Toddlers have a more sophisticated sense of humour than people who throw around ableist slurs.
Arguments about free speech have permeated most political discussions since 2010. Yet, the focus on free speech often revolves around protecting the lowest forms of speech. It’s about protecting the insults, the slurs, the offensive remarks. It’s not about aiming to increase the quality of what we are saying.
Slurs are still hugely common in society. Perhaps none more so than ableist slurs which are incredibly charged and are always used as an insult. “Sp*z”, “sp*k” and “r*t*rd” are possibly the worst. They’re thrown around like casual slaps to the face, something to be laughed at and to mock disabled people.
Mental health slurs are also said frequently, often as a punchline and thrown at our rivals or anyone who annoys us to ridicule them. Hell, even Trump gets it. People get called crazy, batshit and all other ridiculous shit, as though people like Trump (or TERFs) are only bad due to a mental health issue – not that any of the people who throw those terms out are capable of diagnosing mental health conditions anyway.
Sometimes people of other marginalised groups throw out these words. They’re not disabled themselves but they experience other forms of oppression, but that isn’t a free pass to use such historically oppressive terms. If they’re not your words to reclaim then don’t use them. You don’t get to throw slurs around at other people while only fighting for your own rights, that isn’t how intersectionality works.
“If they’re not your words to reclaim then don’t do use them”
When these words are used, it lets awful people off the hook as it implies that they aren’t bad – they’re “mad”. It fails to hold them accountable, but the people it does attack are marginalised already for their disabilities. All this does is increase the stigma for people who are disabled. It’s utter bullshit.
It can be hard to change our language. We all have our own vocabulary that we rely upon. It shapes our communication, and how we express ourselves and who we are. But we have to think very carefully about whether what we’re saying is harming other marginalised people or empowering them. If it’s not a slur you personally have never faced, then you have no right to be using it yourself.
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