Wednesday, November 28, 2012

AP drops homophobia and Islamaphobia from its style guide

The Ap has dropped words with the suffix -phobia, like homophobia and Islamaphobia, from the most recent edition of their Style Book, plus axed the term "ethnic cleansing." In an interview with Politico, AP Deputy Standards Editor Dave Minthorn said:
"Ethnic cleansing is a euphemism for pretty violent activities, a phobia is a psychiatric or medical term for a severe mental disorder. Those terms have been used quite a bit in the past, and we don't feel that's quite accurate."
A little over a year ago, I wrote  about -phobia being seen as ableist by some activists, so I don't think this is entirely without merit. provided whatever words one uses as a substitute are clearly understood by most people, especially those who are not part of activist communities. But -phobia isn't that far off base. This Shakesville commenter  further elucidates:
"The term homophobia is not really about a person having a disabling fear of gay people, it is about how gay people are objectified into objects TO other words- homophobia is part of a process of manipulating the public to feel fear and animosity towards gay people by painting our lifestyle as harmful and dangerous, or posing us as criminals and predators (among many other, equally horrible things). It is about a social construction of fear guided by bigotry. What I mean to say is, the homophobic person is not one who the LGBTQI community chastises for a phobia, but for a promoting of phobias- not one who necessarily feels fear but sells fear, profits from fear- one who actively engages in behavior and language that demeans and degrades us all while posing my community as the offensive party."
Jezebel's Laura Beck  disagrees with the change, saying:
"I'm not sure about all this. I feel like those words conjure the truth of what they are describing, and I'm afraid that introducing new terms could muddy the waters even more. However, agreed that "ethnic cleansing" could be a much more revolting term — but what? Let's see... mis is the prefix for hate — maybe Mislamism? That doesn't work. I like Heteronormative Bias, but don't think it's specific enough."
I don't know where I stand on this either. Most people would agree that the word genocide should be used instead of ethnic cleansing, but words like homophobia and transphobia are well understood by the public at large. Anti-gay works, as does transmisogyny, which I use periodically, but the problem comes when you're trying to reach people outside the social justice world who may not be familiar with its language.

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