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 Post subject: The Acceptability of Using Disabilities to Insult PostPosted: 2012-05-01 03:18am
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Why is it considered acceptable to use disabilities as a source of insults? Calling someone retarded isn't really any different from insulting someone using their race, sex, or sexual orientation as a basis. So why is it nigh-universally acceptable to call someone a retard as an insult but not so to call someone gay as an insult? Are we really going to say that disabled people are literally subhuman enough that simply being them is insulting? That said, I have anticipated several major defenses of this, so here are my preemptive responses:

1) Mental Retardation Is Objectively Negative.

Well, to put it bluntly, so is being a woman, being queer, or being a racial minority. All of these groups will be worse off than a straight white man for various measurable factors, so that doesn't give any reason why it's acceptable for one but not the other.

2) Mental Retardation Is Objectively Worse.

There are a number of cases where someone that is mentally retarded is objectively better off than someone from another, "less severe" minority. For example, every victim of a gaybashing, all the women gunned down by Eric Gault, the victims of lynchings... So that's also another no-go, because it's not so simple.

3) "Retard" Is Becoming Dissociated From The Medical Term

This isn't really the case as of yet- people still associate "retard" with the obsolete clinical term for mental handicaps. Besides, this doesn't change the root problem of why disability is more acceptable to use for insults. It will still remain even if "retard" goes the way of "moron", "cretin", and "idiot", just with the new term in place.

4) You're Just Trying To Infringe On My Freedom Of Speech And You're A Hypersensitive Politically-Correct Bleeding Heart

Well, I'm not the one freaking out, so I don't think that this is really the case here. Thanks for your opinion though.

Anyways, any thoughts?



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 Post subject: Re: The Acceptability of Using Disabilities to Insult PostPosted: 2012-05-01 03:53am
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Around these parts people are mocked because they are stupid. Saying that someone is retarded because they are stupid makes more sense than for example pointing out their sexuality, their sexuality has nothhing to do with their inteligence.

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 Post subject: Re: The Acceptability of Using Disabilities to Insult PostPosted: 2012-05-01 04:54am
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Grog wrote:
Around these parts people are mocked because they are stupid. Saying that someone is retarded because they are stupid makes more sense than for example pointing out their sexuality, their sexuality has nothhing to do with their inteligence.


This fundamentally misses the point: that by using 'retard' as an insult you are perpetuating a kind of dehumanisation. It's a type of bigotry, which is not substantially different from slurs based on race, gender or sexual preference. Or even using obesity as a source of slurs.



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 Post subject: Re: The Acceptability of Using Disabilities to Insult PostPosted: 2012-05-01 07:59am
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Just out of curiosity, would you be perpetuating the same dehumanization if you use the words "fool," "idiot," or "moron?" Because all three of those have been technical terms for someone with a mental disability that leaves them seriously handicapped. Even "stupid" has arguably been used that way.

Take the list of synonyms for "badly-thinking person." Knock out all the ones that can be claimed to dehumanize. What's left?

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 Post subject: Re: The Acceptability of Using Disabilities to Insult PostPosted: 2012-05-01 08:03am
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Bakustra wrote:
So why is it nigh-universally acceptable to call someone a retard as an insult but not so to call someone gay as an insult?

Uh... it's "nigh-universally acceptable"? Actually... not where I live. I'm not talking about the seamy corners of the internet, I'm talking about real life where more and more I see people being called out for using "retard" as an insult. In fact, I see it more often than I see people being called out for using "gay" as an insult.

Then again, a lot of people here in the rustbelt view being gay as worse than being retarded so no doubt there are some cultural issues involved.

Should I add the disclaimer that "gay=bad" is not a viewpoint I hold?



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 Post subject: Re: The Acceptability of Using Disabilities to Insult PostPosted: 2012-05-01 08:06am
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Simon_Jester wrote:
Just out of curiosity, would you be perpetuating the same dehumanization if you use the words "fool," "idiot," or "moron?" Because all three of those have been technical terms for someone with a mental disability that leaves them seriously handicapped. Even "stupid" has arguably been used that way.

Take the list of synonyms for "badly-thinking person." Knock out all the ones that can be claimed to dehumanize. What's left?



Nothing. Heck, even "idiot" or "stupid" carry negative connotations with them. I think this is a case where speech has not evolved sufficiently, so we have to make do with what we have.


[unrelated mod note]Oh, and if this turns into a "let's bash flagg in absentia" because he is the one using the word most often on this board, I will clamp down hard. Don't make me do this, this could be a fascinating thread. [/unrelated mod note]



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 Post subject: Re: The Acceptability of Using Disabilities to Insult PostPosted: 2012-05-01 08:09am
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Quote:
1) Mental Retardation Is Objectively Negative.

Well, to put it bluntly, so is being a woman, being queer, or being a racial minority. All of these groups will be worse off than a straight white man for various measurable factors, so that doesn't give any reason why it's acceptable for one but not the other.

2) Mental Retardation Is Objectively Worse.

There are a number of cases where someone that is mentally retarded is objectively better off than someone from another, "less severe" minority. For example, every victim of a gaybashing, all the women gunned down by Eric Gault, the victims of lynchings... So that's also another no-go, because it's not so simple.
Are you intentionally missing the point? Or are you just dense? Being female, gay or a racial minority have downsides due to discrimination. A female is not objectively worse off just by virtue of being female, but because of social prejudices. Mental retardation is objectively negative because it's having something wrong with your brain. By calling someone retarded, you are implying that they are less capable intellectually. People with mental disabilities are functionally, objectively in a position that is undesirable, not merely because of social ramifications, but because of their reduced ability to function.

It's a word, that yes, has been used as a medical term, but ultimately, when someone uses the word "retarded", they are using it interchangeably with the word "idiot", or "moron", both of which share the same roots, as terms used by psychologists to describe the mentally handicapped.

Using the word "retard" is insensitive to people who do legitimately suffer from mental disabilities, and I can understand that, but almost every insult that exists was or still is a word that has discriminatory roots, and at least when you're calling someone a retard, your insult has an objective, negative association. No one wants it implied that they're brain damaged. There are few insults I find offensive, because I don't find being female, feminine, homosexual, etc., to be inherently bad. Calling me a retard offends me, because it's an explicit accusation of having a mental disability. An insult to my intelligence.

Discriminatory or not, it is an effective insult. It means what it means. What would you prefer, people using nonsense words as insults?
Ford Prefect wrote:
Grog wrote:
Around these parts people are mocked because they are stupid. Saying that someone is retarded because they are stupid makes more sense than for example pointing out their sexuality, their sexuality has nothhing to do with their inteligence.
This fundamentally misses the point: that by using 'retard' as an insult you are perpetuating a kind of dehumanisation. It's a type of bigotry, which is not substantially different from slurs based on race, gender or sexual preference. Or even using obesity as a source of slurs.
All intentional insults are dehumanisation. That's kind of the point of them. They're a word you use to put another down. To make them feel less of themselves, or to express that you think less of them.

If you use the word ugly as an insult, you're being bigoted against those who aren't physically attractive. And for that matter, calling someone stupid is implying that a lack of intelligence is a bad thing, and that's clearly bigotry! Gosh. ABLEISM!

I don't like people using the word retard as an insult. I try not to do it, because I know people who are mentally handicapped, and consider them friends. I have an aunt with Down's Syndrome. But unless you're going to start decrying insults in general, to call it bigotry on par with racism and sexism is missing the god damn point that having mental disabilities is genuinely a bad thing. It doesn't make you a bad person, it doesn't make you less of a person, but it is a bad thing. It is a thing you don't want. And to have it implied that you're mentally disabled when you're not is offensive. That's why it's used as an insult, and that's why, while racist, homophobic and sexist insults may fall out of usage as those groups become less dehumanised by society, words that insult intelligence won't go away, because regardless of how discriminatory they are, they have a meaning the will always offend.



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 Post subject: Re: The Acceptability of Using Disabilities to Insult PostPosted: 2012-05-01 08:11am
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Bakustra wrote:
1) Mental Retardation Is Objectively Negative.

Well, to put it bluntly, so is being a woman, being queer, or being a racial minority.

No. That's the same bullshit Cowl was spinning in that gay Jedi thread. Lacking the ability to think and reason at the level of an adult human is objectively negative, in and of itself. You could put two people on identical desert islands with nobody else for hundreds of miles, and the person with impaired cognitive function is still going to be worse off than the other. This is not the same as having enemies through no fault of your own just because they're bigots.

Bakustra wrote:
Anyways, any thoughts?

Yes: you're wrong. Calling someone a "retard", "idiot", "blind" or "illiterate" are not like calling someone "gay". If I say someone is an idiot for believing in homeopathy, it is intended to be an accurate descriptor of the nature, if not the scope of their failure: that a person of average intelligence should be able to reason that homeopathy is untrue, and therefore their failure to recognise that homeopathy is untrue is indicative of below average intelligence.

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 Post subject: Re: The Acceptability of Using Disabilities to Insult PostPosted: 2012-05-01 08:22am
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SilverWingedSeraph wrote:
I don't like people using the word retard as an insult. I try not to do it, because I know people who are mentally handicapped, and consider them friends.


So why even bother with the big long post? It's clear you agree with the core premise.



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 Post subject: Re: The Acceptability of Using Disabilities to Insult PostPosted: 2012-05-01 08:30am
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Because I have mixed feelings on the matter? I don't think using the word as a catch-all insult for idiocy is bigotry, to the extent that racist, homophobic or sexist language is. But at the same time, I don't like using the word because I know it's hurtful to people who are mentally handicapped, as many of them have had to grow up with people using that term in a bigoted manner.



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 Post subject: Re: The Acceptability of Using Disabilities to Insult PostPosted: 2012-05-01 08:47am
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A term used as an insult, be it "gay", "girl", "retard", or whatever can be insulting to the group it describes depending on how it is used.

For example, if I say, "She's as fat as a hippo," this is clearly insulting to the woman I am referring to. It implies that the human woman weighs far more than she should. It is not an insult to hippopotamus who are, by nature, quite heavy; in fact, their survival depends largely upon their girth.

The problem with using "gay" and other minority groups as insults is that these insults tend to go in both directions. If I tell my male friend wearing a purple leotard that he looks "gay" am I making a general observation, or am I implying that gay people have poor fashion sense? Regardless of how I intended the comment, it could be interepreted as disparaging to gay people.

I have seen people do some pretty stupid things. To describe them as "retarded" is probably overly generous to people who are actually retarded, but irregardless, it's an insult that cuts both ways. I am implying that the target of my insult has below average intelligence, and I am also disparaging retarted people by implying that they have below average intelligence.

The thing is, while gay people don't necessarily have poor fashion sense and girls don't necessarily hit/kick weakly, retarded people really do have below average intelligence. So I guess my question is: if an insulting comparison is true, does that make it socially acceptable to use?

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 Post subject: Re: The Acceptability of Using Disabilities to Insult PostPosted: 2012-05-01 08:56am
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There may come a time when language has evolved to the point where the word has become completely bastardized, and "retard" will have no baggage.

In a somewhat related topic, I recall reading an early William Gibson story from "Burning Chrome" -- "Mr. Boy", I think it was. Anyway, someone commented on how stiff the boy's shoulder was, and commented that it was as "hard as plastic", and I remember thinking at the time that that was a complete bastardization of the word "plastic". (For those who might not know, the earliest polymers were very goopy and squishy (to use the technical terms :)) and so they were called "plastics", because "plastic" meant that it was easily shaped. Much harder polymers have since been invented, presumably even more in the future when the short story had been set.) I suspect that the same thing will happen to the word "retarded", and that that change is already underway. Just give it a generation or three.



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 Post subject: Re: The Acceptability of Using Disabilities to Insult PostPosted: 2012-05-01 09:00am
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If you know it's hurtful to people with a developmental disability, and you try to avoid it for that very reason, then why do you view it as acceptable for people to use as an insult?

Having impaired cognitive function is bad, sure. Does that mean they deserve constant ridicule to the point where just being compared to them is an insult? Being paralyzed or diabetic are also objectively bad, but strangely they aren't the target of constant insulting remarks. If you did, you'd rightly get called out for it. But making fun of people with a developmental disability is socially acceptable for whatever reason, so "retard" gets thrown around like a goddamn party favor.



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 Post subject: Re: The Acceptability of Using Disabilities to Insult PostPosted: 2012-05-01 09:39am
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Losonti Tokash wrote:
If you know it's hurtful to people with a developmental disability, and you try to avoid it for that very reason, then why do you view it as acceptable for people to use as an insult?
I never said I find the word acceptable, I stated plainly that I dislike people using the word, I said that I don't foresee it ever falling out of common usage as an insult. Furthermore, I will not complain when it becomes like every other word which means "suffering a deficit of intelligence", that is, completely divorced from its roots as a word used to discriminate against the mentally handicapped, which is how most people use the word already.
Losonti Tokash wrote:
Having impaired cognitive function is bad, sure. Does that mean they deserve constant ridicule to the point where just being compared to them is an insult?
What? Who is ridiculing the mentally handicapped here? Do you perhaps have difficulty with reading comprehension? Being compared to the mentally handicapped isn't an insult because the handicapped are ridiculed. It's an insult because people don't like being compared to someone with a mental handicap! A mental handicap by definition means they are mentally impaired. When calling someone a retard as an insult, you are implying that they are also mentally impaired, i.e. lacking in intelligence or judgement. Bad things. Offensive things to imply about a person.
Losonti Tokash wrote:
Being paralyzed or diabetic are also objectively bad, but strangely they aren't the target of constant insulting remarks. If you did, you'd rightly get called out for it. But making fun of people with a developmental disability is socially acceptable for whatever reason, so "retard" gets thrown around like a goddamn party favor.
Because having an insulin disorder is generally not something that you insult people over, or something that people find offensive, but being stupid is. Is that difficult to comprehend? If being diabetic made someone less intelligent, I'm pretty sure you'd see people saying shit like "What are you, diabetic?" when someone said something stupid. Because that's just how people work.

Making fun of people with developmental disabilities isn't socially acceptable in most places I'm aware of, either. But comparing a non-handicapped person to someone who is handicapped will be offensive, and thus used by insensitive assholes to insult, for as long as people view a lack of intelligence as a negative trait.



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 Post subject: Re: The Acceptability of Using Disabilities to Insult PostPosted: 2012-05-01 10:08am
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Losonti Tokash wrote:
Being paralyzed or diabetic are also objectively bad, but strangely they aren't the target of constant insulting remarks. If you did, you'd rightly get called out for it. But making fun of people with a developmental disability is socially acceptable for whatever reason, so "retard" gets thrown around like a goddamn party favor.


Heh, you should've seen my high school. One of the insults the jocks used to describe people who sucked at sports was "quad", as in quadriplegic, and it was widely used in our gym classes. Every time someone fell on his ass or made a particularly clumsy move, someone would yell out "you stupid quad! You suck!" or something to that effect. Granted I've rarely heard that term since I left high school and as far as I know it isn't widely used in the manner I described, but it does exist.



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 Post subject: Re: The Acceptability of Using Disabilities to Insult PostPosted: 2012-05-01 10:13am
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Seraph, do you really not understand that saying someone is retarded is degrading to people with a developmental disability? If you don't find it acceptable, why are you arguing that it's okay to do it? To be honest, I don't like your conflation of "developmentally disabled" with "stupid," either. It's not accurate and is just another example of what we're talking about here.

Yes, aerius, I am familiar with the concept of mocking people with physical disabilities also.



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 Post subject: Re: The Acceptability of Using Disabilities to Insult PostPosted: 2012-05-01 10:21am
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Destructionator XIII wrote:
What, specifically is the scale you're using to say "objectively" worse? What does it mean to "function"?

You don't have to be smart to have a happy life. You don't need great intelligence to survive on a deserted island, either, though that's a particularly realistic scenario anyway.

If you're saying to "function" is to get a job or something like that.... well, women are, objectively, worse off on that same scale.
A difficulty to function, i.e. having difficulty learning how to do things that come easily to those without mental handicaps, the ability to learn how to take care of yourself. Having a diminished capability to learn how to do things that non-handicapped people find easy. This is not comparable to having difficulty getting a job, it's a difficulty in learning to do the things required to get a job. My aunt is in her forties. She has the emotional maturity and intelligence of someone in their teens, and hasn't progressed past that stage since she turned twenty. There's nothing she can do about that, and she needs help taking care of herself with even relatively simple tasks that non-handicapped people take for granted their ability to do, and she will for the rest of her goddamn life. It is a plain and objective negative, an undesirable state for anyone who values their ability to reason, and your semantics whoring doesn't change that fact, you vacuous ass-hat.
Destructionator XIII wrote:
SilverWingedSeraph wrote:
What would you prefer, people using nonsense words as insults?
I'd prefer no insults at all!
And I'd prefer it if people stopped giving me reasons to insult them, but we must deal with the world that exists, not the world we desire.
aerius wrote:
Heh, you should've seen my high school. One of the insults the jocks used to describe people who sucked at sports was "quad", as in quadriplegic, and it was widely used in our gym classes. Every time someone fell on his ass or made a particularly clumsy move, someone would yell out "you stupid quad! You suck!" or something to that effect.
That is pretty messed up.
Losonti Tokash wrote:
Seraph, do you really not understand that saying someone is retarded is degrading to people with a developmental disability? If you don't find it acceptable, why are you arguing that it's okay to do it? To be honest, I don't like your conflation of "developmentally disabled" with "stupid," either. It's not accurate and is just another example of what we're talking about here.
I'm arguing it's okay to do it because I like free speech, I suppose? Because I understand why people use the word even if I dislike using it in that manner myself, and don't like seeing others do it? And I'm sorry, you're right. Stupidity and developmental disabilities aren't the same thing. Someone who is stupid doesn't use the intellect he was born with, while a person with a developmental disability is at no fault for their condition. Another good reason to not use the word "retard" to describe stupid people, I guess.



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 Post subject: Re: The Acceptability of Using Disabilities to Insult PostPosted: 2012-05-01 10:31am
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Simon_Jester wrote:
Just out of curiosity, would you be perpetuating the same dehumanization if you use the words "fool," "idiot," or "moron?" Because all three of those have been technical terms for someone with a mental disability that leaves them seriously handicapped. Even "stupid" has arguably been used that way.

Take the list of synonyms for "badly-thinking person." Knock out all the ones that can be claimed to dehumanize. What's left?


That's part of point 3- all of those terms have been dissociated from their medical definition in the public mind and so they are not on the same level as "retard" because they don't carry the connotation of developmental disability.

Broomstick wrote:
Uh... it's "nigh-universally acceptable"? Actually... not where I live. I'm not talking about the seamy corners of the internet, I'm talking about real life where more and more I see people being called out for using "retard" as an insult. In fact, I see it more often than I see people being called out for using "gay" as an insult.

Then again, a lot of people here in the rustbelt view being gay as worse than being retarded so no doubt there are some cultural issues involved.

Should I add the disclaimer that "gay=bad" is not a viewpoint I hold?


Thanks for your contribution!
Grumman wrote:
Bakustra wrote:
1) Mental Retardation Is Objectively Negative.

Well, to put it bluntly, so is being a woman, being queer, or being a racial minority.

No. That's the same bullshit Cowl was spinning in that gay Jedi thread. Lacking the ability to think and reason at the level of an adult human is objectively negative, in and of itself. You could put two people on identical desert islands with nobody else for hundreds of miles, and the person with impaired cognitive function is still going to be worse off than the other. This is not the same as having enemies through no fault of your own just because they're bigots.


Let's extend this. A social butterfly will do worse than a loner in that situation- I guess being highly desirous of social interaction is objectively bad! A depressed, schizophrenic, or bipolar individual will do worse than someone in good mental health, so I guess mental disorders should be used as insults, as the mentally ill are objectively inferior to ordinary people! Hell, someone from a South Pacific environment will outdo other people not from that environment in that situation, so I guess we'd better starting kneeling before the objectively-superior Melanesians! Or, hey, someone with higher intelligence will probably do better by adapting quicker to the environment, with a bunch of implications.

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Bakustra wrote:
Anyways, any thoughts?

Yes: you're wrong. Calling someone a "retard", "idiot", "blind" or "illiterate" are not like calling someone "gay". If I say someone is an idiot for believing in homeopathy, it is intended to be an accurate descriptor of the nature, if not the scope of their failure: that a person of average intelligence should be able to reason that homeopathy is untrue, and therefore their failure to recognise that homeopathy is untrue is indicative of below average intelligence.


"Illiterate" and "idiot" are not on the same level as "retard" and "blind" either, so your argument fails on that grounds. Your argument fails because you are conflating remediable ignorance with non-remediable disability- one can learn more about homeopathy, but one cannot remove FAS, ADD/ADHD, Downs Syndrome, or other developmental disorders involving the brain. One can accommodate them, and one can in some cases treat them, but they cannot as of yet be removed. Your argument also fails because it is built on some pretty terrible and objectively wrong assumptions, but this isn't the place to go into them.



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 Post subject: Re: The Acceptability of Using Disabilities to Insult PostPosted: 2012-05-01 10:35am
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It's not really a free speech issue, I'm not saying no one should ever be allowed to use retard as an insult, and I can understand why someone would. It's just a hurtful thing to say and generally just means someone is either ignorant or an ass, and is something that should be confronted and called out for being wrong when it comes up, just like if someone used a slur of any other kind.



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 Post subject: Re: The Acceptability of Using Disabilities to Insult PostPosted: 2012-05-01 10:42am
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Losonti Tokash wrote:
It's not really a free speech issue, I'm not saying no one should ever be allowed to use retard as an insult, and I can understand why someone would. It's just a hurtful thing to say and generally just means someone is either ignorant or an ass, and is something that should be confronted and called out for being wrong when it comes up, just like if someone used a slur of any other kind.
I can't disagree with any of that, really, so I guess we're in agreement for the most part.



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 Post subject: Re: The Acceptability of Using Disabilities to Insult PostPosted: 2012-05-01 12:25pm
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I would never call a mentally disabled person a retard. Because it's not a medical term anymore it's insulting slang, especially to people with mental disabilities.

If I call someone a retard it's because I am insulting them for some reason. I think it's perfectly acceptable to use it in that way.



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 Post subject: Re: The Acceptability of Using Disabilities to Insult PostPosted: 2012-05-01 12:38pm
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Calling someone a retard to insult them is degrading to people with a developmental disability. It's not terribly complicated. They see you using a word that is meant to describe their condition as an insult. Widespread use and acceptance of the term as an insult devalues them as people and makes it look like you think they're less worthy of dignity and respect. How do you think they feel when they see people doing this? How do you think the people who care about and work with them feel?



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 Post subject: Re: The Acceptability of Using Disabilities to Insult PostPosted: 2012-05-01 12:43pm
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My guess is that they feel bad about it. But mentally disabled people aren't the subject of widespread hatred and violence the way certain minorities and people with different sexual orientations are.



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 Post subject: Re: The Acceptability of Using Disabilities to Insult PostPosted: 2012-05-01 12:46pm
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True, the government doesn't round them up and forcibly sterilize them anymore. And technically you can't discriminate against them. Doesn't mean they don't get treated like shit or that using their condition as an insult is acceptable.



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 Post subject: Re: The Acceptability of Using Disabilities to Insult PostPosted: 2012-05-01 01:09pm
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Losonti Tokash wrote:
True, the government doesn't round them up and forcibly sterilize them anymore. And technically you can't discriminate against them. Doesn't mean they don't get treated like shit or that using their condition as an insult is acceptable.



So do you object to people being called stupid or idiots? Dumb people can't help it that they're dumb.



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