Banning the words male & female? Not quite

Based on the hype and misunderstanding I see on the links people post on social media, and the way some media outlets distort the truth, I am concerned that many people don’t think to look past headlines to read actual stories— and to seek out primary sources. Case in point: if you only read the headlines last week, you might think the entire University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) banned the words male and female. I did not believe the hype, so I took it upon myself to read past the headlines. This is what I found from an article in The Washington Post:

“Use of racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, classist, or generally offensive language in class or submission of such material will not be tolerated,” professor Selena Lester Breikss’s syllabus read. “This includes ‘The Man,’ ‘Colored People,’ ‘Illegals/Illegal Aliens,’ ‘Tranny’ and so on — or referring to women/men as females or males.” (Breikss, 2015 as quoted by Moyer, 2015)

Notice it was only one teacher saying that the words male and female would not be tolerated, and only when used as nouns, not as adjectives. I am sure many teachers would not want students to refer to people as adjectives, just as you might not want somebody to call a blind person “a blind” or a deaf person “a deaf.”

I am not a fan of banning words, but I do believe teachers should prepare their students to be writers in the workplace. Stylebooks of publishing houses and influential associations such as the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook and American Psychological Association (APA) all have words they deprecate. Another teacher at UTK writes this in their syllabus in “A Note on [In]appropriate Terminology”:

Not “illegal alien” or “illegals” but “undocumented” migrants/immigrants/persons. Note that the Associated Press (AP) has determined not to use it: ‘The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term “illegal immigrant” or the use of “illegal” to describe a person. Instead, it tells users that “illegal” should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally.’ (Fowler, 2015 as quoted by Moyer, 2015)

One may or may not agree with these professors, but it behooves one to cut through the hype and read critically to see what they actually said.

References

Moyer, J. W. (2 September 2015). Washington State University class bans ‘offensive’ terms like male, female, tranny, illegal alien. Washington, DC: The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/09/02/washington-state-university-class-bans-offensive-terms-such-as-illegal-alien-and-tranny/

Blog 2014: Adding social media links

Where I learned how to add social media buttons, and where I found them

Today, I added custom social media links to my secondary menu, which appears on the left sidebar in the Twenty-Fourteen WordPress theme I’m using now. I did this because Twenty-Fourteen doesn’t have social links in the theme, and I wanted them near the top of my blog layout. To learn how to add them, I started by reading the WordPress Support article “Add Social Media Buttons to Your Sidebar or Footer.” When I did a Google Image search of ‘free social media icons’, as suggested in the support article, I found my favorite icon set at GraphicsFuel: 20 Popular Social Media Icons (PSD & PNG). Thank you, GraphicsFuel!

What code I used

I used the HTML shown on the support article, but I amended it with a bit of CSS to put some padding (space) to the right and bottom of the buttons so they didn’t look stuck together. While I was at it, I took the width and height properties out of the HTML and put them into the CSS where they belong (since they are style, not structure). Here is a sample of the style code I added to the img element for my customization:

style="width:35px;height:35px;padding-right:5px;padding-bottom:5px;"

How it looks today

Of course things will change with time as I change themes or widgets, but here is what my blog looks like as of this writing, with the new social media button links I added to the left sidebar:

A screenshot of the front page of my blog on July 7, 2014
A screenshot of the front page of my blog on July 7, 2014

Why I wrote this

I always like to share what I learn with others who might benefit, and I like to give credit where it’s due. I hope you find it helpful. Please let me know.

Aside

Too busy to blog

Somehow I feel obliged to post something, but really I’ve been so busy prepping for classes and teaching that I really haven’t felt the need to blog or even post much of anything on social media. I finally understand why some people are not into it at all. It seems to have lost its luster for me. Anyway, perhaps I will resume blogging, but for now I am busy doing other things.

Police make us safer; vigilantes, not so much.

Perhaps you’ve seen this story about the woman who shot the man who ran into a movie theatre with a gun? According to this public Facebook post by Realtalk:

On Sunday December 17, 2012, 2 days after the CT shooting, a man went to a restaurant in San Antonio to kill his X-girlfriend. After he shot her, most of the people in the restaurant fled next door to a theater. The gunman followed them and entered the theater so he could shoot more people. He started shooting and people in the theater started running and screaming. It’s like the Aurora, CO theater story plus a restaurant!
Now aren’t you wondering why this isn’t a lead story in the national media along with the school shooting?
There was an off duty county deputy at the theater. SHE pulled out her gun and shot the man 4 times before he had a chance to kill anyone. So since this story makes the point that the best thing to stop a bad person with a gun is a good person with a gun, the media is treating it like it never happened.
Only the local media covered it. The city is giving her a medal next week.

There are a few inaccuracies in that story, according to this Snopes analysis. First, it was Sunday, December 16; there was no Sunday, December 17. Second, he didn’t shoot his ex-girlfriend. Third, it is offensive to say this is anything like the Aurora shooting because it was not premeditated and he did not go in with military grade weapons and ammunition to wipe out a whole theatre full of people. Fourth, there didn’t just happen to be an off duty county deputy at the theatre; on the contrary, the deputy sheriff was on duty as an armed guard employed by the theatre. She was doing her job, and she was thankful for the years of training she had received in using a firearm to disarm a perpetrator. This was not just a moviegoer with a gun.

The most important takeaway from this story, for me, is that the woman who shot the perpetrator was literally “on guard” and had years of training firing a gun. It seems the pro-gun people would like you to believe we would all be safer if everyone had a gun. It’s not that simple. See this video if you think all you need to do to protect yourself and others is to buy a gun and go to a shooting range once in a while:

My tweets & retweets during the DNC

Who cares what I have to say?

Me singing @ Piano Zinc, Paris 1997

Today it’s Facebook, Google+, Twitter. Yesterday it was rap groups, support groups, open mic. I don’t remember feeling like nobody cared what I had to say when I was speaking to people in person. Now that I’m writing for the Internet — for the past 17 years or so, and sharing on social media for the past six — I’m wondering if anyone cares what I have to say. I don’t think I’m alone in this. So many people are sharing so much, be it on blogs or social media, that it’s impossible for us all to take each other in. I guess some people on the Internet form communities like groups on Flickr or writers of similar blogs on WordPress. But I like the idea of sharing with the world, or should I say, being heard by people all over the world. I’d like to think that people care what I have to say, but the stats on my posts often don’t show that they do. And maybe they don’t. We can’t all care what we all have to say, can we? Maybe it’s okay to say it, though. Maybe it’s okay to journal publicly, and if someone gets something out of it, great. If not, we’ve simply made public something we would have written in a journal anyway, and there’s no reason to keep it a secret. Some say we live in a time of oversharing, and that might be true. I would like to think, though, that even if no one cares what I have to say until years from now, or even if I’m the only one who cares what I have to say, it’s worth it. I might look back on this years from now and be glad I wrote it. Someone reading this today or many days from now might take solace in it. I guess for now I’ll try not to care whether anyone cares what I have to say, and just keep saying what I have to say.

P.S. Come to think of it, when I was talking to people in person, I was talking to groups, not the world. Maybe there is something to sharing on the Internet with groups after all. What do you think? Please leave a comment below. I do care what you have to say.