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March 20, 2009

r-word

I find this campaign to be quite powerful. In the original story, the writer screwed up the slogan. The comedian in me would say - "what? is your writer reta.... oh, um nevermind", but the overall message of the campaign has led me to take the pledge.


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Comments (23)

In all honesty--I don't quite get it. The message to stop the use of words isn't really the greatest solution to the problem. Isn't it a better idea to just not be hateful? If you'll observe: nigger, kike, spic, kraut, chink, retard, wetback, wop, etc.. That wasn't hateful...so where's the problem?

On a personal level, I have an autistic-spectrum disorder. I've heard "retard" shouted at me before, but no one who has ever said this to me is someone who actually thinks that I am actually "retarded" in the colloquial sense (or couldn't pwn intellectually, for that matter). "Retard" is also a synonym for "slow" in its verb form. The world needs more adjectives, Ze!

Lastly, not even everything that's apparently hateful is hateful. The "encyclopedia dramatica" article on "Wimmins" opens with "A woman is the useless skin around the vagina." It may be offensive, but the ludicrousness of the article makes you realize that it isn't hateful, it's just humour (the kind where something is funny by virtue of being gratuitously wrong and offensive).

Posted by: Jordon at March 21, 2009 1:26 AM

T H E

what's up with the extra 'the' is that writer retardery

Posted by: Lynne at March 21, 2009 12:35 PM

T H E

what's up with the extra 'the' is that writer retardery ??

Posted by: Lynne at March 21, 2009 12:36 PM

It's a good thing there's some media coverage, because the official web site is so light on information that it's almost impossible to tell what they're talking about. "Stop using the r-word"? Which one is that? "Republican"? CNN will tell me what they're trying to accomplish but their official web site just tells you not to use some word that they're so opposed to they won't even tell you what it is.


Posted by: Tom Harrington at March 21, 2009 1:09 PM

I dislike campaigns like this. To me it just seems they are fighting to try and give the word respect. Which just makes it more powerful or hurtful when it actually is used.
To me, the more used and common, the less meaning the word seems to have. Like calling someone an idiot. "Idiot" used to be the actual diagnosis for Mentally Disabled. Now its not really viewed as a big deal.

I would think the best way to deal with it would be to live with it. Show no reaction. It might still hurt, but eventually it will be less so, and the abusers will see it has no effect and it come to mean nothing.

Just my take on it I guess.

Posted by: B at March 21, 2009 6:22 PM

:) this makes me happy. I (unofficially of course)took this pledge years ago, so I'm going to pledge to encourage others to rethink their use of this hurtful langage!

Posted by: Laura at March 22, 2009 8:59 AM

i'd have to agree with Jordon there.

Posted by: yo at March 22, 2009 4:50 PM

This reminds me of one of my favorite jokes:
How many feminists does it take to screw in a light buTHAT'S NOT FUNNY!!

Posted by: Linkt at March 23, 2009 4:17 AM

I'm torn on this. I don't know anyone that's actually mentally disabled in any way, so I can't speak to how offensive it really is. That being said, "retarded" doesn't have nearly the same form of use or connotations that any racial slurs do. A racial slur generally implies hatred and inferiority, and it's used against very specific groups of people. With retarded, we don't just use it to describe people, but practically everything - movies, music, ideas, countries, and so on. It's another word for stupid, poorly thought-out, or ill-advised. Is that really an unfair meaning to give to the word? If I say Spiderman 3 is retarded, how is this offensive to a guy with Down's syndrome? In what way does it imply that I feel he is less of a person, or not valuable to society?

Posted by: tim at March 23, 2009 7:42 AM

I think time and focus would be better spent on teaching youth to build and solidify self worth. This will deflate the importance of acceptance that our culture inherently drives into our skulls from the time of birth.

also...

Couldn't the accepted alternative to 'retard' just become a slur as well? A word is just a word... meaning can change...

Isn't the root of this whole issue the fact that most cultures value a particular kind of intelligence?

Posted by: mosh at March 23, 2009 5:28 PM

this was really timely. i recently read an article by a mother expressing her great grief in not only the use of the r-word, but also in the pain and awareness her child has of the way that other people regard him. it is time...

Posted by: ingrid at March 24, 2009 8:55 AM

I work in a preschool for special needs children as a psychology assistant, and let me tell you that there is nothing worse than having to break the diagnosis to parents that their child is mentally retarded. ( Yes, it is still a clinical diagnosis of a below average IQ and delays in adaptive functioning.) At that point in time there is NOTHING funny about that word. I have to admit that I still let it slip occasionally out of habit, but I always catch myself and feel ashamed.

Posted by: mcwhclan at March 24, 2009 6:58 PM

This makes no sense.

These people are "mentally retarded". It is a genuine biologically descriptive term that is in use in the medical and biological research communities everywhere. It literally describes the phenotype.

Another attempt by the well-intentioned but superficial to drive a wedge between words and their meaning.

Retardation is a genuine biological phenomenon, it is not epithetical. I think this is very much a case of one group of worthy-cause-supporters looking at another group of worthy-cause-supporters and saying "I want a bit of that word reform action too".

Well intentioned, but ridiculous.

Posted by: Leo at March 25, 2009 8:42 PM

"Isn't the root of this whole issue the fact that most cultures value a particular kind of intelligence? "

Oh come on! Have you ever actually encountered and spent time with a mentally retarded person? It is not simply one more beautiful, vibratory wavelength in the rich spectrum of human gifts. They suffer from serious cognitive impairment with no compensatory gifts - it's cruel and horrible, but it's the coarse truth of genetics.

Good intentions are all well and good but please, please, let us not divorce ourselves from reality to boost our own sense of moral worth. That kind of carry-on has got us in enough trouble already.

Posted by: Leo at March 25, 2009 9:10 PM

Quite some time ago, I stopped using the r-word entirely.
Recently, a group of high school kids decided that word isn't appropriate and tried to do something about it. Follow the link to the story.
http://journalstar.com/articles/2008/12/08/news/local/doc493d8a0d928db157740762.txt

I find it refreshing that these teenagers cared enough about something to take action on it.

Posted by: Dezann at March 26, 2009 3:37 PM

I am torn by this issue. On one hand, why are we furthering the self-censorship that has become so prevalent? On the other had, there are words I will not use simply because they are hurtful (yup, the n-word, the f-word, etc.). Although I would never call someone who is retarded a retard, I can see how it is hurtful. Guess I will just go back to calling my friends idjits.

Posted by: Aleks at March 26, 2009 4:36 PM

Man, I guess now I will have to stop calling things gay, too. (I am kidding)

Posted by: Amy at March 26, 2009 11:51 PM

Sorry, have to call BS on this one.

No one with any modernity in their brain uses "retard" to mean "mentally disabled" anymore (or whatever the current PC term for having such a difference or deficiency in brain physiology/psychology/etc). Therefore, when people use it to describe regular people or inanimate objects, they're using it in reference to how it _used_ to be used and can actually be seen as mockery of humankind's previous ignorance (had to struggle there to not use "retardedness").

Since it's current use does not actually refer to people who this term _previously_ was used to describe, the S.O. folks are attacking vapor.

And don't worry, just like any other word-fad, this one will die and the next group will be complaining about our language for some other reason.

Welcome to reality, it's retarded.

Posted by: Colin at March 27, 2009 1:33 AM

For me, this is mostly about how language affects thinking, and also searching for a more pure communication. If I say, "That's retarded," then I mean it's stupid. However, "retard" derives from the Latin for "slow", not "stupid". I try to eliminate meaningless words, especially offensive ones, from my everyday speech. It can only enhance clarity and understanding, and improve others' view of you.

Another reason is I've seen how slang can creep into speech, where it is simply an expletive. A friend of mine has come to rely on "faggot" for anyone who angers him. Like others have said, singling the word out as forbidden doesn't do any good, but neither will overuse. With language as such an integral tool of human existence, why shirk the responsibility of its upkeep?

Posted by: Evan Wade at April 2, 2009 3:29 AM

Does this mean that all of the classical, orchestral, baroque, choral and any other scored form of music will have to be re-written to exclude a form of the r-word, ritardando. How will the players or singers know when to slow down the tempo? Will professional web sites such as MedlinePlus and WebMD be forced to stop using the term "mental retardation" as keywords for searches? As a culture, we have become way too thin-skinned...I wholly agree with "B" above on March 21, 2009.

Posted by: DEz at April 2, 2009 1:09 PM

While I understand the sentiment, I see a few problems with the idea.
For one, it seems like they're going at this from the wrong angle. It seems to me the most effective way to remove a word's vitriolic power is to embrace it, as the gay community has embraced gay, and to a degree, "fag". Same thing with the the N-word: while it can still be used with vitriol, it has evolved into a term of endearment among some parts of the black community.

Also, there is the uncomfortable truth that the use of the "r word" is rooted in fact. While other pejoratives are simply ignorant, racist, sexist, and based on stereotype, calling someone a "retard" is essentially saying their mental capacity is equivalent to that of a mentally disabled person.
You can't argue that someone who is mentally disabled is cognitively equivalent to a "normal" person. Regardless of the word generated to refer to them, it will slowly regress into a pejorative. Call them "quarlors" (to pick a gibberish word I made up on the spot), and eventually that will become an insult once the analogy again becomes part of society's vernacular.

I think, as has been mentioned, the focus of the campaign should be respect and understanding, not making transforming a word into a taboo.

Posted by: zzzzz at April 8, 2009 12:10 AM

I agree with the campaign in theory, but personally I have a big problem with word-banning campaigns.

I feel like they're a cheap way to support a cause without really getting at the heart of the problem. I don't have any issue with people supporting the campaigns, I just have an issue with the people who start them.

Like the "No more N-word" stuff. Racism and inequality is the issue, not a collection of syllables. Sure, that word does help to support those larger, problems but it's hardly the heart of the issue.

In fact, I'd almost argue that campaigning against a word does more harm than good. I think most people who get involved in these things feel like they're done they're part simply by trying to end the use of a word. If the campaign succeeds (the most something like this CAN succeed) then I'd imagine you'd see the same backlash as with the feminist movement. People would simply go "Well, problem's solved. What's the next issue?".

I'm all for not using the word "retard" in a derogatory way towards mentally disabled people, but I can't help but wish all the time and effort being put into this campaign was instead going toward something that would address the root of the problem (the general lack of respect and understanding of mental disabilities), instead of just addressing a symptom.

Posted by: Ben at April 14, 2009 1:54 AM

ok. the people who say "retarded means stupid now so it's okay to use it" are missing the entire point.

retarded is a clinically term and has a specific meaning, and everyone knows what that is. when it used as a synonym for stupid, it is only effective exactly because it invokes people who are developmentally disabled. if it actually just meant "stupid" it wouldn't be funny. that is the mechanism of humor.

there is a difference between politically correct and emotionally decent. what this campaign is asking is not that people attack the word, but that folks think deeper about the issue and reconnect to their own humanity and that of others who are actually "retarded", and realize that whatever their motivation, THIS WORD LEGITIMATELY HURTS PEOPLE. if a comedian (ze frank) can acknowledge this, maybe he is on to something. i appreciate his ability to question his own behavior, and i respect him for that. even if he didn't respond to my marriage propsal 6 years ago when i first saw his website.

now i'm gonna go watch naughtybird again, cuz that shit is truly funny.

Posted by: beth at April 22, 2009 1:17 PM

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