A Word from Atop the Soapbox

*climbs onto soapbox*

Pet Peeve time.

Maybe it’s just me, but...

I get really irritated with the increasingly common deployment of terms traditionally used (offensive as they are) to describe people with developmental disabilities as insults or put downs.

Retarded. ‘Tard. Short bus.

Using the Special Olympics as an illustration of something negative or demeaning.

For example, check out this sentence I just read recently on a blog: "Picking a fight on the internet is like running in the Special Olympics, win or lose, you're still retarded."

So. Offensive.

Pisses. Me. Off.

Seriously. Few things make me more angry than this shit.

I know I’m hyper-sensitive because of Will’s situation and the worlds in which we predominantly travel -- the community of kids with special needs. My little guy is developmentally delayed. He’s bright (sometimes too much for his own good...) but has problems with communications. And is behind, age-wise, with his skill sets. We have no idea what his prognosis will be -- he’s made such fantastic progress and I continue to fervently believe his possibilities are endless. Regardless... these slams, such as they are, hit a little too close to home for me.

(If you're curious about Will or are bored or are looking for a cure for insomina, check out The Will Chronicles, my blog posts about his -- and my -- crazy life journey. Scroll all the way down to the end to catch the wackiness from the beginning...)


I prefer to think that people use these terms as put-downs more out of ignorance than anything. They’re really not processing the full impact of what they’re saying. And again, keep in mind that my intolerance for such things is heightened because of the way my life works.

But the cavalier way in which these things are said bothers me. Really bothers me. I feel like it’s my responsibility to stand up for those in whose name the insults are being tossed and say...

"Do you have any idea what you just said? Please stop. Now."

I’ve even corrected friends of mine who said something -- without thinking -- in this vein in front of me. Can you say awkward? But I made my point.

Guess what? That kind of talk = not funny. In the slightest.

And it’s egregiously detrimental to the image, both externally and within individuals, of a segment of society that has a hard enough time just being accepted for who they are.

So -- please think before you speak. There are plenty of other words one can hurl in insult or teasing... just consult your local thesaurus. Or ask me.

Thank you.

*jumps off soapbox*


On a limb with Claudia said...

This is beautifully written. I love how you take responsibility for your own responses, then explain why it bothers you. I frequently use the 'r' word about myself - and appreciate the reminder that it's not funny and can be hurtful.

Will is so lucky to have you. ((hug))

Ruprecht said...

Pass that soapbox over here, cj.

I'm right there with you.

Rupe applauds wildly .....

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Perfect post, Jane. I'm definitely sharing this with my DS who picked up that term for the first time when he went back to public school this year. I was *not* happy. He doesn't use it, but I don't think he quite got *why* he shouldn't use it. Somehow, he didn't put it in the same category with other derogatory terms, even though he has developmentally delayed friends and would never do anything to hurt them. Grrrrr.....

Why, it's Clark! said...

Yeah, I have to admit that I'm guilty of this sometimes too. That and "gay"; I think I over-mis-use those words way too much. Although, I remember you pointed it out somewhere before and since then, I try to catch myself. And I usually do. So there's that at least.

Miss Attitude said...

I don't bother you for being pissed off. Sometimes people joke and don't realize how it hurts people's feelings. Or they don't realize what it's like to have challenges in their life. Posts like these are a great way to remind others to think first and avoid being hurtful.

cajunvegan said...

I completely understand. I have a cousin who is mentally retarded and have always been offended by the words "tard" and "retarded" when used out of context.

I occasionally use the words on my blog to repeat what someone else said to or about one of "The Specials" at school. As a middle school disciplinarian, I hear these words as well as "gay" and "fag" multiple times a day every day and use every opportunity I get to address them frankly with students.

I hear your frustration loud and clear.

April said...

I'm totally with you on this one. And w/ CajunVegan on the use of "gay" (as a derogatory term) or "faggot" (which always is derogatory). And people who talk about political correctness like it's a bad thing. Really? Getting offended for not wanting to offend others? Humanity at its finest.
Sorry for crowding your soapbox!

FearandParentinginLasVegas said...

Well said and well heard, my dear!

Miss Janey said...

One of the downsides of the interwebs. People are mostly anonymous and can say shitty things they might be ashamed to say to friends.

Mr. J has a workout buddy who is younger. After work-outs, Mr. J returns using the word "retarded", as in, "He's such a great player- its retarded." Like that word places absurd or something. Miss J's response: "No, using retarded that way is retarded. Please don't."

NotAMeanGirl said...

**Gives Standing Ovation** Seriously, you made me rethink MY use of those types of words a year, 18 months ago when you talked about someone using them in your presence. I stopped then. My son got royally reamed out for using phrases like that and now he has stopped as well. People don't think... I didn't think. I do now. It's YOUR fault :P lol I love you and Will to Pieces!

Cylithria said...

I am guilty of using the R word about myself and This just stabbed my heart at my own ignorance of that words wretched power. Thanks lady. Love you both.