PETA, the lovable People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is urging people to stop using common phrases such as “bring home the bacon,” “kill two birds with one stone,” and “take the bull by the horns,” comparing them to racist, homophobic, and ableist terms.
In a Twitter statement, PETA announced, “Words matter, and as our understanding of social justice evolves, our language evolves along with it. Here’s how to remove speciesism from your daily conversations.”
Instead of using these phrases, PETA suggests, “bring home the bagels,” “feed two birds with one scone,” and “take the flowers by the thorns.”
Apparently, unlike animals, plantae aren’t due ethical treatment in the eyes of the good people over at PETA.
Words matter, and as our understanding of social justice evolves, our language evolves along with it. Here’s how to remove speciesism from your daily conversations. pic.twitter.com/o67EbBA7H4
— PETA (@peta) December 4, 2018
Just as it became unacceptable to use racist, homophobic, or ableist language, phrases that trivialize cruelty to animals will vanish as more people begin to appreciate animals for who they are and start ‘bringing home the bagels’ instead of the bacon.
— PETA: Bringing Home the Bagels Since 1980 (@peta) December 4, 2018
Listen, before anyone gives me guff for razzing on PETA for this one, just know that I am ALL FOR the ethical treatment of animals. If we wouldn’t do it to our pets, we shouldn’t do it to other animals. They are living, breathing, feeling beings, and as such, they deserve our respect. And I am DEFINITELY all for the evolution of language as our understanding of social justice evolves as well.
BUT. And this is a big but.
Animals aren’t susceptible to the socio-emotional harm of language that humans are. There’s not a single pig, bird, or cow that is offended by our use of these common terms. Not one. Because these words — unlike racist, homophobic, and ableist words and phrases — are not used to marginalize and further oppress already oppressed groups within a social structure. These words are idioms — “a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (e.g., rain cats and dogs, see the light ),” according to dictionary.com.
In short, these words and phrases are unique to a particular language and culture and are interpreted to mean something beyond their literal meaning. “Bring home the bacon,” for example, means to earn a living, while “take the bull by the horns” means to deal with a difficult situation courageously. Very few native English speakers who hear these words interpret them to mean harming animals in any way, regardless of how they originated.
Conversely, racist, homophobic, and ableist language exists to do just that — to harm those it references. It exists to further systems of oppression. It exists to make others feel less than.
These terms PETA is calling for us to abandon? Are not words that have historically been used to persecute groups at the mercy of a system hell-bent on maintaining socio-political power structures that continuously provide opportunities to certain people while denying them to others. And for PETA to insinuate some kind of parallel between the two?
That, in and of itself, is offensive.
I’m with you on a lot of things, PETA. But this is not one of them.
Instead of calling for the banishment of common terms that, in the grand scheme, reflect very little on their subject and are instead figurative in their meaning, why don’t we focus on disparaging terms that are literally upholding ages-old structures of mistreatment and marginalization within our society?
THAT, my friends, I can get behind.