To be effective, every social movement has to ensure that the language used to describe it sends the message it wants to send and resonates with a large audience.  The Occupy Movement’s popularization of the phrase “We are the 99%” is an excellent example of this.  It is a simple, inclusive phrase that brings to mind the wealth gap.  It has certainly resonated and it has changed the overall discourse.

Keeping atop of the language, though, is always an ongoing battle.  This flyer, put up by members of Occupy Phoenix, is a great example of a conscious effort to get control of the discourse.  It targets the word “camping,” suggesting that what they are doing is not accurately described by the term:

“Using a tent,” they claim, is not the same as camping.  Camping is fun, filled with leisure activities.  They, in contrast, are doing hard work, “petitioning the government for redress of grievances.”  I hadn’t thought of it before I saw the flyer, but they are absolutely right that the word “camping” threatens their cause.  What a wonderful example of the power of language and the need to carefully control it.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
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