Campus Bitch and White Trash are the kind of appellations that can draw one into the dark heart of a world where words wound, images enrage, and speech is haunted by hate. One need look only as far as the latest outbreak of violence in the workplace or on the schoolyard to find examples of how name-calling and bullying can erupt in rage.
The issue of injurious speech and our vulnerability to words is a critical management issue. In her book Excitable Speech, a politics of the performative, Judith Butler raises the questions: What establishes the performative character of injurious labels? And what makes the force of an utterance injurious?
Our vulnerability to words is a consequence of our being constituted by them. As linguistic beings we have to use words to form reason. We cannot create meaning without structuring our thoughts and feelings with words. According to Althusser, ideology hails or interpolates or concretizes individuals as subjects according to the functioning of the category of the subject (1971, 162). Thus we are called upon by our names. Being called a name is one of the examples Althusser uses to explain "interpolation." When an ideology hails us, it alters who we are, and, so the argument goes, we recognize who or what we have become.