Monday, August 4, 2014

Is this Dumb or Am I being Dumb? You decide.

 Sometimes I love and other times I loathe it. One day it will be delighting me with videos of monkeys riding pigs and answering burning questions like  how Drake would look like without eyebrows...and the next day the internet will be virtually smacking me in the face. I have found blogging to usually be an insanely positive space where different views are openly shared and  respected....usually.

I am all for dissent and lively discussion, but it's a fine line to becoming a troll....or what I like to call "a parade rainer oner." Things innocuous and simple can be vaccuums for nitpickyness. Wait, I am being vague. Let me explain the situation in slightly clearer language.

The other day I left a comment on a friend's blog post about her son having an unusual name. She wrote how strangers were constantly telling her that her adorable beyond measure child had a weird name or they were just generally rude about it as they mispronounced a phonetically simple name. My comment on the posting was tongue-in-cheek and included the sentence "I think the lesson is that people are dumb. "

The next day, I happened to check her blog again after noticing it had a lot more comments [Tangent: Sometimes reading the comments is the best part of reading the blog...especially if it is a particularly good yarn.] and found the thread under my little comment had many more being this nugget of booyah, whose name has been cropped out to protect the grumbly:

she must have done some research to note from my comment that I had a disability.

This floored me. Look, I know I'm a bit brash, and there are heaps of things you can call me on the carpet for [Tangent: I am kind of obnoxious. I apologize too much (probably due to my obnoxious nature). I suck at proofreading. I sometimes laugh so hard at the things in my head that I cannot complete a sentence.] , but in the long line of sins this isn't one I ever expected! Yes, I probably could have used a better word than dumb and it was a slightly hyperbolized assessment, but it was a fair one "RUDE PEOPLE ARE DUMB!"[Tangent: And I recognize this because have had my rude moments, and generally they were born from ignorance or lack of consideration.] 

Now that I'm working for a disability organization part-time, I am becoming really well-versed in considerate and people first language.  I've always been respectful and never tried to be offensive,  but I'm not one to be overly politically correct either. Creatively using words and expressing myself through language are very important, and I believe being overly politically correct is a slippery slope to complete censorship. [Tangent: Like you'll never hear me use the term differently-abled...even typing those letters sequentially makes the bile rise up. I don't care if you do, I just likely won't because I find it vague and off-putting. I will however never use the R-word again because the pain of it's impact is too fresh on society and I have seen first hand the pain it can cause.]

Sure, the term dumb once meant  exclusivelyunable to speak, but who uses that meaning anymore? Lots of words have dark origins, and it seems counter-productive to progress to dwell on them. EX: The word villain has it it's origins in the word "villa" and was used to denote poor people. The nursery rhyme "Ring around the Rosey" is all about people dying in the black plague. However, these things have just become part of our lexicon. It's not going to stop them from using them.

For about two seconds I felt bad for upsetting this stranger [Tangent: Maybe I was being dumb?] ,  so I did a little research on other words which are being lobbied for to become taboos. Man, there were A LOT! Check some out here. Some seemed legitimate and hurtful if used in certain context [Tangent: Like calling someone with  diagnosed mental illness "crazy" maybe is a poor decision, but saying that people who wait in line before stores open on tax-free weekend are a bit crazy...I just don't see the issue. Call me crazy! ], but others just seemed to be hypercritical.
  • cretin
  • crutch
  •  duh
  • need
  • paralyze
Never would I give any of these words a second look. Should I?  In the disability community, at least from my perspective, there are certainly bigger fish to fry. Discrimination on the job. Inability to get proper health care. Etc. Ad infinitium. These little things like putting taboos on a laundry list of everyday words with varied contexts seems [pardon my insensitivity] a little insane.   I recognize that my feeling don't get easily hurt, so maybe I am not the greatest judge of this...Internet, help me out!


  1. Taking offense at words and/or actions has become a full-time job for some people. No one - NO ONE - has the right to censor, chastise, or shame you for using an innocuous adjective. There's absolutely nothing wrong with what you said. CONTEXT is everything. The straight up truth is there is a difference between being "dumb" and being mentally challenged. The former is by choice and this is the context in which it was used. I often refer to myself as "crippled", "palsied" and "spastic", and I'm not about to change that. The Politically Correct Speech Police can kiss my ass in Macy's window. And this gem of a person can get down off of their high horse and kiss yours right beside me.


  2. I call myself gimpy and crippled and use them as a term of endearment. This person is giving my words WAY too much power. I am definitely interested to hear what other people have to say about this.

  3. SMH at people. Kimmie, I think you are exactly right about PC-ness being a slippery slope. Oh but wait, I just used an ambiguous term, the word "right"-- am I about to be called out for using a word that could mean politically conservative?
    As a Speech Language Pathologist I work daily with people who have communication disorders. Speaking, vocabulary, jargon, and manners are kind of a top priority for me. The term in question here, " dumb " is no longer used to describe a person that is unable to speak. They might have severe apraxia, aphasia, or selective mutism. Calling a person with apraxia "dumb" would just be dumb. And by that use I totally mean the "ridiculous and uneducated" one.

  4. AHHHH! You were exactly the expertise I needed! Did you see the list of taboo words I linked to? I am far from the most politically correct person. I mean this blog could very well be called "who is that crippled chick?" but it isn't. I think tone and intent are INSANELY (yeah I said Insane) important.

  5. Kimmie, I get what you mean about being overly PC. hell you've probably heard me call myself"cripple". But see, that's the thing I say it exclusively about me. Speaking as a mentally ill person, and knowing many others a lot of us find it hurtful, not all be any strech of imagining. Lots of mentally ill people get called crazy with the intent to hurt. Bottom line A. If someone finds something hurtful to them(their kid or sibling may apply here too) don't say it in their presence. and B. Intent counts for a ton.

    You can call me crazy, cuz we're friends and I know what you mean.

  6. Yes. I think respect can go a long way and everyone can benefit from learning to be more respectful...but I also feel like the intent was clearly not to offend! And yeah I totally live by the fact that just because something doesn't offend me doesn't mean it isn't offensive PERIOD...because I am a hard nut to offend. But dumb...seriously?

  7. Interesting timing. Here's something I posted last night. It's a true story...

    "Someone once told me that they thought it should be illegal to say offensive things. I told him I found that offensive."

    The Someone was my friend Andy. He's no longer with us but was one of the most kind hearted people I have every known.

    The problem with working hard to not offend anyone is that people are dying to be offended and you have no idea what they have chosen to be offended by. Words are simply not capable of offending an honest person on their own. There needs to be context and intent.

  8. truer words never spoken.

  9. This is such a tough one, because I have certain words that are totally off-limits (retard) and words I use a lot (crip) so I think it's incredibly person-dependent. One person's interpretation of a word like "dumb" can be totally different from someone else's, so it's a gray area. For me, I try to focus on who my "audience" is when it comes to words even slightly tinged by ableism, because I never have any intention of offending.

  10. This is a conversation that me and my husband have all the time. I try to lean towards respectful and considerate whereas he is much more crude. If I know it will offend a particular person (that being key) then I don't say it; however, I am not a fan of "political correctness" in general. Unless someone is intentionally trying to insult or offend me then I don't let words bother me. Let's just all get thicker skin and move on. There are way more important things in life than whether Kimmie uses the word "dumb" or Sarah says something is "stupid" (which I do... a lot).

  11. that comment is so weird. is is someone you know or interact with online? the way they said "i never want to hear you say that again" is so strange.

    RuPaul recently got called out for using Tranny and "she-mail" on her show and people were really up in arms about it. I wasn't really sure where I fell on the issue and then I heard him on WTF and he was talking about it and I thought his argument was really interesting:

    "Does the word ‘tranny’ bother me? No. I love the word ‘tranny.’ … It’s not the transexual community who’s saying that. These are fringe people who are looking for storylines to strengthen their identity as victims. That is what we are dealing with. It’s not the trans community. ‘Cause most people who are trans have been through hell and high water… But some people haven’t and they’ve used their victimhood to create a situation where, ‘No! You look at me! I want you to see me the way you’re supposed to see me!’ You know, if your idea of happiness has to do with someone else changing what they say, what they do, you are in for a fucking hard-ass road… I dance to the beat of a different drummer. I believe everybody — you can be whatever the hell you wanna be, I ain’t stopping you. But don’t you dare tell me what I can do or what I can’t — say or can’t do. It’s just words, like, ‘Yeah, you hurt me!’ Bitch, you need to get stronger. If you’re upset by something I said you have bigger problems than you think.”

    Is he completely right? I don't know. It's hard to really understand where someone whose experience is so different from mine is coming from. But I will always listen.

  12. No. I have never interacted with this person online that I know of...which made the whole thing very strange. I am not even 100% how she knew I am I assume she reads my blog, though isn't active on it.

    Yeah, I heard Laverne Cox (from OITNB) speak out on that Rupaul comment the other day. She said that there are so many bigger descrimination issues at hand that she doesn't waste her time nitpicking on RuPaul. (In fact, her argument kind of inspired mine). That whole thing is something I can't speak on. I don't know how that terminology would affect me if I was transgendered.

    I always like to open these things to conversation because I am not one to be easily offended. Mostly to a I have a hard time gaging things like that...though I work really hard to be respectful.

  13. Yeah ! know! I am so glad you weighed in. I just think that is such an outdated term. In fact the only reason I know dumb means unable to speak is from the movie of "The Who's Tommy" and because of the lyric "That deaf, dumb and blind kid...sure plays a mean pinball!"

    My aim is to never offend anyone on my blog, so I never expected someone to get upset by an innocuous comment on another blog (especially since the issue didn't at all even relate to a disabled person!) I guess that's why it caught me so off guard.

  14. Yeah, Its an interesting conversation for sure.

  15. I love the line "if your idea of happiness has to do with someone else changing what they say, what they do, you are in for a fucking hard-ass road."

  16. Kimmie, I try to use language that is person first and not offensive. However, I also don't care for "over-the-top PC terms like differently abled. I'm Renee who has a disability or who uses a wheelchair. I'm not a victim of MD & I don't suffer from it, I live with it and I'm not wheelchair bound or confined to it. But people (mostly well intentioned) use those terms all the time and most of the time I never would say a word to them. If I ever felt compelled to say anything, it would be in private! Most of the time their comment says more about them than me anyway. This person obviously isn't as fluent in PC lingo as she thinks she is, lol. So to answer the question in your blog title: This is dumb, not you! As a matter of fact, she was being rude to use that "do you understand me" kind of tone with you. I'm really proud of you for refraining from putting her in her place - I know I would've been tempted.

  17. Yeah...I see the merits in that in the "victim" and "suffering" language....I mean there are days when I suffer from MD but I don't advertise it (HA). I always just say I have a disability or am in a wheelchair. It is a fact and not a consequence. I never correct people who want to use the suffering from language....even though I usually want to. I guess I should become more of a stickler.

  18. If it's some random person just looking to be a dick, I vote you don't care. They need to take up knitting so that their hands aren't free to type out judgy crap on the internet. If it was someone who cannot speak saying it who hates it because it's been thrown at them as an insult, I think it would be a different story. I think you hit the nail on the head with this: "in the disability community, at least from my perspective, there are certainly bigger fish to fry. Discrimination on the job. Inability to get proper health care. Etc. Ad infinitium."

  19. this whole interaction is still bizarre to me! i had no idea that 'dumb' had such a history. i am a fan of using appropriate / polite terms but like you have stated, i will not police you deciding to call yourself gimpy. i have taken to replacing the word "crazy" with "wild" since that is generally what is meant and i do understand that it could be damaging. i also try not to use the word "lame" since it was brought to my attention that it could be harmful. it is such a rocky road to be on! i totally agree with rae though-- i am always here to listen so i hope that if i do say something offensive i am corrected and can grow/learn from the experience (but jeeze, i hope it's not over something this "dumb").

  20. The crazy> wild substitute is a good one. I used to be BAD about saying the R word...but now I subbed in ridiculous...which was really what I meant anyway...and no one's feelings are hurt over ridiculous. I have also never been hurt by the term lame. I am hard to hurt by words and usually actions are what grind my gears, so you are likely in the clear!

  21. Thanks for the virtual high five! I don't really care...I just thought it was something that was worth addressing here. I mean why else does one have a blog if it's not to spark conversations?

  22. YEP! Me too!

  23. Mary Evelyn SmithAugust 8, 2014 at 5:54 PM

    I CAN NOT believe that I am just now getting around to reading this post! Such a strange comment. I think we have to draw the line somewhere when it comes to politically correct/person first/non-offensive language. Unfortunately, a lot of the decision on where we draw the line is based on the individual's preference. Personally, I think the commenter who responded to you was being a bit, well... dumb.


I thrive on comments, so what do you think?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...