The campaign to stop the F word, hosted by Women’s Studies and RockOUT, took place Tuesday and Wednesday throughout the campus of Slippery Rock University. Students, faculty, staff, and administrators were posted at various locations and collected nearly 2,000 signatures over the two-day span.
Kris Hawkins, President of RockOUT and senior psychology major, 21, said, “People see the sign and they say ‘Fuck?’ and I say no, no, you can say that all you want. This is about the word fag and faggot.”
“I think a word, when it’s reduced to its letter, that speaks to how much power it has.” Dr. Cindy LaCom, director of the Women’s Studies program, said.
Hawkins and LaCom both made reference to the ambiguity in the F word as intentional and an effort to get people initially thinking about their language.
“This was sparked as a result of the issues we had at the university village last year and we were trying to come up with a proactive way to get students involved about the effects of language and more specifically about the word faggot,” Hawkins stated. “We want people to be really aware of the word faggot and all of the negative meaning it has for masculinity and for men in general.”
“A lot of people would think that doing something as simple as this isn’t really doing much, but you have to remember that we’re planting the seed.” Hawkins said.
“We’re just here to make people think about the words they’re using.”
He explained the campaign as an opportunity to make people think.
“Now you have to think about ‘Hey maybe I say that sometimes. Maybe that’s not okay. What does that mean when I say that?’ You’re having that internal dialogue with yourself.”
Cosponsored by the Department of Counseling and Development, President Cheryl J. Norton, Provost Phillip Way, Women’s Center, the Special Education Department, the Pride Center, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the President’s Commission on Gender Identities and Sexual Orientation, the Professional Studies Department, English Department, Psychology Department, History Department, Political Science Department, and Philosophy Department, the campaign was emphasized as a campus community effort.
“It’s not just a campaign for students, but it’s a campaign for the entire Slippery Rock University community.” Hawkins said.
LaCom explained why she believes the word to be such a problem and how the campaign addresses the issue.
“I believe that the use of the word fag and the use of the word faggot constructs a very specific reality in our culture, one that punishes boys and men who step outside what we consider normal masculinity,” LaCom said.
“I want to raise awareness of it because the first step in changing the way we think is becoming aware of the meanings of the words we use,” LaCom said. “I absolutely believe that the language that we use constructs the world in which we live in; it shapes the world and it forms how we think about things.”
LaCom explained that the word has historically had a negative connotation since the 15th century. She went on to explain that the origin of the language for the word fag are deeply rooted and is filled with a poor history that some may not even be aware of.
“The word fag has a very long, very vexed, very negative history and we cannot get away from that history even if we don’t know it exists.,” LaCom said.
The campaign resulted in the collection of 1,982 signatures and went on for seven hours over the two days. Hopes were expressed by the coordinators that the campaign would continue to grow and become annually occurring.
“Hopefully it gets bigger and bigger each year,” Hawkins said.
LaCom said, “I think that this will continue to grow. I hope that it will become an annual thing.” She added that she is interested in possibly getting corporate cosponsors from the local area for the future.
Though looking ahead to what she hopes will be a growing campaign, LaCom admits that at some point the campaign could lose its purpose.
“Is there a possibility that we will outlive the use of raising consciousness? Absolutely and that would be a wonderful thing.”
Until that possibility is made reality, LaCom and all those a part of the campaign intend to continue advocating for a stop to use of the F word.