Every generation misuses certain words that irritate older generations. When I was a young teen it was “bitchen” (something great). But in the last few years they have begun misusing words that have more serious consequences: “gay” and “rape.”
I’ve heard kids and young adults use the word “gay,” such as, “That’s so gay,” when something is bad or wrong. The original meaning of “gay” was happy or light-hearted. Now it more often means someone who is homosexual, usually a male. By using the word as a pejorative, they label homosexuality as bad or wrong. This is homophobia, and some of the kids doing it do not even realize it. I’m not going to tell people how to think, but I’m going to call them on their public language, and gay bashing is not something I will ignore. Usually I say something like, “What do you mean by that?” or “Do you know what ‘gay’ means?” I ask if they meant to be hurtful. Then I suggest they use a different word to express themselves. A couple nights ago I objected to someone using that phrase while we ran a World of Warcraft (WoW) dungeon, and we had a brief, heated discussion about it. Then we continued playing. Think about what you are saying, and realize people will not tolerate harassment.
I’ve also heard kids and young adults use the word “rape,” when what they mean is someone is doing something they don’t like (teasing, bullying). They also use it when they talk about dominating something or someone, which is at least an acknowledgment of the power and control that is at the core of rape. But rape is not a word to use lightly. The crime of rape destroys lives, families, cultures, and nations. It is a brutal act that dehumanizes. When people talk about the way human greed is raping the Earth, they are talking about serious damage that will last many generations and may not be repaired. Rape is not a joking matter.
Last night, again in a WoW dungeon, someone made an offhand third-person comment: “(Character’s name) rapes (a bystanding non-player character).” I was shocked, so much so that I almost left the group right then. I should have. Instead, I called them on their crude comment, and a 15 minute multi-person discussion ensued. The person who made the comment acknowledged it was crude, but articulately defended himself by saying something to the effect that “rape” is a colloquial term used to mean power and domination over someone or something else. It was an intelligent answer, but that did not justify using the word in such an off-handed manner. Rape is not something to speak lightly of.
There is already a lot of hate in the world. Please don’t add to it by lightly using words in a hateful way.