Joyce Carol Oates roasts university’s ‘Oppressive Language List’ deeming ‘trigger warning’ offensive

Award-winning author Joyce Carol Oates on Thursday mocked an “Oppressive Language List” posted by Brandeis University that deemed words like “picnic” and “trigger warning” offensive.

The private Massachusetts university made headlines this week over its “Oppressive Language List” published on its website, which encourages the school community to stop using certain terms “that may hurt those who have experienced violence.” It lists phrases like “trigger warning” and “killing it” as violent language, and “you guys” and “freshman” are labeled “gender exclusive” instead of inclusive.

An entry suggesting “outdoor eating” as an alternative word to “picnic,” because “picnic” has been “associated with lynchings of Black people,” appeared to have been removed since the list went viral — but not before it caught the attention of Ms. Oates, a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and an outspoken liberal.

“What is strange is that while the word ‘picnic’ is suggested for censorship, because it evokes, in some persons, lynchings of Black persons in the US, the word ‘lynching’ is not itself censored,” Ms. Oates tweeted.

“What sort of punishment is doled out for a faculty member who utters the word ‘picnic’ at Brandeis?— or the phrase ‘trigger warning’? loss of tenure, public flogging, self-flagellation?” she mused.

Brandeis spokeswoman Julie Jette released a statement saying the list was developed by students who have “noted that many people who have experienced violence may be further harmed by the language others use in speaking with them,” the New York Post reported.

“The list is in no way an accounting of terms that Brandeis students, faculty or staff are prohibited from using or must substitute instead,” the statement said. “It is simply a resource that can be accessed by anyone who wants to consider their own language in an effort to be respectful of others who may have different reactions to certain terms and phrases.”

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