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Estates – Not a Dirty Word March 20, 2014

Posted by thehutch in thoughts.
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In conversation recently, I was sharing with someone about the way in which we regularly stigmatise people who live on estates by our language choices. In my opinion, this can be is unfair, unhelpful and may often be discriminatory. It was that same week that I discovered a book that described my frustrations in a far more articulate manner. The following 2 quotes were of particular note for me:

In newspapers and on television, every reference to a council estate is prefixed with the word ‘tough’, as though bare-knuckle boxing is the leisure activity of choice for every British person who doesn’t own their own home. It does its stigmatizing work as intended. Estates are dangerous, they imply: don’t visit them, and whatever  you do, work as hard as you can so you don’t have to live on them.
you only have to say the word ‘estates’ for someone to infer a vast amount of meaning from it. It’s a bruise in the form of a word: it hits the nerves that register shame, disgust, fear and, very occasionally, fierce pride.
Quotes from: “Estates: An Intimate History” by Lynsey Hanley

Our language choices matter. Living in the North End of Birkenhead as a child, going to the local primary school near the docks, I never thought of it as ‘tough’ – it was home, a safe place and a place where I belonged. Now, as I hear stories of the area where I grew up, the impression given is somewhat different. Yes, there are troubled people, but this is true anywhere, this place is still home to many, still a place of belonging and a place of fierce loyalty and pride.

My hope is that in our language choices, we begin to honour and respect others before we ‘stigmatise’ them. When we hear the word ‘estate’, we need to remember that it is not a dirty word and never should be.

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