language, social media

I can think of so many more offensive things than that one particular word…

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…

Jill used the term “mentally challenged” to appease those who objected to her use of the r-word.

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.

art, controversies, funny stories, nostalgia

Creating “trash” to pay for creating a treasure…

I learned something new this morning as I caught up on what happened during the hours during which I slept. It’s my habit to go to the front page of my Google app and read suggested stories. They’re typically offered based on subjects Google has noticed I’ve read. I’ve been reading Maus, thanks to the enhanced publicity of Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel being banned for 8th graders in McMinn County, Tennessee. Maus is a brilliant work of art based on Art Spiegelman’s father’s experiences in The Holocaust. Because I’ve also been reading up on Art Spiegelman, this morning, Google recommended an article from about another one of Spiegelman’s very popular artistic projects from the 80s. It turns out that Art Spiegelman’s work was controversial, and even banned, when I was a 13 year old kid, too.

McMinn County’s school board “explains” why Maus was banned from the curriculum for 8th graders. Art Spiegelman’s work was banned when I was in the 8th grade, too, back in 1985-86. It’s a shame the school board is so short-sighted. Maus is a book that can reach a lot of young people in a positive way.

I’m ashamed to admit that prior to a couple of weeks ago, I hadn’t even heard of Maus, although it won a Pulitzer Prize, and the first six chapters were released in 1986, when I was fourteen years old. Although I loved Mad Magazine when I was growing up, and Spiegelman was reportedly influenced by Mad, I didn’t read comic books as a rule. Wikipedia tells me that Spiegelman began working on Maus in 1978, and the comics originally appeared in a comic anthology magazine called Raw, which featured alternative comics for adults. Spiegelman was co-editor of Raw, where work by avant-garde artists who were previously unknown was showcased.

In 1985, when I was thirteen and in the 8th grade, Spiegelman heard that Steven Spielberg was making a movie about Jewish mice who escaped persecution in Eastern Europe. Believing that Spielberg’s film An American Tail, was inspired by Maus, which had been appearing in segments in issues of Raw, Spiegelman searched for a publisher who would make the first chapters of Maus available so that his work would not be unfairly compared to Spielberg’s. The first six chapters of Spiegelman’s masterpiece were published in 1986, comprising the first volume of Maus. The unfinished work earned rave reviews from The New York Times, and Spiegelman spent the next five years finishing the book. Incidentally, I have yet to see An American Tail, although I am a fan of the song, “Somewhere Out There”, which was sung by Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram, and appeared on the film’s soundtrack. It’s one of my favorite duets to sing on SingSnap. 😉

Maybe it’s time I saw this movie.

Maus took a total of thirteen years to finish and, having spent the last few days reading it, I concur with so many others that it really is wonderful work. But Spiegelman did also have bills to pay as he was designing his masterpiece. So what did he do in those days to make ends meet as he worked on creating Maus? Well, besides teaching at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, Spiegelman created a relic from my youth that I remember all too well. Inspired, in part, by the very homely dolls, the Cabbage Patch Kids, which were incredibly popular in the 1980s, Spiegelman and a couple of other guys named Mark Newgarden and John Pound, created trading cards called Garbage Pail Kids.

Garbage Pail Kids first appeared in 1985– again, when I was at the age that the Tennessee eighth graders are at now– and, you guessed it, they caused quite a ruckus. In fact, they were banned in some places. Why were they banned? Well, mainly it was because they were gross, and adults in the 80s were a lot stuffier than they are today. I mean, kids of my era were allowed to do a lot more. We could run amok and be gone for hours every day with no fears that someone would call CPS. We could ride gloriously free of helmets on bikes, and without seatbelts in cars. And there was no such thing as the World Wide Web, so we never had to worry about some of the less savory things that kids today can be exposed to online. BUT– many parents and educators had a HUGE problem with the tasteless Garbage Pail Kids. God forbid kids of the 80s see vulgar comic depictions of a kids doing gross things! We might all turn into hoodlums!

Dan Rather does a report on Art Spiegelman’s controversial art circa 1986…

The trading cards each featured a Garbage Pail kid that had something grotesque and funny “wrong” with it. The characters bore a striking resemblance to the Cabbage Patch Kids, which led to a successful lawsuit. Still, the cards were so popular that they led to a 1987 feature film called The Garbage Pail Kids Movie. There was also a TV series developed based on the characters, but it never aired, due to the extreme controversy surrounding the cards. The article I read on Cracked mentions that the cards made a comeback in the 2000s, but by the time they were back on the market, most people had forgotten about them. And people of the 2000s were much less shocked by comic depictions of kids who looked gross or were doing nasty or vulgar things.

I do remember Garbage Pail Kids, but I never collected them. By the time the movie came out, I was fifteen years old, and totally into my horse. I recall that teachers didn’t like them because they were “distracting”. In fact, I seem to remember that they were so controversial that in 1989, The Cosby Show did an episode loosely based on them, calling them “The Gross Out Gang”. The episode was about youngest child, Rudy, being caught watching a gory horror movie about gross kids that her parents didn’t approve of. Rudy tells her parents that they need to revisit the rules she is forced to abide by, which spawns a fun episode that shows what happens when little girls don’t abide by their parents’ wise counsel.

A clip from The Cosby Show that references “The Gross Out Gang”.

Bill Cosby was practically a god in the 80s, and his show was considered “family friendly” entertainment and “must see TV” on Thursday nights. In those days, there were a lot fewer channels to watch, so a lot of people watched Cosby, not realizing that he was a lot grosser than Garbage Pail Kids or “The Gross Out Gang” could ever be. Ah, but we were so innocent back then. It was much easier for people like Cosby to hide their sins. News didn’t travel as fast, and not everyone had a camera.

It kind of blows my mind that a genius like Art Spiegelman was behind Garbage Pail Kids. But then, I guess in their own way, Garbage Pail Kids were yet another element of Spiegelman’s genius. They were hugely popular, and they no doubt made it possible for Spiegelman to make his mark on the world in a profound way by creating Maus. Isn’t it interesting that Bill Cosby, who is also a genius, but has done some really terrible things to women, was considered “family friendly” to parents of my childhood, but Art Spiegelman, who as far as I know, has never actually harmed anyone, keeps putting out stuff that gets banned? I mean, Cosby has most recently been “canceled” by a lot of people, but he was allowed to influence young people for decades! I remember seeing him on Fat Albert, and The Electric Company, and when he did “Picture Pages”, which I think were featured on Captain Kangaroo and later on Nickelodeon’s Pinwheel.

This man was regarded as the epitome of “family friendly” back in the day. But he was only recently released from prison for drugging and raping Andrea Constand, who was just one of so many women who accused him of sexual assault.

The older I get, the more I think a lot of people have their priorities messed up. I see that the people of McMinn County were heavily in favor of re-electing Donald Trump for president, who has said some things that are definitely not appropriate for kids to hear or read. Why is it that the good people of McMinn don’t have a problem with an admitted pussy grabber in the White House, but they can’t bear the idea of thirteen year old kids seeing a cartoon depiction of suicide or nudity, or reading the word “shit” and “God damn” a few times. I just read the part of Maus in which the word “God damn” was used. It was definitely not used inappropriately, given the context of the situation in the book. Art was furious at his father for destroying his mother’s priceless diaries after he’d had a “bad day”. Since his mother committed suicide in 1968, it made perfect sense that Art would have been outraged enough to curse at his father. And believe me, 13 year olds have heard that particular profanity,— and much worse— a lot. I think the issue is, McMinn County simply doesn’t want its children to be exposed to the truths of the terrible sins perpetrated by supposed white Christians in the not too distant past.

I read in the minutes of the school board meeting in which Maus was removed, one of the points made for removing the book was that students today could be disciplined for using the curse words in the book. However, I would really hope that the adults in these kids’ lives teach them that there are times and places for “objectionable language”. I don’t think thirteen year olds are so innocent that they can’t be taught that the word “God damn”, uttered by a very angry person regarding the Holocaust, during which people were systematically MURDERED, is necessarily inappropriate. Curse words, like it or not, have their uses. I would rather someone curse than commit an act of violence, for instance. I rarely ever heard Bill Cosby curse in his comedy routines and television shows, but he surely did do violent things to women. And Donald Trump–the beloved and heavily supported former POTUS in McMinn County– has both said objectionable words and committed violent acts against women– including his first wife, Ivana, whom he presumably had some regard for at the time, I would hope.

Anyway, I am heartened that people have been outraged that Maus was banned in Tennessee. I’m glad to see that it’s back on the bestseller list, and people like me are buying copies of it and reading it. As I mentioned before, McMinn County is actually inadvertently educating people with its ridiculous condemnation of Art Spiegelman’s great book. Banned books are usually the best ones to read. I’ll bet those old Garbage Pail Kids collections are also going to sell like hotcakes, too. Americans are funny that way.