Banner Dropping the “T” Word

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A couple days ago, a series of banners were displayed in Usdan urging students to not to use the word “townie.” The banners are part of an effort by the Middletown Wesleyan Relations Committee (MWRC) to work towards their wider goal of “expanding and strengthening the Middletown-Wesleyan relationship.”

The word “townie” is often thrown around on campus when referring to Middletown residents, often with negative connotations. I spoke with Haenah Kwon ’17, a member of the MWRC who worked on the banner drop, to learn more about the current campaign. She explained that the banner drop was an effort to start a discussion:

We wanted to ask the questions instead of just actually do a concrete project. We want to start the campaign with this and later we want to connect it to other students groups who are based in Middletown, such as Middletown potluck, to start a productive discussion and find a concrete solution, but for now we’re just aiming to stimulate discussion.

When I asked Haenah what term should replace “townie,” she responded with some questions of her own:

Do we need a term? Do we need to find a label? Labels put up boundaries between the two communities. Call them by their names. People don’t outright call someone like, “Hey Townie,” they just refer [to them] in conversation. But still that’s recognizing the wall between the two communities, so we want to stay away from that.

However, acknowledging the reality of the boundaries that exist, Haenah believed that if a replacement was really necessary, “Middletown residents” would suffice. She continued, “just ‘townie’ has so many negative implications.”

8 thoughts on “Banner Dropping the “T” Word

  1. Pingback: ENGAGE – Wesleyan University » Blog Archive » Reblog: Banner Dropping the “T” Word

  2. NooneUno

    As a Middletown resident I don’t object to being called a townie, as long as the term isn’t preceded by “f***in'”

  3. TruTownsman

    If you want to get rid of the word townie a better replacement would help. Perhaps Townsfolk? Townsmen? Middlers? M-Towners? So many possibilities!!!

  4. In spirit

    Totally support the spirit of what these guys are doing, but it’s not like the word “townie” is the reason for tension between middletown residents and Wesleyan students. For example, the term “townie” doesn’t carry NEARLY the same negative connotation IF ANY on many other college campuses. Furthermore, the animosity between college students and local residents certainly predates the term “townie”; our parents would have used the phrase “town vs gown”. Getting rid of words for things doesn’t solve anything. Students will come up with other oppressive language as long as the underlying socioeconomic tension is there.

    1. DifferentTownie

      I agree that the tension (I think, at least I hope, the word “animosity” is too dramatic) between town and gown goes deeper than the term, but the word “townie” still carries a negative connotation. I grew up in a different college town, and although I am from the same socio-economic group as the students of that college — maybe because of it — I would resent being referred to as a “townie”. The adding of the diminutive “-ie” suffix is derogatory and condescending in a way “town vs. gown” or “town resident” isn’t.

    2. Rosy

      I appreciate your point, but that socioeconomic tension won’t be resolved soon, and in the meantime we need to learn to value every member of the community regardless of their cultural capital and whatnot. Why wait until the revolution to start respecting our neighbors? Bigotry hasn’t vanished since it became uncouth to use slurs, but that’s still an important change. Becoming conscious of how our language affects people helps us build a more respectful and inclusive community. Even if you’re only here for four years, classism and elitism are tough habits to kick, and Middletown’s a great place to start learning to be a citizen.
      I’m from a college town and I think others who have also overhead someone calling them a townie know how deep it can cut. Props to MidWes for sparking discussion!

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