Column: A woman’s right to swear

Dear reader, in our time together you’ve learned that when I’m angry, I’m funny. Catch me storming out of an administration office, and you’re in for a treat. A hilarious, wild-gestured, vulgarity-strewn treat.

When I swear, I get my damn point across. Nothing expresses outrage and hilarity like a good curse word. And nothing quenches them like a good euphemism.

The News keeps its euphemisms in big buckets, so an editor can pluck a “heck” or a “freaking” out at a moment’s notice. One of the buckets has SLAJDA painted on the side in red letters.

I started writing for the editorial page in September. Generally my columns consisted of yelling at the school – my tirades were in print, and I was happy. I was also swearing, and the vulgarities were changed every time. A red-pen-happy editor changed one to heck. Let the record show: I do not now, nor have I ever, said heck.

So I told my then-editor I should be allowed to swear. We are a college newspaper, I said, serving a population that is chiefly above the age of consent.

My next column ran intact. Ass, shit, damn, they were all there. Even the Big One (I’m not bothering to type it, because it will be removed) was there. I found out later that it was only okay because it was part of a quote. An f-word (this finding euphemisms thing is aggravating) in a subsequent column slipped in under the radar.

I have stealth fighter jet swears, apparently.

Over Christmas break, there were some changes in editorship at The News. And then, dear reader, came the trouble.

My precious curses disappeared. My new editor told me although she was okay with the language, the editor in chief – who hadn’t changed – was not. She assured me she would call before editing out any words deemed offensive.

This didn’t happen, and the changes in the column became increasingly illogical. Why was douche changed to jerk? Douche is an unpleasant term, to be sure, and I do not enjoy being called one, but is it untouchable? In the same issue, fuck (sorry) became goddamn. Taking the lord’s name in vain is copacetic, I guess, but calling someone a feminine hygiene product is not.

My editor said she had decided to cut vulgar terms. She recommended I talk to the editor in chief, Hailey Heinz, who in turn told me she would not change the News’ policy. A policy? I had assumed words were being changed arbitrarily. So I asked, “Hailey, what is this policy?”

She said the policy is case-by-case. The mother of all curse words is always off-limits, she said, except within the hallowed ground between quotation marks, and whatever else the editors find offensive will be taken out.

It is The News’ right to ban profanity. The problem is there’s no formal policy – it depends on which editor, freshman or senior, conservative or liberal, happens to be reading your column on a chaotic Tuesday night. Heinz promised, for the sake of consistency, she would be the only one cutting curses from my columns from then on.

Well, good, but I still disagree with The News’ “policy.” Every publication gets to write its own code on swearing. The Boston Globe sees itself as a “family paper” and doesn’t swear. Boston’s Weekly Dig uses “fuck” (dammit, sorry) about as often as “the.”

The News has decided against cursing in most cases. The paper reaches beyond students and, therefore, can help to form opinions on the university. We should look professional. We shouldn’t offend.

Point taken. My argument is the News’ most important audience is the student body: those incurring huge debts to fund the school. And, my friends, we love to swear, and we don’t offend easily. A case study: I’ve never heard as many dead baby jokes anywhere as I’ve heard on this campus.

I have wondered, aloud and to both Heinz and The News’ faculty advisor, whether our new administration has had anything to do with the apparent change from one semester to the next. The News is, of course, independent of the university. Heinz assured me there is no pressure coming from above.

Sandra Miller, the advisor, did as well. But she also said it’s known throughout Curry that Aoun ‘ Co. are more conservative than Freeland.

It’s all very interesting and very subjective. I admit that despite the gross generalizations I made above, I don’t really have a sense of your attitude toward swearing in The News.

So, dear readers, let The News know what you think. And please, don’t censor yourselves.

-Rachel Slajda can be reached at [email protected]

Editor’s Note: The policy of The News is to examine the use of potentially offensive language case by case, consider context and relevance, and to edit accordingly.

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