Language is very important. A dominant group can limit and constrict seemingly less powerful group easily by simple, deliberate word choices. Words have denotations (the literal or primary meaning of a word, in contrast to the feelings or ideas that the word suggests) and connotations (an idea or feeling that a word invokes in addition to its literal or primary meaning). Word choice and sentence structure are powerful tools in political times because they can be used to paint a very different picture than the reality.
The following are quotes from an article which is circulating. Before we consider the picture that has been painted, I want to point out that many of the people being referred to are seeing this article, and one other like it which I have seen, as positive coverage. I respectfully disagree. Being “credited” with an action, or being publicly identified are not the same as being seen and portrayed in a positive light. The quotes are taken in order as they appeared in the article, mainly because the writer managed to create quite an arc in telling a very different narrative than the reality. Note – I do not know the author’s intention and perhaps this is not what was trying to be presented, but this is how easily it can be turned into a dismissive, pat on the head, bless their hearts opinion.
“When their positivity turned to devastation,”
“gather like-minded people in their communities and turn their pain into action.”
“because I’ve been so depressed and angry and sad and upset about the results of the election,”
“organize the meeting and eventually expand it to two identical meetings because of overwhelming interest”
“they do not intend to focus on rallies, protests, marches or vigils.”
“Devastation” — this sentence sets up a tone that the devastation felt is as a result that “our team” lost, NOT the devastation BECAUSE common decency is no longer the norm and being racist, sexist, and all the rest of that grab bag has now being given, literally, a Presidential stamp of approval.
“Turning pain into action”—this article does not say people are turning their moral outrage into a plan to protect all who are now afraid and possibly in serious danger. This, too, implies that it is only the pain of a candidate’s loss, Boo hoo.
“Clinton supporters” — NOT outraged American citizens. PLEASE let this part sink in. If the people raising their voices, gathering in homes and local businesses to try to figure out “how to make what is not ok better” (my quotes not from the article) keep being identified as ONLY “Clinton Supporters,” they are just a group who are “fill in the blank” that “we lost.” It dismisses EVERYTHING ELSE ANY OF YOU CARE ABOUT. full stop. Everything. It reduces anything said or done to being fueled by a candidate not winning. PERIOD.
“because — (ignore all the adjectives, they mean nothing) about the results of the election” — again, NOT because sexism and racism have been giving free range passes by the Executive Branch of our country, BUT because she lost. Dismiss those women because they are only emotional about a woman losing.
“because of overwhelming interest” — NO! These groups are not organizing because of INTEREST. They are organizing to protest, to make changes, to take action, TO DO SOMETHING.
“they do not intend to focus on…” anything of consequence. Because they are just sad that Hillary lost and they are just a group of women who need to process their feelings. They won’t be effective in doing anything, they won’t make a difference. They are “just” supporters of a failed candidate.
Articles like this about how “Pantsuit Nation” made all those calls, gathered women in groups, and whatever other media coverage will be given to what is happening will use this kind of language to dismiss what is really happening. Think twice about sharing because these articles do not support the revolution that is forming. This kind of language demeans those standing up for common decency, for human rights, for civil liberties. Mainstream is looking down on the power of organized women. They are underestimating our collective voices and strength. Now, while the latter is a good strategy (let them think women do not have the power we do), it is a very short jump in the mainstream media from “those emotionally devastated Clinton supporters” to “those hysterical women.” Really let that sink in, deeply. Really get into how ineffective any opposition or action becomes, even at nearly 4 million nationwide members, if these are “hysterical women.” Consider the language used by yourself and others when referring to the work really being done by the grassroots groups springing up all over America and the world, who are all kinds of pissed off that common decency is no longer the norm in America. And if you are pissed off from reading this, examine why, and who you are pissed at because if you think you are pissed at me for pointing this out, the odds are the word choices used in the article I am referring to worked.
Kia Bordner is an outspoken mother of 4, poetess, writer, editrix, playwright, actress, advocate, activist, and juggler, who was in the right thread on the internet, at the right moment in history, after the national “incident” on 11/8/16, to now be the admin of a 7k member (and growing) grassroots movement in San Diego.