Recently, Duke University unveiled a new campaign, the “You Don’t Say” campaign, which seems to correct common slang seen as derisive such as “you’re so gay” or “that is retarded”. The campaign aims to discourage the use of offensive language that can dehumanize and marginalize people and groups, referring to the LGBT community, minorities, or any other minority group.
Some of the memes created by the “You Don’t Say” campaign, as seen on their official Facebook page, include slogans such as, “I don’t say ‘that’s so gay’ because the words gay and stupid are not interchangeable’; “I don’t say ‘tranny’ because it’s insulting to transgender and genderqueer communities and people who don’t fit traditional labels’. One more says, “I don’t say ‘bitch’ because it insists that femininity is inherently negative’.
Having come of age in the earlier years of the political correctness movement, this is nothing new – back during that time, the “You Don’t Say” campaign was in the official form of campus speech codes, which proposed a similar edict According to the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a legal organization defending the right to hear and speak the Biblical truth through strategy, training, funding and litigation, “hundreds of American colleges and universities have speech codes, even though these codes general violate the Constitution, state law, or their own stated policies”. ADF defends the right of constitutional rights of students, student groups, faculty and staff who wish to engage in free speech, expression and association, as well as the free exercise of religion on campus.
What I find most troubling is that the “You Don’t Say” campaign seems to focus primarily on words that may be insulting on the basis of gender, race, and sexuality. What about those who are made fun of for being short, overweight or overly skinny, red haired, wearing only certain types of clothing, support a certain sports team versus another, etc.? Where does the list of “hateful” words end? To limit the freedom of expression in an environment that should encourage the free exchange of ideas seems rather oppressive.
Attending an institution of higher learning in America is the greatest opportunity to both challenge convention and express one’s views in an intellectually stimulating environment. Unfortunately, in the case of Duke University, they deserve an “F” for doing the opposite.