Student op-ed: The word ‘step’ is insulting to those who can’t walk

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A student at Montclair State University authored an essay on “inclusive languages” that advises college students to avoid the word “step” because it is hurtful to those who can’t walk.

Jessica Mahmoud “enjoys smashing the patriarchy, questioning the gender binary, and making new friends,” and she also blogs at Uloop, a news and classified ads site for college students. In her latest piece, “On Inclusive Language,” she advises college kids about what words to avoid if they want to be properly inclusive of everyone around them. Mahmoud’s suggestions are, to say the least, quite expansive.

For example, using the word “step” should be avoided.

“At my school’s LGBTQ Center, we have guidelines in groups and trainings and one of them is ‘move up, move back.’ The idea of this is to try and get people who don’t normally talk to move up and speak and those who do to move back and let others do so,” Mahmoud says. “I was informed that the guideline is move up, move back and not step up, step back because that leaves out those who cannot step. Not everyone is able to physically step, so try to use move or movement to be more inclusive.”

Mahmoud is upset about plenty of other offensive terms too. Like “lesbian.”

“While I identify as a lesbian, not all women who like women do,” she says. “With sexual orientation being so fluid, there are many people who identify as queer, pansexual, or bisexual. Despite this, many people correlate women who like women with lesbian identities and men who like men with being gay. So while lesbian is a valid identity, instead of assuming a woman who likes women is a lesbian, it’s best to just say ‘within the LGBTQ Community.’”

Mahmoud also dislikes the words “boy” and “girl,” which unnecessarily assign a gender identity to a person who may not have publicly declared their gender. Far better, she says, to use gender-neutral labels like “individual” or “person.”

Mahmoud even has a bone to pick with the phrase “all bodies are good bodies,” which is popular with the growing “fat acceptance” movement. What’s so bad about the phrase? Why, naturally, it’s offensive to the transgendered.

“This phrase (among others) is excluding trans people because not everyone is happy with their current body,” she says. “When someone doesn’t feel their body matches their gender identity and they wish they could change it (or maybe they are in the process of changing it), how can you tell them it’s good?”

To avoid offending transgenders, Mahmoud proposes the alternative phrases “Riots not diets” and “F*** society’s bulls**t. You do you.”

Mahmoud’s sensitivity may seem like a virtual parody of other microaggression guides, but she appears to be dead serious. Her blog includes numerous other articles, such as one analyzing the “bear community” (warning: Not the animal kind) and another on how she doesn’t believe in the idea of virginity.

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