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A Few Terms We Aren’t Using Anymore (And Why)


A Few Terms We Aren’t Using Anymore (And Why)

July 29, 2020
a bedroom—never again a master bedroom. photograph from urban cottage: d 17
Above: A bedroom—never again a master bedroom. Photograph from Urban Cottage: Designer and “Creativepreneur” Angela Medlin’s Chic Victorian in Portland, OR.
“Our country is like a really old house. I love old houses…but old houses need a lot of work, and the work is never done—and that’s what our country is like. You may not want to go into that basement, but if you really don’t go into that basement, it’s at your own peril.”

— Isabel Wilkerson

Margot recently sent around the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson’s quote from the podcast On Being to the Remodelista team. As we continue to reckon with the deeply rooted systems of racial injustice in this country, we are committed to doing the work to make sure that Remodelista, Gardenista, and The Organized Home are places where all people are celebrated. We’re committed—to use Wilkerson’s fitting old-house analogy—to going into the basement. And doing what we can to clean up, fix the pipes, and build a better foundation.

As part of this, we will no longer be using some language on our sites.

As writers and editors, we believe that the words we use matter. Even words that seem innocuous can serve to bolster architectures of racism and violence.

Take, for example, the terms master bedroom and master bathroom. We’ve reflected in the past weeks, following the example of the Houston Association of Realtors, on the ways that these everyday real estate terms have sexist overtones (implying a male head of household) and racist ties (the word “master” carrying connotations of slavery). In fact, the term was first introduced in a 1926 Sear’s catalogue, which called it “the master’s bedroom.” No thanks. From now on, inspired by designer Jessica Helgerson, we’ll be using “main bedroom” or “main bath” in our content instead.

CNN also compiled a list of words and expressions with racist roots. Among them: cakewalk, peanut gallery, blacklist, and grandfathered in. We’re adding these to our banned words list. And a reader pointed out that using the phrase “we discovered the work of so-and-so” is problematic. You won’t hear that sort of colonialist phrasing from us anymore either.

These are small but important changes. As we learn and reflect, we’ll continue to rethink our word choices. In the meantime, drop us a note in the comments if there are other examples of language with racist, sexist, or otherwise problematic overtones that we should be reconsidering.

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