Oh the irony!! The saying “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me” are words that have hurt innumerable people. Words can and do hurt. Especially words spoken by someone with power over another person. The words a parent, teacher, grandparent, priest, minister, mentor or physician have the power to heal or to hurt. But that’s a subject for another day. Today I am ready to call an end to one word that is spoken by society without a thought to its hurtful impact to all of us.
Provocatively. I found this word staring at me in the midst of an article on rape culture…a comment written by a survivor…written to help end rape culture…raised up by the author as a poignant example (I added the bold):
The views of Ms. Mac Donald are widely held, and they are one of the fundamental things that stand in the way of combating rape culture. When I was sexually assaulted, I had been out with good friends and had been drinking. In the end, one of those good friends was the one who perpetrated my assault. Afterwards, though some people were sympathetic, many more told me it was my fault. That boys will be boys. That I shouldn’t have drank, shouldn’t have trusted my male friend, shouldn’t have been wearing that dress, those shoes, that makeup. It wasn’t until a year later, when I began to research rape for my own writing project, that I began to realize that this wasn’t my fault. The societal problem of the ideas that it’s okay to sleep with drunk girls, that girls who dress provocatively deserve to be treated as objects, that it’s irresponsible for ladies to drink—that was at fault for both the situation and how I ended up feeling about it.
I realized in that moment how deeply rape culture is ingrained in our language and how this word is hurting. It’s hurting me, it’s hurting you, it’s hurting our society. PLEASE WORLD – STOP USING THIS WORD TO DESCRIBE A CLOTHING CHOICE!
In case you’re not following me yet, I will back up and dissect this word…this hurtful word. First of all, this word is never used to describe male clothing choices. Until now, I had never considered how I’ve been taught (we’ve all been taught) by our own words, that only girls can provoke behavior with clothing. Because, apparently, only girls and women dress provocatively.
And yes, that’s what the word provocative means – to provoke.
I usually don’t write blogs in an angry state. I try to ruminate on what I have to say, let it simmer and make sure I am not just spewing on the site. I can’t get there with this topic. I’m getting angry just writing about this.
Please World…please stop using this word to describe girls’ clothing choices.
Clothes don’t provoke.
Don’t you see?
Sticks and stones can only hurt one person at a time.
Words can hurt us all.