Language, leadership and setting norms
“High thoughts must have high language” Aristophanes
If this is so, then we are in big, I mean huge, trouble.
I can barely stand to listen to the news these days because the Presidential race has debased itself so much. I am shocked at how easily news outlets repeat inappropriate language – or people at the water cooler for that matter. It’s so prevalent, people feel brave yelling “F- her in the P-” to female reporters when they are broadcasting. It has become a strange source of pride.
Let’s be clear, it’s not that I’ve never heard bad language or that I am a prude. The reason I am concerned is I believe in the power of words to inform, to persuade and to create emotion. More importantly, I believe that the type of language used and accepted establishes norms around what’s ok to say to people, to think of them and to do to them. It is very well established that action follows language. If I think of you as an “it” or an “other” then I can justify treating you in a way that I would ordinarily find appalling.
So at the same time as people are normalising “p—y” there is backlash on the use of Indigenous slurs for sports team names. So misogyny is ok but racism is not. Can you imagine a presidential candidate using the N-word in 2016? Why don’t we just say no to both?
And, instead of empty hand wringing, diminishing bad language by calling it “locker room talk” or deflecting by saying there are larger issues that need attention, leaders need to call it out and put a stop to it. In the RCMP, in the Canadian and US military, on university campuses, in organisations and families everywhere we need to denounce language that demeans. Period.
I found this image on quoteschart.com. It provides a far better conclusion than I could and frankly… I am speechless. We need to alter where we are going and quickly.