While I was at BlogHer, a few moms told me that after reading my post about tweeting at people who used the word "retard" they'd either quit saying it or had taken to asking other people not to. Loved hearing that.
Katie from Overflowing Brain mentioned something particularly awesome. She used to be a high school teacher, and she'd give kids demerits for saying "retard" and "retarded." Only their parents would sometimes fight her on it, and tell her they weren't words that merited demerits. Katie would point out that the by-laws of her class specified those words weren't allowed. "Thankfully, the school principal and dean supported me," she wrote to me last night when I asked her more about it, "and I'm proud to say that by the end of each school year, I had broken most of my students of the habit. I know a few teachers adopted the same policy in the last year I was there." Get psyched, parents: Katie is studying to be a physical therapist.
It's not always easy to call people on the use of the words, I know. A few weeks ago, a neighbor exclaimed "That's retarded!" as we were walking home from the train, deep in conversation about work stuff. I didn't want to derail our chat, but I couldn't keep quiet. I put my hand on her arm. "I know you didn't mean it, but that word is offensive to me," I said. She apologized, said her mother had always told her not to use it, and that she'd try harder. Then we went right back to talking about work.
My saying something to one person and airing pleas on this blog, Katie giving out demerits to students—small efforts, I know. Neither of us are going to change the world or eliminate the word, but we are changing perceptions among the people in our circles. And to me, that's a lot.
Meanwhile, if you haven't heard about the uproar over the new movie The Change-Up and its use of the word "retard" and "Downsy" (a whole new slam!), check out the post I did on Parents. Be warned, you're gonna get mad.