Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Activism, Language, and Differences of Opinion (a compilation of essays)

[note: The essays compiled here were written between 2012–2016. My more recent writings on these and related topics are collected in Call-Out Culture, Identity Politics, Political Correctness, and Social Justice Activism: essays and a new lecture.]

Activists of various stripes will often disagree with one another (as well as with the mainstream public) regarding what ideas and strategies are useful and productive, versus which may be self-defeating or destructive. Notably, many of these debates tend to be centered on language—for instance, is the word or phrase in question liberating, or acceptable, or anachronistic, or problematic, or downright derogatory.

While most people who participate in these debates champion a specific cause (e.g., being “for” or “against” a specific activist tactic or terminology), I have become increasingly interested in understanding the underlying standpoints and reasoning that lead people to adopt these disparate positions, and chronicling how rigid one-size-fits-all stances on these matters may erase or exclude the voices of many people who have a stake in the issue.

I have written extensively about this subject in my 2013 book Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive (the linked-to page includes excerpts from the book). Here, I will compile some of my subsequent essays related to this topic (with links when available). They are organized into the following sections: