“Ableist language”

I’m a very big fan of language. I’m a poet, and a fiction writer, and a playwright. I love language and dialogue in particular. So there’s something intuitively wrong to me about the current political correctness trend of telling people “don’t use this word” and “say this instead.”

Here’s the thing – any word can be used as a slur. The word “gay” used to mean “happy” and then came to mean homosexual, and then became a slur for “stupid” because of people’s innate homophobia. The word “retarded” comes from the actual mental health diagnosis, which was “mental retardation.” Literally, slowing of the mind. It became a slur because many people are uncomfortable with people who appear to have a disability. But I don’t think the answer is to start telling people not to use the word “retarded” or “gay” because that’s too reductionist. Tell people to stop being assholes instead. Tell people to stop using language in hurtful ways.

Here’s one that hits close to home, as a mental health professional: Crazy. “Crazy” can be used as an insult, for sure. But it is also a very descriptive, evocative word to convey something that is out of control, fucked up, or driving you bonkers. I think we all know the difference between telling someone “you’re acting crazy” and “you are crazy.” I also think we all know the difference between telling someone who is behaving out of control that they’re acting crazy and telling someone who is struggling with depression or bipolar disorder that they are crazy. See how easy it is to tell the difference between an insult and a legitimate use of a word?

Telling people to not use a word is not going to solve the problem, in fact, it’s probably just going to piss people off and make them stop hearing the point underneath. They’re going to roll their eyes at you and think you’re just being politically correct, and not listen further. Which, if they’re being an asshole, is a much bigger problem. Wouldn’t it be more effective to cut to the chase and just tell them they’re being an asshole instead?

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~ by realsupergirl on October 27, 2014.

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