Disablist language and deletions

(183 Posts)

MNHQ have commented on this thread. Read here.

BOFtastic Mon 17-Mar-14 01:43:12

Sort of on the back of another thread, I've noticed recent deletions of the word 'moron' as disablist.

I''ve done some googling. It was used among a couple of other older terms, idiot and imbecile, by Henry H. Goddard, a psychologist at the turn of the 19th century to grade people of "low intelligence", and it was taken up to justify eugenics. So distasteful, yes.

Is it just that Goddard actually coined 'moron', and the other terms were pre-existing? Goddard himself disavowed it shortly afterwards, and it hasn't been in use medically for a very long time. I very much doubt that people who use the word are directly referring to learning disability- the word in that sense is long-obsolete. Much like the word 'cretin', which has a similar history.

Language changes, we all know that.

The issue gets more clear-cut, I think, when similarly-originated terms are used as insults separate to their initial meaning. It is NOT ok- regardless of the speaker's meaning and motivation- to, for example, use 'gay' to mean 'pathetic', because it is still primarily used to refer to people's sexual orientation, and making the word an insult is demeaning to them. Also words like 'retard', because alongside its general use, it is still used to abuse and insult people with learning disabilities.

That, in my opinion, should be the rule of thumb: if the initial meaning is long obsolete, fine; if it still gets used in a discriminatory sense about actually-existing groups of marginalised and oppressed people, not fine.

So after thinking about it, I don't think I agree that the word 'moron' should be deleted as disablist language.

So what do people think?

coff33pot Thu 27-Mar-14 21:10:40

Ummm? Wow......haven't been here for a while and what a thread to open up first.....

Reckon I will nip in be brief and nip out again.

Here goes the word used to insult like 'moron' is just as horrid to see in print as to hear. The other words listed (and accepted) by some like cripple and yes rape are equally as disgusting. It doesn't really matter how when why or in what context they are used the question is WHY even use them In the first place.

youarewinning Wed 26-Mar-14 07:41:43

I'm so glad to hear one poster thinks calling the 'socially disabled' a gimp is acceptable. hmm I'll tell my DS to expect name calling in future then rather than tell him it's not acceptable just because his mind thinks differently.

ImAThrillseekerHoney Sun 23-Mar-14 13:59:15

There are ways to insult people without being banned for personal attack. "You evil bitch OP" is deletable. "Surely only an evil bitch would/say do that OP" is probably OK. But "only a retard would do/say that OP" is just as deletable as "you retard!" despite arguably dodging the personal attack rules.

And remember of course that we're allowed to make personal attacks on third parties otherwise all threads referring to Michael Gove would look like Swiss cheese. But we're not allowed to insult him in ways which make unflattering "accusations" of learning disability.

Upandatem Sun 23-Mar-14 11:45:58

Actually, thinking about it, is all name-calling deleted as personal attacks if reported?

Upandatem Sun 23-Mar-14 11:44:30

I think you can only look at intent and context with some of the words that have no direct or recent disablist meaning. I'd rather people just didn't call others names and discussed the topic instead but I think coming up with a list of unacceptable terms isn't necessarily going to help either.

I don't like the word moron, but I wince at is slightly less than a lot of the others.

BOFtastic Fri 21-Mar-14 23:34:35

because I do think

I can't tell you how shattered I am grin <glugs wine>

BOFtastic Fri 21-Mar-14 23:33:00

Sorry to only come back to this now- I've been out since before 5am shock, and haven't had much time to post.

Now I have wine, and am catching up...

Limited, I've disagreed on a couple of terms you've used, for the reasons I posted, but I thnk that apart from that we seem to be on the same page- and I really appreciate people trying to engage with the OP, because. Do think it's a useful debate.

Thanks too to Justine and MNHQ; I think that what you've suggested has just the right amount of clarity, without sacrificing flexibility.

I do like that on mumsnet we can be mindful of the implications of some expressions we use, and I also think that most people appreciate letting conversations flow without being overly prescriptive in situations where there are so many grey areas.

zzzzz Fri 21-Mar-14 22:58:26

You only really get to choose what you say in your own posts. Trying to dictate how an open discussion proceeds is pretty futile.

Most threads have a life of their own.

NurseyWursey Fri 21-Mar-14 22:55:26

Of course we understand the point limited I think you're mistaken now. I already completely understand and support what the OP has said, and have nothing to add on the issue. It doesn't mean I can't challenge views that are said in the thread - of which yours I feel are incredibly wrong.

But yes, lets not derail any further smile

limitedperiodonly Fri 21-Mar-14 22:53:08

NurseyWursey You are the last person I'm going to reply to and I'm going to say you and everyone else should address the OP and not me and you should debate her original point.

Not because I'm scared of an argument but because the OP's point is important.

It has been hijacked - and latterly not by me but by you and other people - and you should all get back on track as I've repeatedly said.

I'm going to hide this thread now because I don't think you people understand or want to.

MiscellaneousAssortment Fri 21-Mar-14 22:46:21

To everyone else, I am so sorry for not being able to keep a dignified silence and rise above it.

I am absolutely open to having a constructive debate and understand that people won't agree and that it's not my role to change their minds if they don't want to hear.

However I'm not ok with someone belittling my views and therefore (in this case) my identity and life experience. That, I do feel needs more than turning the other cheek.

I hope I haven't in some way derailed the thread flowers

bluepen Fri 21-Mar-14 22:44:37

Do people at your work use it?

MiscellaneousAssortment Fri 21-Mar-14 22:40:41

^It's not a contest to try to beat me over the head about it and pat each other on the back^

Interesting interpretation of other peoples posts. I'm glad you think my own personal life experience and view as a disabled person, is not in fact a valid point of view and that I was 'patting someone's back' in sharing something so close to my heart. Nice. Constructive. Thoughtful.

You are utterly failing to see the point that other posters are so eloquently making. Im sorry that you appear to be unable to see past your fixed point of view, which youve already made plain. I do understand the point you were making, and happen to disagree and want to move past it. Please don't belittle me or others. It's unpleasant. Needless. And massively derailing... Which is what you say you don't want to do.

I am finding your posts confusing, disengenuous at best, as they seem to be all about bringing it back to yourself, when really, it's not about you. I'm not quite sure why you feel the need to repeatedly tell us all off for daring to react to posts in this thread and that we are somehow derailing the thread by responding to you. It certainly has the effect of keeping the thread centred on one person.

My opinions aren't about you.
Nor is this thread.
Nor I suspect are most other peoples posts.
We have moved on, and have used your example of 'cripple' and accompanying mindset to debate something interesting, and I feel, useful.

As someone else has already said, it is not the words themselves but the way they are used.

Or have I got this wrong? Is this in fact a private thread? Perhaps I am not allowed to post here? Please do tell me.

limitedperiodonly Fri 21-Mar-14 22:38:07

I am going to try to sit on my hands now because the OP's point is a good one and replying to you is sidetracking her issue.

So if I promise to leave it alone, do you promise to debate her point?

Sorry, OP. Whatever you think of me, I'm going to try to get it back on your track.

NurseyWursey Fri 21-Mar-14 22:34:11

I accept that you think it's an okay term to use, but I'm just wondering at what sort of circles you are in that find the term crippled okay confused it's possibly the sort of term my great nan would use, she's 83. She would use it out of ignorance though.

To me using the word crippled is akin to using the word queer.

limitedperiodonly Fri 21-Mar-14 22:30:58

I'm not missing the point bialystock. I'm disagreeing with you. Which is allowed, isn't it?

I think crippled is a legitimate term to use in some circumstances. You, and everyone else on here, disagrees.

Fair enough. I will not use it here. I do not wish to be deleted. Neither do I wish to alienate people unnecessarily. I think my views on most subjects here are reasonably sound. But sometimes it happens...

I will continue to use the term outside MN.

If you met me, you could argue with me or ignore me. But it would be unlikely that you would change my mind and therefore I believe there is no point arguing. Ignore me. You could even console yourself in the belief that I am an arsehole or a wanker.

That was a a really intelligent level of debate btw and I've made a note of those posters just so I can make a special point of ignoring them in future.

As I keep saying, the point of this debate is to decide which other terms can be used - and the OP didn't mention cripple - I did.

So I continue to say that by banging on about the use of that word and arguing with me, people have hijacked an important debate.

That's not my fault. It's their self indulgence.

I should say that I'd bow out for the good of the debate. But maybe they should have the grace to say: 'Do you know what? Let's just ignore her, stop asking her questions and get back on track.'

Because I've lost count of the times I've suggested that.

And now that goes for you.

bialystockandbloom Fri 21-Mar-14 21:52:32

limited I feel you're missing the fundamental point of this, and focussing on the words themselves, rather than how and why they are used.

It is not a word itself which is offensive, it is the reason it is used.

So, to use my previous example, it is not offensive to say that someone is gay when they are gay and it is relevant to the conversation. But it is offensive to use the word as an insult to someone (whether that person is or isn't gay).

Equally, it isn't an insult to say that someone is eg disabled when they are disabled. It is if you use the word "disabled" as a form of insult about something which is wholly irrelevant that it becomes offensive.

The word "retard" is a perfect example of this - once upon a time it was used as a "medical" definition (to describe low IQ I assume). So at the time it wouldn't have been offensive for a medical textbook to use the term as a definition. But over time, as the term was dropped from medical/diagnostic use, it became a form of insult. Now it is used purely to insult people, either NT people for doing something laughable, or directly against people with LDs to openly mock them.

"Cripple" seems to fall into this category.

I don't want to make this into a sub-thread between us either! But it is such a crucial point to this whole debate - this thread is about exactly this.

terms such as imbecile, moron, idiot and cretin (I think) should be given an amnesty because they are archaic medical terms for mental illness and have passed into general usage.

I think I agree with you on this, about idiot and moron, because I don't think they're used in the way that other insults are, and I really do think most people under the age of about 70 wouldn't associate those words with anyone with actual LDs. But I'm not nearly so sure on this as I was when I first read the OP.

zzzzz Fri 21-Mar-14 21:31:20

Oh I see limited I'm the one doing that. hmm

NurseyWursey Fri 21-Mar-14 20:38:48

I think cripple is a horrible and outdated word. I wouldn't dream of using that.

limitedperiodonly Fri 21-Mar-14 20:35:57

zzzzz I don't think that describing someone as crippled is necessarily an insult. I don't think that being raped is an insult either or should be a banned word.

Therefore I don't object to terms such as 'fraped' or 'the rape of the land'. There's another one to bash me with.

But as I keep saying, the OP's debate is not about me and what I think.

We can talk about what I think until the cows come home. You won't change my views because I am happy with them and I don't care about what you think.

However, the OP's debate is valuable and you are sidetracking it by arguing with me.

Maybe I should withdraw because you don't seem able to.

She has argued that terms such as imbecile, moron, idiot and cretin (I think) should be given an amnesty because they are archaic medical terms for mental illness and have passed into general usage.

I agree with her. What do you think about those words, and those only? And your reply shouldn't be addressed to me. It should be addressed to the OP.

I promise you, I won't use the other words that you hate so much on here. I thought I'd said that.

So there's nothing to argue with me about, is there? Unless you just want to argue with me for the sake of arguing.

zzzzz Fri 21-Mar-14 20:16:01

Because being "gay" isn't an insult, but being a "cripple" is??? shock

It isn't just that you are using disableist terminology (which you are, do and defend), it's that you ARE disableist. You may not be homophobic or sexist, but the fact you find words that describe disability MORE satisfyingly insulting is indicative of your attitude.

Sometimes the language has to change to influence the underlying sentiment. Why don't you ask the people who are most effected by this? People with disabilities and their families and friends. Ask them if this makes their lives just that little bit crapper?

limitedperiodonly Fri 21-Mar-14 19:44:33

Would you use the word "gay" to belittle someone's behaviour? eg someone does something, say, clumsy, and you say "god that's so gay"

I wasn't going to return to this thread because I didn't think I had anything constructive to add and I didn't think many of the other posters mindlessly attacking me and patting each other on the back did either.

But, bialystockandbloom, I'm going to reply to you. You can take that how you want and I don't require a response, and certainly not a complimentary one.

You asked me a question

So, the answer to whether I'd the use the word 'gay' in a pejorative sense is no.

Mainly because it doesn't register with me. I'm late 40s so 'gay' as an insult goes over my head. I honestly don't know how I feel about it, but I wouldn't use it in that context.

I understand gay friends using the words 'queer', 'homo', 'dyke', 'poof' and 'she' - as a gay man referring to another gay man - but I wouldn't use them myself.

Just as a woman, I find it acceptable to use the words 'slut', 'tart', 'trollop', 'whore' but wouldn't automatically like a man using them - or for that matter, a woman. It all depends on the context.

There are some words regarding mental and physical health that I regard it as too current. Among them are 'mong', 'spaz', 'retard' and 'flid'. 'Joey' is another one. That's a bit after my time, but I can see the offence.

Can I say that I didn't want to spell out those words and tried not to in case anybody wants to turn that against me. I've felt the need to because people keep asking.

As I've explained, I don't think cripple is amongst that list.

You've disagreed, as have others. That's fine. It's a debate to try to find acceptable terms to use on Mumsnet.

If the terms I use are unacceptable to the majority then I won't use them here.

It's not a contest to try to beat me over the head about it and pat each other on the back.

As I've said, to do that is a diversion and I don't want to do that though I realise that some posters do, even while saying 'it's not about you' confused.

God, this post is really long.

As I keep saying, the OP's original premise about the amnesty of archaic medical terms was a good one and I agree with her, even if she doesn't agree with me.

I don't understand why some of you are trying to divert the argument with an examination of my views.

Not because I'm scared of an argument. But because I think it detracts from the OP's point - which is extremely valuable.

So, look, I don't really want to argue about me any more. So I'm probably not going to. But I might. It depends on what's said.

Essentially though, I think we should get back to what the OP said. And yes, I agree with her.

Fuck me. That was long.

bluepen Fri 21-Mar-14 19:34:23

While you are there.

What is the current status on the word "loon"?

TheLightPassenger Fri 21-Mar-14 18:12:05

Good posts misc, completely agree. Sorry you have been upset.

MiscellaneousAssortment Fri 21-Mar-14 17:43:26

Btw I've been avoiding the little diversion going on on this thread, but I will reference it just once (sorry!)...

Calling someone a cripple is insulting i get that, but also really hurtful to me. I am 'a cripple', and your decision to use what I am through no fault of my own as a harsh insult to someone else... Well it hurts. It's like you're saying 'god its so foul to be you, I can't think of a better insult than to say someone is like you too'

I'm sorry if that's annoying or unhip or ultra politically correct to you... But to me it's not a cognitive debate, it's wounding and shows me exactly what society thinks of me.

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