Santa Clara University


The Big Q

Back to Blog

You Don't Say That

Tuesday, Apr. 29, 2014

The first 20 student comments on “You Don’t Say That” win a $5 Yiftee gift to a local business. Use your gift to try out that new flavor of ice cream or spend it on two slices of your favorite pizza. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, May 11th, 2014. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates.

**DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**

Linda attends a large public university in Oregon. Before coming to college, Linda was a closeted lesbian. In her hometown she never felt comfortable opening up to anyone, be it family, friend, or mere acquaintance. When she arrived at her university, Linda was able to find a safe haven with the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) club.

As Linda got more comfortable at her university, she began to go out at night to meet individuals outside of her LGBT community. She was able to find friends involved in different parts of her college campus: multi-cultural club, Greek life, student government, and more.

One day, Linda is at a fraternity party with some of her friends in Greek life. While dancing and enjoying music, Linda overhears a conversation occurring at the beer pong table. One of her friends, Justin, is disappointed that his teammate is taking so long to finish his drink. She overhears him say, “That’s so gay.”

Linda confronts Justin and expresses her distaste with the language he used. She tells him “gay” shouldn’t be a slang-term for lame or stupid. Justin doesn’t understand what the big deal is. He tells her that he is fully accepting of homosexuality and didn’t mean any harm with his words. Linda doesn’t accept this, refuses to speak to Justin again, and leaves immediately.

A few weeks later, Linda and Justin are at the same nature hike with the Wilderness Club. At the end of the hike, there is a waterfall where you can jump into a lake below. Justin overhears Linda telling one of her friends to “Man up.” He confronts her about the term, saying that man up implies gender norms. Linda doesn’t understand why he’s so upset with this term. She says that it is used universally and isn’t supposed to insult anyone.

Do you think there is a difference between using the terms “That’s so gay” and “Man up?” Is it okay to use either of them? Does American culture condone this type of language? Does the unconscious use of these terms contribute to harmful stereotypes or does everyone understand that they don’t really mean anything? 

Useful Resources:

A Framework for Ethical Decision-Making

Duke's 'You Don't Say' Campaign Reminds You Which Words Shouldn't Be Used As Slang

Photo by Gian Franco Costa Albertini available under a Creative Commons license.

Comments Comments

Justin Fitzsimmons said on May 8, 2014
Though the phrases, "Man Up," and "So Gay", are used regularly when speaking to one another, their use is not ideal. Due to the history of misunderstanding of the gay community, many have actually felt lame, stupid , or worse for something that is a fundamental part of who they are. Similarly, Man Up promotes gender stereotypes of a macho man that many young men feel compelled to be. These sayings, while popular, should be eradicated from common use as much as possible. The English language is full of possibilities that can replace these words. Get creative, there are more ways to "encourage" somebody to do something that doesn't make another person feel bad for who they are (you're only trying to make the person you're encouraging feel bad for who they are). - Like - 2 people like this.
Kira said on Oct 19, 2014
Referring to slang terms such as these to actual terms isn't realistic. In the case of "that's so gay", in no way am I insulting Homosexuality. Those who perceive it negatively, create a negative aura that accompanies. Two very seperate meanings, may not be conceived as one in that situation. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Danielle said on Feb 24, 2015
I can see how the phrases "that's so gay" and "man up" could be perceived as derogatory terms, I honestly believe it all depends on who you are talking to. If you are talking to close friends or family it might not be a big deal to them but if you were to say them to a stranger or someone you just met, they might be offended by those phrases and they might not know that you mean no harm by them. I think America does condone this type of language because there isn't that much done to prevent it. As for whether or not it is ok to use such language, it all depends on the context. I believe if you are just saying it to joke around and the people you are with understand that you mean no harm by it then yes it is ok, but if you are saying it to hurt someone then no it is not ok. It all really depends on the context it is used in. The unconscious use of these terms can however hurt someone because there are a lot of people in this world who do not understand that in some cases these terms are not meant to be mean or hurtful or project negative stereotypes. If you are going to use these phrases it is best to make those around you aware of they way you mean them, or just use other words to avoid confusion. - Like
Tony Williams said on Mar 8, 2015
@Danielle: I think part of the problem is that these words associate negative emotions or descriptions with gayness in a way that is harmful regardless of intent, even if everyone around you understands what you mean. I agree that it's probably better to just use other words and avoid the confusion! - Like
Post a Comment