Tag Archives: call it like it it

[Call it like it is] TERF? TPHP.

When I first learned what TERF stands for, I was baffled by the combination of these four words. The word “oxymoron” came to my mind. Yea, TERF would be a good example of oxymoron. That would at least benefit people who are learning this word.

Feminism: : the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes

With this definition of feminism from Merriam-Webster in our mind, let’s look at TERF.

TERF: Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist

It is your total freedom to form a social group excluding anyone you want. Sure, you can do TEDW (Trans-Exclusionary Dog Walkers), TEM (Trans-Exclusionary Moms), TEWL (Trans-Exlusionary White Liberals), whatever. The biggest problem with the term “TERF” is that they are calling themselves feminists. (There are bigger issues with TERF itself, but I’m focusing on the terminology here.)

I do not believe in feminists who care about women only. Feminism is the work to achieve gender equality by fighting the oppression and discrimination based on gender. And in our current society as well as any past ones, women have been the bigger victim of oppression and discrimination in most cases; therefore the term “feminism”. If men would have been the bigger victim, it would have been called “masculism”.

I also do not believe in separatism in the fight for justice. All social matters intersect, and gender equality and queer rights overlap closely. When you are fighting against the unrealistic beauty standard enforced on women, you can not disregard the fight for the individual expression of gender. We are all fighting against oppressive norms in different ways.

Back to the oxymoron-ness in TERF, so when you call yourself a feminist, you need to care about not just women but all humans including all queer people. You can not cherry-pick who to care about. For example, confronting rape culture should involve healing women victims of sexual violence but also men victims of toxic masculinity. You cannot solve the problem by just focus on one gender. You need to approach it holistically.

Some more contexture information on TERF groups:

Many anti-trans feminists today claim it’s (TERF) a slur, despite what many see as an accurate description of their beliefs. They now prefer to call themselves “gender critical.”

Gender-critical feminism, at its core, opposes the self-definition of trans people, arguing that anyone born with a vagina is in its own oppressed sex class, while anyone born with a penis is automatically an oppressor. In a TERF world, gender is a system that exists solely to oppress women, which it does through the imposition of femininity on those assigned female at birth.

Full article: The rise of anti-trans “radical” feminists, explained

To tell you the truth, this issue aches my heart too much, so it’s been a struggle for me to start writing this blog entry and continue to write. I’m gonna wrap it up shortly for that reason. Let me challenge one more word in TERF though: radical.

I think radical is mis-leading, so is “extreme”. Extreme feminism must mean like trying to make everything same for all gender. Can we just be straightforward and swap it with “hateful”?

So here you go, your new name, TERF: TPHP (Trans-Phobic Hateful People). Ahhhh.. now I can breathe a little. Call it like it is. Let’s be real.

A small apology to TERF. I just realized that your new name does not have any vowel, which makes it difficult to pronounce. Try sounding out each consonant without vowel: T-P-H-P. It might work.

[Call it like it is] Juice? Soda? Energy drink? SUGAR WATER!


Let’s start with juice!

Have you met a person who claims that the juice they are drinking counts as fruit? Some juice is from real fruit, but it is not the real fruit. It is JUICE, and here I proclaim it’s actually flavored sugar water. Here’s why, according to Zach Newman, ACE Certified Personal Trainer.

essential_everyday_apple_juice_64_ozIn this article, he specifically discusses Essential Everyday 100% Apple Juice. Two top ingredients are water and apple juice concentrate. Juice concentrate is the base for the product’s self-claim for “from real fruit,” which is true, but you need to understand the true identity of juice concentrate.

The concentrate is far from the original apple it comes from. The industrial processing removes “nearly all its fiber, flavors, aromas, and vitamins” and turns it into what’s known as in the food industry as “stripped juice.” One of the vital ingredients missing in the concentrate is fiber, which “acts as a counterbalance to the sugar we’re ingesting.” The problem in consuming sugar without fiber is further explained in the article. While the ideal rate of sugar to fiber is 1:1, the average in the United States is 12:1.

Moving onto soda!


Here is a picture of sugar cubes stacked up in the equivalent amount to the sugar content in each coke container. Would you ever eat that many sugar cubes? Then why would you drink it? Besides, soda is not even from real fruit. These are the top three ingredients of Coca Cola.

  • Carbonated water
  • Sugar (sucrose or high-fructose corn syrup)
  • Caffeine

Therefore, I would call soda carbonated sugar water. Some soda like coke is caffeinated while some like Sprite is not. So let’s save the “caffeinated” label for the next group for its simplicity. (Bonus, a comprehensive chart of nutritional content of regular soda by sugarydrinkfacts.org)

Last up: energy drink!

redbullHere is a picture of sugar cubes stacked up in the equivalent amount to the sugar content in a Red Bull can. You get the idea. Shall we call this caffeinated and carbonated sugar water? Quite a lengthy name but definitely more accurate than energy drink, right? Think about it. It’s all marketing. People associate energy with health, so the company calls it by what consumers like not by what the product actually is.

Shilo Urban breaks down the ingredients of Red Bull throughly. “Red Bull is a mix of sugar, synthetic caffeine, taurine and several B vitamins, all of which are well-known for their energy-promoting qualities.” As for caffeine content, “Red Bull contains 80mg of caffeine, about half of other soft drinks and about the same as a cup of coffee.” (Another bonus, a comprehensive chart of nutritional content of energy drinks by sugarydrinkfacts.org)

In short, they are all sugar water.

  • Juice: flavored sugar water
  • Soda: carbonated sugar water (with or without caffeine)
  • Energy drink: carbonated sugar water with caffeine


I’m not a health expert, and I’m not writing this post to advise people on what to drink. The purpose of “Call it like it is” is to give more accurate names to things, places, people, and ideas so that we as the language users become more aware of the truth behind these names and decrease our dissociation that are often created by profit/power-seeking agenda of profit/power-seeking entities. You don’t have to agree with the “truthful” names that I propose; in fact, feel free to propose other ideas of your own. I hope to provide space where thought-provoking conversations help us grow together.

[Call it like it is] “houseless” not “homeless”

Tent City, Portland

I learned the term houseless when I stayed in Portland, OR this summer. First, I spotted tents here and there around the city, and later I learned that people live in them.


Images by Kevin Gooley in Smartcity Dive


A homeless camp has sprouted at West Burnside Street and Northwest Fourth Avenue. [Source: The Oregonian]

House vs Home

There are differences between these two words: house and home. Here are definitions by Merriam-Webster.

House: a building that serves as living quarters for one or a few families

Home: one’s place of residence; house; the social unit formed by a family living together

  1. A house is a building while a home doesn’t have to be a building.
  2. Some people might not have a house (houseless); but everyone has a home.

Everyone has a home not just because of the old saying, “home is where the heart is,” but because everyone lives somewhere. Wherever the person lives, that is their home even if it does not take a form of a building.

Why the distinction matters

Acknowledging this distinction between house and home not only allows us to use an accurate word to describe people who live on streets but also makes difference in how we treat them in our society.

1. Change of our perception

Don’t judge a book by its cover, and don’t judge a person by where they are in their life. One of many challenges that houseless people face is the unkind judgement on them by the members of our society. According to the interviews conducted by Daniel P. (Founder of Theory of Love, a mental health initiative service for houseless people and others in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), many houseless people feel like “they are treated as less than human.” When we see people on street, the only piece of identity we learn from them is their “homelessness,” and we need to start acknowledging them as individual human beings who are experiencing a life without a house.

2. Planting hope of recovery

As doctors identify hope as a vital factor in a patient’s successful recovery, same goes for people who are struggling with the absence of a house (often along with many other difficulties at hand, which might have led to the houseless situation). Danial P. claims that being called ‘homeless’ can make houseless peopl feel hopeless about their lives.

We all need to feel like we belong, to have a *home base,* a sense of community and social connection in our lives — to feel loved. Being classified as ‘homeless’ truly means you do not have a home, while ‘houselessness’ is simply a state of being.

3. Policy on treating tents

Seattle council member Kirsten Harris-Talley explains that using the term houseless not only adds the context to our conversation around housing issues but also can affect Seattle’s current “sweeps policy.”

The act of forcing people to move their tents is made easier if we ignore the fact that those tents represent homes.

The tents, boxes, or any make-shift structures made by their residents look very different from houses, but they still serve with the functions of homes. Katie Wilson, General Secretary of the Transit Riders Union, agrees on the damaging effects of labeling these residents homeless.

If you say ‘homeless,’ whatever structure they’ve created to shelter themselves is devalued. It makes it seem like less a big deal to move them.

By discrediting the houseless people’s homes and removing them, the city actually makes them homeless.

[Call it like it is] Detention centers? Concentration camps? Death pounds.

Debate over calling them “concentration camps”

When US Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-­Cortez claimed that the United States is “running concentration camps on our southern border” during an Instagram Live stream on June 17, 2019, she got a pushback on her comparison of U.S. immigration detention centers to Nazi concentration camps. Some Republicans and Jewish organizations claimed that her comparison “demeans” the genocide of Jews in Holocaust. Some used the academic definition of concentration camp for the debates, and some used the various elements of those two sites to prove that the detention centers are not as bad as concentration camps. Do you see how futile this debate is? What do we gain from putting two sites of human suffering in a competition for which one is worse?

Call it like it is: death pounds

Here I present a simple solution: stop comparing them and call them like they are–death pounds. (I’ve considered slaughter house first but later chose death pound because of the strong association of slaughter with animals not humans.)

My proposed term, death pound, stems from death camp. Merriam-Webster defines death camp as “a concentration camp in which large numbers of prisoners are systematically killed.” Looking at the reports of the living/dying condition inside the U.S. immigration centers, they duly qualify to be called as death camps.

1. Are they concentration camps? Yes.

Again, Merriam-Webster saves us by defining concentration camps as “a place where large numbers of people are detained or confined under armed guard”


A US Border Patrol agent watches as people who’ve been taken into custody stand in line at a facility in McAllen, Texas -AP

U.S. Border Patrol Houses Unaccompanied Minors In Detention Center

A boy from Honduras watches a movie at a detention facility run by the U.S. Border Patrol in McAllen, Tex. on Sept. 8, 2014. John Moore—Getty Images

2. Do they hold prisoners? Yes

Thank you, Merriam-Wester. MW defines a prisoner as “a person deprived of liberty and kept under involuntary restraint, confinement, or custody.”

3. Are large numbers of them being killed systematically? Yes

At least 24 immigrants have died on these border sites. The neglect and torture documented by Journalist Jonathan Katz includes “torture through sleep deprivation, freezing-cold conditions, children stuck in vans for over 37 hours, detainees confined to dog kennels, starvation, and a lack of basic medicine.” And this list only covers physical aspects of the causes of the detainees’ deaths and sufferings. (You can get more details from this New Yorker article and this report by Department of Homeland Security.)

Why death pounds, not death camps?

The term death camp might be easier for people to understand and use because it has been around for a long time, but we need to swap out the second part of this compound noun, camp, for two reasons. One, people are not merrily camping at these detention centers, and second, using the term death camp can draw the same criticism as in using the term concentration camp for the primary association of these words with holocaust.

So I brainstormed other nouns to describe these sites and looked up Google images to find what they actually look like. These images can also show us what context these words are used in.


way too high-tech, expensive, and clean

Screen Shot 2019-07-25 at 11.01.09 AM


open with a lot more green nature than detention centers

Screen Shot 2019-07-25 at 11.02.04 AM


It correctly implies confinement, but it usually refers to single units.

Screen Shot 2019-07-25 at 11.00.28 AM


In general, pounds confine companion animals in the US, but their environment seem to be similar to that of the detention centers: crammed, substandard, exteremely uncomfortable, and deprived. Here pound would mean “a place or condition of confinement” by Merriam-Webster.

Screen Shot 2019-07-25 at 11.02.26 AM

A Moment of Reservation

As you can see in the images for pound, pounds in the US usually refer to facilities for abandoned dogs. Therefore, using pound for a facility holding humans can raise a question: doesn’t it dehumanize the retainees? I would respond to this question with another one: what actually dehumanizes the people in them? the label pound or the condition and treatment of the people? Here are a few of testimonies of detained children that were collected during attorneys’ visits to Customs and Border Protection facilities in June 2019.

“We are in a metal cage with 20 other teenagers with babies and young children. We have one mat we need to share with each other. It is very cold. We each got a mylar blanket, but it is not enough to warm up. There are benches but we cannot sleep there. Sometimes it is so crowded we cannot find a place to sleep, so they allow a few of us to sleep outside the fenced area. The lights are all of the time.”

“I’m hungry here at Clint all the time. I’m so hungry that I have woken up in the
middle of the night with hunger. Sometimes I wake up from hunger at 4 a.m.,
sometimes at other hours. I’m too scared to ask the officials here for any more food, even though there is not enough food here for me.”

“At Ursula, we have not been able to shower. The toilet is out in the open in the cage, there is no door for any privacy. There is water but no soap to wash our hands. There are no paper towels to dry our hands. We have not been given a toothbrush or toothpaste to brush our teeth.”

“They told us that we could only have one layer of clothing, and they threw away the rest of our clothes in the garbage.”

These testimonies answer the question for us: the condition and treatment of detainees is inhumane. The dehumanizing nature of the term pound works because it accurately reflects the inhumane nature of the detention centers. Call it like it is.

Call them death pounds

Pound is a sad word. Death pound is even more saddening. And those are what we have on our southern border, funded by our government with our tax money.

Central Processing at McAllen Border Patrol facility

U.S. Border Patrol agents conduct intake of illegal border crossers at the Central Processing Center in McAllen, Texas, Sunday, June 17, 2018. Photo courtesy Customs and Border Patrol


Immigrants in a detention center in the United States. Source: urduvoa.com