01 June 2013

This isn't a joking matter.

Trigger warning:
Several mentions of the r-word and extensive use of profanity.


To the person who referred to someone as a "fucktard" in my presence last night:

When you refer to someone as a "fucktard" and I then tell you not to use that word (because "fucktard" = "fucking retard"), you do not tell me to calm down. Just accept that the word is Not Okay To Use and stop fucking using it. If you don't agree that it's inherently offensive, hurtful, oppressive, and a slur, (and fine, you can believe whatever you want to believe), then at least just stop using it out of respect for the people around you who do see it that way and who are fucking triggered by the sound of it. And don't fucking tell people to fucking calm down. (That's called tone-policing and paternalism.)

For the record, that is the SECOND time this week that someone from a progressive disability rights program has used a form of that word and given what pretty much has amounted to a perfunctory apology that I at least suspect wasn't entirely sincere. (I could be wrong about the sincerity of the apologies, but that's how they came across.) Profoundly disappointing, upsetting, and disturbing that disabled folks/people with disabilities in a progressive disability rights program apparently see no problem with using the word "retarded" and its various iterations.

This is a word that has been historically and currently used to dehumanize people with developmental, learning, and intellectual disabilities, thereby helping to shape the very attitudes that have legalized forced sterilization, involuntary and non-consensual medical "treatment," and abuse, violence, and murder. This is a word that the people whom it has been historically used to describe have unequivocally and continually condemned as unacceptable for use in any context whatsoever because of its extensive and contemporary history as a weapon.

Yet this isn't merely about a word that simply "offends" people or isn't "politically correct." This is about minimal human decency and respect for other people. This is about recognizing your individual social responsibility, and living up to your supposed commitment to social justice for disabled people. If you care about the attitudinal barriers that keep disabled people segregated in schools, unemployed, unable to access necessary supports and services, and marginalized writ large in society, then you should damn well give a fuck about the language that you use and recognize your role in passively supporting the hegemonic oppression that gives rise to these social attitudes. And then make the responsible decision and stop. Because it's the right thing to do. Because it's about respect and because it's about actually keeping the promise of fighting for a just society for all disabled people.

So no, don't you fucking tell me to calm down when that word has been used as a weapon against hundreds of people I care about and against me. You were sitting in the room this morning when I told everyone in the program how that word was used to attack me and to make me hate myself. You are also disabled. You know what it's like to be marginalized. You should know how language oppresses, how language perpetrates microaggressions and facilitates systemic oppression.

You should know better.

You know who you are.


  1. I'm sad to read that this word is still being used, espicially in such settings, by persons who darn well should know better! Thank-you for so perfectly explaining why it's not okay to use any forms of that word.

  2. On behalf of my son who cannot yet speak up for himself, thank you. Just, thank you.

  3. Ugh, spambots.

    Well said; I've had a guy say to my face that because he used 'fuck' as the prefix, it was a totally okay word to use. And upon being told how gross he was being, he called me a dyke, and went off in a sulk.

    Classy chap. -_-

    1. I now have to delete the spam comments daily. It's awesome. /sarcasm

      But yes. He sounds like a horrible human being.

  4. It is amazing to me how some people can't see how their words (and actions) perpetuate the very things that have hurt them as well. Maybe I do it too - but I hope not.


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