Words and Worth

Is there ever a time when the word “retard” or “retarded” is used without being offensive? Short answer…No.

We can have a linguistic argument about using it in its strict definition when referring to the delayed growth or development of something, but let’s be honest here….

That’s not how it is used…you know it and I know it.

The word retard is used as an insult. It is used to explain how useless and worthless something is. It is used to put someone down, belittle and denigrate them. This word has been used as an insult so comprehensively and for so long that the phrase “mental retardation” has been removed from medical use. Using the word means comparing something of no worth to a person with an intellectual disability. It means insulting someone by comparing them to someone with an intellectual disability.

I’ve used this term in the past, before I had Wade. I will put my hand up and say that it never occurred to me that it would be offensive. I’m not a mean person, I don’t get my kicks from putting people down but I just never made the connection to why it was wrong.

March 5 is a day to “Spread the Word to End the Word“. This is my (slightly late) contribution to tell people why it is wrong.

I have been known to talk at length and in circles about why something is or isn’t the way it is or isn’t… This time I am just going to use a very simple example.

WHAT IS SAID….This phone is “retarded”.
WHAT IS MEANT….This phone is annoying and useless and of no benefit to me.
WHAT USING THE WORD MEANS….This phone is just like some one with an intellectual disability.
WHAT USING THE WORD MEANS TO ME…This phone is just like your son.

WHAT WAS DEFINITELY NOT MEANT….This phone processes information differently to me and is speaking in a way I am not familiar with. I will have to give the phone some time to say what it means and I may have to try another technique to be understood. I really appreciate how difficult it is for the phone to communicate with me but I respect its value all the same…..

There is no other way of looking at this.
There is no other way to interpret the words that have been said.

People become very defensive when this fact is pointed out to them. Why? We all know why it is offensive to use racial or sexist terms as insults, it is in the media, legislation and public consciousness. Why do people have no idea how offensive the R-word is in 2014 (myself included until recently)?

I think because unlike other groups in society who find themselves on the ugly end of these comparisons, people with an intellectual disability don’t have the same voice in society. It is no less offensive or insulting but people with intellectual disabilities have less opportunity to voice their pain than their other minority counterparts. This may be because they don’t have the words to say how it makes them feel. It might be because there is barely any representation of people with intellectual disabilities in the media therefore there is a reduced number of opportunities to voice that objection. It might be that for most people, people with an intellectual disability are out of sight, out of mind and do not get to experience how much hurt this term inflicts.

But the pain is still the same.
The humiliation is still the same.
The loss of dignity and respect is still the same.
The feeling of “lesser” that comes when a medical term to describe your intelligence is used as a generic insult for all that is worthless…is still the same.

Im not really interested in reasons why people think it’s ok to use it….

“I didn’t mean your son…”
“I’m talking about a thing, not a person….”
“This is just political correctness gone mad…”

They are not reasons, they don’t justify it and any way you swing it, there is no avoiding the fact that the word “retard” compares people with intellectual disabilities to something crappy, and vice versa.

It’s time to change how this word is used and by “change”, I mean, don’t use it at all.
Don’t use it to describe something slow. Don’t use it to describe something worthless or lesser. Don’t use it to describe my son. Just don’t use it.

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One thought on “Words and Worth

  1. Pingback: The Weight of Words | lessonsfromavery

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