Insults, Slurs, and Stupidity

Content note! This post will contain slurs relating to ethnicity, gender, and mental disabilities.

There is currently a, er, lively discussion happening in the comments of Surly Amy and Elyse’s DDoS Valentine post over the use of words like “stupid” and “idiot” to describe people who are ignorant. A few commenters are arguing that those words are triggering for people with mental disabilities and so they should not be used.

I disagree, and as of right now I’m content allowing words like “stupid” to continue to be used across the Skepchick Network. I might consider requesting that writers include a content note at the top of posts that contain that language, but I’m still not really sure it’s necessary at this point.

There are a few points in this discussion that I felt it necessary to highlight.

First of all, if you are a person who is triggered by the word “stupid,” you have my immense sympathy. Last night I was considering this discussion while watching Netflix, and I must have heard the word “stupid” or a synonym at least once every ten minutes. Even in conversation with friends, it happens near-constantly: my stupid cat woke me up with his butt in my face. The stupid PS3 controller isn’t working. The stupid me forgot to take the cloth bags from the car into the grocery store.

I’ve been triggered once before and it was extremely unpleasant, to the point that I laid in bed in the fetal position crying for a few hours. A person who is triggered by words like “stupid” and “idiot” must quite seriously live a horrific life dominated by fear and pain, and I sincerely hope they get therapeutic help.

I have no doubt that there are such people, just as there are probably people who are triggered by other insults. I could certainly imagine a person with a newly installed colostomy bag being triggered by words like “shitty.” Perhaps someone who was orally raped is triggered when someone says that something “sucks.” Maybe someone with a cleft palate is triggered when the word “ugly” is used to describe everything from faces to personalities to carpets.

And if I was friends with any of those people and I used one of those words in their presence and they took me aside and told me about their pain, I would absolutely avoid saying those words in their presence.

I would not, though, avoid saying those words elsewhere, because those words are not slurs. Compare any of them to the word “kike,” for instance. “Kike” is a word that has no other usage besides dehumanizing and marginalizing Jewish people. Yes, it has been thrown at me, a gentile through and through, but even then it was meant to insult some perceived Jewishness in my person. The word “retard” has been thrown at me, a person with no developmental disabilities, but it is quite obviously always meant to shame me by aligning me with people with disabilities. The word “cunt” is thrown at men, but every time it is meant to unambiguously connect them with the disgusting, lesser vagina.

“Stupid,” on the other hand, accurately describes a thing or a person or an action that is foolish, ignorant, or vapid, and we cannot drop useful words like that from our vocabulary entirely because some people find them upsetting. Elyse’s valentine specifically addressed people who were incapable of learning that silencing us is impossible – a fool’s errand, if you will. The word “stupid” and its synonyms must be used to make that clear, even if those words are also used to insult people with developmental disabilities.

So yes, just as we won’t stop using the word “creep” to accurately describe people and behaviors that we deem “creepy,” we won’t stop using words like “stupid” to accurately describe people and behaviors that we deem ignorant or foolish.*

I mentioned in a comment on Amy’s post that the idea that we should avoid words like “stupid” sounds like it was created by 4chan to troll people who care about social justice. On the other hand, there are apparently feminists who argue that a statue of a man in his underpants is a form of sexual assault, so it’s worth remembering that no movement is free of activists who get just a bit too excited about calling out perceived injustices. With that in mind, feel free to discuss the finer art of slur-free insulting in the comments below, but do try to keep the outrage in check.

*I say “we” as a networkwide rule. Individual writers can, of course, choose to avoid whatever words they will.

Disapproving sloth image chosen for this post to soothe feels.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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  1. February 15, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    I think it might have been a good idea to go away and think about this for a couple of days instead of writing what *seems* to be a piece mocking people for taking issue with “stupid”.

    Maybe that’s not your intention. I can accept that, but this does seem to be very insulting of the people who took issue with what was posted.

    • February 15, 2014 at 1:12 pm

      “a piece mocking people”

      It appears as though you’re seeing insults that just aren’t there.

      • February 15, 2014 at 1:20 pm

        Gaslighting. “that hurt you are feeling isn’t real so maybe something is wrong with you.”

        • February 15, 2014 at 1:27 pm

          You are soooo offensive and out of proportion it’s galling, Marc. The near-perfect enactment of a parody; appropriation of SJ tools for something ridiculous. I know you don’t think of yourself this way, but it’s really just saying “fuck you” to people who endure nigger, faggot, dyke, paki, retard, and the rest. I’d ask just who you think you are, but it’s clear.

        • February 15, 2014 at 1:37 pm

          OK, now I’m starting to suspect that you are actually some kind of 4chan false flag operation. I wrote a sincere article without mocking anyone, but you’re insisting on being offended.

      • February 15, 2014 at 1:40 pm

        Your repeated use of the word comes off as mocking. I pointed out this may not have been your intention, simply that it comes off that way.

        I invite you to try an exercise – replace “stupid” with “bitchy” or “bitch” in your post. How would it feel in that case for you? Even if the author didn’t mean it that, it will *feel* that way to you.

        I thought you understood the difference between intentions and how things are read by people. Or is ableism somehow special and exempt from this understanding?

        • February 15, 2014 at 1:45 pm

          I invite you to try an exercise – replace “stupid” with “bitchy” or “bitch” in your post. How would it feel in that case for you?


          First of all, if you are a person who is triggered by the word “bitch,” you have my immense sympathy. Last night I was considering this discussion while watching Netflix, and I must have heard the word “bitch” or a synonym at least once every ten minutes. Even in conversation with friends, it happens near-constantly: my bitch cat woke me up with his butt in my face. The bitch PS3 controller isn’t working. The bitch me forgot to take the cloth bags from the car into the grocery store.

          OK, let’s see how I feel . . . I guess I feel . . . absolutely fine? Because that paragraph now makes no sense? Because “bitch” and “stupid” aren’t interchangeable? And if you replace any word in a sentence with an actual slur, of course it will make that sentence more offensive?

          • February 15, 2014 at 2:07 pm

            I’m truly astonished at how many people are *literally* incapable of distinguishing between slurs and non-slurs. That you can’t see how “stupid” and “bitch” function so differently. . . wow. Wow.

        • February 15, 2014 at 1:46 pm

          Also, if you’re looking for me to apologize for using the word “stupid” in a discussion of the word “stupid,” you should be aware that that’s not going to happen.

  2. February 15, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    And really, the biggest issue wasn’t “stupid”, or “fucking idiot”, it was this phrase “Like, I’m literally impressed you remembered to breathe every day.”

    That is the issue. That is pretty much a helmet joke. That is the center of the ableism in that ddos piece. Some people with intellectual disabilities DO sometimes forget to breathe, and some medicines they take can EXACERBATE the problem.

    • February 15, 2014 at 1:09 pm

      I was going by what people were complaining about in the previous thread and on Twitter, and “stupid” appeared to be getting the bulk of the hatred.

      • February 15, 2014 at 3:07 pm

        You may be running the risk of seeming to reject all criticism surrounding the issue, not just the criticism you see as invalid.

        • February 15, 2014 at 3:19 pm

          Interesting. I take it you didn’t notice how commenters here brought their own narrative, and rejected things Rebecca has already rejected. Why, it’s almost like there’s no reciprocal obligation on the part of commenters to read. That’s neat!

    • February 15, 2014 at 1:28 pm

      How in the hell do you go through a day without being offened?

    • February 15, 2014 at 2:51 pm

      …What are you even talking about? Breathing is an involuntary reflex triggered when your blood gets sufficiently acidic (from dissolved CO2). If you could breathe only via conscious thought/voluntary action, you would be unable to sleep, which would be fatal in a few days.

      If you are seriously aware of a sizable group of people for whom the involuntary breathing response doesn’t work, please provide a reference or link; I’d be very interested in finding out more.

  3. February 15, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    It’s difficult to please all people and what is triggering for a some people cannot always force entire language changes. I have emetophobia and the following words for me to type are honestly difficult. If you don’t know what emetophobia is, it’s fear of vomit/vomiting. I don’t even like to look at or use those words. I cannot expect the world to change because of my phobia. That action is one that is regularly used in tv, movies, blog posts, daily conversation. I’ve had to tell people to knock it off sometimes if they were discussing it in graphic details around me but otherwise.. what am I going to do? Silence a friend on Twitter who is talking about being ill? Stop people telling horrible (but funny to them) stories about their kids? Nope, people can use those words and talk about that subject even if I am sitting here having to take deep breaths even typing about it. This particular thing is my issue and I have to learn how to cope with it. I find using the word “stupid” since it has so many meanings very similar.

    I once had someone say I was ableist for using the word “blind” because I could not see something. I apologized to them, but later realized that “blind” can mean other things than just the medical condition of having impaired sight. I was not calling anyone else blind, nor was I making fun of someone with vision impairment. I was referring to my own sight. Maybe I was in the wrong here, but I’d like to think I wasn’t.

  4. February 15, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    I guess in this respect intersectionality goes out the window. Too bad. Maybe after some thought there might be an acknowledgement and apology for how this network is handling this. We all make mistakes, we all cause harm when we mean not too, but we all ought to be ready to examine our own privilege when called on it.

    • February 15, 2014 at 1:08 pm

      This doesn’t appear to respond to my post at all.

      • February 15, 2014 at 1:18 pm

        That’s because you can’t see it. Privilege. It sucks.

        • February 15, 2014 at 10:39 pm

          AND you just dropped “sucks”? You must be least self-aware person posting on the internet.

    • February 15, 2014 at 10:38 pm

      The word “privilege” could be triggering to people who have and are currently being oppressed. I can’t believe you just used it in a post like this without even thinking about the irony.


  5. February 15, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    Thank you. This irks me no end. I’ve lost Internet friends over the word “stupid.” I’m not going to stop saying it. And I’m not going to take you seriously if you bang on about how “stupid” is on a par with “retard” or other *actual* slurs. Whether you mean to or not, going on like that gives the perfect impression of a spoiled, special snowflake me-me-me-me-me tantrum.

    • February 15, 2014 at 1:25 pm

      Because everything has to be EQUALLY offensive to be worth talking about.

      Microaggressions, have you heard of them.

      • February 15, 2014 at 1:34 pm

        Sure have. And I don’t think everything has to be equally offensive to talk about. But comparing “stupid” and “retard” *as if* they were equally weighted—that’s what I object to. Yes, I find that genuinely offensive. Yes, I see people seriously putting that forward. I get to be pissed about it. You want to talk about microaggressions? That’s entirely distinct from *inappropriate*, ham-fisted, and self-centered positioning of one’s self as JUST AS OPPRESSED.

        I’m sorry, but just because someone says it’s a thing doesn’t mean we all have to accept it’s a thing. Just because one positions one’s self as the victim does not obligate others to be quiet and say, “Yes, yes.” It *infuriates* me how quickly folks will defend obnoxious (or simply thoughtless) things like this, then act astonished when people who endure truly vicious slurs object to it.

        You want me to understand how a microagression feels to you? I’m on board with that. And it’s my duty as a decent person. Yours is to back the fuck off before putting rather milder problems on a par with homophobic/misogynist/racist bias. I’m not asking for something unreasonable.

    • February 15, 2014 at 1:35 pm

      Great point as usual Josh. The intertubez seems to be the realm of special snowflakes.

      • February 15, 2014 at 4:54 pm

        I’ve had someone tell me ‘special snowflake’ was a slur against autism. Personally I never heard it used in reference to autism. I’ve heard ‘snowflake children’ used to describe adopted embryos (because no two are alike, also because they’re all white, ayy).

  6. February 15, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    Oh, Marc. That’s silly. And embarrassing. And —wait for it—*offensive*. Putting “stupid” on a par with kike, faggot, dyke. . . that’s fucking offensive as shit.

  7. February 15, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    Cargo cult social justice. That’s what it looks like. And it makes one appear that you don’t actually care about the harm people suffer from institutionalized dehumanization. You can’t, really, if you’re willing to appropriate social justice language to make a grievous harm out of “stupid.” It makes you appear to want ME TOO. And it makes people who actually suffer from endemic bigotry look at you with resentment and disgust.

  8. February 15, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    Oh so we’re doing the oppression olympics now? Please, tell me what order people can have their humanity questioned in. I missed the handbook letting me know that social justice is more important for some people than for others.

    This is pretty terrible this whole thing. It’s gone from splash damage to punching down. I guess people who aren’t “smart enough” aren’t worth your time.

  9. February 15, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    Thank you for this post. Sometimes the word police take things too far. Pointing out the reasonable approach to this type of thing is quite welcome.

  10. February 15, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    Offensive to the core. Self-centered, victim-posing, and going by the playbook.

  11. February 15, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    I want the next one of you who claims I’m playing Oppression Olympics to say that to a person of color who slaps your metaphorical ass for making comparisons to slavery and racism. Would you do that? I don’t think you would. It shouldn’t be hard to understand the difference between “Wait a minute—that’s a harm, but pull back from placing it on a level with folks who experience X. .. it’s its own thing, and that insults people even if you don’t intend to.” And, “UR STUPID THAT WORD IS HARMLESS DUMB.”

    They’re not the same. They’re really not.

  12. February 15, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    “Waaah, you being offended is offensive to me” — shorter spokesgay.

    Also, Rebecca? You’re using the same arguments MRAs do to discredit that we’re really hurt by sexist slurs. THEY’RE SO COMMON, IF YOU WERE *REALLY* OFFENDED YOU WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO LIVE.

    you don’t have to be reduced to a ball of PTSD every time you hear a word to have a legitimate case to make for a SOCIAL JUSTICE ORIENTED WEBSITE to not use it.

    But seriously. If you don’t want mentally disabled people in your feminism, just say so already. We’ll show ourselves the door.

    • February 15, 2014 at 1:49 pm

      But seriously. If you don’t want mentally disabled people in your feminism, just say so already. We’ll show ourselves the door.

      Somehow I knew that asking people to keep their outrage in check would not be heeded.

      First of all, I don’t have a feminism. I have a website. You are posting on it.

      Second of all, I’m happy to have mentally disabled people post on this website. Pearl-clutching outrage junkies, not so much.

      • February 15, 2014 at 1:53 pm

        Yeah. Mentally disabled people can post if they’re quiet when you trample on your feet.

        I love how when it’s sexism, it’s righteous anger, but if it’s ableism, we’re clutching our pearls.

        Also, telling you to be frank about whether or not this site is inclusive? Haaardly outrage.

        • February 15, 2014 at 1:58 pm

          I’m astonished at how you got to “you don’t want mentally disabled people around” from “stupid is not the same as retard.” Baffled.

        • February 15, 2014 at 2:01 pm

          I love how when it’s sexism, it’s righteous anger, but if it’s ableism, we’re clutching our pearls.

          Umm, except that I included in the post an example of pearl-clutching outrage junkies flipping out over sexism. Maybe if you read the post before commenting next time, you’ll be able to come up with a valid argument that is actually compelling.

          • February 15, 2014 at 2:12 pm

            Okay, so if that’s what you mean by pearl clutching junkies? Then thanks for comparing us bring hurt by this to women calling statues assault. Not at all minimizing.

            Seriously. Y’all are rational people. /look at the shit you are saying/.

          • February 15, 2014 at 8:07 pm

            How about you look at the shit YOU’RE saying, Grimalkin?
            Like, how wrapped in cotton wool are you to get outraged at the words “idiot” and “stupid”?
            You’re being absolutely ridiculous. I can’t believe this discussion is even taking place. Holy everloving shitballs.

          • February 15, 2014 at 8:51 pm

            Rhys, you are attacking a person who has said that he is feeling triggered. You are being abusive. It is not cool.

          • February 15, 2014 at 9:41 pm

            Not everybody who says they’re offended is in the right. Not everybody who says they’re offended is justified in being offended.
            I’m Welsh. I could totally claim to be offended by the English language, as it was forced on my people in an oppressive manner by the English and that I demand you all stop speaking it, but does that mean you should all kowtow this demand? No, because it’s a totally ridiculous thing to claim to be offended by.
            “Idiot” and “stupid” are similar.

          • February 15, 2014 at 9:47 pm

            You, rhys, have missed the point and need to go back to social justice 101 for a refresher.

          • February 15, 2014 at 10:13 pm

            Nah, I think I’ll give your bizarre brand of social justice a miss, tyvm

      • February 15, 2014 at 2:56 pm

        Maybe you should have prefaced this piece with a warning about it’s content. Oh wait YOU DID!

      • February 15, 2014 at 9:59 pm

        Ok. Seriously? “Pearl-clutching junkies”? Not much sympathy for people with addictions, either. Awesome.

    • February 15, 2014 at 1:59 pm

      Did you really just compare Spokesgay to a baby? How is that less offensive than using the word “stupid”?

  13. February 15, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    So this actually happened on my blog, too… sort of. I wrote a post called evaluating my language, written in response to some commenting on an early post of mine that I’m a hypocrite over my use of the word stupid because it’s ableist, and then a discussion I had about it on the Atheism+ forums, where pretty much everyone who responded said “stupid” is, indeed, ableist. So I wrote the post partly as a challenge to myself, in order to stop using the word “stupid”.

    Thing is:
    a) I’m still lost as to how to replace it
    b) If I’m being honest, I legitimately don’t see how a word that describes “INEXCUSABLE ignorance”, that is, ignorance from someone who is not handicapped in some way (and I don’t mean just clearly so… I mean actually not handicapped).

    Where my “b” falls flat, however, is this: how do I know that someone isn’t handicapped in some way?

    I used two examples over on the A+ forums to highlight what I meant by “stupid”:

    a) I used to work at this place called Mrs. Winner’s, back before it was closed. It was basically Arby’s answer to KFC, and was somehow even worse. Anyways…
    We once had this very wealthy (based on the car he was driving, a black Ferrari, and the fact that he was my dad’s old boss at Southern Company before Enron destroyed that industry) guy pull in to the drive-thru, ask for a burger, then get really at angry at us when we explained that we don’t sell burgers.

    (Indeed, Not Always Right was a go-to for me for hilarious stories of “stupid” people.)

    b) That person in math class… everyone knows the one… who, after the teacher has written the numbers from a word problem on the board, will raise xir hand and ask the teacher “where did you get those numbers?”… this is before the teacher actually starts to even solve the math problem (so the only numbers on the board at that point are the numbers the teacher copied from the book).

    In the case of “a”, that’s just plain entitlement. With “b”, until I brought it up on the A+ forums, it never even occurred to me that this person in math class could actually be suffering from things like dyslexia, ADHD, auditory processing issues… hell, even the culture itself is set up to tell certain people that they can’t do certain things.

    In my math classes, the person who played the role of “b” was always a girl (used in this case because I’m talking about grade school: elementary school, middle school, and high school… K-12). Back then, I never would have noticed how our culture reinforces the stereotype that “girls can’t math”… I likely even would have agreed with it. But now I can see how, if you grow up being told that you “can’t math” simply because you don’t have the apparently required penis between your legs in order to math, you would automatically do rather badly in math classes because you go in already thinking you’re not good enough, and then you probably wouldn’t even try.

    So in both cases it isn’t “stupidity” at all. In “a” it’s just an entitled asshole, and in “b” it could very well be explained, if not by some sort of learning disability, then by the culture itself.

    So maybe that’s the problem with “stupid”. You don’t actually know about someone or their history, so chances are good that whatever it is that makes you see them as “stupid” is something they maybe have no control over, and you don’t know what that is.

    • February 15, 2014 at 3:06 pm

      “a) I’m still lost as to how to replace it”

      If you are using “stupid” to describe an action, or a person, most of the time, either “confused” or “deluded” is a more accurate description. Unfortunately, people are far more likely to be insulted by “deluded”, even though, we all suffer from delusions on a regular basis. Inescapable consequence of having a finite intellect. If neither fits, go with “intellectual insufficiency”. Yes, it is too long, but you’ll rarely need it.

      • February 15, 2014 at 8:22 pm

        “Confused”? Really? Isn’t that abilism vs. people with dementia?

  14. February 15, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    What I hear when being accused of ranking oppressions because I don’t accept “stupid” as equal to “faggot,” or “paki,” or “retard.” I hear, “I don’t see color.” “I don’t see race.” “I don’t see gender.” “I don’t see sexuality.”

    Wonder why people like me get irritated? That’s why. It’s crystal clear such a person doesn’t “see” those. Crystal fucking clear.

    • February 15, 2014 at 1:50 pm

      Yaknow, if you actually read my first fucking comment in that thread, I explicitly say that No, They’re not equal.

      Oh but it’s easier to argue against a strawman than someone’s actual words.

      • February 15, 2014 at 1:54 pm

        Grimalkin, it’s not all about you. Why do you think I’m arguing that it’s *you*, Grimalkin, who can’t make those distinctions? Why can’t you seem to get that there are people who do that, it is a problem, and that I’m reacting to it? Just because YOU don’t take that approach you don’t get to lecture me like there are NO people who do. You’ve simply dismissed me out of hand because you cannot and will not acknowledge there are actors out there who are Not Grimalkin. I don’t get it, but it pisses me off.

        You don’t want me to assume that about you? Then don’t assume I’m aiming at you, and that every fucking person has the same noble intentions you do! Damn.

        • February 15, 2014 at 5:07 pm

          Point to someone who did spokesgay. Because otherwise, it looks like you’re creating strawpeople all with the intent to burn them down.

          Respond to what people actually say, and stop bringing make believe narratives from other arguments into this.

  15. February 15, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    Yes, I’m merely whining, Grimalkin. I raised no substantive points. I don’t care about mental illness (even though I gots it). Nothing I said merits any serious engagement. You’re right. I’m just pure bad, and for entirely selfish reasons.

  16. February 15, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    If someone tells you that they are triggered you should do your best not to continue to trigger them.


    Does it really discount your oppression to realize another’s oppression? Will that change who is triggered by what?

    • February 15, 2014 at 1:50 pm

      If someone tells you that they are triggered you should do your best not to continue to trigger them.

      Which is exactly what I said I’d do.

      • February 15, 2014 at 1:52 pm

        And just to illustrate the point, on the previous thread Amy pointed out that she was triggered by Grimalkin and others ganging up on her after she already apologized. It obviously didn’t stop them. Should we all immediately change our behavior whenever anyone asks us to? Or should we evaluate the request and do what we determine is best for us, them, and society?

        • February 15, 2014 at 1:58 pm

          I acknowledged that Amy was triggered. In that same thread I sympathized with her and told her I knew *exactly* how shitty it feels to get called out.

          But I also made a point of saying that being triggered is not a get out of jail free card. And it’s not. She still needed to acknowledge the harm she had done *and* actually do something to fix it. And once that’s done? We can talk all day about feeling triggered and hurt and making up.

          But when you get on someone’s foot, no matter how triggered you are, you need to get off their foot.

          • February 15, 2014 at 2:10 pm

            What if you didn’t step on their foot so much as brushed up against them while walking by on the street, and you said “sorry” and then they told you it was the worst thing that had ever happened and that they were going to boycott your business?

          • February 15, 2014 at 2:15 pm

            But you didn’t get off my foot did you? I have said repeatedly on my other thread and on twitter that I acknowledge that some people were upset by words (that I did not write) and even apologized for not recognizing words that were offensive to some and that I would try harder to do better in the future. But you ignored that, saying it was not good enough and kept commenting all night and all morning while contradicting yourself repeatedly by calling me “lame” and using classist terms like “poorly” thought out.

    • February 15, 2014 at 3:33 pm

      That remark was not really about the OP and more about the dismissive attitude some are having.

  17. February 15, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    See, it’s the assymetry that gets me. I have an obligation to be cognizant of low-level microaggressions, as all decent people do. But you, Grimalkin, don’t seem to believe you have an obligation to treat my POV with the same care and engagement. Can you understand how angry that makes a person? To know there’s no reciprocity?

    • February 15, 2014 at 2:20 pm

      Right. And I even had someone tell me they were going to throw my art away because of this. Like I don’t constantly get harassed with people photoshopping my art and making fun of it as it is. Great way to express your opinion that someone else should show more compassion.

  18. February 15, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    Would it be out of turn to suggest mutual disengagement on this issue for everyone for, say, the weekend? Y’know, just to let things cool down so everyone can address the issue with less acrimony in a few days?

    I dunno. Sometimes I find myself needing to disengage from something for awhile to let my head cool down, and I thought maybe that would be good here. Maybe.

    • February 15, 2014 at 2:36 pm

      I’ll second this suggestion. Because I do think that everyone actually needs to think critically about what they’re saying. And that includes me, because I’ve already fucked up word choice in the other thread. Which is from being, yknow.. triggered as shit by this nonsense (I do actually like you guys, jesus fuck, I’m only arguing because *I want you all to be better*)

      So yeah. I’m disengaging.

  19. February 15, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    I’m not on twitter so I didn’t see the apology. I saw the post here. What I’ve seen here is minimizing, dodging responsibility, and attacking the person who made a valid point. No one has called for a word to be banned. People have said that a word is hurtful and that a social justice forum might want to watch it. Cooler heads might want to go back and see who escalated, who apologised, and keep in mind that being angry is an appropriate response when receicing splash damage.

    • February 15, 2014 at 2:50 pm

      Disengaging too.

  20. February 15, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    I just wanted to add something semi-related to the original article:

    Do be careful with the word “dumb”, which while often treated as synonymous with “stupid” is in fact a descriptor of physical disability (unable to speak, often related to deafness).

    • February 15, 2014 at 4:17 pm

      Agreed. I have tried to stop using it so much because of that.

  21. February 15, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    So, I created an account because this post… I don’t know, I felt like I had to. The virulence in the comments, I suppose, was expected, but I still hope that the people here can reach a real understanding.

    I am aware that words like “stupid,” “crazy,” etc. Are microaggressions, not slurs. But, in my opinion, those are still worth giving some more sensitivity to than I’m seeing in this post, and especially than I’m seeing in the comments. Frankly, all of this came off as very dismissive. I know you were trying to sound sympathetic, Rebecca, and I really appreciate that. Perhaps too many people have tainted “I have no idea how you go about your life,” etc, etc, but I think it also seems a bit… hyperbolic? And the title itself, even, comes off as rather dismissive. And I think that comes from a fundamental misunderstanding.

    When people use these kinds of words, no, most intellectually disabled people aren’t triggered. But what does happen, is that they will be that much more reticent to trust you. They will feel, at least slightly, less welcome in this community. And that is what’s happening here. Look at the way the only (to my knowledge) other mentally disabled person, Grimalkin, is being treated. They’re (please feel free to correct me on pronouns, I just default to neutral) trying to tell you why it’s so hurtful, and yes, they’re pretty annoyed about it. And from where I’m standing, they’re being talked over, they’re being accused of things they didn’t do, and in general not really having their real viewpoint heard. I’m seeing a lot of strawmanning.

    Essentially–and I don’t know how well people have gotten into this before, so my apologies if I come off as a broken record–these are my issues. First off, to me, it doesn’t seem that hard to not use the word, so I really don’t see why it’s become a big thing for insisting on using it. When there are words like “ridiculous,” “ironic,” “silly,” etc… I don’t see the need to use it or why it’s worth so much to defend using it. Second off, and I’ve noticed this in a lot of social justice/feminist spaces… they’re generally not very welcoming towards disabled people, especially the mentally disabled. I’m not accusing you guys specifically of this, and I realize feminism isn’t some monolithic… thing that you own or something, but hear me out. As someone who has tried time and time and time again to participate in feminism, and still does, I see it all the time. The direct insults to people’s intelligence. The pervasive, but always unspoken attitude that it’s totally okay to be mean to someone for “not getting it.” I’ve felt really, honestly scared to speak up about concerns I had for fear of people calling me an idiot and telling me I should have already known it, it was obvious, blah blah blah blah. That’s something that I’ve had to deal with my whole life. And the only way to fix that, as far as I can tell, is being proactive about it. No, we don’t need to make room for privileged people in feminism, but we DO need to make comfortable room for those who are less privileged. We DO need to be more thoughtful about the words we use, to ensure that people oppressed by sexism who want to join our ranks aren’t made to feel uncomfortable with another axis of their oppression in the process. The problem that I often see with a lot of feminists is taking the “it doesn’t have to be palatable” a little further than it needs to, and it ends up alienating people that have just as much a right to speak on gendered oppression as you do.

    When you weigh the idea of more allies, and just in general more people feeling welcome in feminism, who are lacking in a privilege that you do in fact have, with using one silly word… like, I don’t see why the former isn’t the obvious choice. Why is one word worth so much?

  22. February 15, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    Missed the comments about disengaging, sorry. I’ll show myself out as well.

  23. February 15, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    Alright, let me just say that there is one flaw in your argument: the term retarded has uses outside of being a slur. In fact, when it was first introduced, mentally retarded was the politically correct term of choice. Furthermore, the term itself means to slow, and their are plenty of examples that I can recall seeing in physics texts and technical manuals where the term is used to refer to objects (for example: braking will cause the cars motion to be retarded, and so on).

    It is true that labels like stupid, foolish, and idiot has entered into common usage and are frequently used in non-slur contexts (that is to refer to objects). But their ableist connotations are hard to ignore or dismiss. Personally, I have come to limit or restrict my use of them primarily because of said connotations, even in contexts such as “that is a stupid argument” and instead use “illogical”, “irrational”, or “ignorant” when applicable.

    • February 15, 2014 at 4:40 pm

      “Alright, let me just say that there is one flaw in your argument: the term retarded has uses outside of being a slur. In fact, when it was first introduced, mentally retarded was the politically correct term of choice.”

      Use of the phrase “mentally retarded” is heavily discouraged in the health industry now, and has been for decades, so I’m not sure why you would think this is a flaw in Rebecca Watson’s argument. Hell, it’s frequent use as a slur is why it dropped out of professional use.

      • February 15, 2014 at 8:59 pm

        Yes, I am aware that it is considered a slur now. But if your argument is “having uses outside of being used as a slur when it’s applied to objects makes a word acceptable in general” then retarded is perfectly acceptable. It is used in physics and other technical fields to mean slowing down. That’s where it originated.

        If one can say “that’s a stupid movie” because we’re applying a term that can be used in a non-slur fashion to a not human object, then one can certainly say “that’s a retarded movie” as well.

        • February 15, 2014 at 10:04 pm

          What? No. If you’re saying “that’s a retarded movie” to say the movie was intellectually bankrupt, you’re using it as a slur. The sentence doesn’t even make sense using the word with it’s technical definition. You’re trying too hard to find a loophole for using slurs, and it’s obvious.

  24. February 15, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    Don’t worry Jeremy. Inside a year “ignorant” and “irrational” will be designated slurs, too.

  25. February 15, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    I still don’t understand why a person who says they are being triggered is here being treated as if they are a simple pedant.

    I simply do not understand.

    • February 15, 2014 at 3:39 pm

      Because said persons REFUSE (as you’re refusing right now) to acknowledge that their personal preferences do not impose an obligation on broad, wide discourse. Rebecca stated very clearly that she’d respect such wishes articulated to her by someone. Why won’t you acknowledge that? Do you really not see that many of the complainants simply will not accept anything short of “I say so therefore I’m empirically right regardless of the context.”

      I’m serious. Do you not see this?

      • February 15, 2014 at 4:17 pm

        Do you not see that this is turned into a argument about how this isn’t as bad as that and how dare she.

        Very much semantics that would be in a much different light if aimed at another group. If you want to say it is not “as bad” as racism, sexism, or homophobia fine, there is a lot of baggage that gives extra gravitas to those issues. Perhaps we can find some group that is more “equal” to those with mental deficiencies. Would fat-shaming language be allowed? How about cultural appropriation? Denigrating people with phobias, eating disorders, depression or other mental illnesses? Where do we draw the line between groups that are OK to marginalize?

        You have gotten very upset with the “idea” that people are conflating the word stupid with other words, I don’t Twitter so maybe I missed it, but I don’t see where that was said. I am not refusing to acknowledge that Rebecca and any of her readers are allowed to decide for themselves what level of harm is sufficient to change their word usage, what I don’t think is OK is some of the dismissal I have seen of a human being that has been triggered. If someone was being triggered by fat-shaming language I don’t think anyone here would as up at arms about it. That was my point, in it’s entirety. Please don’t try to paint is as anything else.

    • February 15, 2014 at 3:49 pm

      @ mrmisconception: Thank you for seeing my side of it.

      • February 15, 2014 at 4:19 pm

        Amy – I am very sorry that you were triggered by this, I would never try to suggest that you weren’t or that it wasn’t important. I would hope that the others here would do the same.

  26. February 15, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    It’s amazing. This is a conversation with a script that you *cannot* make anyone deviate from. No matter how many times you say that you fundamentally disagree with the idea that a certain word is, broadly and used widely, always a slur that must be avoided, you are *still* accused of being mean and disrespectful to a *person*. Even if you explicitly, clearly state that you’d refrain from using that word in their presence because you don’t want to hurt them.

    This makes me so angry. It’s not hard to see. It’s not unreasonable. And it’s NOT OK to try to hold people hostage emotionally by disingenuously characterzing your own, personal feelings as the thing under discussion. That’s dishonest.

  27. February 15, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    I use ‘obtuse’ a lot. It’s like stupid, but deliberate. For instance, “The Washington Redskins mascot’s the only thing keeping Indians from vanishing? Now you’re just being obtuse.”

    As an aside, the Lakota word for ‘stupid’ (often used to describe a dog or a horse) literally means ‘does not learn’.

    • February 15, 2014 at 6:59 pm

      One of the definitions of “obtuse” is “slow to learn.” I don’t see how using a synonym for “stupid” is any better? Every single word we use to insult someone is problematic in some way.

  28. February 15, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    Rebecca, you know that I have a lot of respect for you and that I often agree with what you say, but this is one instance in which I have to disagree. It’s not really about triggering, although yes there are people who might be, it is about continuing an attitude that suggests that people who are mentally handicapped or seen as being unintelligent are of less value.
    It is just one example of many of our culture’s inherent ableism. In the same way that a lot of insults against man are meant to imply comparison to women as though femininity is lesser, many of our culture’s insults suggest that a comparison to people with disabilities, whether mental or physical is also an insult: Lame, Dumb, Blind, and yes Stupid, Moronic, and Idiot. While they have entered our common lexicon in such a way that many people forget their association with disabilities, for those of us who struggle against ableism, it is an association not easily forgotten.

    Children and adults with autism, down syndrome, or any variety of mental differences and disabilities are the most common targets for such insults. It is the unfair comparison between low intelligence and willful ignorance. One should not be mocked, while the other should be called out frequently. The problem with someone like say Sarah Palin, is not that she was born with a low IQ but rather that she keeps herself willfully uninformed and refuses to listen to reason and science.

    It should be noted that the more effective technique is to target ideas rather than people.

    I have often supported you as a fighter for social justice, and this is one instance it which it might be useful for you to examine your own privilege in this matter. I say this as someone who still catches herself using these terms even as I work towards being more aware of the people who are most hurt by them.

    • February 15, 2014 at 5:54 pm

      I think that this is where the heart of any rational disagreement on this point lies: is it okay to insult someone for being ignorant? I think that it is, provided that that ignorance is willful. Those who want to blacklist words that describe ignorance do not think that it is okay. I’ve yet to hear an argument for why my standpoint is wrong, let alone ableist.

      • February 15, 2014 at 5:55 pm

        (And I think it should be obvious at this point that I never, never mock someone for being ignorant when they cannot know any better.)

      • February 15, 2014 at 6:01 pm

        That is not where the point of disagreement lies. Feel free to mock the willfully ignorant. Be aware of the words you use and the splash damage you are causing when you use certain words instead of others. That is the entirety of the point and a lot of time and energy would have been saved if people had addressed this point instead of all the made-up ones.

        • February 15, 2014 at 6:04 pm

          I did address that, by pointing out that “stupid” is a word with an accepted definition that can be used in numerous circumstances. It is not a slur.

          • February 15, 2014 at 6:15 pm

            Also something can be ableist without being a slur. It is not that stupid is a slur it is that the idea that insulting someone for their cognitive ability is ableist.

          • February 15, 2014 at 6:16 pm

            Calling someone a pussy is not a slur, would you wish people to do it?

          • February 15, 2014 at 6:28 pm

            A pussy is literally something that I own, that is a part of my body, that is between my legs. And yet, I still wouldn’t say it was the most bigoted thing I’d ever heard when I hear someone use it as an insult. At the most I point out that pussies tend to be rather tough and so it isn’t really appropriate as a synonym for “weak person.”

            Try again.

          • February 15, 2014 at 6:38 pm

            That’s exactly the point though. A lack of cognitive ability, or rather a socially perceived lack of intelligence, is what a lot of people could be considered to have. Something they struggle with. To have their struggle then used as an insult against someone else can just confirm in their minds that they are inherently without value.

            I have ADHD but always got good grades because I had a really good memory and retained a lot of information at the drop of a hat. Despite that there were many times in which my ADHD impacted my ability to accurately portray my knowledge or intelligence on tests. This resulted in people calling me stupid. Why? Because I had a mental disability that made it difficult for me to score well on tests. I was lucky because despite my ADHD, science, reading, etc, are things I found enjoyable and so easier to focus on. For a lot of people with ADHD, this might not be the case. They might be extremely intelligent but unable to focus or to express themselves. I know people with autism who spent a large part of their lives being non-verbal. The most common question their parents had is “Are they stupid” or “Are they a little stupid”. If you grow up being called stupid because of your disability, is it really hard to imagine that that word applied to different people might contribute to them feeling less valued by society? And if that is the result, then doesn’t that make the word ableist?

      • February 15, 2014 at 6:09 pm

        That’s the thing, stupid doesn’t imply ignorant it implies cognitively disabled. You might mean it to mean specifically people who willfully don’t educate themselves, but your intention is not what matters. When you use a world like stupid, to anyone who doesn’t know you specifically or your intentions, it reads as though you see nothing wrong with mocking people of lower intelligence and/or with cognitive disabilities. The same way that someone who calls someone a whore or a bitch, might not intend to insult all women or sex workers, but perpetuates the cultural attitude that there is something wrong with being a woman or a sex worker. It’s not about your intention it is about your result.

        If you want to insult someone for being ignorant, call them that. Ignorant. Call them poorly informed, or any other variety of words that makes it clear that your derision is for their willful lack of reason and understanding. Do I think you are ableist, I don’t. But I do know that our culture is, and so we have to try be more aware of how our language marginalizes people who fall into the category of disabled.

        Where your standpoint is wrong is that it ignores the lived experience of people who are autistic, have down syndrome, or have been direct victims of a society that sees nothing wrong with denigrating and devaluing people with any kind of disability.

        • February 15, 2014 at 6:31 pm

          That’s the thing, stupid doesn’t imply ignorant it implies cognitively disabled

          To a few people here, apparently, but that doesn’t appear to be the definition used by a vast majority of the population. I don’t think my PS3 controller is cognitively disabled.

          Every synonym you and others are suggesting, like poorly informed, ignorant, etc, all come with the exact same problem as “stupid.” All of them refer to someone who lacks knowledge or intelligence or who acts foolishly. Every one. If one of those words is off-limits to you, at least have the courage to strike them all.

          Also, I don’t appreciate a few people speaking for “the lived experience of people who are autistic, have down syndrome” or other disabilities.

          • February 15, 2014 at 8:59 pm

            And if I was friends with any of those people and I used one of those words in their presence and they took me aside and told me about their pain, I would absolutely avoid saying those words in their presence.

            A lot of people who read your work are here saying that the words ‘stupid’ and ‘idiot’ and the phrase ‘I’m impressed you remember to breathe’ are hurtful to them. Please stop using these words in their presence. There are ways to describe willful ignorance without causing splash damage to people with cognitive and developmental disabilities. Please use those instead.

          • February 15, 2014 at 9:15 pm

            “To a few people here, apparently, but that doesn’t appear to be the definition used by a vast majority of the population”

            When talking about marginalised people we go by majority rules now? Do you maybe see a problem with that?

            ” I don’t think my PS3 controller is cognitively disabled. ”

            Do you think your PS3 controller is a person? because this is a conversation about people. This is also the exact same structure of argument used to justify homophobic language (“I don’t really believe call of Duty is gay, so I’m not homophobic.”)

            “Every synonym you and others are suggesting, like poorly informed, ignorant, etc, all come with the exact same problem as “stupid.” All of them refer to someone who lacks knowledge or intelligence or who acts foolishly”

            Instead of deciding for yourself where to draw the line, why not ask people who are a part of this group what words they would prefer. Oh, you don’t need to ask because a bunch of them have told you in this thread. You are choosing to be dismissive instead.

            ” If one of those words is off-limits to you, at least have the courage to strike them all.”

            UM. Okay. Yeah. This is a very interesting statement all on its own. “All words are offensive to somebody, so I guess we should stop using language!” I’m curious…you’re willing to accommodate people on language to a point. Just which groups exactly are outside of what happens to be convenient to you?

            “Also, I don’t appreciate a few people speaking for “the lived experience of people who are autistic, have down syndrome” or other disabilities.”

            You know that people who actually HAVE this lived experience are in these comments, telling you exactly what’s wrong, with their own words, and you are dismissing each and every one of them. When you find yourself wondering how to reach more people with disabilities, remember this thread because this is part of the reason why.

  29. February 15, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    I think my discomfort with this post can be summarized as this:
    If you don’t belong to the marginalized group that is pointing out that a certain term makes them uncomfortable or is a contributor to their marginalization, is it fair for you as an outsider to say “It’s ok because it doesn’t make me uncomfortable” ?

    • February 15, 2014 at 5:51 pm

      If that had been what I said in the slightest, you would have a point.

      • February 15, 2014 at 6:11 pm

        It is not what you said, but it is how it read.

        • February 15, 2014 at 11:19 pm

          And someone could read what you wrote as advocating slavery, genocide, or Macklemore. But I expect you wouldn’t waste much time defending yourself against that, would you?

  30. February 15, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    If we aren’t going to listen to people with mental disabilities about which things are harmful to them, whom will we listen to about it? Maybe they should call their neurotypical friends in to comment instead?

    This is just disappointing because I have seen Skepchick be better than this. I saw a trans woman tell Watson to take the -ed off of “transgendered” and I was so impressed because all Watson needed was to know that someone whose life is touched by such terms (and who is therefore more likely to be an expert on them) needed her to adjust which words she used. That was perfect. Watson immediately stopped what she was doing in the midst of a busy conference to edit the post immediately and I was so delighted.

    So what is THIS? What is this “well I guess it must suck to be you then” response?

    I can only be disappointed in people who have given me every reason to expect better. Come on now. This is beneath you and you know it.

  31. February 15, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    Rebecca, the problem here isn’t that you’re insulting people for being ignorant. Go to town on that. We will join you. The problem here, part one, is that you (among others) are insulting people who are ignorant by using a word that is most often used either as a weapon against people with learning or developmental disabilities or as an assertion that the (abled) ignorant person in fact has such a disability, or must have such a disability, supporting evidence being their ignorance. The problem here, part two, is that you (among others) are consistently declining to see that insisting that ignorance and learning/developmental disabilities are synonymous miiiight just possibly be a problem from the point of view of someone who has such a disability or the point of view of someone abled who thinks intersectionality with respect to people with disabilities is actually a thing.

    • February 15, 2014 at 6:40 pm

      FWIW I have never heard someone use the word stupid to imply cognitively disabled. I have heard it used to mean irrational or illogical, to mean without a reason, to mean thoughtless or ignorant, but never to mean developmentally disabled. So the big difference here seems to be the actual definitions of the word in the minds of people. Not the intention or how you perceive the word, but how you’ve heard it used around you and how you’ve seen it culturally perceived.

      • February 15, 2014 at 7:19 pm

        .I posit that you are neither cognitively nor developmentally disabled in a visible way.

        Cuz we hear it. Allll the fucking time.

        And when we point it out, even to people who claim to give a shit about intersectionality, we get Dear Muslima’d and told people don’t think inanimate objects are disabled (protip: I doubt they think their inanimate objects have sexual orientations, either, but it doesn’t stop the ignorant from using denigrating terms associated with sexual orientation… nor does the fact that they’re discussing an inanimate object auto-magically make it unharmful).

        Seriously, you all are gaslighting the fuck out of people you are actually affected by this shit. It’s the same as someone arguing it’s okay to call you hysterical for complaining about sexism. Not. Cool. Try actually listening to the people who are affected by this stuff who aren’t telling you what you want to hear.

        And to fellow DD/CD folks who aren’t bugged by ableist language: Bully for you. Doesn’t mean it isn’t oppressive. That women who don’t mind dudes using hysterical exist doesn’t mean that’s not sexist.

    • February 15, 2014 at 6:57 pm

      Calling someone “ignorant” can also be construed as a classist insult against people who lack education, through no fault of their own. Every single word used to insult someone is “problematic” in some way.

      • February 15, 2014 at 7:10 pm

        Let me clarify, then: “willfully ignorant”.

        • February 15, 2014 at 8:37 pm

          Holy shit. Someone changed their word usage in response to criticism? My jaw, it is dropping.

      • February 15, 2014 at 11:05 pm

        Every single word is problematic in some way. Hell, ENTIRE LANGUAGES are problematic.

        To some, English is the language of colonialists and slave masters. For centuries, people across the globe have been forced to abandon their native culture in favor of an English speaking cultural hegemony. We’re communicating right now in a language of privilege and oppression.

        (I’m setting aside, of course, the fact that reading and writing are THEMSELVES a sign of privilege.)

  32. February 15, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    I’m just wondering how many people think “triggered” is the same thing as “deeply offended.”

    From RW’s description, she knows EXACTLY what triggered means. It’s not a word to be tossed around casually. It’s when something reaches past all the coping mechanisms and defenses you’ve put up to protect yourself from something, and makes you helpless all over again.

    This is just my understanding of it, but if someone says they were triggered while they were driving, and the very next thing in the story isn’t either “I stopped the car and had a total meltdown” or a horrible accident, they either have an iron self-control and are Not To Be Trifled With, their own personal retreat is into dissociative shock (perhaps not the right term), or they’re unclear on the concept.

    • February 15, 2014 at 7:45 pm

      I know of at least two people who are currently having what they term “breakdowns” over this.

      Me personally? Every time someone calls me stupid, or defends the use of stupid at me? I get flashbacks to being told that being called stupid means I’m retarded. I’ve stayed out of a lot of the discussion here because it makes me feel like thowing up and passing out at the same time.

      Butyeah. We just don’t know what triggered means. Uhuh. Sure. */sarcasm*

      • February 15, 2014 at 10:40 pm

        Nice magical thinking there, reading things into what I said that I never said.

        Also, while I tend to trust the stories of victims, my reaction to yours is lukewarm at best.

  33. February 15, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    For future reference, what is the threshold of people for you to take them seriously? Because a number of people have said you’re hurting them and I’d like to know the math.

  34. February 15, 2014 at 8:06 pm

    Rebecca, let me clarify for you the problem (this is of course my opinion, but there is more reason than that to agree with it).

    You’re defending a slur, an insult, and it’s use as a right as a defense against the outrage of people who recognize the word for what it is. It is an ad hominem. Even if it were not offensive, it adds no instructive quality, description enhancing attribute, or verbal advantage in using it in a discourse verses other words. Furthermore, it’s puerile to continue to use it on your blog without acknowledging the baggage tied to it, and to defend it in spite of the ableistic implications of the word is asinine. You can’t just “reclaim” it for use as you see fit. The word “Stupid” is connected to an entire class of systemic abuses against people who are neurologically different, up to and including medical experimentation and other abuses against mentally handicapped people. (And you did insinuate that people who are triggered by it should seek therapy, redirecting the blame for the offense). And to add even further, people who espouse ignorant, blinkered, or oppressive beliefs aren’t stupid and calling them such is inaccurate. Lest they be genuinely neurologically impaired (though religion, patriarchal falsehoods, other logically flawed ideas, et cetera, could be argued to be a neurological impairment), it is not the same.

    Unless that condition is met, they can be reasonably said to have the same mental capacity as you and the same ability to reason (as blinkered as it may be). If they were neurologically impaired, it’s still wrong and inappropriate to use that word. The ableism in your defense of the use of the word is palpable. There is a plethora of words you could use to describe attitudes you simplify with stupid, and to not do so is intellectually lazy on your behalf considering the nature of the word. If you want people to respect your opinion and credibility in the important work you do, you should respect the people who read your works and express general courtesies. That includes avoiding the use of language that is triggering (not including men whining about “Creeper” as an accurate descriptive of the creepy, predatory and/or sexual behavior men engage in, as I see that as a fitting a description as any). And let me make myself clear, “Creepy” and “Stupid” are in no way comparable, and that is where you have strayed from the reasonable into the unreasonable. However, you are a human, just like I’m a human. We can and often are subject to error, but it’s only a mistake when we refuse to acknowledge the problem. So long as you concede to defend the use of this term you’ll be wrong, morally, objectively and semantically.

    (In the same boat as those who defend other slurs, like “Bitch”, “Tranny”, “Slut”, and racial slurs). All your article has demonstrated is your own failure to acknowledge your privilege as an able-bodied person with regards to the use of the word, and to me highlights the intersectionality of oppression and privilege. Period. It doesn’t matter that it doesn’t hurt you personally (that’s the nature of privilege), and if you could unhitch that privilege you’d recognize the word for what it is, not reinforce your right to use that ableist slur. And if you seriously can’t find a better word to use, then you aren’t trying hard enough. And before you stand and defend that right again, think about the people who have been institutionalized, dehumanized, and abused for not being “LIKE THE REST OF US” to include everyone who’d find support in reading your blogs (anyone who is different). Stupid, is at it’s base, an othering word and you should, because of all you attest to, know that difference. Othering is the pathway to abuse, suffering and atrocities against those who are othered. There is no good way to “Other” another person. (Also, you should also be aware of a psychological affect that kicks in with humans that can impair us from seeing other peoples rational point of view because we disagree with them.) The fact that you’re so thoroughly desensitized to the use of stupid as a slur doesn’t mean you’re right to use it, (as well the same applies to misogynistic slurs).

    It seems due time you broadened your horizon of understanding, with regards to this subject. It’s human to error, and admirable to admit ones error and correct it and move in the right direction. We’ll all be wrong about something at some point in our lives, and it’s only problematic when we refuse to acknowledge those discrepancies. I’m pretty sure you can make your points, and do the work we all know needs to be done without using the word stupid to describe anyone.

    • February 15, 2014 at 10:56 pm

      “a slur” “an insult”

      In this context, these are not synonyms. No no. Don’t go rushing to the thesaurus. Just like “theory” and “guess” can have similar meanings in certain contexts, they also have very distinct meanings in a particular context. You know these words are the same. In some contexts, they have similar meanings. In THIS context, they have different meanings. You’re grown up enough to know that.

      For someone who is allegedly so concerned about Rebecca making a logical fallacy, you’re flagrantly equivocating in your very first sentence.

      “It seems due time you broadened your horizon of understanding, with regards to this subject.”
      I hope you don’t get a nosebleed sitting aaaaaall the way up there in that saddle.

  35. February 15, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    Really, any word can become a slur when it’s used to dehumanize others. “Skirt” isn’t a slur until it’s used to refer to a woman as “a skirt.”
    One of the “Valentines” that bothered my the most was the “remember to breathe” one. It made me think of the main character in a book, “The Fault in our Stars” who has cancer that’s metastasized to her lungs and she has to cart around oxygen just to get through the day. I’d like to imagine that you wouldn’t say that to her, so why would you say it to anyone?
    The author of that book has a kind of tag line — Imagine others complexly. I think that it’s necessary to fight for that when in an argument, since it’s so easy to paint the other side as completely wrong.

  36. February 15, 2014 at 11:02 pm

    You know what the real fucking problem here is?

    I’ve stopped caring about whether or not you guys believe “Stupid” is a slur. Well, not entirely. I’m still fucking pissed that Developmentally Disabled people are apparently being held to this impossible standard of having to prove their pain that no other group is held to.

    But there’s something *Way* worse going on here.

    It’s the way you’re fucking dealing with this.

    What’s your first instinct? To talk about how hurt you are to be called out. To say you’re triggered by people disagreeing with you and not kissing your ass the whole way.

    But if Amy gets to talk about how hurt and attacked she feels, then I damn well do too. Because if we’re dishing out “verbal attacks?”

    What y’all are participating in is textbook abuse and silencing tactics.

    You should fucking well recognize it. That’s why I tried to disengage. I was hoping that the other side would too, because you *Seriously* need to step away from the things you’re writing and look at them critically.

    You (and this is a general you. To everyone who has been arguing) are attacking low-hanging fruit. I use the word “lame” and y’know… apologize for it up front while admitting it was wrong of me? Well shit, just go on arguing that my one slip up means I’m entirely non-credible and you don’t have to discuss the actual point of what I am saying. Make it impossible for me to actually say anything and have it replied to because you’ve found a quick gotcha. You put up straw people and burn those down while claiming victory even though the things I’ve actually said are entirely contrary to the straw people’s arguments. You make it entirely impossible for me to actually get a word in edgewise because everyone is arguing against this me that doesn’t exist.

    But no, that aside, I *Really* want to talk about the abuse tactics. I want to talk about the gaslighting of “You must just be making up the harm* and *you’re seeing things that aren’t there*. I want to talk about how “Oh, you hurt me so much by not letting me abuse you” is A MAJOR FUCKING ABUSE TACTIC. “Oh, you can’t talk about how much it hurts when I hit you, that really hurts my feelings, and then you’re the bad guy.” “You being hurt and not accepting my notpology is like harassment” Where have I heard that shit before? OH RIGHT. ABUSERS.

    But I’m not just letting y’all know that you’re engaging in that shit as a place to argue from. No. I’m mentioning it because if Amy gets to talk about her Abled Woman’s Tears?

    I want to talk about the goddamned breakdown you triggered in me. Was it just you? No. But you pulled this shit when I was already in a low point. And then I got to watch people that I respected, people that I was starting to work with on really cool things, do the exact type of shit that I’d seen abusers do. I tried to stick up for a friend who was tired from the eleven-billionth time Feminism had said “I’m not for you.” I tried to be as nice as goddamned possible, but I wasn’t going to let this go on on the sidelines without any kind of mention here because if I did that I would be a part of a whole bunch of what amounted to silence over an issue that was adding to the marginalization of people I cared about. And I guess that’s what makes me so similar to a harasser, or something. And what I got in response for letting *social justice activists* know that they had done something wrong?

    I got silencing tactics and dirty arguing tactics and gaslighting and I got told I had to get off of the foot of the person who was dancing around on mine, who was telling me I was so terrible for not accepting their apology that they gave while still staying steadfast on our feet. I got everyone coddling someone who was acting IDENTICAL to the way abusers silence their victims and make them into the bad guys, and what else? I got a goddamned breakdown.

    Because all of these shitty arguing tactics are so similar to highschool in-group bullying, so similar to how abusers function, so similar to.. fuck, you wanna bring up 4chan? THIS IS HOW THEY SILENCE THE PEOPLE THEY ATTACK. It’s all so similar to that shit that, paired with watching decent people turn fucking vile, paired with watching allies stab a group in the back, I spent a little over half an hour breaking down completely in my car after class because I couldn’t drive home. Because this turn of events disturbed me so fucking much that, when I did try to drive home, it was fucking terrifying. Because I was so dissociated by this garish shit that I was having trouble focusing on anything but flashes of anger and pain and betrayal.

    So if I haven’t chosen all of my words throughout this debacle carefully enough? If I haven’t made my argument nice and soft enough? That’s fucking well why.

    So you’ve got two options now. You can just fucking stop, just fucking look in the goddamned mirror at what you’re doing without trying to prove something, and just disengage and think like we’ve already tried to get you to do. Or, you can continue on with the acting-just-like-abusers script, and let me know how it’s my problem that you triggered that kind of response in me. Say something like how it isn’t your fault that I’m so “thin skinned” or whatever. Say something like “Well you just shouldn’t get into activism/go on the internet/whatthefuckever if you get triggered SO EASY” (protip: It didn’t need to be easy for the shit you guys are playing to be triggering). I’ve heard it all before. Tell me how I shouldn’t expect to not be triggered by fantastically abusive patterns playing out on this website, because… I should just expect them or something? Or gaslight me some more, that’ll work. Keep telling me it’s all in my head and that you’re all being sweet little darlings.

    Or. Y’know. There’s still option one.

    • February 15, 2014 at 11:13 pm

      “I use the word “lame” and y’know… apologize for it up front while admitting it was wrong of me?”

      There’s a button called a “backspace” key located somewhere on the upper-right hand corner of your keyboard that allows you to make words you actually regret typing magically disappear before you post them. I’m pretty sure you know that button is there, which is why I won’t be taking anything you write even a little bit seriously.

      • February 15, 2014 at 11:20 pm

        Right, I’ll jump in the goddamned TARDIS and get right on that. Because I didn’t notice the word until after I’d posted it.

      • February 15, 2014 at 11:23 pm

        You stopped reading at the sentence you quoted, didn’t you.

        How about we leave alone the ableist language that Grim has apologized for using in the same forum as the initial offense, and return to the subject of the ableist language that Amy (and whoever wrote the words on Amy’s art) used and that Amy, Rebecca, et al are defending USING ABUSIVE TACTICS.

    • February 15, 2014 at 11:27 pm

      Oooookay I guess that’s a good place to end this absolute clusterfuck of a thread, that I had foolishly hoped would just be a calm discussion between differing parties but has resulted in me and my site being labeled as abusers. Brilliant job everyone.

  37. February 15, 2014 at 11:22 pm

    When I first read the post I agreed with Rebecca. “Who would get so upset over the word stupid?” I asked/told myself (as a white male with no apparent physical or mental disabilites). Reading the comments has put me in a position where I had to think about it and I have had a change in heart.

    I tried to think about the last time I heard stupid used (in real life, outside the internet) and I am pretty sure it was something along the lines of “that test was so stupid”, which seems relativly harmless and Repecca uses a similar line of evidence (a stupid controller) to support that the word “stupid” is not so terrible. Okay, but I don’t think it would be a good reason to say “stupid” is okay because it is largely reserved for events, objects, and other things that are not people. Maybe this analogy is not perfect but it seems “gay” has a similar problem, it is rare to see someone called gay as an insult, but quite common for other things to be called gay like “that test was so gay” or whatever. It still seems reasonable that the use of gay negativly like that would upset some people.

    Then I tried to think of the last time someone was called stupid in real life. I could not think of any event like that (I am sure I have witnessed people being called stupid though). I am taking that as evidence that people do not frequently call other people stupid. But why do people not call people stupid? It is probably because we know (when we are not dehumanizing them via distance throught the internet) it is an incredibly mean and hurtful thing to say to someone.

    Then I thought some more. I used to tutor a lot and I am fairly sure I have had thoughts along the lines of “are you stupid or something?”(makes me think of Forest Gump), what if I did say that, and what if that was not the first time they have heard that. I suspect they would be upset, maybe cry or very angry etc (I am not really sure what “trigger” is supposed to be, I am guessing something akin, or what I imagine a PTSD episode would be like. Maybe it would be reasonable for such a thing to happen, even if I have such a hard time even imagining someone would have a reaction like that to “stupid”). Okay, now this person has been called stupid so many times by teachers, adults, peers, etc and now when stupid is used, especially in a deragatory manner like in the referenced post, they get upset even when it is not directed at them. I don’t find it to hard to believe that many people would be very angry/upset with this site, especially when they expect better.

    So far I have basically only talked about my imagination and what I imagine other people could feel, but there are at least a couple people who have been posting comments about them personally being hurt/upset/triggered/etc, and people have also been posting alternatives (although I don’t exactly see how these alternatives apply to the referenced post, as it seemed the whole purpose was to be as mean as possible to the DDoS people). For the most part those words do not seem equivalent to stupid (even if that is what some seem to be argueing).

    I guess if Rebecca (or the site) censors what words they use on whether or not they could reasonably cause someone to have some sort of “trigger” episode (I am still assuming this is some PTSD like episode) then maybe it can still be argued that the site finds the use of stupid acceptable, but I don’t really think that is what is being argued (and really in a perfect world it is unreasonable for any word to that that sort of power, but shitty things happen and shitty words get that ability). I guess I have decided that stupid is deragatory enough that it warrants being more careful with how its used, which means it probably should not be used.

    I feel like I have forgoten something…
    (hopefully I got my point/opinion accross, for some reason when I type my it becomes rambly and will not make sense even though it made sense when I was writing it)