The Problem with Problematic

If there’s one word I’ve come to hate in recent months, it’s the word “problematic,” taking place of my hatred for the word “concerning.” The LA Times defines “problematic” as a weasel word, while Urban Dictionary calls it the lazy phrasing of the “corporate-academic” milieu.

When I see the word “problematic”, what I know is that I’m not going to be told about a problem and how to solve it. Instead, what comes next is a long series of vague thoughts, peppered with more academic language than I encountered in five years of tertiary education back in the early 1990s.

This is much akin to the dreaded phrase “some thoughts” on Twitter, which precedes a 25-Tweet thread on an angle of a subject that no human being could ever have thought of without the mental contortions of an Olympic gymnast trying to squeeze herself through the gap of a window that only opens from the top to prevent suicides. Which is exactly how I feel after reading said 25-tweet thread: I wish I could open a window from the top, squeeze myself through it, and plummet to my death, liberating me from having to read and understand all of those 25 tweets.

When someone uses the word “problematic,” what they really mean is, “I am intellectually brilliant because I have seen the flaws in someone else’s theory/position/manifesto/declaration. These flaws were invisible to the original person, because they are blinded by their own lack of insight to the holes in their logic. On the other hand, I have been gifted with superior analytical skills, so let me know explain to you why they are wrong and I am right.”

I find this trend terribly concerning, especially in people who are under 30 years of age. Just give me a hammer and a couple of pipe cleaners and a bottle of White-Out and I’ll fix the problem for you, while you sip on your super-skinny non-fat vape pen latte filled with cannabis oil. It would be my pleasure.


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