Wow… in just one week, it’ll be Halloween. It seems like October has really been fleeting this year. Bill and I have pumpkins to carve, since we did have a few Trick or Treaters last year. Germans are slowly catching on to Halloween, I guess. I will be passing out candy alone, though, because Bill has to go away again. It’s at times like these that I wish I had more friends. But a lot of my friendships have turned out to be disappointing, mainly because I tend to look at things differently than a lot of people do. I don’t go along to get along very well.
Take for instance, the common consensus that certain words should be “banned”. I will never agree with that idea, because I know that all words– even the so-called offensive ones– have a purpose. I also believe in letting people communicate freely, even if I think what they say or write is offensive. However, I understand that sometimes when a person says something egregiously offensive, there will be consequences. I have no quarrel with people facing consequences. That’s part of being an adult in a free society.
A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about an online interaction I had with a woman I didn’t know. This woman was apparently upset because I disagree with the notion that the word “retard” is always offensive and ought to be banned. She claimed she has autism, and evidently that somehow makes her an expert on offensive language. I disagree with that notion, too.
Anyway, we had a rather contentious exchange, and I wrote about it here. I think that post is one of my better ones. It’s probably be better than today’s post will be, but we’ll see. The upshot is, I certainly don’t agree that the word “retard” is always an offensive word. It can be used in an offensive way, but it’s not always offensive. So, whenever I see someone who’s upset about that word being bandied about, I generally just shake my head. I can think of plenty of other words that people never say anything about that are just as or even more offensive than that word is.
This topic comes up today thanks to fundie Christian Jill Rodrigues, who has, once again, been politically incorrect on her social media. I noticed someone on the Duggar Family News page shared the post and was very offended by it because it included the word “retarded”. Pickles, the woman who runs the page, later wrote a post about how wrong it was for Jill to use the term “retarded” in the way she did below…
Some people apparently gave Jill some shit for using the word “retarded” in her post. She edited it thusly…
Now… I’m not trying to tell anyone that I think it’s right that Jill quoted her mother’s use of the word “retarded” to describe her non-functioning leg. However, I’m not offended that she used that word. I just don’t think it’s an accurate word to use to describe her mother’s condition, and using that word to describe her leg just makes her look less educated.
Clearly, Jill doesn’t care if people are offended by her use of that word and she’s going to continue using it regardless. You can tell by the way she substituted the term “mentally challenged” after people gave her a hard time. She doesn’t take other people’s feelings into consideration when she posts her stuff on social media, so I see no reason to be upset about it. This behavior is just par for the course for her. If you are offended by her use of language, my advice is to simply stop following her. In fact, I think unfollowing Jill the worst thing you could ever do to her. She craves fame, even if what she gets is actually infamy.
I don’t follow Jill myself, and only know about this controversy because there was a post about Jill in the Duggar Family News group. Quite a few people are apparently shocked and outraged by Jill’s use of the so-called “r-word”. It seems to me that instead of discussing this in the Duggar group, the better thing to do would be to ignore Jill. She’s just doing this for attention, and we’re all giving it to her.
I can think of a lot of other things Jill has posted over the years that I find much worse than quoting her mother’s use of the word “retarded” to describe her leg. Like, for instance, the time she and her kids sang a homophobic song about farm animals as an object lesson about why she thinks homosexuality is wrong. Or the many times she’s written about her quadriplegic sister and described her using the word “quadriplegic” in all caps. Or the times she’s posted about her children as if they’re up for auction or something, looking for mates. I mean, if you want to be offended, you can visit Jill’s page and find plenty of things to offend you. She’s not going to change.
Aside from the fact that Jill will never change her behavior, I also want to point out that as offensive and hurtful as the word “retard” is when it’s used as a slur, there are plenty of other offensive words that get used all the time and no one ever says a damned thing! In my earlier post about this controversy, I pointed out how the person who was trying to “school” me about why the word “retard” is always wrong, basically called me “stupid”. She’d asked me to use the word “retard” in a non-offensive way, which I think I did. Below is the sentence I posted. You can tell me in the comments if you honestly think it’s offensive, but if you do that, I will expect an explanation as to what makes it offensive. Chances are excellent that I will disagree with you.
“I see no reason to retard the development of languages by banning specific words.”
I did what the person asked me to do. She responded by writing that my answer was “stupid”. What’s “stupid” about it, pray tell? Is it “stupid” because I proved her wrong? And does she not see the irony in lecturing me against ANY use of the word “retard” because it’s “mean” and “offensive” to people with special needs, but then using the word “stupid” to describe my answer and, perhaps, my intellect? Can you think of ANY use of the word “stupid” that isn’t negative and offensive? I can’t. But the word “retard” actually can be used in a neutral way. I just proved it.
Ditto to words like “moron”, “idiot”, “fool”, “imbecile”, “cretin”, “dolt”, “dunce”, “dullard” “knothead” 😉 and a host of other terms to describe people who aren’t intelligent. I never see people clamoring to ban any of those words, some of which were once actual medical or psychological terms used to describe people with intellectual disabilities. Only the word “retard” seems to get the most people riled up these days. But it wasn’t that long ago that the word “retarded” was the official and clinical term used for someone who did not possess whatever is considered a “normal” intellect. When I was a child in the 1980s, there were actual government offices that had the words “mental retardation” on their letterheads.
I’m not saying it’s a good thing to label someone a “retard” or refer to them as “retarded”. I totally agree that it’s wrong to use words in a harmful or offensive way. I also think that it’s prudent to develop new terms that more accurately define certain conditions. Back in the day, it seems like anyone who wasn’t considered “normal” and rode the “short bus” was labeled as “retarded”, even if they had a perfectly fine intellect. That’s definitely not right.
What I’m saying is, that particular word is one of many offensive words in the English language that people routinely use to hurt one another. If you’re upset about the word “retard”, are you equally upset about the casual use of words like “stupid” or “moron” or “idiot”? If those words don’t offend you as much as “retard” does, why don’t they?
Moreover, getting bent out of shape that Jill Rodrigues uses any incarnation of the word “retard” on social media is a waste of energy, in my opinion. She’s proven time and again that she’s not going to be politically correct, and neither is she a well-educated person. I don’t necessarily blame her for rejecting demands to be “PC”. I think that PC culture is often illogical and misses the mark. But I do think we should keep in mind that this is a woman who sings homophobic songs about farm animals as a way to prove that homosexuality is unnatural. She’s never going to quit using words that more evolved people find objectionable.
So… count me among those who think this controversy about Jill’s use of taboo words is much ado about nothing. I think there are much bigger issues to be upset about where she’s concerned. Not that I waste much time being concerned about those issues, either. I’d rather go frost my balding bush. 😉
TLDR– people should focus less on specific words and more on context. Jill’s mom didn’t call anyone the r-word. She used it to refer to her own body part, which in and of itself isn’t a very intelligent thing to do, since legs don’t have any intellectual capacity.