Pushing back against ableism

Content Note:
Ableism thread
Contains ableist slurs, racial slurs, and homophobic slurs

Text image reading "Ableism- A form of discrimination against people with disabilities. A social prejudice."
Text image reading “Ableism- A form of discrimination against people with disabilities. A social prejudice.”

There are words in the English language that many, Many, MANY people use without giving thought to. These are words that were once medical terms used to describe people with mental illnesses. While these words are no longer used by medical professionals to describe people with mental illnesses, society at large still uses these words. These words are connected to the perceived intellect of others. Invariably, they are used to disparage others based on intellectual ability.

These words need to be abandoned by everyone bc they have the effect of maligning those with mental disabilities. And people with disabilities are deeply marginalized in society.

Generally speaking, it is socially unacceptable to use racial slurs against black, Asian, Indigenous, or Latinx people. As a society, most people agree that using such slurs is denigrating to blacks, Asians, Indigenous folks, and Latinx people. Likewise, it is frowned upon to use slurs that denigrate gay or lesbian people. That is bc those words are demeaning and disparaging to Lesbians or Gays. Because PoC and LG people are deeply marginalized in society, most decent people agree that using such slurs is unacceptable.

But we have a long way to go before we purge ourselves of another group of words. Words that draw upon the actual or perceived intellectual ability or lack thereof of others. Words that are ableist.

When you use ableist words, you are demeaning and denigrating those who are mentally disabled bc you are drawing a negative connection between a persons perceived intellect and undesirable personality traits.

Think about it…when you insult Donald Trump for his lack of experience, his misogyny, his xenophobia, or his anti-Muslim bigotry by calling him a ‘retard’ (or any version of the word, such as ‘fucktard’) what are you saying? You’re probably saying that “Trump has said or done something reprehensible and my go-to insult for him is a word that refers to his intellectual ability, which I consider lacking”.

What are you conveying to others when you say Stacey Dash is a moron or an idiot bc she said something completely ridiculous, bigoted, divorced from reality, or lacking in logic or reason? What you’re saying to others is that the statements she has made are the result of what you perceive of as a lack of intelligence.

You are saying the individual you dislike/condemn/despise (because of statements they made or actions they took) is contemptible BECAUSE you think they lack a sufficient level of intelligence.

Consider for a moment how that might make someone who is mentally disabled feel.

Consider for a moment how that contributes to the stigma faced by people with mental disabilities. People who exist differently than you. They do not exist wrongly. They exist _differently_. And yet their difference is weaponized. Their difference is used to malign or insult others. Their difference is used to say “Hey, there is something wrong with you!”

That some people are mentally disabled is a fact.
That mental ability (or a perceived lack thereof) is used as an insult is a fact.

Thinking, reasoning, empathetic, compassionate beings condemn the use of nigger because it denigrates black people.

Thinking, reasoning, empathetic, compassionate beings condemn the use of  faggot because it denigrates gay people.

Shouldn’t thinking, reasoning, empathetic, compassionate beings condemn the use of ableist slurs? Don’t those slurs denigrate people with mental disabilities?

Unfortunately even those who consider themselves good, liberal, or progressive people use such terms. I’ve seen people who are excellent at pushing back against racism or homophobia or transphobia or misogyny fall prey to using ableist slurs. I believe that is because (in large part) too many people have not taken the time to consider how their words affect others.

So I say to everyone here and now…no. I do not say. I ask. I implore.

Stop using these words.
Eradicate them from your speech. Stop using them as shorthand. Give greater thought and care to the words you use to communicate with others. Consider how your words impact others.

Stop using words like the following:
Retard (and any variations involving the -tard suffix).

Words have power.
I ask that we all stop misusing that power bc such misuse harms those who are among the most marginalized in society. And harming others like this should be considered shameful to all decent people.

Pushing back against ableism

2 thoughts on “Pushing back against ableism

  1. 1

    Yeah, I’ve been working on this (as well as purging my vocabulary of “crazy” and similar terms) but it’s proving difficult, in part because it’s so pervasive and also, I think, because growing up constantly being praised for my intelligence led to an ingrained “smart = good, dumb = bad” mentality. I see this same attitude among a lot (all?) of my well educated friends, which doesn’t help support my attempts to change. I’ve seen an increase in discussion on this topic around the web, though, which is great, as well as a push to encourage/praise children for their effort rather than for simply being innately “smart” or “talented. ” Hopefully that will help speed the end of this kind of speech, much like the use of “gay” seems to have dropped off (at least as far as I’m aware.)
    But thanks for posting this. I can always use more reminders to consider my speech and thought processes.

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