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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

An open letter to SaGA (Sexuality and Gender Activism)

<e is prejudice and then there is self-serving ignorance. As college students we are often encouraged to express ourselves and challenge authority as active members of society and as part of our education. However, recently the line between appropriate advocacy and foolish self-righteousness has been blurred.

Among SaGA’s recent campaign questioning gender and sexual preference biases was a poster criticizing the use of the term “hey guys” when addressing mixed-gender groups, suggesting the noun discredits gender equality and sexual diversity. It is universally acknowledged that language is both alive and constantly changing. Clearly, its debate is central to the democratic atmosphere of Carleton where self-expression fosters personal growth. However, this poster which features a dramatic picture of a child crying and a caption that suggests usage of the term is a personal attack to hurt one’s soul, is simply another example of politically correct yet misled energy that completely misses the point on advocating issues of sexual discrimination.

Carleton is a liberal-minded and progressive college, where both students and faculty live in a bubble where an acceptance of gender roles, sexual preference, race, political ideas, and especially personalities can be taken for granted. Language can be a barrier seldom investigated due to its colloquial and less important nature, especially when other barriers are so difficult to overcome, such as the challenge of creating an environment in which a student or faculty member can safely be “out.” As a straight male, I would suffice to say that even at times language has created a closed-door solidarity among the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Questioning) community. For example Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC) posters use esoteric acronyms, which while convenient and understandable, lead to the exclusion of those who are on the outside looking in. One of the primary goals of the GSC is to bridge the LGBTQ and straight communities at Carleton, therefore posters should use language friendly to those unfamiliar with such terminology; simply including the words “Allies Welcome!” would be a good start.

Certainly, Carleton must embrace self-criticism to eradicate the prejudice that continues to exist in our community. However, using a personal campaign of “pain” is selfish, unfair, and offensive to the spirit of respectful open discussion on campus.

Where one poster falters, another flourishes. The “avoid heteronormativity” and “man or woman, does it matter?” posters were brief, neutral, yet powerful reminders of a heterosexual bias many others and I have. I applaud the authors of these posters who have inspired me to both question and think about my own prejudices, both conscious and sub-conscious.

SaGA, although I understand an anonymous individual made this poster and acted alone in its distribution, the poster claimed to be represented by your organization, and therefore I will address you as a group. Next time you want to foster discussion on campus about an issue, provide us with evidence as to why you feel it is unjust. We are Carleton students; we feed on facts as fuel for debate. If the topic of your poster is something as simple as proper usage of the modern English language, save the strong words, “my soul hurts” for a trauma that merits it. Finally, tell the campus more about who you are, what you do, and what events you have going on this term at Carleton. I urge SaGA and the GSC to embrace the non-active students that make up the majority of Carleton’s campus. Educate us with ideas about social issues you find important, but do so in a respectful and professional manner. So please, wise up, rise up, or “shut up.”

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