right. I’ve seen some reactions to cat’s suggestion that people stop using this phrase that are honestly pretty horrifying. I’m having a bit of a bad night, so you’ll have to forgive my brevity, but there are a few things that I’d like to clear up:
- when a word specifically targets a marginalized group as “less-than” - when it takes that identity and makes it into an insult - it is a slur. “retarded” is a slur.
- offensive words are not the same as oppressive words. slurs are oppressive because they reinforce the idea that belonging to x marginalized group is degrading or something to be ashamed of. offense is a personal injury; oppression is systemic. calling someone “retarded” can be offensive for a variety of reasons, but the implicit insult is always that they are like someone who is disabled. it’s oppressive because “like someone who is disabled” is taken to be negative in the first place.
- you’re privileged to be in a position to label others as over-sensitive when they react negatively to oppressive language. think of it this way: if offense is a kick in the shin, then oppression is living in a world where everyone has shin guards but you. just because you don’t experience the harm inflicted by a particular word doesn’t mean others won’t, or that they are unreasonable to say so. you’ve got shin guards - of course you don’t think much of being kicked. you might even be inclined to tell all those bare-shinned people that they’re overreacting. it’s your right to kick people, damnit, and they’ll just have to get used to it. if only they would stop letting themselves get all those bruises!
and a couple of links: