and "nigger" have been used historically and today. It also considers the role of people-first language when describing people with disabilities. Stitzlein goes on to describe how some groups try to reclaim the power of harmful words by redefining them more positively. She looks at the example of the word "queer" and how it has been readopted and changed by the gay and lesbian community today.Expanding on the power of language, Stitzlein describes the difference between one's intention when speaking and the effect of one's speech when one utters hurtful phrases like "that's so gay!" Finally, she closes with an activity to help students break bad habits of using hurtful language and to develop better alternative words and phrases.