What would you think of me if you were reading a blog post and I used the word ‘queer’?
What would you think of me if you were reading a blog post and I used the word ‘retard’?
I’m guessing you’d be really shocked and appalled, right? Shocked that a (reasonably) well-educated woman would use such inflammatory, bigoted and ignorant language, yes?
Well, dear readers, this happens to me all the time. There’s a word that I see popping up here and there, from people I consider to be pretty enlightened, that makes me feel increasingly uncomfortable.
The ‘C’ word. No, not c*nt, I’m not that delicate. The word that offends me so is chav.
This is a word that has now made it into the Oxford English dictionary and is defined thusly:
a young lower-class person typified by brash and loutish behaviour and the wearing of (real or imitation) designer clothes.
According to the dictionary, it could be either a contraction of the Romany word ‘chavvy’, meaning child or young person, or from the place ‘Chatham’ in Kent where the word supposedly started.
Either way, do you see the key phrase in there?
This is the point – if you wouldn’t use nigger, queer or retard, you have no place using the word chav. If you’re shocked and offended by racism, homophobia or discrimination against disability, why does classist intolerance not have the same effect? It’s not okay to hate or judge someone because of the colour of their skin, their sexuality or how able-bodied they are, so can someone explain why it’s okay to mock, deride and write off a subset of society because of what they were born into? What they’ve been brought up knowing? What they maybe couldn’t afford or have the resources to remove themselves from?
I think Plan B put it a lot better than me in his TED lecture when he said this:
“I believe that there is a demonisation of the youth throughout the media. And people are falling for it, because if you’d had no direct contact with the kids that I’m talking about how the hell can you judge them? Because you’re only judging them based on something you read in a newspaper, aren’t you?
See, this fuels the fire. If you call kids words that are derogatory to them just because they are unlucky enough to be born into a family that couldn’t afford to give them the education that you had, they’re going to hate you. Of course they’re going to hate you and you’re going to hate them because of their actions. And it’s this vicious circle that goes round. By calling these kids these words you push them out of your society and they don’t feel part of it. You beat them into apathy and in the end they just say: “Cool, I don’t care. I don’t want to be part of your society.”"
So, maybe you should think about that, next time you label someone a chav.