“You Don’t Say” Campaign Prompts College Students to Reconsider Offensive Phrases

“Man up.” “No homo.” “Bitch.” “That’s so gay.” These are phrases that people use so commonly that their potentially offensive connotations are so often overlooked. Hoping to address this issue, students at Duke University created the “You Don’t Say?” campaign, confronting everyday expressions that center around gender and sexual orientation.

Despite using “you” in the title, the campaign chiefly succeeds because it relies on first person statements to make a point. Rather than demanding that other people stop using these expressions, the posters feature photos of people who are offering up their thoughts on it.

“We wanted to have this idea where we listed a word, and following that word, we’d have some sort of explanation as to why people might be interested in refraining from using that word,” said Duke sophomore Daniel Kort. “We wanted to not just say that it’s not okay to use these words, but also to provide some form of justification. We also didn’t want it to come off as, ‘People shouldn’t say this,’ but instead to profile people saying, ‘In my personal endeavors, I don’t say this.’ There’s a lot of power in ‘I’ statements or ‘we’ statements. We don’t want to put words in people’s mouths, and we certainly didn’t want our actions to be taken as indicative of the entire LGBTQ community or feminist community.”

Though the posters limit the text in order to make for compelling, readable graphics, in depth explanations from some of the participants are available on the campaign’s Facebook album.

Having amassed more than 11,000 “likes,” the campaign is certainly a success in bringing attention to the topic. Facebook users have shared the photos on their own pages and productive conversations have emerged in the comments section that more thoroughly examine language usage.

While the feedback the involved students have received directly has been overwhelmingly positive, Duke sophomore Anuj Chhabra said that negative comments are welcome, too, since they help to create a more well-rounded discussion on these issues.

Admittedly, the posters aren’t convincing everyone to drop sexist and homophobic expressions from their vocabularies – many have derided the campaign for being “overly PC.” Nonetheless, the posters seem to be proving quite effective with open-minded individuals who have previously used the expressions casually. By hearing the reasoning of their peers for avoiding certain phrases, fellow students and friends come to understand these new perspectives and can amend – or not amend – their vocabularies after giving it proper consideration.

How do you feel about this campaign, Care2 community? Can you think of any other offensive phrases that you hear on a regular basis that you wish would get weeded out?


Check out a similar college social media campaign: 12 Reasons We Need Feminism


Jim Ven
Jim V9 months ago


Jerome S
Jerome S9 months ago

thanks for sharing.

Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson3 years ago

So us oldies have to have a contemporary up-to-date dictionary. Let's get one ASAP.

Marc Horton
marcus Horton3 years ago

thank you to duke students, this is very real damage that is done to our friends and families and one's own personal self worth development and esteem, this type of language thanks for keeping it very real.....

Ingo Schreiner
Ingo Schreiner3 years ago

good start

Michael T.
Michael T3 years ago

Tim W I have seen and heard some of the lamest excuses for abdicating responsibility for our words and deeds. But some of them take the cake don't they?

I laugh at those pretending they aren't responsible for the damage and harm their word use causes, and that the rest of us just need to toughen up, and accept that people can and will intentionally be rude.

That is the behavior of malignant narcissists.

Many of those same folks claim they believe in jayzus, yet feel and behave as if they are superior and behave arrogantly in their word choices, intentionally, knowing those word choices will aggravate, and irritate other people.

It is intentional.

And speaks of low intelligence and a lack of empathy towards others.

Tim W.
Timothy W3 years ago

John W.
None of your statements make sense in this context. Yes you are right words have multiple meanings, but when someone says thats so gay, everyone knows that the speaker doesn't mean that is so happy. If a guy calls you a pussy, we all know he isn't calling you a cat.

Lauren Goldman
Lauren Rischel3 years ago

I think that a lot of younger people use hurtful phrases without necessarily thinking of the damage they can do. Although they may not subscribe to the messages that these phrases represent, it would be good if they could understand impact that the words have on those they are aimed at, and look inside to see if they truly mean what the words imply.

It very rarely happens (so far), but when someone calls me a Jew, in anger, I simply answer, "Thank you." I am 68, and though I do not let the person see how it affects me, I am all too aware of the true evil that may lie behind the words.

A German soldier is walking down the street and, meeting a Jew, yells, "Schwein!"
The man bows and replies, "Greenberg."

John W.
.3 years ago

The last one is pure gibberish! A tranny can refer to transparency (photograph.) transit van (vehicle.)

John W.
.3 years ago

Don't say bitch or pussy! A bitch is a female dog, thus as an insult you call men "dogs" & women bitches! A pussy is a cat, used as a euphemism for a vagina; when a person is called a pussy, they are being called a cat as cats can be timid.