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>I’m going off the rails on an [ableist slur redacted] train. Also: Cat poll!

>

Well, discussions about my second Scott Adams piece over on Feministe (which was basically identical to my post here) have now been completely derailed by a number of commenters who’ve decided I’m “ableist” because I used the word … “idiot.”  That word, they have decided, is offensive to the “cognitively impaired.” If you want to wade into the mess, here’s the comment that, while polite in itself, started the long slide down this particular rabbit hole. You can see my responses in blue further down in the comments.
I consider this kind of language policing to the EXTREME! to be bad for feminism (and frankly insulting to people with disabilities), and I’m glad a number of others have stood up against it in the comments there.  I don’t think that the language police are in the majority at Feministe, much less in feminism at large. But these debates are so frustrating that many feminists who disagree with the language police end up biting their tongues and/or just walking away. At some point I may post more about this fraught topic here.
In the meantime, I’m am conducting a little poll about cats. Please click the appropriate button in the graphic above. Clicking it won’t actually do anything, but I’m pretty sure what the results are going to be anyway. Go kitties!
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*Yes, that was a Bioshock reference.
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Prosey
11 years ago

>I just recently had a similar incident occur because I used the word "crazy" ~ *sigh* ~ and as the daughter of a mentally ill person, I'm the last person who would use the word "crazy" as a disparagement of the mentally ill. Words are benign…intent and context behind the words are what matter. *shakes head* And I say this as a card-carrying member of the feminist axis of evil…

Ozymandias
11 years ago

>You can take away my use of the word "pussy" when you pry it away from my COLD, DEAD HANDS. I think there's a distinction between words like "retard" (pretty much just offensive), words like "special" or "crazy" (closely associated with ableism, but can be used in an otherwise unrelated way; judgement call) and words like "idiot" (the people who use "idiot" to mean the mentally disabled are the ones who are actually being offensive). And of course there are contextual differences too. I comment on Shakesville and I'm careful not to use any terms that could possibly be offensive, because that's the culture there. On the other hand, on my own personal blog I'll call a crazy person a crazy person, as it were.

Ozymandias
11 years ago

>OTOH, it is interesting as a writing exercise to try not to use any word ever found offensive. "What about gypped? Damn, no, offensive to the Roma…"

victor
11 years ago

>you reap what you sow

Elizabeth
11 years ago

>You are insulting women by mention sow which used to be used to describe a pig. You think women are swine!

Elizabeth
11 years ago

>And no, I am not saying I think that. I am saying that is a hysterical reaction.oops! I said hysterical, I must think women (and the men who love them) are overly emotional creatures who get offended at nothing.

Marissa
11 years ago

>Prosey – actually, no, it's not the intent that matters. Using words that are derogatory creates an atmosphere of disrespect for people that those words are aimed at. I actually am trying to cut "idiot" out of my active vocabulary. And I've written about how we use the word "crazy" here and here.And I was just reading a post on Hoyden About Town, talking about how calling people out on the language they use isn't about being offended. Generally, when someone says to me, "you shouldn't use that word, it's hurtful to this group of people," I listen to them and then make an effort to not use that language in the future. All the arguments against making such an effort sound to me, too much like the justifications that people use for telling rape jokes, or for using "gay" as an insult.

Rachel Swirsky
11 years ago

>"And of course there are contextual differences too. I comment on Shakesville and I'm careful not to use any terms that could possibly be offensive, because that's the culture there."Sure. I don't comment there because I don't like that culture. (Not particularly the "calling out" aspect of it, but other things.)Generally, Feministe is a place where there's a high watermark for what's considered ableist. I don't always agree with the terms that are singled out. But why exactly is the Feministe community not deserving of that respect?Re: gypped, I actually consider that pretty out of bounds, at least for social-justice-oriented discourse (which is what we're talking about). I mean, one hopes (or at least I hope) that you wouldn't say someone Jewed you out of your money.

girlscientist
11 years ago

>I agree with you. Avoiding the use of "retarded," "lame" and "gay" in a pejorative, Katy Perry-like way? That makes sense. But banning the use of "crazy" and "idiot" is going one step too far, especially when these terms have been used to designate people who don't act rationally or who don't think things through for a long, long time. There are many things that could be changed in language to make it less needlessly harmful, but right now I think feminism has bigger fish to fry. Once rape has been eradicated, women earn as much as men, abortion is legal worldwide and chores are equally divided, maybe we can start worrying about the harm that the word "idiot" does to the cognitively impaired when it's used against people who think they are much smarter than they actually are. But until then, we have more important battles to fight.

Rachel Swirsky
11 years ago

>"I agree with you. Avoiding the use of "retarded," "lame" and "gay" in a pejorative, Katy Perry-like way? That makes sense. But banning the use of "crazy" and "idiot" is going one step too far"OK. But the argument a couple years ago went, "Avoiding the perjorative use of "gay" and "retarded?" That makes sense. But banning the use of "lame" is going one step too far."It's not about the words inherently. There are far too many abelist/sexist/racist/etc words to purge them all. Retarded/gay aren't actually inherently worse than idiotic/lame. It's about PWD and their anti-ableism movement being granted the right to decide what language being used to refer to them is okay.The difference between whether "black" or "colored" is the more polite term? Historical, not inherent, and actually reversed at least once. And this was (appropriately) decided by the people affected.

Rachel Swirsky
11 years ago

>(BTW, I totally argued that banning "lame" was too far. I also argued that banning "crazy" was too far. I find it irritating that "idiotic" has been highlighted because it's a fucking convenient word. But I never got all defensive about my right to use "retarded" because that had been stigmatized before I got involved in social justice writing, and so it wasn't ever a new thing I had to adjust to. I just accepted it. But if my arguments about "crazy" and "lame" are accurate, then the same thing should basically apply to "retarded."The only difference was my emotional reaction. "Retarded" had already been successfully tabooed so I accepted that without arguing.Anyway, more thoughts @ link, and then I'm going to withdraw from this thread/probably post on Alas eventually — http://www.amptoons.com/blog/2009/06/16/why-not-to-use-the-word-lame-i-think-im-starting-to-get-it/ )

Marissa
11 years ago

>OK. But the argument a couple years ago went, "Avoiding the perjorative use of "gay" and "retarded?" That makes sense. But banning the use of "lame" is going one step too far."It's not about the words inherently. There are far too many abelist/sexist/racist/etc words to purge them all. Retarded/gay aren't actually inherently worse than idiotic/lame. It's about PWD and their anti-ableism movement being granted the right to decide what language being used to refer to them is okay.Repeating this because I think it needs to be repeated.

Nymeria
11 years ago

>David, I really like your blog, but.. I think you're a bit overly defensive here. I know that lots of people have THE PC POLICE in their minds whenever people ask them to not use sexist/racist/abelist, etc language, but to me it just makes sense. If you look at these words, historically they've been used to hurt people. I don't think people are intentionally going "LET'S PICK SOME RANDOM WORD AND PICK ON PEOPLE WHO USE IT JUST FOR KICKS". I think they're people who have had these words used to hurt them, or know the history behind them to make it awkward whenever people use them around them. It just kind of makes you go "Oh, surely they don't mean it in THAT way." Which, I'm sure they don't. I'm sure you don't, either. But. There are people who still refuse to stop using "gay" or "faggot" as insults because they don't feel that it means the same thing anymore. They don't intend it in THAT way. But it still hurts. And I don't think it's being overly PC Killing The Feminist Movement With Your Bullshit to ask people not to do that.

Amanda Marcotte
11 years ago

>I support you. Some people see liberalism as a contest to see who can "win". They, I don't think, will ever be productive or satisfied. You are both, so there you go.

Amanda Marcotte
11 years ago

>Also, the shaming of "crazy" is missing the point. That some people are crazy against their will doesn't mean the willfully crazy can't be called out, anymore than the fact that some people are mentally disabled means I can't call the willfully ignorant "stupid".

Amanda Marcotte
11 years ago

>Eliza: I'll point out that Pandagon's comments are as strong as ever, and that's because the Word Police are beat down like motherfuckers (a word that insults people who lovingly fuck their mothers). So you're probably right.

Marissa
11 years ago

>@Amanda The "wilfully crazy" can be called out without using language that marginalizes people who are being neurologically atypical. Interesting that you centre the perspective of people who are using hurtful language (aw poor babies feel like they're being "shamed") instead of the experiences of people who are actually hurt. The exact same argument can, and has, been made about words that we no longer find acceptable. You could easily replace "crazy" and "stupid" in Amanda's comment with "faggot". I don't understand how people are comfortable making such arguments. Also: Some people see liberalism as a contest to see who can "win".What in the sweet mother of fuck is that supposed to mean? What kind of contest are people trying to "win"? Who can be the most "politically correct"? I think you're mistaking people's efforts to not step on others, for efforts to make you look bad. Good job centring yourself, again.

Pam
Pam
11 years ago

>Wow, that's one site where I will definitely not be joining in on any discussions. Kinda enjoyed Diane K's comments, though.

Marissa
11 years ago

>"… who are neurologically atypical." No "being". Need to proof-read my comments.

ithiliana
11 years ago

>The first attempt I made met with "we were unable to complete your request." I don't know what the problem was (probably too long a comment).Second try, and sorry if it turns out to multiple post.A useful post: http://hoydenabouttown.com/?p=9735I've spent the last few years working on thinking through and discarding language and attitudes that were transphobic (picked up because of intense immersion in radical white feminist texts from the 1970s) and ableist. Some parts of fandom where I hang out are trying to do the same–and coining new terms (which are sneered at by other parts of fandom).I like dickbiscuit myself. Very satisfing in the mouth :>

ithiliana
11 years ago

>2nd half of comment (if the original problem was length).The defensiveness in support of using terms like "lame" and "retarded" and others reminds me too much of the false claims that all of western civilization would fall if "Ms." became common usage (it did in some places, not rural Texas where I teach), and if "he" was changed from meaning "universal human being but really only those with dicks" (which it was–my writing textbooks now all embed gender neutral writing as a recommended style along with a slew of other 'rules').The Romany are still persecuted–so the attitudes expressed by "gypped" still exist. The Welsh (all four of my great grandparents were from Wales) not as much, but I still don't like the term "welched/weshed" on a debt. As Kenneth Burke says, "Language is never innocent."It always strikes me as intriguing what bit of language some people have to cling to and why.

ithiliana
11 years ago

>Cat poll: dang, forgot this part, maybe it was why comment got trashed first time.Cats: we haz seven of them (down from thirteen, all spayed/neutered, all because of work with animal rescue).

Marissa
11 years ago

>On cats: I've never had one, but they seem nice enough.

Raoul
11 years ago

>What happened over at Feministe can best be described as niggardly. DO YOU HEAR ME? NIGGARDLY, I SAY!!!

Emma
11 years ago

>David, I really enjoy your blog and am grateful for what you're doing here. I was excited to see you posting at Feministe, and think that's been fun to read too. I wish the process of editing your posts from here to make them more appropriate for that community had made you a little more prepared for this.I really don't care if you continue to use "idiot"– I personally have no plans to stop using it. And I agree that those derails can get very tiresome. They're not interesting to the majority of people who click through expecting a different discussion, and they're not good for the community if they happen all the time.But Amanda is flat-out wrong that people point out that language because they are hoping to "win" anything. None of us are here because we just love arguing about an abstract progressive ethic that we believe doesn't affect anyone. Rather, I think most of us care about reducing harm to very real oppressed people. I hope you'll consider that, if the words you're asked to avoid ever seem laughably normal, you'll consider that that's because in our society hurting and insulting entire classes of people is normal.You don't actually have to stop doing every little thing someone complains about in order to be a good feminist. But please don't seriously suggest, as a writer, that reconsidering your words and context isn't a valuable activity– no matter what conclusions you draw. No matter how much you disagree with those commenters or how frustrated you are that that discussion got off-track, I really don't think insulting them here after their community welcomed you is becoming.

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