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Michigan State inclusive language guide: ‘bunny,’ ‘gift,’ ‘America’ are offensive

The latest “inclusive language” guide offering comes from Michigan State University where now even words like “bunny,” “gift” and “nickname” are considered offensive.

The guide, courtesy of the school’s Brand Studio, states that “in alignment with strategic efforts around diversity, equity and inclusion […] Michigan State University values communications practices that support belonging for all Spartans.”

All Spartans? That certainly is debatable.

Under the guide’s Gender and Sexuality section, officials recommend avoiding terms like “female” (“reduces women to their assumed biological anatomy”), “sex change” (“gender transition” is better) and “nickname.” In this age of gender fluidity and gender pronouns, using “nickname” could “imply that a person’s name is a substitute for their legal name.”

In the Race and Ethnicity section, terms to avoid include “Blacks” (allegedly derogatory), “Caucasian” and “racial minority” (reasons not explained), and “at-risk.” The latter supposedly puts the onus of responsibility on the individual rather than “structural” factors.

The section on disability deems all of the following terms “ableist”: “crazy,” “insane,” “bonkers,” “nuts,” “psycho,” “demented,” “senile,” “loony,” “lunatic,” “psychotic,” “addict,” “invalid,” “vegetable,” “paralyzed,” “lame,” “madhouse,” “tone-deaf,” “spazzing out,” “braindead” and “blindly.”

One should also skip “special” when referencing a person who’s intellectually underdeveloped. (Tell that to the Special Olympics.)

But it’s the guide’s section on Global Identity that’s arguably the biggest head-scratcher. Deep-thinking Michigan State DEI officials believe the following “references to majority imagery” should be bypassed: “merry,” “Christmas trees,” “wreaths,” “holly,” “bells,” “gifts,” “reindeer,” “bunnies,” “eggs” and “chicks.” (And don’t forget “America” too as, after all, Central and South Americans also, technically, are “Americans.”)

Of course, one may wonder how avoiding common holiday terms most people in the country use is “supporting belonging” for all students.

MSU joins the ranks of higher ed institutions such as Adelphi University (offers the new pronoun “V”), the University of Manchester and U.S. Air Force Academy (don’t use “mother” and “father” and “mom” and “dad” respectively), and the University of California Irvine (avoid “kill two birds with one stone” as it’s too violent). Among many others.

MORE: UNR’s new language guide warns against using ‘native Nevadan,’ offensive to indigenous people

MORE: Professor at Catholic university docks grades for ‘exclusive language’ on gender

IMAGE: leungchopan / Shutterstock.com

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.