Thoughts on the R-word

26 Apr

Retarded, that is.

Last week, Lady GaGa got a hand-slap for saying “That’s retarded!” in regards to whether she is…er…inspired by old Madonna songs.   I have no comment on her song inspiration as I don’t care for her music.

There was a mild public outcry for her using the word “retarded” like a 6th grade school girl (you know, completely thoughtless) and an apology issued straight away about how she didn’t think, didn’t mean to offend, is a supporter of all sorts of diversity, blah blah, whatever.  Everyone was quick to forgive.  “She didn’t really mean it that way, and she apologized.  What’s the big deal?”

I’ve been thinking about this one.  In a way, no, it wasn’t a big deal.  Everyone uses the word “retarded” these days.  I have friends who use it when they do something stupid. “OMG!  I’m so retarded!”  I always laugh it off.

But deep down…it does sort of bug me.

No one would dare say “OMG!  That’s so autistic!”  Jenny McCarthy would fly out on her broomstick to personally beat down that person.  Or change “retarded” to some other major well-known syndrome or disease or sexual preference or race.  It just wouldn’t be considered kosher to do.  But somehow, “retarded” has slipped through the cracks of political correctness and is almost okay.

Why?  Why has it become just something to say?  I think because these days, not everyone is lumped in the category of “mental retardation”.  They all have a label, a diagnosis, something else besides “retarded”.  People have something else to be besides “retarded” and therefore, aren’t called as such.

Well – not all of them.  And this is why there’s a little part of me that is bothered by the cavalier attitude towards the word retarded.

Maura doesn’t have a diagnosis.  Something I’ve gotten to repeat ten-fold to schools and doctors here in Ireland.  “What is her diagnosis?”  We’ve been given gentler terms – cognitively impaired, developmentally delayed – but let’s face it, those are just modern terms for “mental retardation”.

People use it as an insult, another way of saying stupid.  “You’re so retarded.”  “That’s retarded.”  “I’m being retarded.”  It’s all a way of saying stupid, only moreso.  Here’s the thing – Maura, with all her cognitive issues – is not stupid.  She’s slow, but she’s not stupid.  She’s innocent of the way of things, but she’s not stupid.

And I guess that’s why there’s a small part of me is bugged by the word.

I have other thoughts on this subject – like how short bus jokes are funny until you have to put your child on one – but this is enough for now.  I won’t ever chastise a person personally for using the word retarded, but I do wish people would think twice about using it, thing about the implications, and who they are inadvertently insulting.

Besides, shouldn’t we have outgrown that phrase usage by age 13 anyway?


3 Responses to “Thoughts on the R-word”

  1. Rob... April 26, 2011 at 8:51 am #

    I agree completely!

    It appears to be region specific though. For example, the word “Spaz” would never be used in the UK, but appears to be ‘okay’ in the US.


    • phoebz4 April 26, 2011 at 8:59 am #

      on a special needs parenting board I once visited, someone used the word “spaz” (aka, “I’m such a spaz today!”) and the mother of twin boys with seizure disorders corrected her on the use of it, and the connotations behind it, which had never occurred to me before. And this was after Maura was diagnosed with a seizure disorder. I think a lot of people are truly ignorant of how they use certain words sometimes, which is why I don’t jump on their cases.

  2. Sara April 26, 2011 at 1:24 pm #

    My sister, who has cerebral palsy and is mostly deaf but is NOT in any way, shape or form mentally retarded, fights against this term most of her life. Because we didn’t learn to commmunicate with her until she was about three or four, there is a lag to her learning about the world. There are still gaps in her awareness. She was twenty-six before she found out about escalators, for example. We had gone to the mall, just her and I, and she gasped in wonderment upon seeing them and had to ride them again and again. It was funny and joyous, but it broke my heart a little, too.

    I spent most of high school daring anyone to call her “retarded”, because, actually, she’s smarter than me, with a higher IQ. It’s just not readily apparent because of those gaps in communication. But she is.

    So be careful of who you think is retarded. They might not really be. Maybe you should just ban the word from your thoughts.

    As to the recent flap about Lady Gaga: It probably wouldn’t be so offensive if she weren’t SO rabid about being politically correct re the LGBT community. Being a shining light and showing us by example how to live our lives. She needs to be aware that there are others that are capable of having their feelings hurt than just the LGBT community.

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