Just Words: On Speech and Hidden Harm
We all know that speech can be harmful. But what are the harms and how exactly does the speech in question brings those harms about? Mary Kate McGowan identifies a previously overlooked mechanism by which speech constitutes, rather than merely causes, harm. She argues that speech constitutes
harm when it enacts a norm that prescribes that harm. McGowan illustrates this theory by considering many categories of speech including sexist remarks, racist hate speech, pornography, verbal triggers for stereotype threat, micro-aggressions, political dog whistles, slam poetry, and even the
hanging of posters. Just Words explores a variety of harms - such as oppression, subordination, discrimination, domination, harassment, and marginalization - and ways in which these harms can be remedied.
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