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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

A response to criticisms of SaGA posters

<e has been controversy surrounding posters that were hung up by members of SaGA. We would like to discuss some of the reactions to one particular poster and provide information about the intentions and emotional forces behind it. This poster, which states “All the Times You Say ‘Hey Guys’ Referencing All Genders…My Soul Hurts” and includes the image of a crying child, has been treated comically, destructively, and insensitively. The message of this poster is twofold: one, that the word ‘guys’ is gendered, much like the word ‘man.’ Because it is used to refer to male people and all people, it serves to normalize men as ‘natural’ and everyone else as ‘other.’ This marginalizes and oppresses various groups of people. The other intention of the poster was to share the emotions felt by an individual regarding the word ‘guys.’ For this individual, the word ‘guys’ triggers memories of times when they have been misgendered (assumed to be a gender they do not identify as) and the pain of presenting themself in a way that is not accepted in our society.

This is something that occurs with many people who identify as gender non-conforming or transgender (a loose association of people who transgress gender norms in a wide variety of ways). It also happens to other groups in our society. For example, when a multiracial person is marked as a race they do not feel represents them, this forces them to call into question their own racial identity. Similarly, this questioning of identity may happen when someone who identifies as bisexual or queer is assumed to be straight or gay. Such assumptions erase some of their experiences or negate some aspect(s) of their identity.

As concerned students, we stand behind and validate the feelings of the individual expressing concern about the word ‘guys’ and other students facing similar emotional challenges. We understand that the intent behind the poster is to share the emotional response felt by one student. We also wish to communicate that words that seem benign to some can elicit strong feelings in others. Some responses to this poster sought to analyze it based on content and semantics as opposed to engaging with the poster on an emotional level. This is a valid method of interpretation, but this is not the way everyone operates. As such, it is necessary to holistically interpret messages like this one and to value analytical as well as emotional modes of expression.

In some responses to this poster, there has been an unwillingness to validate the emotions of the person who made it. This has been really hurtful in that it undermines the legitimacy of these experiences. Example responses have included: tearing posters down so as to silence the voice behind it, writing disrespectful comments on the posters, dismissing them as jokes, and trivializing the sentiments expressed.

We are also aware that there have been positive conversations generated from these posters. For example, in Myers a note was respectfully tacked to the side of a poster asking for alternative and more inclusive words, which were then provided by a variety of students. These words include: y’all, people, team, everyone, everybody, peeps, and all. We applaud the open-minded spirit of these students and encourage further discussion and reflection on topics surrounding gender and the effects of the language we use.

Some resources for more information include the Gender and Sexuality Center, and counseling services through the Wellness Center.

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