Ever since Jill Abramson has been putting The New York Times on blast about her pay scale issues for the past 17 years, the word “sexism” has appeared in many headlines. People who want to claim intolerance in any industry, at any level, often name an ‘-ism’ even if they have no clue as to what it means.
It’s a miracle activist groups don’t have their own version of the “Urban Dictionary”, because they are so screwing with Merriam and Webster right now. An example: cries of “racism” in the face of Michael Sam hate (which is about his sexual orientation, not his skin color).
To wit, we thought we would help the huddled masses understand “-isms” in their truest sense–the way they affect public perception.
Before we focus on what an “-ism” involves, we should understand what it is. An “-ism” is defined as the following:
:Informal derogatory, plural nouns: isms.
A distinctive practice, system, or philosophy, typically, a political ideology or an artistic movement.
The problem with -isms is that they divide people. Name one — racism, sexism, monotheism, atheism, fascism, anarchism…it doesn’t matter. The idea of labeling based on what people believe has little to do with “a movement” and everything to do with perception.
And that’s why the world of “-isms” should involve professional PR more than it currently does.
We shape perception in the minds of many audiences, which is why these haphazard terminologies should become activist hot buttons for us to help champion. For instance, why is feminism generalized as a good thing but sexism is so bad?
Even the word altruism, which means “complete selfless concern focused on the well-being of others,” is considered a negative in some ways, because it tends to inspire serious skepticism. Oh, here’s another one for media voyeurs — sensationalism. It’s supposed to mean “a belief that ideas originate solely in sensation,” which may not be a bad thing if it weren’t for the way national news networks are allowed to pervert reporting in the name of those sensations.
There’s realism, which is healthy to have but again tends to lead to more of that old skepticism. In this country, certain faction demand for collegialism (a theory that church is independent from state). However, when you promote that too much, you are considered to adhere more closer to socialism. The funny thing is that root word for both means friendly, which neither of those groups really are at all.
The left seems to get all twisted about capitalism. And the right accuses the everyone of communism. And yet, all they both really seem to care about on Capitol Hill is egoism. From humanism to intellectualism, libertarianism to naturalism, we all need to use our brain but that always seem to be sidetracked by a fresh batch of synergism in the PR agency. And we all know that sucks.
There’s optimism and pessimism for telling others how we feel, narcissism and hedonism for explaining why we act, and materialism to fill our nightly newscasts. This leads me to the final “ism” that PR should actually influence — journalism.
Remember what that used to be? It used to stand for something — something bold, proud, and unwavering. It reported but didn’t divide. It shared but didn’t parcel. It informed but didn’t specifically aim to inspire. Today, that “ism” has become an “informal derogatory” and is best known as a “political movement,” depending on which channel you watch.
You want to help fix this “ism”? Pitch properly, valiantly, and eagerly. If you have a good story, it will get covered. It might even lead to some real national news–and if that happens, who knows? Maybe we can get back to the way things should be.
Oh, who am I kidding? I’m just trying to divide readers further by looking at this industry through a prism. Maybe that’s my glaucoma–or maybe I’m blinded by my desire for perfectionism in the media.
Get Adweek's Digital & Technology Daily Newsletter in your Inbox