Why You Shouldn't Use the R-Word

I don't often use my blog as a drum skin to bang. This is my space to entertain myself and share my life with the people who choose to read it. But today, I'm picking up my drumsticks and banging away, hoping one person will hear my words and choose their own more carefully the next time they speak.

I've written before how using the word retarded affects me. I'm tired of hearing people use the word retarded as their go-to word for stupid or defective and I'm even more annoyed with the people who don't understand why I take offence to it's usage.

The word retarded, when used in our modern lexicon doesn't just mean slow any more. The r-word has become a catch-all word for society to use when frustrated, annoyed or ignorant. It's spawned a family of new words: the celebutard, the e-tard, and the ever useful, fuck-tard. The word and it's growing plethora of cousins is all over the internet, filtering into our daily lexicon.

It's not okay.

Like I tell my kids, words have power. Yes, I understand the meanings of words flux and change over the course of time, like currency in modern life. But this should mean that our standards of morality and the words we use to reflect that morality must be constantly examined and reapplied as time passes. It shouldn't mean that our standards be abandoned, bankrupted like an American bank in the Great Depression.

When you drop the 'tard bomb into casual conversation, you are demeaning disabled people and reinforcing the stereotype that mental disabilities are bad and that people who suffer these disabilities are lesser; to be excluded and ignored because they don't know any better. Heck, it's not like they even know what the word means right? Who are you hurting?

You are hurting me. You are hurting my kids. You are hurting everyone who loves someone who has been labeled a retard due to how they look, how they speak or how they learn.

It's not okay to go on twitter and announce that your computer is retarded. Did you mean your computer's operating system is running slow? You might have meant to convey that your laptop is a piece of shit that doesn't work and you desperately covet a new one, but instead you just conveyed your ignorance and your lack of respect for the most marginalized, disparaged group of people in the world.

That pisses me off.

This is a word that carries with it a history of social isolation and exlusion. It's use is a reminder of the culture of neglect people with disabilities are forced to endure every day. By using it, you are reinforcing the idea that handicapped, mentally disabled, people are bad, lesser, sub-human.

It only takes a second for a person to call something retarded, but for my children, for me, it will take a life time to erase the negative connotations associated with the word. In the instance you insert the r-word into your casual conversation, I'm instantly transported to the moment in time I overheard a complete stranger refer to my beautiful child as a retard, or the time my children came home in tears because someone chased them around the playground teasing them about having a retarded brother.

You are reminding me of the endless hours of sitting in a hospital beside my child, worrying for his future, wondering what is going to happen to him when I'm too old or weak to take care of him myself. You are reminding me of all the times I've fought to have him included on field trips and of all the times I've spent on hold with some bureaucrat trying to find funding to pay for a necessary service. You are reminding me of the friends I've lost because they are made uncomfortable by having my child around them.

When you use that r-word, or any of it's colourful and less charming derivatives, you are hurting someone. You are discriminating against a people who can't stand up for themselves and quite frankly, you are pissing me off.

I don't need a reminder of the dismissive attitude in our society towards my child. I live it every damn day. Every time a child hides in fear behind their mother's leg because they are scared of the drooling kid in a wheelchair. Every time a grown adult refuses to make eye contact with me or my son. Every time I hear someone I know tell me it's not a big deal to use the r-word after I chastise them for doing just that.

It is a big deal.

By using that word, whether YOU realize it or not, you are minimizing the struggles of disabled people and their families. You are demeaning, mocking and disrespecting a society of people who have been forced to endure more hardship and struggles than most, simply by nature of their birth.

Oh, and that argument that I'm being to over-sensitive? Too politically correct? Ask yourself how you would feel if you were forced to wear that sign pinned to your back side for others to try and kick.

You can argue that you are taking the word retard back, owning it, but you aren't. Thirty years plus of having the word retard being used in a derogatory manner isn't going to be erased. The stereotype isn't just based on society's careless use of this word, it resides in society's treatment of and attitude towards these special people.

There is no defending the use of the r-word in my world. Defending it's use is not defending freedom of speech, and heck I'd fall on the sword to defend that right, but instead it is the defence of bullies.

That is why you shouldn't use the r-word anymore.

Because ultimately, no one likes a bully.

Go here to read Jumby's story. And remember his face next time you want to drop the r-bomb.