Last week, I was talking to a McGill student about upcoming elections for one of the student groups. She was concerned that the political gains she had ben working on would be lost if the group faced a coup d’etat by people she deemed to be “problematic.” This word seems to stand in as a bizarre synonym for another equally strange term: “oppressive.” In her mind, people were divided into two camps: oppressive and anti-oppressive; problematic and unproblematic; good and bad.
The whole conversation made me want to scream. Her perspective was so woefully simplistic, and an apt demonstration of the way in which the language of “anti-oppression,” in this particular social milieu, has replaced the usual youth vernacular. Put simply, you can’t call someone a bitch (that’s like totally oppressive and like, patriarchal, y’know?), but you can call them “problematic,” and essentially mean the same thing.