Opinion: "Rust Belt" derogatory?

Discussion in 'Off Topic [DB]' started by Mike Goodbar, Feb 10, 2004.

  1. Mike Goodbar

    Mike Goodbar Supporting Member

    Jun 6, 2001
    Charlotte, NC
    I know this is waaaayyyyy off topic but:

    I'm writing a feature article for our company magazine about a prominent jazz musician who happens to hail from Cleveland, Ohio. In the article, I use the term "Rust Belt," to denote the area of the country where Cleveland is located. My editor red-flagged this reference, saying that the term might offend those who live in that area of the country.

    I don't live there, but that term has never struck me as particularly maligning, but I'm trying to get a consensus.

    Anyone out there find the term "Rust Belt" derogatory?
  2. Brent Norton

    Brent Norton

    Sep 26, 2003
    Detroit, MI
    Personally, I don't find the phrase offensive (hailing from Detroit). Sounds like your editor is being a tad too PC, imo.
  3. Tad too PC? No, more like over the top PC.
  4. Brent Norton

    Brent Norton

    Sep 26, 2003
    Detroit, MI
    What Bob said. Doesn't your editor know PC is almost passe anymore?
  5. Trevorus


    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    I don't see the big deal with rust belt either.
  6. lbanks


    Jul 17, 2003
    Ennui, IN USA
    Rust belt... hmmm. I woke up with that one time, when I was younger. Of course, I don't drink like that no more....
  7. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Being a native Toledoan and having played and lived in Cleveland for a few years, I can assure you that we call it "The Rust Belt" as well. This originates from the fact that we have winters, it snows, we use salt to help clear the streets, and older (pre 80's) cars would quickly disintegrate after a few winters if you didn't keep them clean.

    Put vinegar in your editor's coffee.
  8. Mike Goodbar

    Mike Goodbar Supporting Member

    Jun 6, 2001
    Charlotte, NC

    We have that here in Wisconsin, too! My 95 Taurus is definitely showing the effects of nine winters.

    Thanks, guys, for the input. It's really an evocative term, and I'd hate to delete it from the article. This thread gives me some ammo.

    We'll eventually post the article online, and I'll give you a heads up and a URL so you can see for yourself whether I won or lost this one.

    Mike G.
  9. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    A quick online dictionary check suggests that the term also refers to a Midwestern geographical area that suffered a decline in heavy industry in the 70's; the factories there were left to turn "to rust".

    As a hardcore Cheesehead and former next door neighbor to lots of Rusters, I gotta say, I love the place.
  10. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    ...in defence of the editor -- particularly editor of a company rag:

    Where he may be coming from is that the probability of someone being offended by the term is not zero. In my biz and company, there are lots of similar little sensitivities out there that folks should know about if they don't want headaches.

    20 years ago I would have found it difficult to believe that folks can be that prickly. Today, 20 years later, I'm still amazed by the variety of responses you get out of people. "Rust belt" makes some of 'em all nostalgic and proud, others it ticks off as unnecessarily derogatory.

    I don't think the editor's being "too PC" -- I think PC's got nothing to do with it. I think he's just being your standard company guy: why rock the boat if it ain't gonna pay? Is his boss gonna thank him for rocking the boat? Probably not...

    He's timid. Cut him some slack.
  11. Gufenov


    Jun 8, 2003
    As the editor of a company magazine and audio program, I've been in a similar situation many times. Sometimes the question you gotta ask is, "Is it worth falling on your sword?" When it's all said and done, Mike, you still have to work for these folks. Does finding a different way to say "rust belt" significantly change the story? Remember, in a company publication, your "customer" isn't necessarily your readership as much as it is the folks who sign your paycheck. I'd say you should use your creativity to find a way to maintain your message - and the peace - at the same time. Judging from your posts here on TB, it's obvious you have the ability.

    FWIW, I would have let "rust belt" pass. Now "cheesehead" is another story...
  12. Mike Goodbar

    Mike Goodbar Supporting Member

    Jun 6, 2001
    Charlotte, NC
    Thanks, Cliff. I appreciate that.

    I've been writing for this company for over ten years, and I guess I should know by now what will pass and what won't.

    I admit that by using the term, I was trying to evoke the kind of blue-collar setting that the subject of the feature came out of. I could probably find another way to say it but not quite as succint and descriptive.

    You and Damon are right, though; in the end, though, I'm a writer for hire. I'm probably not going toe-to-toe with him on this one.
  13. Gufenov


    Jun 8, 2003
    You might work in something about lunch boxes. Many blue-collar workers, particularly at industrial facilities, carry them. Just a thought.....
  14. If it's not PC, then it has to be Politically Correctness. Take your choice. Anyone who thinks companies don't have politics has never worked for a large company.
  15. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Being from Youngstown, OH, I could care less. Sounds fine to me.
  16. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    In my opinion, that decline hit harder in the early-mid-80s, particularly with the Reagonomics movement pushing forward. It is an amazing sociological event watching a suburb turn into a desolate whole of poverty and crime when the towns only jobs leave the country.
  17. If your profile is correct, you must have been a very astute child to have watched this socialogical event beginning at age 6. BTW, if you've got to bring politics into this, at least spell the name correctly - it's Reagan not Reagon.
  18. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    Time lapse. While my vision of Youngstown Ohio was surely tainted by youth, seeing it now, and talking to my father and his relatives about it definitely paints a picture. While I, fortunately, did not have to live through that decline day by day, (having relocated to SF), I can see it's effects on my relatives.

    President Raygun?
  19. That's better. At least you spelled President correctly.