Macalester Buzzwords

By Amy Lebowitz and Mara Aussendorf

For those new to Macalester, it may seem like the Mac community speaks in a veritable language of academic and activist buzzwords. It can be a bit of an adjustment trying to get a grasp of these words’ meanings and how they fit into casual campus conversation, so The Mac Weekly has provided a basic guide to words everyone may want to know. Normative: Refers to widely observed sets of rules governing certain social phenomena. These rules don’t have to be universally accepted, but they do represent the standard to which mass society conforms. In the most visible example, it is not uncommon to hear the word “heteronormative” tossed around in conversations on campus. This refers to mass society’s assumption that males and females have specific, “natural” heterosexual roles in society. Hegemony: Dominance that is socially, historically and politically conferred upon certain groups by a single power. This idea is often discussed in relation to the United States exporting its culture and imposing itself on other nation-states and cultures. Paradigm: A framework or standard set of rules that governs an idea or issue. A paradigm shift refers to a change in these rules. For example, the racial paradigm in the United States shifted during the Civil Rights Movement. Gender: One’s social role as defined on a spectrum of feminine to masculine characteristics. Gender can align with a person’s genitalia or sex but does not necessarily do so. Sex: Defined by genitalia, but also on a spectrum. In other words, genitalia aren’t necessarily wholly vaginal or phallic. PGPs: This stands for Preferred Gender Pronouns, which describe the self-identified gender of an individual. They include he/him, she/her and ze/zir. Some people reject GPs altogether and use their names instead. It is often a good idea to ask for someone’s PGPs to avoid misidentification; it’s usually more offensive to misidentify a person than to ask. Consent: Consent goes beyond just saying/hearing “yes;” it must be constantly reconfirmed before any sexual act. It is a comprehensive agreement, requiring that all parties are willing and excited to participate every step of the way. This is not just about intercourse; it’s necessary that each party checks in with the other(s) regarding every new move. Foreplay and sex performed at a certain blood/alcohol level (it’s up to you and your partner(s) to judge how impaired you are) is not necessarily consensual, even when all parties are saying yes and seem to be enjoying it. Binary: The idea that a given issue operates under two extreme opposites. For example, some people view politics in the United States as a binary between conservative and liberal. In reality, most issues are not this simplistic, but binaries may be used to analyze institutions and paradigms at a manageable point of entry into the subject. Be careful not to assume that something is a binary just because society generally views it as such. refresh –>