It’s Just A Word

Still using the "r-word"?  Find yourself a dictionary...

Still using the “r-word”? Find yourself a dictionary…

Recently, the r-word has reared its ugly head again in my purview.  Several weeks ago, I was on Pinterest, and saw a pin with this “joke”: “Sometimes your knight in shining armor is just a retard in tin foil”.  Hilarious, right?  No.  Not funny in the least.  And I usually don’t jump on people on that site, because I don’t know them from Adam, and don’t want to get into it with strangers.  In my experience, that can get a little scary.

But I noticed that several others were posting comments to the pin that took exception to it, so I chimed in.  And a couple of people responded to me, jumping all over me to “get a grip”, “life isn’t always nice”, “people are too damn touchy today”, “get over it”, “cool your beans” and plenty of expletives.  Now let me explain that my comment was in no way heated — it was: “Just because it doesn’t hurt you, doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt someone else.”  But I was told to “cool (my) beans” and “get a grip”!

One person responded specifically to me, and in her response, said this: “If the word hurts you, it is because you allowed it to. I am overweight, if I cried every time I heard the word fat, I would be a constant mess.”

So, it’s OK for people to use derogatory language, because I’m supposed to be stronger, and those on this planet with Down’s Syndrome, Autism, Cognitive Impairments, and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities are just supposed to be stronger, and “get over it”, if the word “retard” hurts them?

Another commenter said this: “Oh goodness it’s a word for crying out loud! I have a cousin with Down syndrome and a cousin with autism and not a single person in my family over reacts over the word ‘retard’ you know why, because we don’t use that word to describe them so why the hell should it be offensive, do you actually sit there and call your mentally disabled children retarded? No? Then get over it!!!”

So, because I don’t use that word to describe my son, it shouldn’t be offensive to me??

Um… What???

I think the people on the wrong side of this, those who accuse us of being the “word police”, need some stronger arguments, because theirs just make no sense.  I am not the word police.  But I will point out to you when a word you use is hurtful, because I believe people should be nice to each other – didn’t we all learn that in Kindergarten?  Because I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt, that you just didn’t realize you were being mean.  If you dig your feet in, because you should be allowed to say whatever you want, you are correct.

You can say anything you want.  But that doesn’t mean you should.

If you agree, check out this awesome info-graphic about the word “gay”.  We should totally get one of these made for the r-word!

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The R-Word, Again

Why am I writing about this again?  Because I’m still encountering the word, almost daily.  Granted I work with middle schoolers, but really?  Most of them know better than to say it, at least around me.  It’s the rest of the world that hasn’t gotten the clue, yet…

Here are the most common arguments I see on the internet, about why we special needs moms need to chill out about this:

  1. It’s just a word.  Yep, like the n-word, or any other label for any other minority in the country.  If it’s just a word, go into any urban area and start using these words, and then let’s see if it’s still “just a word”.
  2. Retarded is a medical term.  It is actually being replaced in the DMS-5, and is really still only used in insurance paperwork and research.  In fact the term “mental retardation” began to be used because the previous term used for the condition was deemed offensive.  This argument didn’t work for long back then, either.
  3. You are trying to be the word police, and I have First Amendment rights.  Go ahead and use the word, as long as you use it in job interviews, when you meet your girlfriend’s parents, when trying to get a bank loan, and any other time you want to put your best foot forward.  Huh, you say you don’t want to do that?  Then maybe that’s a clue that it’s a word that makes you look like you have a stunted vocabulary.
  4. It’s not really aimed at people with intellectual disabilities.  I would never say that term to someone’s face.  Well, that’s even better!  You would use it behind someone’s back.  Continue using it and wearing T-shirts with the word on it, so that I can steer clear of you.  If you censor yourself around certain people, who knows what you are saying about your friends behind their backs!
  5. It doesn’t really hurt anyone.  I can still remember being at a family Christmas right around the time when we finally got a diagnosis of autism for The Boy, and his uncle called him a “spaz”.  I felt like someone had punched me in the gut.  I was thankful that The Boy didn’t hear it, but words really do hurt.

Do you think the people who tweeted these disgusting, nasty things about Gabby Giffords were just using it as a slang term?

Gabby Giffords tweets

Do you want to be lumped in with them?  Because you will be.  Arguing that you aren’t using it “like that” won’t get you anywhere.  It’s time to drop the word from your vocabulary.  It’s a losing battle.