Offensive Or Oversensitive

?? - posted on 02/12/2010 ( 19 moms have responded )

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Do you think the use of the word "retard" is offensive? Do you think that people are oversensitive to the use of words that generally have a negative implication? Is retard a word that you use in your regular vocabulary? Do you avoid using around people who you may think MIGHT take offense to it?



Who takes offense to the word "retard" and why? Do you think, on the flip side of the coin, it makes a difference if people say someone is 'handicap' or 'handicapable' ?





I was listening to a comedy skit and a lady comedian said she was going on the tonight show, and they told her that they would have to censor her, that she would not be allowed to use the word "retard" because people find it offensive. She asked "To who?" they replied with "mentally challenged" viewers. She went on to say that mentally challenged people she knows, don't care if people call them 'retarded' because they are taught that people are going to pick on them and say mean things, so they just shrug it off. That doctors call them 'mentally retarded' and say that they have a 'retardation' so they 'know' that the word is in reference to their handicap. So it's the people who are purposefully attacking people who are handicapped that should be taught to watch what they say -- but those people are everywhere and will say that about anyone.



She said that when people use the word "retarded" to describe a person, they aren't insulting mentally challenged people - they are insulting people who ARE NOT mentally challenged people. Saying that someone's brain is not 'right' that there is something messing up the brain function -- which is generally called a retardation. And that saying "retarded" is no different than saying any other word that implies that a person is not 'right' in the head.





What do you think? Is "retard" an offensive word that is insensitive to use in ANY situation or are people being oversensitive about a word that is no different than any other word with any other meaning?

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Patricia - posted on 03/15/2010

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I don't think it's a word that some people take too lightly. I myself have worked with handicapped children and I think it's offensive. Because I feel that no matter what your handicap is, or how slow you are nobody should be labeled "RETARD" It's just not a very nice word.

Krista - posted on 02/13/2010

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I sometimes get around it by calling someone "petarded" instead.

And did you know that "moronic" was once considered just as offensive as "retarded", because it did have a genuine association with the mentally disabled.

From Wiki (I know, Wiki sucks, but I'm lazy):

It was once applied to people with an IQ of 51-70, being superior in one degree to "imbecile" (IQ of 26-50) and superior in two degrees to "idiot" (IQ of 0-25).


So I imagine that 50 years from now, the word "retarded" will probably be no more offensive than "idiot" -- but right now we're in that weird transition phase, and things are a little awkward

Lindsay - posted on 02/12/2010

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I think words are just that, words. They hold as much or as little meaning as you personally interpret it to be as well as the context it is used. There will always be people that take offense and there will also be people that accept it for it's true meaning. I, personally, don't have a problem with the word itself but it could change depending on the context it's used in.....

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LaCi - posted on 03/27/2010

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I usually just say tard. Or the angry version- fucktard. I don't think people should be offended by, but it is a context thing. I would never say anything mean to someone who had a real problem. So I don't think anyone should be offended when I call my boyfriend a tard or when he calls me one. Then again, I'm not easily offended, and I don't really understand people who are.

[deleted account]

I'm also on the fence with the word as well, and this is coming from a former SpEd teacher! I agree with the others that the context of the situation is the key. For example, during a recent assignment I had one of my 8th graders challenge me over a grade. I gave him an 88% when he felt he deserved a 100% and he said my grading system was retarded. Meaning...my grading system was stupid. So #1-I immediately put a stop to the usage of the word in the classroom. I don't want to hear it! This is the same student that actually does put in his service hours (for National Junior Honor Society) with working with a mentally retarded kid, more specifically, the brother of his close friend. This is an 8th grade student that 100% knows the difference between the word "retard" meaning stupid versus the learning capacity of someone. And, he'll be the first to jump on someone in defense of refering to his friend's brother in a negative connotation.

In regard to the actual language being used in reference to someone's mental capacity, this is what my undergrad transcripts read:



From the Spring '94 semester

SPED 301 Education of the Trainable MR

SPED 302 Education of the Educable MR I



Fall '94

SPED 303 Education of the Educable MR II



I sure hope the university has since changed the wording of these courses!

Jess - posted on 03/14/2010

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I think its all in the context that you use the word. I work in insurance and I deal with some very stupid people on a daily basis. I am guilty of hanging up the phone and saying, "What a retard".



I never refer to a medical patient as a retard. My best friend at school had a brother with downs syndrome and people were awful to him. So from a very young age I have been mindfull of this.



I think its all about how you use the word.

[deleted account]

I think that, generally, words are what you make them. It's a context thing. But some people are especially sensitive to some words depending on their situation - for example, I have friends whose son has schizoaffective disorder, and they get pretty upset when he's called a freak and a weirdo, and I don't blame them! But those words are common words. It's just that in this situation they are insulting.



As for myself, I don't like being referred to as "an epileptic" because it emphasises my epilepsy and not me. "A person with epilepsy" is what I prefer. Besides "epileptic"is an adjective, not a noun, so it's bad grammar! But it's not a big deal as it's not insulting, just an emphasis I don't like, and not worth making a fuss over.



So it's contextual, and it has a lot to do with the person who hears the word. But a little bit of sensitivity would be good thing.

Michelle - posted on 02/15/2010

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Dana, that's a problem with life in general, not just this type of stuff...... I wish people could maintain a better sense of humor about life in general.... It's not SUPPOSED to be a pain in the ass lol, it's supposed to be fun!!!

Dana - posted on 02/14/2010

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I think it's both, can be offensive or people can be oversensitive. While working one night we were really busy, I tend to mix words together when my brain is running like a mad man, I accidentally said "redarded", mixing retarded and ridiculous. It was one of those ironic moments. Like when you're saying someone is stupid and you misspell a word in the sentence while doing so. Ever since then, I use redarded, it's just too fun and if people are offended by that, then they need to chill out and smile once in a while.

Michelle - posted on 02/13/2010

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And Sara, I agree-- a classroom is no place for that kind of language, just like most classrooms don't allow cussing either. Like I said, it's all about context and situational judgment.

Michelle - posted on 02/13/2010

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I don't think so, or at least I don't think it SHOULD be.

In this day of PC all the damn time, I'm so so so sick of watching every single damn thing I say, because someone is likely to be offended at just about everything you say. I think that the common use of words like retarded or rape or whatever is somewhat ignorant or just lazy, but so is a curse word. It's not PC, but you know what, I'm not a PC person. It's not like I would walk into the special needs room in a high school and call the students "retards." It's not like I think it's a bad thing to have an actual mental handicap. It's not like I'm a horrible person because when someone acts stupid or seems to not have any common sense I call them retarded (Kati, I watch that show too sometimes, and I think the same damn thing lol). The way I see it, the use should be monitored the same way we monitor cussing-- I don't cuss in front of people it would offend or in a situation where it would be rude. It's just insensitive to drop f bombs and call people bitches in front of your sweet old grandma and her prayer group (unless you happen to have a really cool grandma lol). It's insensitive to use the word retard when talking about your "retarded" neighbor who can't stop driving drunk or put her kid in bed before two am (yup, true story lol) in front of someone who may take offense.

It's kind of like comedy-- you just have to be aware of your audience, and accept the fact that at some point in your life you're most likely going to offend SOMEONE, and decide if you're ok with that.

I'm all about desensitizing words like this-- fag, dick, retard, bitch... They are what you make them. If someone calls you something and YOU freak the hell out, you are giving THEM control of the situation.

[deleted account]

I'm on the fence, and I agree that context is important with this word. When I was teaching I would not allow that word in my classroom. In addition, I often invited the special education teacher to come and involve her students in the activities we were doing in my classroom. I think it is important for kids to have interaction with others that are not just like them. Jo, I commend you for standing up for Mikey and Jenny! In today's world, I think people are more understanding and tolerant of those with mental handicaps. And I do use the word from time to time but never to degrade someone. I usually use it to refer to a situation.

Rosie - posted on 02/13/2010

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i literally had just typed that in one of my posts and then decided to delete that word after i thought about it, and figured someone would take offense. i was talking about a girl on the show "teen mom" or "16 and pregnant", and i was gonna say that one of the girls on the show acts like a stupid, idiotic retard, but then i changed it to brat.

i would never call someone with a mental disbility retarded, but when i am describing someone who i think acts innapropriately then i say retarded sometimes. i would think that most people feel the same way. it's really hard to be PC all the time, especially when i'm not trying to hurt someones feelings that actually is "retarded" or "mentally handicapped".

?? - posted on 02/13/2010

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Quoting Jodi:

Just remember, you guys call a butt a fanny.




I have never in my life used the word "fanny" when referring to a butt LMAO Ever hahaha



I use the word for it's dictionary meaning. It's just another word to me. It's no different than all those words that Jodi said -- stupid, idiotic, dumbass, spastic, skitzo, psycho, dimwit, numbskull, airhead, etc etc etc. I have never in my life called a mentally handicapped person a 'retard' as a way to insult them. I have said "Is that person mentally retarded?" But it was a genuine question and I wasn't trying to insult anyone, I was asking someone *I KNEW* would not be offended by those words but would know the answer so that I could be considerate while interacting WITH them. Sure I could have used "are they a mentally challenged individual?" but I didn't... so whatever, I wasn't being mean, I was asking a question.





In highschool I tore down many people for calling 2 kids that had DS "retards" and making fun of them. There were 1-2 people in the WHOLE SCHOOL (small town, but big enough, apparently, to need the 'im too cool for high school' attitude) who would work with Mikey & Jenny - 1 of them being me. They're still near to my heart and after highschool, they rarely deal with that crap.



Words like "retard" to me, have become associated with mentally challenged people so much so that people, on their own accord, automatically feel guilty about the word, they feel the need to defend people, jump to the cause, and make sure people aren't making fun of mentally challenged people -- they add their own context to the word "retard" associating it ONLY with mentally challenged people.



I don't associate it ONLY to people with handicaps. When someone says "retard" I don't automatically think of handicapped people or mentally challenged people -- I don't automatically think "they're insulting Jenny and Mikey!!!" I think of someone who's slow, not quick on the uptake, someone who's brain isn't functioning optimally ... even though medically they are not 'retarded'.



So to me, the word isn't about individuals who have a valid, and real, medical retardation -- unless someone is actually going up to someone with a handicap and makes fun of them.



Retard is just another word like any other word that can mean whatever it's meaning is, depending on whatever context it's being said in. Context and circumstance is key for me with this word.



Bitch, shithead, fuckstick, cunt, twat, asshole, douchebag... they're all words that 'always' have a negative connotation........ but... they're all 'everyday' words for A LOT of people - context is key, circumstance is key.



For me !

ME - posted on 02/13/2010

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I think, like most words, it depends on the context....If someone one called my cousin with DS a "retard" I'd be pissed, and I would let them know it...but I don't think anyone has done that to her since grade school (if then) and she's 33! I do think it shows a lack of intelligence and creativity to use crude, insulting terminology tho...I would prefer not to hear stuff like this ever...not when there are a myriad of other words from which to choose!

Jodi - posted on 02/13/2010

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One of the problems is that words like this also have different meanings culturally, and across time, and I believe we need to respect that. For instance, calling someone "spastic" in this country is considered an offensive insult. From my understanding, this is not the case in the US. I could be wrong in this, so please correct me if this is the case.



Do I use the word retard? No I don't. It just isn't in my vocabulary. There are also certain uses of the word that I believe are offensive. Not ALL uses of the word are offensive. Unfortunately, however, it is because of the negative connotations of the use of the word in popular culture that political correctness has developed in order to find a term that can be used neutrally to collectively describe those who are developmentally delayed.



What it comes down to is that it has developed into a derogatory term. We could also use terms such as stupid, idiotic, moronic, dimwitted, etc. However, I do believe there are degrees to which words are offensive. For instance I DO see telling someone they are retarded as more offensive than telling them they are stupid. After all, calling someone a cunt (excuse that one - I REALLY hate that word, so it was a tough one for me, LOL) is a bit different to calling them a twat? What about the difference between African-American and "nigger" (which I would also never use). They all MEAN the same thing in a dictionary. But they don't MEAN the same thing at all.....



I am very much in agreement with Lindsay that words are what we make them, and we place our own personal interpretations on them. Our personal interpretations are very much dependent on our upbringing, our culture, our socialisation. Just remember, you guys call a butt a fanny. In Australia, a fanny is a slang term for a vagina ;)

Krista - posted on 02/12/2010

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Gad, it depends. I don't know anybody or have a family member with a mental disability -- if I did, I might feel differently. Part of me thinks that the word just really is not used anymore in the common vernacular to refer to people with mental disabilities. But maybe it just isn't used among the people I know, and perhaps there are still people out there who use the word as an epithet to hurt and to make fun of the mentally challenged. I'll confess that I have used it upon occasion, sort of as a synonym for "ridiculous", and haven't even thought about it until discussions like these come up.

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