SAL-VA-TION: by grace

E-LEV-EN: children from 1984 to 2006

HOME-SCHOOL-ING: since 1990

DOWN-SYN-DROME: susie and gabe

GRAND-CHILD-REN: since 2010

FAITH-FUL-NESS: my steadfast rock, my biggest supporter, my leader, my friend, my love, my husband

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

How Words Hurt

This is somewhat in response to my son's blog about a movie boycott. We could go around forever on the effectiveness of the boycott and debate who it hurts or doesn't hurt, but getting the message out that some fairly common terminology and slang is injurious to a very innocent group of people is a good thing. Whatever "free publicity" that movie is receiving from this cannot be offset by some serious costs they have incurred as a result of the public outcry against their trailers and marketing. See here for some details.

I thought it was worth printing this article that was written by John Franklin Stephens, a 26 year old man with Down syndrome. He expresses the personal side of this issue beautifully.

John writes,
"So, what's wrong with "retard"? I can only tell you what it means
to me and people like me when we hear it. It means that the
rest of you are excluding us from your group. We are
something that is not like you and something that none of
you would ever want to be. We are something
outside the "in" group. We are someone that is not your kind.
I want you to know that it hurts to be left out here - alone.
Nothing scares me as much as feeling all alone in a world
that moves so much faster than I do. You don't mean to make me
feel that way. In fact, like I say in some of my speeches,
"I have always depended on the kindness of strangers,"
and it works out OK most of the time. Still, it hurts and scares
me when I am the only person with intellectual disabilities on the
bus and young people start making "retard" jokes or references.
Please put yourself on that bus and fill the bus with people who
are different from you. Imagine that they start making
jokes using a term that describes you. It hurts and it is scary.
Last, I get the joke - the irony - that only dumb and shallow
people are using a term that means dumb and shallow.
The problem is, it is only funny if you think a "retard"
is someone dumb and shallow. I am not those things,
but every time the term is used it tells young people that it is
OK to think of me that way and to keep me on the outside.
That is why using "retard" is a big deal to people like me."

I'm all for people sending Hollywood a message that we don't want the kids in our society being influenced with this kind of material. Next on the listen-up-Hollywood-agenda--modesty, purity, profanity, immorality...... enough, do you get why I don't have much to do with the whole movie industry?


Kara Jo said...

Thanks for sharing, Keithslady. I appreciate your compassion.

Joey said...

I'm not sure why this is a response to what I wrote. I said the boycott was pointless, and considering that the movie was the runaway number one movie of the weekend, it looks like it was. I said nothing in defense of using the word "retard", which this post implies.

Publicly campaigning for boycotts of Hollywood because of modesty, purity, profanity, immorality, language, crude references, etc., don't work because the very people who are actually offended by those things aren't going to the movies in the first place. A boycott against Ford for their support of homosexuals works because buying a car doesn't carry a homosexual agenda in and of itself. You aren't implying support or any level of tolerance for homosexuality by buying a car. A boycott of Ford is effective because it is raising awareness of the fact that Ford does support this, so you in turn are also supporting that agenda if you buy their cars, which you then refuse to do, which carries an economic impact to Ford.

However, everyone going to these movies (whether it's Tropic Thunder or anything else) already knows what they're getting into. They know it will be crude, violent, immoral, etc. They know because they've watched trailers, or seen the rating with the "R" or "PG-13" caption that includes the reasons it's given that rating. There is no economic impact and the people who were going to go are still going to go.

I'm all for not going to movies. But I fail to see the benefit in a boycott effort like this. The only thing it may have accomplished is letting people know that a number of people find the word "retard" offensive, which I don't think is news (though that's probably debatable).

Additionally, my post never endorsed using the word "retard". I said, "Since when was "retard" the R-word? How does it come even CLOSE to the offensive level that the N-word reaches? It can be inappropriately used, but it sure isn't vulgar." I said that the word doesn't carry the same gravity that a vulgar word does. It's inappropriate to use it, but it's certainly not a "bleepable" word. I don't remember ever using the word (at least not since I knew better, which was long before I left home), much less endorsing its use.

Joey said...

Sorry...didn't realize my comment was so long :)

Joey said...

And I should add that I really liked John's letter in your post. I thought it was very well-written and did a great job of conveying things from his perspective, a perspective that is next to impossible for most of us to relate to.

Karla with a K said...

Thanks especially for John's very eloquent article.

Keithslady said...

Joey, I said "somewhat in response", not a direct response. The reason I posted this was because every time I clicked on you blog and saw "Another ridiculous boycott" it just kind of hit me in the stomach. If I choose not to picket an abortion clinic and there is no statistical evidence to support the picketing of abortion clinics I would still not say that it is "ridiculous" to picket it. You can say that people who want abortions are going to get them anyway, people know what is going on there, and it's all legal. However, if someone chooses to picket in order to draw attention to what they see as an atrocity I would not call them ridiculous or whiners. I would call them passionate and compassionate people who are seeking some public way to educate and initiate change.

I know your position on the use of "the r-word" (and no, I don't see it as profanity either but neither is "the s-word" and I'd rather use the initial than hear my kids saying it). I was not attacking your personal convictions on the situations but stating that whether you think the tactics of organizing a boycott are effective or not I don't think the cause behind this is "ridiculous".

Joey said...

I completely agree that taking a stand for something is important regardless of whether others' minds will be changed. I also never said the cause behind the boycott of Tropic Thunder was ridiculous, nor was the cause behind the McDonald's boycott. The primary point I was making was related to the whole boycotting concept, which I do often find ridiculous regardless of the cause.

(I also think comparing using an insulting term to murdering infants seems like a bit of a stretch. I get the point you're trying to make, but I don't think the two really compare.)

In summary, boycott effectiveness and value is debatable and John's letter is great! :)