Where does ‘phobia’ come from?
The word “phobia” has been used for a long time in clinical psychology to describe a type of anxiety disorder that involves an irrational and uncontrollable need to avoid some specific situations (e.g. claustrophobia: fear of confined spaces), or things (e.g. arachnophobia: fear of spiders). Of course, we cannot exclude there might be very rare cases of actual “homophobia” (irrational fear of homosexuality) or “xenophobia” (irrational fear of foreigners) out there, but these should be diagnosed by a professional, and the individual suffering from such phobias should receive psychiatric help.
This concept of irrational need to avoid was then co-opted by Weinberg in the late 1960s by drawing from his personal interactions with colleagues and acquaintances that fit the clinical definition for phobia, i.e. they were avoidant of people who were gay or who they suspected to be gay out of anxiety and fear. Since then, homophobia has been adopted by politicians and social commentators as a catchall term for something highly specific and unusual. Other terms such as Islamophobia or xenophobia was later coined to describe irrational fear towards other communities.
We hope you will agree, the discrimination and violence perpetrated against LGBTQ people, Muslim community or foreigners are not driven by an individual’s irrational fear, but by social, cultural or religious ideologies promoting hatred.
So, let’s start calling hatred for what it is: hate, not fear!
We call on every single one of you to stop using words like homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia or xenophobia to describe hate-crimes or any type of discrimination.
Misia, not phobia!
The same language that gave us the word “phobia”, Greek, also gives us another word we can use to describe hate-fuelled behaviours. This word is “misia”, which, as you probably worked out already, means hatred.
This is why we ask you to pledge today to start using the right language to describe hatred!
What we called “homophobia” should really be called “homomisia”; what we called “transphobia” is in fact “transmisia”; “islamophobia” is in fact “islamomisia”; “xenophobia” is “xenomisia”.
We know that changing our language won’t immediately reduce the violence already happening. But using the right terminology to describe the hatred and discrimination too many of us are still facing today will help us educate others, raise awareness and, ultimately, create a more inclusive and just society.
The Misia Pledge
The Misia Plege is a new campaign founded by Diversity Pride to encourage organisations around the world to harness the power of the language that accurately describes the attitudes and behaviours resulting from hatred towards certain groups or communities.
In particular, signatories pledge to replace any word ending in “-phobia/-phobic” with the relevant word ending in “-misia/-misic” whenever describing discrimination or violence motivated by hatred, not fear:
|We pledge to not use the following terms:||Instead, we will use||Definition|
|Homophobia / Homophobic||Homomisia / Homomisic||Hate or dislike of gay people; prejudice against gay people|
|Biphobia / Biphobic||Bimisia / Bimisic||Hate or dislike of bi-sexual people; prejudice against bi-sexual people|
|Lesbophobia / Lesbophobic||Lesbomisia / Lesbomisic||Hate or dislike of lesbian people; prejudice against lesbian people|
|Transphobia / Transphobic||Tranmisia / Transmisic||Hate or dislike of transgender people; prejudice against transgender people|
|Queerphobia / Queerphobic||Queermisia / Queermisic||Hate or dislike of queer people; prejudice against queer people|
|Islamophobia / Islamophobic||Islamomisia / Islamomisic||Hate or dislike of Muslim people; prejudice against Muslim people|
|Xebophobia / Xenophobic||Xenomisia / Xenomisic||Hate or dislike of foreigners; prejudice against foreigners|
Signatories may still use the terms captured in the left column whenever directly quoting an external source (to ensure accuracy of the quote) or if they are indeed describing the rare cases of diagnosed medical conditions resulting in irrational fear of a particular group.
By signing this pledge, you become a supporter of the movement to improve the terminology we use and raise awareness. Collectively, we can have a transformational impact, and we hope you feel able to be the part of it!
It is FREE to sign the pledge.Diversity Pride and our partners do not gain nor expect any financial benefit from leading this pledge, and we will never charge companies to sign the pledge or receive additional information about the proposed terminology.
As they start the process of reviewing their internal and external materials (policies, handbooks, webpages, reports, articles, publications...) to make the necessary changes required by the pledge, signatories are strongly encouraged to also look out for other ways to make your comms and language more inclusive (e.g. by addressing any gender-bias).
Businesses can join the international effort by developing an action plans to change the terminology in internal and external materials. This will not only be an immediate change but also provides a blueprint for future projects you may be working on.
It necessary the right training will be provided not only to align the language, but also to show to your employees that you care about them and their experience working with you.
For example: You commit to update your policies and educate your senior leadership to ensure new terminology is adapted across all departments. You shall also distribute the information during the inclusion-focused training sessions to relevant individuals including those working in communications, events and marketing.
Businesses can join the international effort by publishing clear and simple information about non-discrimination policies for customers. Where possible they should have specialist teams dedicated to support customers if they are having problems, such as those who may have felt discriminated at your premises or by your staff.
This could include a warm welcome message to all customers, no matter what their believe, gender, ability, sexual orientation, origin, or colour of their skin is. Other may wish to consider visibly showcase their support for all, by standing up to hate-related incidents targeted at their employees.
For example, Ikea posted supporting to a racist and Islamomisic comment about one of their employees:
“Our company has clear values: respect for everyone, regardless of their origin, sexual orientation or religion. Before you judge a person based on their clothes, you must get to know them."
“We do not welcome your comment which is explicitly discriminatory. Of course, you have the right to have your opinions in private, but publishing them openly in this way exposes you to the eyes of the law, and we will in no way mourn the fact that you no longer ‘step into’ our store with such ideas,”
Businesses can join the international effort by committing to help their local communities. Over the past year many NGOs have lost funding and support. There is an increased need for communities to come together with practical support, such as supporting people who experience homelessness or unemployment who wish to retrain in order to get a new job.
The way business work is changing. The language we use is changing. So too will their relationship with communities they serve bringing greater emphasis on grassroots community action.
For example: Micro Rainbow UK supports LGBTQ migrants with access to Wi-Fi and laptops in order to work on their immigration cases.
Diversity Pride remains available to discuss any additional support signatories might require conducting a full inclusion audit of the language used in internal and external comms.
The Misia Pledge is driven by the DIVents Charter accreditation; a 360 degrees commitment to diversity, inclusion and visibility in communication, events and marketing. The DIVents Charter is a growing movement to tackle inequality within organisations and the outputs they produce.
In similar spirit, we hope businesses will commit to the Misia Pledge, a powerful global business-led movement to update the terminology we use and raise awareness about the discrimination many around the world still face today.