Mary Sue–Feminist icon or literary criticism?

It started out as a parody Star Trek character called Mary Sue.
A Trekkie’s Tale

The original Mary Sues were impossibly young and hypercompetent–and they hadn’t had to work for those skills; their writers simply handed them over. Mary Sue was better than the canon characters at their own game, and showed them up at every opportunity. She could never lose, because the author would not let her. Her main purpose was to fall in love with the character that the author desired, and perhaps to die so that the writer wouldn’t have to deal with writing a realistic relationship. The setting, characters, and plot were twisted out of recognition by a young writer making this fantasy happen.

Mary Sue was, at first, simply a character made to attract a man that the author liked. The hypercompetence and inability to lose were side effects–because, of course, to attract the perfect man, she had to be the perfect woman.

As Internet use became widespread, from about 1995 to 2018 or so, Mary Sue was a term used for literary criticism in the fan fiction world. She was a symptom of bad writing–generally immature writing by those who were just getting started and didn’t realize you had to write a lot of garbage before you could get to the good stuff. Sues were author self-inserts who were also writer’s pets, who were given powers they hadn’t earned, could do no wrong, were never made to face consequences, and had about as much personality and inner life as a cardboard cutout.

Sues still stomped all over the setting and characters, romanced characters the author liked, and died dramatically; but during the Internet age, when the term was first widely used, the definition quickly expanded to include male characters–Gary Stus–who were very much like the Sues, but more likely to be extremely violent and to collect female lovers like trophies rather than focusing on a single perfect mate. Like their female counterparts, they had little or no personality of their own.

“Litmus test” checklists proliferated during this time, pointing out problematic character types and bad writing.
The Universal Mary-Sue Litmus Test

(Notice the author’s addendum at the top of the test. This is a recent addition, and reflects the recent re-definition of the term Mary Sue.)

During the 2010s, Mary Sue was also expanded to include criticism of published media. The most notable example of these published Mary Sues is probably Twilight’s Bella and Edward, who generated their own hatedom thanks to their lackluster personalities and toxic relationship. But many other characters have also been criticized this way, including:

  • The majority of tough-guy male leads in hail-of-bullets action movies.
  • Vampire hunter Anita Blake, who gains powers constantly and gathers a harem Gary-Stu style.
  • Ayla from Earth’s Children, whose intelligence comes entirely from the author telling her about modern ideas.
  • Silver Age Superman, who got new powers as the plot demanded them and became nigh-invincible.
  • Drizzt Do’Urden, with his angsty origin and flashy equipment.
  • Natty Bumppo, whom Mark Twain criticized most thoroughly in “The Literary Offenses of Fenimore Cooper”.

Pre-2010, female characters were still the majority of fan fiction Mary Sues; but then again, the majority of fan fiction writers were female, and Mary Sues were still primarily seen as self-insert writer’s pets. During this time, there was a proliferation of parody Sues and creative critique of bad fan fiction (often the author’s own first attempts), in the form of Mystery Science Theater-style commentary, or as metafiction in which the author created heroes to go into the problematic story and fix it–often by executing the Sue in question.

But then feminism reclaimed the term. In the late 2010s and into the present, feminist bloggers encountered the idea that Mary Sue meant “powerful female character” and embraced her as one of their own. These writers dropped the idea of Mary Sue being written to be the perfect love interest for the author’s favorite character, de-emphasized the power fantasy and power without effort aspects of the Mary Sue, and ignored Gary Stus entirely.

It didn’t help that the Mary Sue label had been quickly affixed to Star Wars‘s Rey, who overshadowed the established characters, gained new Force powers and skill with a lightsaber more quickly than any other Jedi had ever been shown to gain them, and couldn’t seem to lose. Simultaneously, misogynistic fans were complaining about having to deal with a female lead at all, and fans in general were complaining about the low quality and disrespect for canon of the newly made Disney Star Wars movies.

The anti-Sue community, accused of misogyny, tried to fight back, explaining that they did not feel that Mary Sue was a feminist icon at all; in fact, she was anti-feminist.

PPC FAQ: Isn’t this sexist?

But the new meaning stuck. “Mary Sue” is now half-reclaimed, half-critical, and doesn’t really work very well for either purpose. The idea of a female power fantasy to balance out all the male power fantasies is certainly attractive; but is it good writing? I don’t think so. I think characters shouldn’t be handed power and competence without effort; I don’t think they should be infallible or impervious to the consequences of their actions.

If you’re annoyed by male characters getting all the power and none of the personality and getting off scot-free in critical terms, while an equivalent female character is quickly called to task, then perhaps you should be demanding that male characters be held up to a higher standard, rather than championing poorly-written female characters.

But the term “Mary Sue” is steadily becoming impossible to use to say that. Nowadays, when we talk about wish-fulfillment, author’s pet, overpowered, invincible characters with little emotional depth or realistic personality, we have to use the full definition instead of saying “Mary Sue”, which used to be such a handy shorthand way to say the same thing.

Why do Autism Parents mourn the neurotypical child they never had?

I don’t condone it, but I think I can sort of explain why it happens. Do you know how, when plans are changed suddenly, you feel sort of out of balance, and might even have a meltdown if it’s bad and sudden enough? Neurotypicals make plans for their children. They have a mental picture of their future, which includes their child’s personality and cognitive traits. They build these castles in the air–they imagine future scenarios–that may or may not be anything like the reality they’re going to have.

When their child is diagnosed with autism, these future plans disappear, and they feel off-balance like we do when our schedules are suddenly changed and we don’t know what’s going to happen.

Some of them adjust pretty quickly, because they realize that their child hasn’t changed; it’s still the same child they’ve loved all along, and it’s not like those mental plans were ever going to be accurate anyway. Most are scared because they don’t know what life with autism is going to be like and they worry that their child won’t be happy, and it takes a little while for them to regain their equilibrium; instead of a stereotypical future, they’re gazing into the unknown. That, we can put down to an autism-unfriendly world that doesn’t give them enough examples of regular families with autistic people in them.

But others hold on to their mental future, and even reject the actual child they have. Those are the ones who focus on the will-nevers, who love the neurotypical child they would have had in an alternate universe in favor of the autistic child they actually do have. This is a form of emotional abuse.

Back to normal

Everyone is talking about “getting back to normal” even though coronavirus deaths are still high. They should be talking about making it normal to take precautions–things like normalizing working from home, establishing mandatory paid sick leave, distributing free masks and tests, and making schools safer. If the coronavirus is here to stay, we should make permanent changes. Instead, they are talking about taking off the masks, stopping testing, and acting exactly as we did before the pandemic.

That they are not talking about making any changes tells me that they want a pre-covid “normal”… for everyone but the vulnerable, who will have to isolate indefinitely. They would rather shut us away than have a world in which we make small adjustments so that the high-risk can be a part of society.

Instead of locking us into asylums, they are making the world too dangerous for us to live in it. Those who are old or sick or just unlucky are now being forced to quarantine–or, if they cannot, to face a very real risk of death. All because the public in general is unwilling to make small adjustments–unwilling to take a test or wear a mask or give their employees the ability to stay at home when they are sick.

We are disposable people. Our lives are not worth the inconvenience.

“Profound autism”

There’s been talk about a new “profound autism” category meant to highlight the service needs of people who are autistic and need intensive support.

Defining it as “profound autism” is just about the worst thing you could do. People who got put in that group would be written off, assumed to have no talents and no potential. Bad idea. Absolutely horrendous.

Many of us who can use language fluently now were considered “profound” in the past and would never have been given the opportunity to learn had we been categorized that way. People who still can’t use language very well nevertheless have potential that can be ignored–and can have things to say that would be dismissed–if they are labeled “profound”.

Instead, advocate for people with high support needs–universally, not just autistics. We already have an “intensive/pervasive support” category to describe it (intensive meaning “must have aide 24/7”; pervasive meaning “must have aide plus medical care”). Don’t make a new diagnostic category. Just categorize how much support they need, and then insist that they get it.

We don’t need to know exactly “what it’s like” to advocate for universal rights for people who need a lot of help. But they are not Other; they are not a separate group. They are autistic and they have important things to say, whether they speak or sign or bite the aide who’s been abusing them; it’s all communication. What we should do is listen to them and amplify what they have got to say.

Labeling people “profoundly autistic” is a way of silencing them and writing them off.

Should libraries seek more current replacements for books that mention “Asperger’s”?

A lot of autistic people don’t like the term “Asperger’s” very much anymore, ever since the evidence came to light that Hans Asperger was a eugenicist who made the argument that his (verbal, intelligent) boys were valuable to the Third Reich, but also sent more disabled children to institutions, where they died from neglect or were murdered. (The research was summarized in a book called “Asperger’s Children”, which I cannot recommend highly enough. Asperger’s here in the title refers to the doctor himself.)

The trouble is that this is recent information, and many good books about autism were written when “Asperger’s” was the term popularized by Lorna Wing to describe autism that did not affect one’s language ability or ability to care for oneself.

This was needed because before “Asperger syndrome”, autism was thought to be always severe, very rare, and always associated with extreme disability. People with less-extreme symptoms were being overlooked, and without a diagnosis or any help they often ended up jobless, homeless, and mentally ill.

So “Asperger’s” did do its duty as a diagnosis–we needed it–but with the recent revelations about Hans Asperger being a eugenicist rather than simply a doctor who made excuses for his patients, the specific term has become a little bit troublesome to us. Many of us do still use it, but it is increasingly gaining an association with the functioning labels that deny help to the “high-functioning” and agency to the “low-functioning”.

Asperger’s was merged into autism spectrum disorder primarily because it is not medically distinguishable from classic autism. Although people diagnosed with Asperger’s don’t have a speech delay, they do have unusual speech and communication problems; and although they don’t have delays in basic ADLs, they often have serious problems with other aspects of independent living. And when someone diagnosed with Asperger’s is evaluated according to the DSM-IV criteria of Autistic Disorder, they fit those criteria more than 90% of the time.

One of the problems the autism community faces, internally, is something we call “Aspie supremacy”. These are people–often quite young people, teenagers and twenty-somethings still dependent on the ableist framework they were raised in–who declare themselves to have Asperger’s, not autism, because they are smart and talented and not disabled, and therefore are superior to other autistics–and perhaps even to neurotypicals.

This is a problem because they are assuming that disability means one cannot be talented, cannot be smart; and that one must be either inferior or superior to others. And of course it means leaving behind anyone who cannot mask their autism enough to be included in the upper “Aspie” class. It is essentially Asperger’s eugenics, and yes, it does trouble us greatly, especially since these people are often deeply hurt by years of bullying, abuse, and ableist exclusion, and want to solve the problem by taking themselves out of the “disability” category rather than by advocating for disability rights.

I am only one autistic person and this is only one perspective. I will leave it to the librarians to use this information to judge whether, and which, books should be updated.

Is activism a moral obligation?

Yes, it is, but with one caveat: Activism has a wide definition.

Let’s say you are a busy person, middle-aged with three children and a job, and not closely identified with any oppressed minority or social justice issue. You have to spend most of your time keeping your family fed, and in your spare time you still have to ensure that your children have someone to love them and watch over them. For you to go off getting arrested during a public civil disobedience publicity stunt would actually be irresponsible, because your children might lose you as a parent, and if you made the wrong sort of enemies, you might put them at risk. Some people might call that cowardly, seeing as how the children of oppressed minorities are at risk by default; but I call it natural, because you are a parent and your children come first.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t be an activist. Look at those children–you can teach them what you know about being kind, about taking care of the world around them, about paying attention to the news and to current events; you can teach them about critical thinking and about how to argue without becoming (verbally or physically) violent. You can, of course, do things that don’t involve endangering your children, like taking part in a pride parade, writing letters to the editor, or joining a peaceful, child-friendly demonstration. You can use money and influence to support the causes you care about.

Activism does not need to be formal. You can be a quiet supporter of those who need support; you can quite casually reprimand those who do and say things that make your community hostile to one group or another. You can encourage fairness and kindness in everything you do, without ever having to preach. In a perfect world, that would be the only sort of activism we ever needed.

There are many other situations in which activism is made difficult. Some people are in an oppressed minority, and so badly affected by prejudice that it is simply unsafe for you to speak up. Think of a transgender teen in a transphobic household who is likely to be beaten up; or a disabled person living in an abusive institution who will be mistreated for doing anything but pretend to be “grateful” for their “care”. Sometimes, in those situations, activism means simply surviving, as best you can, and clinging as tightly to your morals as you can, being as supportive as you can of anyone else in the same position as you, while keeping it clear in your mind that the things you see happening around you which you cannot prevent are not your fault–they are the fault of your abusers.

And sometimes, it’s simply difficult to get started. You don’t have the skills; you don’t know where to go or what to do. It’s very difficult to be the first to hold a sign, alone on a street corner; or the first to say, “I don’t think this is right,” when everybody else seems to take it for granted; or the first to stand up to someone who has been taking their unjust use of their power as a given. Even more than that, it can be difficult to be an activist when you don’t even know what is wrong with the world or how that wrongness perpetuates itself. Sometimes, activism can mean just learning more. It can mean reading books or blogs or finding other people who also care and talking to them. It can mean finding someone else who can be the first person on the street corner, and joining them. It can mean taking it in stride when you are embarrassed to discover that something you have been doing was hurting people, to recognize that because you grew up in a prejudiced world, you were indoctrinated with those ideas, and that this isn’t your fault.

One form of activism that many people completely ignore is the practice of volunteering. Of course, volunteering has to be done right–you have to evaluate your skills, find out where you are going to actually do some good, and use those skills to their best effect. Just doing things for the sake of doing them–or, even worse, for the sake of selfies and reputation–is not going to help anybody. Find out where the need is, find out what you can do, and figure out how to match those things in a way that’s effective. And above all, never use your volunteer work to diminish the self-determination and self-respect of those you help. Empower them.

Activism is more than just the stereotypical protest and civil disobedience. But being an activist is part of being an ethical member of your community. We are human beings; we are meant to work together. If we don’t use our skills and resources to make our communities better, in whatever form that takes for our particular circumstances, then we are giving up part of what it is to be human.

Why we need a higher minimum wage

Imagine an auction where your work is up for sale; but many other people’s work is also up for sale, so that some lots will always remain unsold. There are more workers than jobs.

What is the best strategy for someone who wants a worker, any worker? It is to be the first to bid, bid the minimum, and then not raise anyone else’s bid. Raising is counterproductive because supply exceeds demand, and one can always wait until other buyers have hired their workers to bid the minimum on one of the lots left over. Because this is the ideal strategy, everyone will be using it. Every lot of work that can be bought, is bought, and for the minimum possible price.

For the worker, the only possible strategy is to accept any bid, because if they do not accept, they will be left till last and their work will be one of the unsold lots.

There is a way out for the worker, and that is to learn a skilled trade. However, this is a way out only for that worker. Other unskilled workers are still caught in the same system, and because there are still unskilled jobs and unskilled workers, the minimum-wage auction will go on as before.

Moreover, if too many workers learn skilled trades, employers in those trades will fulfill their quotas, leaving these overqualified workers to compete for unskilled jobs where their skills are irrelevant–back to the minimum-wage auction.

When the minimum wage is too low, the unskilled (or overqualified) worker naturally tries to fill their own needs, usually by taking more than one job, and by adding more family members–children and spouses–to the job market, to take jobs rather than being homemakers or students. This unbalances the system even further: There are yet more workers, and yet fewer jobs. The employer is able to bid even lower, and the worker must immediately accept any offer they can, for fear of not being employed at all.

When the employer hits the federal minimum wage, they cannot reduce the worker’s pay further; but they can still split jobs into part-time positions without benefits, hire people to work for tips, and hire “self-employed” “independent contractors” who can be paid less than minimum wage because they are technically not their employees. And this is what they do, because the market permits them to do it, because people still take those jobs, because those are the only ones they can get.

We have too many people in the work force and too few jobs for them to do. A low minimum wage forces more people to take more jobs, while simultaneously allowing employers to pay less.

If we raised the minimum wage, then there would be fewer workers, because a minimum wage job would once again be enough to support a family. Many jobs are being replaced with automation, but because of the higher minimum wage, those jobs would no longer be desperately fought over by unskilled workers.

As more jobs are replaced by automation, we may end up with the same scenario again: People fight over jobs, and employers find ways to pay less and less. At this point, we would need to institute a universal basic income, paid for by taxes on corporations. There’s simply no way around that–even though it might slow down when employers are forced to stop hiring so many part-timers and contractors, the number of jobs will eventually be much less than the number of people willing to work. At that point, those extra workers will be supported by universal basic income and, instead, do unpaid work like art, volunteer work, or study. The only alternative to this is a world in which a majority of unskilled workers are barely scraping by on half a job, crammed together in apartments that take five salaries to pay for, unable to afford health care, higher education, or anything but the next day’s low-quality food–and sometimes not even that.

It takes courage to stand up against the crowd, whether the crowd is right or wrong. But don’t worship courage in and of itself. Doing the right thing is meant to be the goal, and courage is only a means to that end. Otherwise, no matter how courageous you are, you are still wrong.

Should you tell your date you’re asexual?

If you’re not familiar with asexuality, here’s a brief definition: Asexuals are people who aren’t sexually attracted to anybody. Many asexuals don’t want sex; some are outright disgusted by the idea of having sex, while others merely find it boring.

Some asexuals will have sex with their partners, the way you might attend a football game with your sports-fan partner even if you don’t like sports yourself; some asexuals are sex-positive, meaning they don’t feel sexually attracted to anybody, but do enjoy having sex when they get the opportunity. For demisexuals, sexual attraction emerges only once they are already deeply connected, emotionally, to another person. Asexuality is a sexual orientation, just like being bi, straight, or gay.

So… should you tell your date you’re asexual? And if so, when?

First, and most importantly: No asexual should ever have to feel like they have to disclose their sexual orientation just to protect themselves from being forced to have sex before they feel they’re ready. “I didn’t know they were asexual” is not a valid reason for your date to push you into sex, because there is never a valid reason to do that. If you say “no” and your partner pressures you anyway, that’s a huge red flag that they don’t respect you; that’s not the sort of person you want as a partner. Dump them, and don’t look back.

Obviously, if you’re the sort of asexual who finds sex disgusting or so boring you’d rather watch paint dry, and they’re looking for a relationship that, if successful, will eventually become sexual, then you need to tell your date right away, preferably before you’re on a date to begin with–otherwise you’re wasting your time and theirs.

But things get more complicated for non-sex-repulsed aces and demisexuals. If you’re open to sex, then you aren’t going to be automatically incompatible with someone who wants sex, so you wouldn’t be wasting their time not telling them immediately. Once you have a more mature relationship, it’ll be natural to tell them everything about yourself, including your asexuality. Or you can tell them right away (and I recommend it, because I think it’s good to have everything in the open at once, whether that’s asexuality, or disability, or religion, or your desire to have six children or no children at all)–but you are not obligated to do so.

If your friends are the sort who start having sex while dating only casually, then you might not realize how common it is for people to wait until they feel deeply attached or have formalized their commitment. Even allosexuals don’t all jump right into bed with one another. Some wait for marriage, or for deep, true love. Some simply don’t enjoy casual sex. Before birth control, it was held up as the universal ideal to prevent couples from having a baby without a family to raise one; but just because we have birth control doesn’t mean we have to rush right into sex. There are many valid emotional, social, philosophical, and religious reasons to want to wait.

Those who want to wait to have sex are often shamed as being “prudish” because they turn down sex when it’s offered; or they’re told they’re “admirable” for waiting for marriage, as though it were the default to want to have sex, and anyone who said “no” must be denying themselves. That can be hard to deal with, especially in a world where sex is wedged into every storyline, used as an enticement in advertisements, and seen as a “basic human need” right up there with oxygen.

You can tell them right away that you are ace, and that your attraction to them isn’t sexual–it’s romantic, or perhaps platonic. If you are demisexual, you can tell them that you won’t feel like having sex unless you have a deep connection. You can put it right in your dating profile or on your social-media accounts. Or you can wait until the topic of sex comes up.

If you get the impression that the other person expects a hookup for casual sex, and that’s not what you’re looking for, then make sure you’re on the same page. If the other person looks to be trying to initiate a sexual relationship, then tell them. You can use words like “demisexual” or “sex-positive asexual”, if you like, or you can just explain it by describing what you personally need to feel comfortable with sex. Just remember that if a relationship is respectful and mature, as it should be, nobody will be forcing anyone into anything they don’t want.

We Give Words Their Power

Recently, a friend of mine posted a meme that recommended we should use the term “enslaved people” rather than “slaves”, because being a slave is a circumstance, rather than an identity. I did not think it was particularly useful to do so; it misses the point. The important thing, when teaching about slavery, is to teach from the perspective of the slaves themselves, so that the student never forgets that the slaves are fellow humans rather than objects, and that they have been made property despite their intrinsic human equality with their legal masters.

I have often been confounded with the need to change my language this way. When language changes more quickly than I can keep up, I often find myself misunderstood because I use the old words and people hear the new definitions. It happened when I was told that I could no longer say “all lives matter”, because it now meant that the only lives that did matter were the white, neurotypical ones. It happened when I was told that when I mourned their genocide during the Holocaust, I could not call them Gypsies, but must call them Roma instead, because that is what they call themselves. I never seem to be able to change my words as quickly as neurotypicals do. It can get frustrating.

Most of the time when this happens, I do change my language, because I recognize that neurotypicals burden words with all sorts of things not in the words’ actual definition, and then when I say them, they hear all those extra meanings too. If I want to communicate, I have to keep up. But it bothers me a great deal, for several reasons.

First, it seems that people substitute a change in language for a change in behavior. One simply cannot say the n-word without being immediately branded a racist (for an experiment, imagine what you might think of me if I had not censored it). With the extra meanings loaded onto that word, that is exactly what it means now: “I am a racist.” And if you say it, you are saying you are not just a racist, but a proud racist.

But although this word has become a taboo, many other things that are more hurtful to black people than a word will ever be, are not taboos. White people say they want to live in a good neighborhood; they mean they want to live outside a poor black neighborhood. They send their child to a “good school”, and leave the underfunded, crowded public schools for the black children. White people casually hire other white people for jobs, choose them as friends, date them, and generally perpetuate, informally, segregation. None of this is taboo, the way the n-word is. People who would never say the n-word will happily act in ways that say, “I am a racist”.

Because of this language taboo, saying you are a racist has become more shunned than actually acting like a racist.

Second, language is being used as a password into liberal, socially-conscious circles. If one does not say the right words, one is assumed not to care about human rights. The focus has changed. Instead of policing one another’s actions, people police one another’s language. A person who has not lifted a finger to help empower the minority groups in their own community can, with the full consensus of their social circle, brand another person as the enemy–even if the other person has been spending a great deal of time and effort working toward equality. Saying the right words has become a substitute for doing the right thing.

I’ve seen the same phenomenon in a very different milieu–that of fundamentalist Christianity. One must say the right words, pray the right prayers, or one is an outsider. Words are given near-magical power.

In fundamentalist circles, to use any kind of “bad language” is to be immediately castigated (and I don’t mean using God or Jesus as swear words, which would be understandable as it shows a lack of respect. Rather, it is the simple scatological and sexual language that is considered most sinful). But it is completely permitted to insult, belittle, or bully someone without that sort of language, especially if one can put it in polite terms. I have heard “God bless you” being used as a patronizing insult–multiple times.

There are superstitions surrounding language. People use “In Jesus’s name,” to close out a prayer, with the belief that if one does not pray in Jesus’s name, God will not hear. They talk about becoming a Christian by saying the right words–that one repents of sin, asks for forgiveness, and asks Christ into one’s heart–and believe that one cannot be a Christian unless one has said those words, whether or not one lives according to them.

Fundamentalists also identify one another, and exclude outsiders, by the use of language. There are so many words that are loaded with a ton of meaning outside their literal definition that communicating with a fundamentalist, in their own language, is like crossing a minefield. Terms like “God’s will”, “persecution”, “sinner”, or “end times”, come so loaded with meaning that anyone who hasn’t spent years in that culture will immediately sound like an outsider when they open their mouths. They too have fallen into the trap of policing one another’s language rather than their behavior.

It is so very similar to what I see in liberal circles, and that troubles me. Groups can lose sight of their purpose in this endless quest to affirm and reinforce their group identity, because they give language so much power.

What’s done is done: Once a word has been given a meaning, we can’t take it back. But should we really be looking for more words we can load with negative meanings and declare taboos? From where I stand, all that does is power the euphemism treadmill. People like me go from being called cretins, to morons, to retarded, to developmentally delayed; and all the time, we are treated as second-class citizens no matter how much the label changes.

As an autistic person, language is not my first language. Language is only what I translate my thoughts into when I want to communicate them to others. Yet neurotypicals seem convinced that words are thoughts and language is reality. Some even believe they can affect reality by saying the right words: Every tradition of magic, whether cultural or fictional, has to do with saying the right words, making the right gestures, and/or creating the right symbols. Does that sound familiar? It should; the ways of magic are also the ways of language, whether written, gestured, or spoken.

Neurotypicals give language power, and because culture is as real as any other idea, language is indeed granted the power they give it. But this is not intrinsic power. Language has only the power we give it, and we are giving it too much power.

As a language-user, I have no choice but to tiptoe across the minefield of connotation. If I say the wrong word, people hear things I am not saying or believe things of me that are not true. I have to spend a lot of time and effort on updating my language rather than actually doing useful things to mitigate or overturn the social systems that created the desire to linguistically distance ourselves from the atrocities associated with them. But it bothers me, because the more we focus on linguistic distance, the more we seem to lose focus on the need to actually change the way the world works.

If only we did not give language so much power, we would be much better off.