Sometimes I disagree with Dr. Dennis. In this case, I have to admit that I side with the woman who wrote in for his opinion. I do believe that using the word ‘rack’ for a young girl’s breasts is inappropriate. But it’s precisely because of my differing opinion that I want to publish this – because language surrounding objectification is important! Dr. Dennis makes a compelling argument to suggest that words are just words, but being a woman of words myself, I find them incredibly powerful and instructive. I agree with him to the extent that they only hold the power we give them, but I think that we can’t diminish the effect of that collective power on society as a whole.
With that said, here’s the letter and answer from Dr. Dennis! Please let us know how YOU feel!
My boyfriend and I were having a discussion about antibiotics in milk. He described how his granddaughter at twelve already had a “rack” on her, referring to her breasts.
I feel this was an inappropriate way to reference large breasts on a child. This bothers me. I feel he is being a jerk. Is there nothing wrong with this? Am I being too sensitive? Or do you think it is unacceptable?
I would really appreciate your thoughts. Thank you Jen.
No, there is nothing wrong with this. Yes, you are being too sensitive. No, it’s not unacceptable.
For some reason you have a sensitivity to the word but keep in mind, it’s only a word! It’s only value is the one you give it. That goes for any word that you or other people are overly sensitive about.
People mistake words for actions all the time. (This is how most of our worst politicians get elected!) Put your energy and sensitivity where it’s due. The word “rack” is a bro-friendly term for “breasts” but that doesn’t make it bad. The word doesn’t carry intention at all – even when used to describe a minor.
In fact, language is rich in colorful, descriptive terms that are only that – conveyance of concept, or “communication.”
It’s that color that gives emphasis, humor, perspective, history and intention to our language. When you give power to words to incite emotion and then take offense because someone else used it you’re not seeing the reality: it’s YOU that gave the word that power over you! It’s NOT someone else’s responsibility to deal with those emotions you inflicted upon yourself.
Consider some of the words we use like “fag.” Is that offensive to you? Does it stir some type of emotional response in you? If you lived in England it would have a very different connotation than it does here in the US because it’s a slang term for “cigarette”. Likewise with “gay” – a term that used to mean “merry” or “lively.”
What about “bunghole?” Does that offend you? Well, if you were in the spirits business you’d know that was the actual name of the hole in a barrel where you fill it and then hammer in the cork to stopper it. We’ve extrapolated the word as a funny way of referring to the anus.
Now about “nice?” It’s considered a positive word today but it’s origins weren’t exactly so “nice.” In fact, it used to be used as something of a weak insult. “He’s a nice guy” meant he was lackluster and uninteresting.
Jennifer, words are real things only to the degree you make them. If you’re unhappy with the intention of words you’ll never be able to deal with the intent itself. Don’t deflect or misdirect your discomfort and likewise, don’t give your offense more value than it’s worthy of.
Today, we actually make people apologize for offending others! Stop and think just how weak and misdirected that is! What a waste of energy and in fact, I think that people who get offended and then think they are due some sort of compensation for it are the lowest common denominator of a weak culture. You have ever right to be offended by actions and even words if you choose, but you are not afforded some special rights because of it.
Let’s all grow up and be the adults that we were meant to be. We can then use colorful language, spew profanity, be creative, obtuse, disgusting, compassionate, funny and even insulting; recognizing that language ties us together in humanity. What do you say?
Dr. Dennis W. Neder
Producers: “BAM! TV” and “Love and Sex”
Publishers: “Being a Man in a Woman’s World I, II & III”