By: Carmen Fisher-Olvera, age 15, Intern at H.O.P.E. Works in Burlington, Vermont

Definition: A hand tool.

Slang: according to Urban Dictionary, a term to describe a woman as “slutty”, “dirty”, or “ghetto”. When a woman thinks she’s a man’s eye candy and in fact she is not.

I am currently a sophomore attending high school at Champlain Valley Union High School (CVU). At CVU we have 15 minutes during the day where we go to our advisory. An advisory is a group of about 12 kids. 4 kids from each grade with 1 teacher, all assigned randomly. We talk about, well frankly anything and everything that comes to mind. Last week we discussed the term “Ratchet.” Some of the people in my advisory kept insisting that it wasn’t that bad to use this term. “If someone called you ratchet it shouldn’t matter what they say. You shouldn’t care.”

I think we all want to be superhuman and pretend those things aren’t hurtful. Unfortunately they are. It is rude, offensive, and disrespectful to call someone ratchet.

Another person said “Saying something is different than meaning it.”

Frankly, there isn’t a difference. When someone says, “That’s so gay”, does it matter whether they mean it? No. Just like “ratchet” it is still rude, offensive, and disrespectful.

My point is not to attack my classmates. It is to show the true reality. We can be boxed in to only thinking about ourselves when we need to be thinking about how words such as ratchet are derogatory, especially toward women.

Ratchet is the latest word in urban slang. It is a very common phrase among rappers, celebrities and teenagers. There are many songs using this derogatory term, including songs by Lil Boosie and LL Cool J.

It is a common topic on blogs as well.Elite Daily Postwrote a post titled 42 Reasons She’s Too Ratchet for You.[Warning: offensive language] Several of these 42 reasons include:

“She treats STD’s like Pokémon and catches them all.”

“She has tried to buy condoms with food stamps.”

“She can twerk better than she can read.”

“Her number of sexual partners is higher than her IQ.”

Out of all the influences on a society, most people can agree on the fact that social media is one of the most prominent influences, right up there with word of mouth. Social media is not only a way to spread the word, it also creates more avenues for having conversations.

Over 40% of the World population was reported to use social media in January of 2014, in contrast to only 10% in 2004. Therefore, in just 10 years there has been a 400% increase in the use of social media worldwide. This significant change transformed marketing, politics, and pop culture in both positive and negative ways. The reinvention of the word ratchet is an example of a severe negative impact on today’s generation that came about through social media.

Terms like ratchet reflect inequalities that we normalize in our society. This is why we don’t recognize these terms as harmful. One of these inequalities is the inequality of wealth and of race. For example, a girl who wears Jordan’s and snapbacks is not always merely making a fashion statement. According to Urban Dictionary, “dirty” is one of the ways a girl could earn the title of being considered ratchet. The term ratchet is also most commonly associated with black girls more often than white girls. This aspect further condemns the term “dirty” which is so closely associated with ratchet. A piece of more-or-less commonly accepted slang by pop culture is actually an extremely offensive, derogatory, and hurtful term of prejudice.

Finally, please consider these final questions which are not questions that we think about on a regular basis, but which are we need to make an effort to have in our minds: What is really behind words we use? What are the implications? How do they affect our thoughts and others?