10 words to retire in 2017


It’s a new year and a scary new world. We had to come up with new words in 2016 to describe post-truth, alt-right, Brexiteering horrors. And although we tried our best to achieve wokeness, things still went to hell.

As the collective conversation continues in 2017, there are some stale words and phrases commonly used by progressives that, at this point, are doing more harm than good. Here are the top ten worst offenders:

10) Full stop: This is used to preemptively tell people to “shut up” and basically means, “I can’t defend my position, so you better not ask me any follow-up questions about it!”

9) Policing: Sooo many new kinds of “policing” were invented in recent years:  “Identity policing,” “body policing,” “tone policing”…  This usage of the word puts regular people who criticize, analyze, or “judge” social phenomena or systems of power (like feminists) on par with a heavily armed class of domestic soldiers charged with maintaining the social order. How nuanced.

8) This: “So much this.” No hard feelings, it just doesn’t really add anything to a conversation…

7) Menstruators: This word reminds me of that ubiquitous Science Fiction trope where, in the future, we find that everyday language has been replaced by sanitized technical terms that have a brutally utilitarian feel. Like the “caffeine solution” drink in Huxley’s Brave New World that replaced tea and coffee. Or the inhuman-sounding “ectogenesis” that replaced women’s role in reproduction.

In Sci-Fi, future-people are likely to have things like “nutrient induction tubes” instead of food or “pleasure release valves” instead of sex. “Menstruators” sound like they would require “endometrial absorbency cylinders” for their “periodic uterine shedding.”

Today’s lexicon sounds increasingly like some technocratic dystopia built on female exploitation, where instead of a “mother” we have a “birthing parent” or a contracted fetal incubator who serves as “surrogate.” Instead of the morally-loaded term “prostitution,” we have the disturbingly sanitized term “sex work.” It feels like soon, instead of referring to the political class of “women,” we’ll only have “front-holed folks.”

6) Cis/cisgender: This word is just gross. It sounds like a tumour.

But beyond its phonetic unpleasantness, “cis” is also insulting and harmful to women. Women who do not claim to have a special “gender identity” are told they are “cis.” Cis/cisgender is defined as identifying with the “gender you were assigned at birth.” For females, this means they supposedly identify with the feminine gender — aka the oppressive stereotypes that have been traditionally associated with/imposed on the female sex. This is, of course, bullshit. At birth, females are assigned a gendered role synonymous with inferiority and subordination. But just because a woman doesn’t claim to be anything other than a woman, doesn’t mean she “identifies” with her subordination. Women aren’t in this terrible position because it just so happens our personality is that of second-class citizens…

5) “All genders”: This is just faux-progressive code for “includes men.” It’s not always a bad thing to include men, but please, let’s stop beating around the bush about what we really mean.


4) Marginalized: Today it seems “marginalization” is used as though it’s synonymous with “oppression.” This is part of a troubling trend wherein mainstream liberal politics have distorted and depoliticized the concept of oppression and its systemic nature, replacing it with “marginalization.” This language allows us to easily position “exclusion” and lack of “visibility” as the main source of social harm, rather than oppressive systems of power.

By replacing “oppression” with “marginalization,” material oppression is put on par with being excluded from conversations about material oppression. This is the logic, for example, behind the recent pushback against Canada’s inquiry into the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (#MMIWG) that claims the focus on females “marginalizes” male victims. Similarly, this framework leads to the notion that bisexuals (especially those in heterosexual relationships) are oppressed more than homosexual people as they are not acknowledged enough (therefore marginalized) by the gay rights movement and society at large.

By this logic, populations that appear outside the margins of what is normal or legitimate are said to be oppressed.

This line of thinking can get super dangerous. For example, in her highly influential theory of sexual oppression presented in Thinking Sex (1984), philosopher Gayle Rubin identifies pedophiles (“boy-lovers”) as one of the most unjustly marginalized sexual minorities.

Unlike oppression, marginalization isn’t always a bad thing. Some groups of people should be cast to the margins of a community, and their actions viewed as unacceptable. Despite the ongoing media push to view pedophiles sympathetically, sorry, no one’s buying it! Pedophiles should be marginalized, stigmatized, and excluded.

3) Matters: This matters, that matters, everything matters! Thankfully, the trend of coopting Black Lives Matter and treating it like a cut-and-paste motto for any social group whatsoever — “Fill-in-the-blank lives matter!” — has dwindled, but the word “matters,” in general, holds a strange prominence in contemporary language. In the Internet age, defined by information overload, no one wants to waste time on something that isn’t relevant — why read about an issue unless the headline promises we’ll be told “why it matters.”

2) Bodies: Marginalized bodies, endangered bodies, black and brown bodies… It seems all woke progressives have begun to refer to people as if they are no more than “bodies.”

I think he means to say “people” there…

Are the bodies used as literal support beams?

queer bodies

I thought it was people that are murdered and who then become bodies?

I didn’t even know bodies could hold the physical property of being economically poor.

Wait, how do bodies have a sexual orientation like “queer” or “straight,” for that matter?

This usage of the word “bodies” became fashionable within postmodern discourse (largely due to Michel Foucault) and has now filtered down from academia into online think pieces. The effect has been to objectify certain populations instead of challenging that objectification, as intended… Cuz it sounds cool!

1) Folks: Since Obama’s casual “we tortured some folks” statement in 2014, it seems this word has exploded in the liberal lexicon. And like Obama’s torture nbd, “folks” is often employed in order normalize particular subject matter by adding a veneer of familiarity and a down-home feel.

And, of course, it’s also used to depoliticize women’s issues and erase our systemic disempowerment as a class. For example, it’s important to remember that abortion isn’t about any particular group of folks:

During the 2016 presidential debates, many felt that folks-rights issues were neglected.

We must fight to end the GOP War On Folks:

So there you have it! Let us know if you agree or if there are other words that we need to say bye-bye to in 2017.

Susan Cox
Susan Cox

Susan Cox is a feminist writer and academic living in the United States. She teaches in Philosophy.

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