Non Oppressive language

Element Descriptor

Our language has an influence on how we think. We can unwittingly (or let’s face it, wittingly) use terms which give offence and perpetuate bad ways of thinking. Spotting that, devising alternative terms which are still lively, is going to help us with allyship.

Level descriptors

NovicePractitionerExpertNinja
You know the absolute basics of how seemingly neutral words can come freighted with power/dominance, and what the alternatives are.You have a good understanding not just of offensive slurs but also the “intended as a compliment” stuff (we’re still calling black people “articulate”? srsly?) and can help other folks see it through good examples, but also being aware that not everyone is going to say “ah, got it” and change their ways on a dime.You have an advanced grasp on oppressive language and how to substitute in a variety of other terms which are much less likely to give anyone any offence, without becoming caught up in holier-than-thou games and being TOO precious. You’re able to model this behaviour consistently, even when tired/angry/fed up.You have a deep understanding of how language can be used to restrict thought and hope. You can read through a long piece of work, suggest changes that will make it stronger, but retains its arguments and beauty, without being clunky.

Element Overview Essay

This is a draft. If something doesn’t make sense, or you see typos, or if you have further ideas, please email us on contact@activecitizenshiptoolkit.net

So, the reasons that people are not good as this is, for once, pure information deficit model.  So, if you haven’t been exposed to the arguments about how some terminology is a micro-aggression then it all can seem intensely pernickety and, “gosh, we’ve got bigger things to worry about than if  I use the term insert term here.”

There might be people who, you know, delight in persisting in using these terms, knowing that they offend other people as a signal of their “free thinking” and “independence.” Yeah, but those people are unlikely to be involved in progressive social change. Well, you hope.

So, the consequences are that the micro-aggressions continue and you debilitate and demoralise allies who are on the receiving end of this stuff. They trust you less, they’re more inclined not to be involved in projects that you’re in, and to withhold their intellectual and emotional labour and physical support with all the consequences that that brings.

So the solutions. Well,  learn about oppressive language and learn how to practice non oppressive language and add it perhaps, to the copy editing tasks you do. And just generally be  alert to these things and find substitutes 

Development Resources

Assessment Resources