Saturday, March 5, 2011

If you tick off a lot of people by asking them not to use the word "retard"

Wednesday's post about the r-word got such a great response here (check out the comments if you haven't). And it triggered good discussions with friends, including one who said I'd emboldened her to request that people not use the word, along with a flood of emails from people who said they planned to talk about this with their kids, or who already had been doing so.

The post also made its way around the web, where it ticked off a lot of people. Woo hoo! Today, for your enlightenment, a collection of comments I gathered. I have taken great care to find a lovely flowery font for those comments that I thought demonstrated particular sensitivity, understanding and intelligence.

* * * * *

When anyone uses the r-word (I don't even like to spell it) in my presence, I politely and sometimes not so politely, explain that I am offended and that their use of the r-word confirms that they are of low intelligence. The r-word is just as bad, if not worse than using the n-word. I usually hear the r-word from immature teens to twenty/thirty year olds when trying the explain how stupid something or someone is. The r-word and stupid do not have the same meaning and the only stupid thing is the person who uses it.

Maybe I should start taking offense to the word cracker and start petitioning for those little white saltines to be referred to as a different name

People have no idea how offensive the r word can be unless it personally effects you. Its not about being politcally correct or taking away freedom of speech, its about being sensative to others. Its the same as using the n word in my opinion. I have young son that was born with downs and i will protect him any way i can from the ignorance of others. Its real tough to use a word or make fun of someone you think is less perfect then you...shame on you. Life is hard enough without obvious difficulties, put yourself in someones shoes to have to live with a disability they were born with they didn't ask for. Please consider how it would make you feel if it was your child...not good huh?

Your kidding I call my nieces retards and they love it. Retard is a term of endearment

I am amazed at how self-righteous people are in their defense of a term that they know, and have been repeatedly told, is hurtful. If you've ever seen a special needs kid have it hurled directly at him/her, I doubt many of you would continue to defend it so vociferously. Special needs kids are bullied at an astounding rate.

No one ever uses the word retard to harm a handicaped person. They simply use it as a term.

Saying that something dumb is "retarded" equals a particular handicap with being dumb. THAT is the point. Nobody would say anymore That's so Polish to mean That's so dumb—we know better than to make ignorant ethnic comments like that. So why is it not clear to people that "gay" and "retarded" as catch-all terms to slam something as being lame or stupid are also just plain ignorant? It makes me sigh that so many people don't and won't—or can't—understand.

If it offends you, then move to another country

Why get so angry about your right to use that word? Why not just be nice, and try to be sensitive to people who have so much going against them in their every day lives? Don't they have enough to deal with, without you getting up in arms about your right to use that word?
I have used that word many times and often feel, even as it slips from my mouth, I probably should find a better word. I've actually pretty much stopped using it because I agree, it's offensive even if you're using it about a thing. The context is of someone who is less than, and therefore not equal to me/you/us.

Jeez, what's next-a ban on midget tossing?

Free Speech, essentially, gives one the right to say whatever/whenever. Being an adult (maturing), is supposed to give one the ability to filter what they say. Apparently a lot of people with the ability to have Free Speech did not develop the ability to mature.

So if I'm working on an old V8 engine and I want to reatard the spark do I say I want to mentally challenge the spark? Just asking

One of my friends used to use "retard" almost all the time until finally one day she was at a restaurant telling a story to her friends at a large table. She has a loud voice that carries anyway, but she was speaking extra loud so people could hear her. She ended the story with, "Isn't that just RETARDED?!" and lo and behold, a table entirely made up of people with mental and physical disabilities was sitting right behind her. Luckily she has a sense of shame and felt SO badly that day that she's never used the word again. I applaud Ellen and the message she's trying to put out there! I hope it keeps catching on.

You are being a bad parent by attempting to protect your children from hurt feelings and instlling a sense of entitlement to not having their feelings hurt

I grew up with a brother that has cerebral palsy. When someone called him or anyone else that name, I cringed. It is not 'just another thing' not too say. It is rude, unthinking, unintelligent, and makes people with any limitation, physical or mental, feel insignificant. Where is compassion and care for others? If your loved one had limitations would you want their condition cause them to be called 'this term and then hear people use that term for others that they don't approve of? Believe me, you don't.

This lady must ride on the short bus

The Constitution doesn't give a person the right to be an ass! A community of people are telling you it's offensive. Stop using it. Respect is the only "R" word people need to remember.


  1. The flowery font gems aside, at least you got people thinking about what they say & why they say it. Kudos to you! :) The "short bus" response that you posted made me think about about a conversation that I had with a coworker a few months back. I'm a nurse who works in a procedure area at one of the larger hospitals in the country. As we were "prepping the patient", one of the members of the anesthesia team said, "I swear, I feel like I'm surrounded by people with special needs. Marty definitely took the short bus to school". It was at that point that I said, "Yeah. I spend a lot of time with people who have special needs too. Particularly, since my son has Down syndrome." Needless to say, the room was quiet for the remainder of the procedure....

  2. "Retard is a term of endearment." Um, wow.

  3. I love the last paragraph! What I wonder about is if a whole community is telling someone that the words they are using are offensive, what makes them still feel like they are right and justified? If an entire community told me I was being rude, I would at least think about what I was doing to offend them!! I for sure wouldn't defend my rude behavior and continue on with it.

  4. lol...did anybody else notice that the poster who wrote comment number four is grammatically challenged? "Your kidding" should be "You're kidding"

    as for the guy with the V8, in that case, that *would* be the correct term. It is being used as a noun (Automotive, Machinery . an adjustment made in the setting of the distributor of an internal-combustion engine so that the spark for ignition in each cylinder is generated later in the cycle.)

    I try to keep the R word out of my vocabulary, and out of the vocabulary of my children. One day my children said it AGAIN and I was telling them it was rude. My daughter tells me that she 'accidentally' looked it up and that it just means delayed...and furthermore, when school has a 2 hour delay, they *really* have a 2 hour r-word. I told her under NO uncertain circumstances was she EVER to repeat that again.

  5. we have a cuss can. The R word qualifies, and will cost you a quarter.

    and I know it sounds bizzare for the r-word to be a term of endearment- but in a CLOSED FAMILY UNIT- maybe it can be- I was military and in my unit of 10 people- 'b*tch' was a term of endearmentand a greeting. young men of color call eachother n-gger.

    it would be nice if the senior medical establishment and old school nurses would get with the program.

  6. It was interesting to me to read these straight through - not sure if it was reflective of all your comments or not, but the supportive individuals were, as a whole, much more eloquent in their writing. I think more eloquent = more intelligent!

  7. I don't know if you speak French, but in that language, "en retard" means late. Once, I was going through Orly airport in Paris, and I came across this sign..."Lounge for Retarded Flights".

    Not really a comment on the issue, just a little case of "lost in translation".

    I don't have children, but my friend's brother has special needs (autism), and since kindergarten she has been telling us not to use the r-word. She has always been a shining example for us of how to be good to others. Max is a beautiful kid and I am glad that you document your family life- it helps fight against ignorance.

  8. I had to laugh at the guy who used the example of the V8. -sigh- Some people just don't get it. My kids at work know that they cannot use the word retard in my art room and get away with it. It is an automatic one warning and then you are out.
    However the first time I used Acrylic Retarder they tried to argue with me that I couldn't say that. I had to explain that it is an actual term that wasn't anything related to being dumb. We then had a really long conversation that explained that the word Retarded probably wouldn't be so bad and it could be used in its correct ways without any guilt if other ignorant individuals had not used it to refer to stupid situations, things and people as dumb by comparing them to individuals with developmental disabilities. Suddenly light bulbs went off.

  9. Like I said before, ya can't fix stupid. Some people take sick joy in being mean and nasty. Maybe it makes them feel more important, or something.

    And some people are just ..... ASSHOLES!

  10. Yeah. What Felicia said.

    Looking Up: Whoa.

    Sarah: The bad grammar/spelling went hand in hand with the nastiest comments.

    Anon: Love your "cuss can." Sure, "retard" can be a term of endearment... But if you teach your kids that word is OK, they will perpetuate it. The problem is, even if the word is not directed at a person with intellectual disabilities, it keeps equating them with stupidity.

    Rachael: I know the root of the word "retard" but I hadn't thought about it and accidentally tweeted at a French person who was all, WHY are you bothering me. Oops. And, thanks, I can't argue: Max is a beautiful kid.

  11. Reading some of the comments people made about your campaign hurt my heart. Given that our society was able to get the N word out of the general lexicon gives me hope, though! You are a special lady (and I don't mean that in a derogatory way at all!). Your boy is just adorable.

  12. Oh this has my blood boiling. It would be boiling a lot hotter though if you were not doing all that you are. I'm spreading the word as far as I can.

  13. The language we use is important, we chose our words in all sorts of situations, we are careful not offend the powerful. Now it's time to make people see that those who have challenges or disabilities also are powerful. Are powerful enough to demand respect. Keep going, you are doings wonders to further the education of those who still have a lot to learn.

  14. Hi, Ellen, I was too distracted the day your first post came out to get a comment in (though I certainly read it), and just wanted to thank you for being so out there with this, for launching a major campaign and making a big leap in awareness about this.

    I do it one-on-one if/when I encounter the r-word around me in my life, but it's not often.

    What you are doing, so publicly is so brave and important. I think I am too thin-skinned to post about it and thus take on the world at this moment in my life. Thank you for doing this for us all.

    I am still completely stupefied as to how people who would never be caught dead using an ethnic or racial slur and who understand that words matter still, STILL get all defensive about their "right" to use this word. WTF?

    Yes, some black people use the N-word in a playful, friendly way among themselves, supposedly re-claiming it. But? That is clearly AMONG THEMSELVES.

    So if you yourself are not developmentally disabled? It's not your word. Don't use it. That should be simple enough to understand.

  15. This is totally awesome. I love the way the especially offensive comments are full of errors and non-sequiturs. Perhaps my favorite is the one where they told you to move to another country. As if that has any thing to do with another. Or maybe the one about you riding the short bus? Offensive slang aside, you are so incredibly smart and accomplished the the nerve of this random stranger calling you out is downright hilarious.

    Way to show it like it is without saying a word.

  16. There are indeed far more important things to focus on when it comes to disability than ending the use of such words. I am in a chair myself and often refer to myself as a 'crip' or a 'spastic' in jest, as do friends in the same position. It is my and their choice to do so and does make for a good laugh. I have the right to refer to myself however I like, but that doesn't mean I use the word 'retard'. The world has gone too PC-mad and has lost focus on where the problem really lies. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. Do you think that by ending the use of the word 'nigger', African Americans obtained the civil rights they deserved? No, they did much more than that. Words are not the problem here, perhaps a small part of the problem, but not the problem.

  17. Anon Y Mous, I hope my son is someday able to make light of his cp; right now, he's not yet aware he has it.

    Of course there are bigger fish to fry; I am not making this my life's mission. But I wanted to raise some awareness and get discussions going about this one thing and I did, as did other bloggers who've spoken about it. We also raise awareness about other issues relating to our kids; we hope to get people to treat our kids more equally in ways both big and small.

  18. There is no one more devoted to kids than me. It is an innate weakness/strength.

    I fully understand the word and its latin history- see Little Einsteins use of the word regarding classical music. I am against any bully of meanness to any child, however, the word is used properly to describe slow growth or development. Challenge the bully not the word. All children are children regardless of thier physical or mental condition.

  19. I loved this post! In my experience, everyone I've spoken to about not using the r word has reacted with shame and embarrassment. My parents get angry when they confront someone. But telling my brother's story (he is 21 years old and autistic) usually makes me cry. Most people don't mean it maliciously and are horrified to realize that it hurts to hear it in casual conversation. You occasionally come across the jerk who gets angry but I just try to educate them and move on. My parents won't always be around to protect my brother, but I will. And I'm going to. Even if some people don't get it.

  20. Some of these comments make me scared for humanity and our future generations....Is there no decency left and compassion towards others?

  21. 'If you don't like it, why don't you move to another country.' Somebody actually took the time to send you that one? Wow. Just wow. Reminds of of that great CW classic, 'Mommy git the hammer, there's a fly on Pappa's head.'

  22. This compaign is typical of a parent who is over-protective of their child. This child will grow up with a sense of entitlement if you simply make everything easy for them, and when real issues arise, will you run and fix them, too? What about when he's an adult? And wouldn't the time spent on the computer arguing with people be better spent directly with your son?

    Why not teach the Max a good way to respond if anyone calls him that word, versus teaching him to go looking to be offended? There's a proverb that says "the taking of offense is what lies in the bosom of the stupid one."

  23. There are alot of STUPID PEOPLE out there that will use derogatory words, simply because they do NOT care.There are some religious groups that feel certain words are DEROGATORY. I feel people need to WATCH what they say, and LEARN RESPECT for other people.
    Signed a person that learned a hard lesson from her husband and his family..(HTML TAG - J)

  24. Black people do use the "N" word among themselves, but it is still NOT right for blacks or whites to use that word. Just like using the "J" word when people talk about buying something at a cheaper price.. LEARN RESPECT PEOPLE!!!!!

  25. I saw you on Parentdish today and did a doubletake! So very proud of you!

    In my opinion, one I voice often (been fighting the R word for a really long time), my response to those who defend their use of it:

    "I don't understand why someone would use a term when they are aware that it is hurtful to the most vulnerable people in our society just because they "can". In my opinion it doesn't make you "funny" or "edgy" or whatever "y" you want to be. It just shows your character or lack of it."

    Or if I'm really feeling pissy I say, "I just bet you're one of those fools who goes downtown and says in a crowd, 'Hey N-word! Wassup?'"

    Good on you!

  26. Dear Rossinsop,

    I just bet you're one of those fools who goes downtown and says in a crowd, "Hey N-word! Wassup?"

    No? Why not? Because it's a hurtful term to a segment of Americans or because you're afraid somebody will beat the snot out of you?

  27. I'm surprised no one said "well I have a disabled child/parent/second cousin twice removed and THEY aren't offended by the r-word" I've heard that SO many freaking times and it's such a cop out. People are so dense sometimes

  28. Great post! Love the way you get people thinking. I agree with some other commenters - the r-word is just like the n-word or even the f-word that has been used to refer to homosexuals. The words are rude, offensive and demeaning. I can think of a few celebrities that have been in trouble in recent years for using the n-word or f-word. Why is it still OK to use the r-word? It just makes no sense!

  29. It is up to parents with special needs kids to educate the rest. As if you didn't have your hands full already! I recently read an article on white couples adopting black kids and always getting insensitive questions. Like "do they have the same parents?" and "did her parents die of HIV?". To the adopted parents the kids are THEIR kids. THEY are the parents and they are offended then people see race and treat the adoptions differently. Only once you read how they feel, can you see and FEEL their point of view. "Welcome to Holland" opened up my understanding. Get "Welcome to Holland" published in your local newspapers. Perhaps there is an article with your wish list for the way the world sees your child. Simple rules of logic: Don't ask if he likes ice cream. Don't look away. Say hello. Never say "retard". Please help me with my shopping. Bring bread and milk when you come visit. Wear purple. Don't wear purple...Post is, write it, publish it. Educate so that others will get a glimpse of your huge shoes.

  30. Calling your nieces "retards" and they love it? You could call them "poopieheads" and they will love that, because they see the love in the face that say the word. Your assumption that the term is endearing is incorrect. It is only your face that is endearing to some, you Poopiehead.NS

  31. I have a little 8 yr old with multiple disabilities and this is one of my "soapboxes..." am sure he wishes I had fewer, but whatever... Anyway, when a 19 yr old recently used the R word, I told her, "actually, that guy isnt R, but my little guy is..." She got all huffy and asked me if I'd be less offended if she used the term "sh%$ bag," and I told her "sh$# bag" would actually be accurate, so that would be just fine, thankyouverymuch. (:

  32. My heart hurt for the person who wrote that you were raising Max with a sense of entitlement that he was above having his feelings hurt. EVERY parent should teach their kids they don't deserve to be bullied. No person deserves to have hateful speech used to describe them because as HUMAN BEINGS we are worth more than that.

    Furthermore, asking people around you not to use an offensive word doesn't mean that you aren't also teaching, or will teach, your child how to handle bullies.

    And RossiniShop, are you *really* suggesting that those of us who have children with special needs must spend every free moment of our day watching over them, such that we don't have any free time to pursue an interest of our own, whether that be an Internet campaign or soap operas? To me, that smacks much more of being an overprotective parent.

  33. Thank you for this. I bet you've changed the habits of several people by posting this, and the world is better for it.

  34. "Nobody would say anymore That's so Polish to mean That's so dumb—"

    You're right, it is "dumb" that people use the word that way.
    It's so "dumb" it renders me speechless. That's how "dumb" it is.

    You're an idiot. Oops, can't use that either once you realise the etymology.

  35. My son has autism, but I'm glad he's not handicapped in the way some of the people who have commented are. His social skills are way better.

  36. tardus-a-um is Latin for slow. Not everyone has the same ability to process information at the same rate. Some do it faster than others. And that is fine. There's nothing bad about not processing information as quickly as another person.

    Being a "retard" and stupid are not the same thing. People with mental disabilities while processing information slower than the average person are far from stupid. Many are in fact smarter than we even realize.

    While I'm all for being sensitive to culture and emotional feelings,etc, what I first think needs to happen is that people need to understand that first no 2 children are alike...

    I'm a teacher and can tell you at least in my experience the "retarded" are some of my brightest students. Many teachers aren't willing to work with them to help them process information, and this depresses me.

    I'm a believer that if you're going to use a word you better know what it means. It's my belief that this gap can be bridged, it takes work that most people aren't willing to put in.

  37. Please keep in mind that it is a word that means "slow". We have products available at my work that retard the curing of paint. They are called retarder. I'm sorry that special needs people got labeled with the word. I truly am. But is calling someone "a little slow" the same insult? I think one should be much more offended if someone referred to your child as a r-----d. Census used to label people "deaf and dumb" but we use those words - "are you deaf?" "what, are you dumb?" and no one seems to take offense at that. I personally prefer the word dumbass, but please do not take it personally every time you hear someone use the r-word to implicate someone is being dense, they are not using it to offend. It will, in time, work it's way out of society. And I don't blame people for asking not to use the word around them. Just please remember that, unlike the n-word, it is an actual word used to describe something besides a person.

  38. You people crack me up!. I feel bad for all the hardships with disabilities face in life. that said i also have the right to speak as i choose, at least for now in this country. Someone gets offended , well that is Their right to be. It is not within your rights to tell me that i can not use language like this or anything else that offends your sensitivites Anywhere but on your property. Then again i am content to known as an A55h0l3. names are what you make of them.

  39. I am a seventh grader. In my school, seventh and eighth graders can choose, as an elective/Gym alternative, to participate in 'Partners in PE', where we play and spend time with the 'special needs' students in our school. We do almost everything the 'normal' gym does, albeit a bit watered down at times, and learn about organizations such as Special Olympics, which our friends compete in. Every year, we organize an 'Erase the R-Word' campaign, which, sadly, many of the students at my school don't even bother listening to. I myself have never gotten into 'cussing' (my older brother has recently come out as gay, and it kills me to hear the insults tossed around nonchalantly about the preference in general), and I've always reprimanded my more vocal friends when they used obscenities around me. But to know that people who use the R-word (and other words that could offend people) are basically insulting my new friends, who are really no different than anyone else once you get to know them.

  40. I perhaps abuse this quote, but there's much food for thought therein. "You can be so open-minded that your brain falls out."

    As someone else pointed out, the use of the word isn't even part of the problem. It's a valid word, and the meaning that it conveys is essential in certain communications. If we decide to replace it with another word or phrase, we've transferred all of the meaning along with it, which defeats the alleged purpose behind that action.
    Insulting people is the problem; more so by the tone than by the words used. Negro meant and means a person of color; why people campaigned to force people to abandon the one for the other I have yet to completely understand, given that the Yankee who uses "person of color" all too often uses a tone so laden with condescension and bigotry that it completely defeats the purpose of the change, unless that purpose was to mask bigotry slightly with a veneer of arrogance. Same thing with retard vs mentally challenged.


Thanks for sharing!