Over the weekend I stumbled on an article in The Harvard Crimson that referenced the University of New Hampshire’s “Bias-Free Language Guide.”
I was amused if not terribly surprised to hear that such a thing existed, but my initial searches failed to turn up the document. It turns out that the University of New Hampshire took the guide off its website after it was deemed “controversial.”
This of course only piqued my interest, and after 90 seconds of sleuthing (i.e. a more creative Google search) I was able to track down a copy of the document. And boy, was it worth it.
For starters, the guide opens with a delicious quote from … wait for it … Melissa Harris-Perry. (Editor’s note: We decided to evidence our high principles and superhuman restraint by refraining from any commentary on Perry, her (canceled) program’s rating, or the state of her career.)
The “Bias-Free Language Guide” is something George Orwell would not have dared to dream. It’s eight pages of mantra on how to speak inoffensively on the following: age, class, race, culture, immigration status, sexual orientation, ethnicity, sex, gender identity … and it just goes on.
The document comes complete with a Gender Pronoun Guide, definitions and examples of microaggressions versus macroaggressions, and most importantly an extensive glossary of acceptable terminology and unacceptable terminology.
A few highlights:
Preferred: Gay, Lesbian, Same Gender Loving (SGL)
Preferred: White people, European-American individuals
Problematic: Caucasian people
Preferred: People of Color
Problematic: Colored, Non-White
Preferred: Undocumented immigrant or worker; person seeking asylum, refugee
Problematic: Illegal alien
Preferred: "Non-disabled" is the preferred term for people without disabilities.
Problematic: Normal, able-bodied, healthy or whole
Preferred: Sexual Minorities, Queer, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) Problematic: People of an alternative “lifestyle”
Preferred: People with intersex characteristics, individuals with ambiguous sexual organs Problematic/Outdated: Hermaphrodites
Now, it would be easy to laugh some of this off. (When was the last time you had to worry about using language that might be offensive to a
Hermaphrodite person with ambiguous sexual organs?)
Viewed within the context of what we’re seeing on college campuses, however, the document is more troubling than humorous. People’s lives are no joke, and we know what will happen to people who use one of the “problematic” words in front of the wrong person on campus. If said person is lucky, he or she will be browbeat into publicly apologizing; if the person is unlucky, he or she will be smeared as a bigot and ran off campus.
Furthermore, at the risk of making myself look like a Neanderthal (can I say that?), a lot of these terms are hardly obvious. I mean, who knew that terms and phrases such as homosexual, Caucasian, and “preferred lifestyle” had become taboo?
We’ve included the entire document in a PDF. Check it out.