Schumer Apologizes for ‘Retarded’ Comment
Another case of word choice overriding intent.
POLITICO (“Schumer apologizes after using outdated term for disabled children during housing interview“):
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer apologized on Monday for using an outmoded word to refer to developmentally disabled children during a recent podcast appearance.
Appearing on the One NYCHA podcast, Schumer used the word “retarded” in making a point about the challenge of overcoming community resistance to housing initiatives meant to serve vulnerable populations.
“When I first was an assemblyman, they wanted to build a congregate living place for retarded children — the whole neighborhood was against it,” Schumer said, referring to the time he spent representing parts of Brooklyn in the New York legislature from 1975 to 1980 prior to serving in Congress.
“These are harmless kids. They just needed some help,” he said, adding that the effort was ultimately successful. “We got it done. Took a while.”
The term is considered outdated and offensive by many, and advocates for people with mental and intellectual disabilities discourage its use. On Monday afternoon, a Schumer spokesperson said the majority leader erred in using such an “inappropriate and outdated word” during the interview.
“For decades, Sen. Schumer has been an ardent champion for enlightened policy and full funding of services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “He is sincerely sorry for his use of the outdated and hurtful language.”
The project Schumer was referring to was connected to an organization then known as the Association for the Help of Retarded Children. (AHRC has since dropped that name and now simply goes by the initials.)
The term is rightly considered offensive and has been understood to be so for at least thirty years. My instinct is that Schumer doesn’t use it in ordinary speech but naturally slipped into it when thinking back to his work in the late 1970s when that’s the word that everybody, including the advocacy community, used. Hell, the Federal government only stopped using it as the official description of an ailment on August 1, 2013.
He was right to apologize. Presuming this is the end of the story, that’s fine. But it’s nonetheless frustrating that the story is his use of an outdated word rather than the fact that he was working to help those with intellectual disabilities forty-plus years ago. Surely that action, rather than a careless slip of the tongue, is what matters most.
What will matter most is how much political traction opportunists on both sides of the aisle can squeeze out of it. The outrage machine is, no doubt, already being loaded with fertilizer.
Meh. Still use it at work sometimes. I have always taken care of a higher percentage of Downs and other disabled kids than most docs. Developmentally delayed can mean lots of things including physical or mental delays. Retarded always meant a mental delay. Makes it easier to know how to plan for the child. Never use it around the parents or anyone else, just the team of nurses I have trained over the years to care for these kids since then we all know what it means and what we are caring for. It’s a shame that a word which actually conveys useful info was turned into an insult so now we cant use it.
The word became an insult because it began to be used as an insult dating back to my teenage years, as in calling someone a “retard” if he or she did or said something stupid.
As Steve points out, the word originally made a useful distinction.
@steve: @CSK: Thus, a reminder of the importance of jargon–another word that carries a bad connotation–to allow people to speak with precision and without worrying about connotation when speaking to one another.
Indeed. A quick Google indicates that this is the top news story about Schumer today. And yes, the Daily Mail used the word “outrage” to describe the reaction.
Isn’t the media latching onto famous people for poor word choices more or less the norm now? I suspect a quick Google of people who’ve been heavily criticized or even losing their jobs for something like that would provide a depressingly long list (and all across the political spectrum).
The war of synonyms and euphemisms rages on. Some day we’ll find the perfectly inoffensive word for everything, and then life will be paradise!
Unless. . . horrible thought. . . someone starts using ‘intellectually disabled’ as a slur. But that could never happen.
We can’t use the word ‘crazy’ in kidlit now. Seriously.
Well, I was chided by Mimai a few weeks ago for using the term “paranoid schizophrenic” to describe the stepson of a friend of mine, which was in fact exactly the diagnosis of his psychiatrist many years ago.
What’s an acceptable synonym for “crazy” in YA lit?
Couldn’t find one, so were forced to use a word that doesn’t mean what was intended. It was something like, ‘his driving was crazy,’ and ended up, ‘his driving was reckless.’ Not the same thing. One, in context, has a humorous edge, while reckless implies something humorless.
I prefer a world where people temper their speech and do not use words that have become pejoratives.
I can speak frankly without using triggering pejoratives. It is super easy. Language can easily accommodate not using black-listed words. We all do it all the time. It is fall off the log easy. Any idiot can do it.
Schumer got called out, rightly, for using a word that is no longer politely used in public speech. That is an inherently good thing.
We used to use “Mongoloid” for Down’s Syndrome folks. That was offensive on many levels. It is no longer used. Deal with it.
Btw, DEVO has an awesome song titled Mongoloid from way back. I love old school DEVO where every song was a video and every video was an art school project about video and was questioning its validity. Very meta.
I prefer a world where folks do not use “Mongoloid” in polite company, thank you.
Seriously people, deal. It is not at all hard to not be intentionally offensive.
I cannot speak for Mimai, but I suspect it was not the words, but because you lack the standing to make the determination.
On Trump I can say he was particularly unfit because he is an obvious megalomaniac.
In the trade, that term is no longer accepted and likely falls into one of the exhibited behaviors of NPD.
Amongst the volk, calling Larry crazy is okay. Calling Trump a megalomaniac is fine.
In Mimai’s world, you have to determine the correct diagnosis for Larry to lay out a treatment path for him.
Everyone, hopefully including Larry, wishes him to not be maladaptive.
A difference of perspective.
Telediagnosis within the general public is okay within reason.
Amongst professionals, telediagnosis is very bad, and to be avoided to the extent that you can be sanctioned if you do so. Pros do not do it.
An interesting note on using “rude” language within contained groups:
When I was working as a stage hand, we would be *very* rude to each other–in a friendly, joking way. After some observation, I figured it out. Rude language serves two purposes:
1) Immunity. On stage, situations can turn dangerous–even deadly–in seconds. When someone comes running at you and says “Get the fuck out of the way!”, you move. You don’t look at them and get offended by the language.*
2) Trust. This one took me a while to figure out, but… we were local crew. We worked with different road crews every week (sometimes every day). Speaking with the roadies in rude language shows that we trust them. When you’d see someone you know being very polite to a roadie, it meant that they couldn’t be trusted. They weren’t “one of us”.
* If you ever hear a stage hand say “oops” very quietly….? RUN! 🙂
I lack the standing to repeat a diagnosis that was made by several psychiatrists prior to my using the term???? Really? Let me reiterate: I didn’t make the diagnosis.
Is it okay if I say someone I know has diabetes? Or multiple sclerosis? Or will that offend someone’s delicate sensibilities?
Jesus fucking Christ.
@Michael Reynolds: Considering that one (or more, I don’t really keep count) from among our own cohort uses “sweetie” as mockery, I’m confident that there’s no single word in any language that can’t be contextualized to serve as an insult. We’re wired to lash out. We’re wired for bile, anger, and aggression. It’s in our genes. I blame evolution.
@de stijl: “I can speak frankly without using triggering pejoratives. It is super easy. … Any idiot can do it.”
Why are you calling me an idiot? What did I do?
@CSK: the world of precious Rightspeak.
@Michael Reynolds: Well clearly until rightspeak is achieved.
@Just nutha ignint cracker: Bien joué, bien joué mon cher.
Actually it is hard if you understand that the hurt feelings can be manufactured by people who don’t even have a dog in the fight, and that anyone can decide that a word has suddenly become offensive. Likewise anyone can turn an acceptable word into a perjorative. If you don’t want me calling you X, but prefer Y, and I scream Y! in your face in an insulting way, I will have seized control of your safe word and rendered it unsafe. Because it isn’t the word, it’s the meaning.
Queer used to be offensive, and now it’s used as a generic term for a whole bunch of people, by those people. It’s not the word, it’s the meaning.
Now, I am fat. I’m looking down at my belly right now, and is not a six pack. If someone called me fat I’d be mildly irritated and bemused. But what I could do is take offense, and not only insist that no one use the word in relation to me, or to any human, but also that the word had to completely disappeared. I’d have to find another word to describe what I trim off a steak. Would I still be fat? Seems like. Would it help if I convinced everyone to call me portly?
It’s magical thinking. The word is not the problem, the meaning is. Fucking, screwing, shagging, boinking, copulating. We outlawed the first one forever, and yet, surprise, people just kept right on fucking even when the word was erased. It’s magical thinking and also lazy thinking, self-soothing for liberals. We can tell ourselves we did something virtuous. Like renaming the homeless as the un-housed, which, you will have noticed, did not help the desperate people living under freeways.
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
Now, IRL life do I carefully avoid causing unnecessary offense? Of course. I’m not a Republican. Besides, it’s a phase we go through from time to time. Like ‘Ms.’ The only time I ever hear it used, is by me or my wife. I still hear ‘Mrs.’ but my vague sense is that it’s increasingly become ‘ma’am’ or ‘miss.’ And we’re down to one abortion clinic in Mississippi and Roe hangs by a thread.
It was that way in restaurants. Come to think of it, same holds true in some marriages. When we have a spat of the pointless variety most couples have, we often end it with one of us calling the other an ‘asshole’, which brings the ritual retort of ‘bitch,’ then we laugh and have a cookie. Another example of it not being about the word, but the meaning, which in this example is just a version of ‘I love you, let’s watch TV’.
Ahem. “black-list?” Really?
Come on, man, you’re better than that.
I use Ms. all the time. It is the accepted appropriate usage. If I do not know her marital status it is the appropriate nomenclature. I’ll use Ms. until she says call me Michelle or Mrs. Reynolds. It’s polite. Even if I know she is married I will use Ms. until corrected.
Have you questioned why you are so against what our trolly friend Lounsbury calls rightspeak?
What normal people would describe as deferring to politeness, and calling people by their preferred names, titles, and yes, pronouns including “they”.
It is literal no harm to me other than the smidge of memory required to store that Jake prefers non-gendered pronouns.
What is the big deal?
I like you, respect you, and consider you as a telebuddy, but I think you are barking up the wrong tree here on this. One that died a while back and can leaf no more.
People deserve respect.
Oops! How can I white-wash that error away?
I know you have written here about how the inclusivity police dinged and damned you for perceived wrongs you did not intend.
As a YA author that will happen. Guaranteed.
It would be a mistake to deem the whole responsible for the actions of the few.
There are aspects of public wokeness that go too far. Does that render the whole project moot and derisible?
Chide: to scold or reproach
That doesn’t sound like me. Which makes sense because that is not something I do. Or did.
Rather, I noted that “paranoid schizophrenic” and similar terminology has a stigmatizing effect, and I suggested the use of person first language instead. I also noted that our language can be stigmatizing even when our intent is not to be (as was clearly the case here for you and also for Jax when she chimed in).
Why did I initially comment at all? While I am not sensitive or easily offended (quite the opposite in fact), my ear has been tuned to these things. This is partly, though not entirely, because of my profession.
Stigma is real. Dehumanization is real. Words convey stigma/dehumanization and they also reinforce it (to the speaker, the audience, and society). I’ve rub shoulders with the damage done.
So I make no apologies for pointing out when our (note the plural possessive) language contributes to this stigma/dehumanization. This is all the more important when the speaker did not intend to. I hope that the same courtesy (I use that word deliberately) is extended to me. [Side bar: This is not to say that rough language, gallows humor, etc are rare or off-limits…..context is key.]
All of that said, I was new here at the time of this exchange. You didn’t know me (still don’t), nor had I established a reputation for style, tone, etc (which I hope is not too aversive). Thus, I appreciate that my comment could have been perceived as something other than what I intended. I own that.
Moreover, I appreciate that this topic also hits close to home for you and many around here, which requires all-the-more care when engaging.
To address a related matter (and because I thought this comment was too short as is….reputation and all that jazz), this language stuff does not steal from other efforts to improve mental health in this country. This is not zero sum.
Yes, there are plenty of people who merely focus on the language stuff. And, yes, I sometimes find them annoying too. And, yes yes, I wish more people would put skin in the game.
I also recognize that for some people, the sideline-sitting, language-focused approach is all they are able to do at the moment. And I’m not inclined to spray venom at what I hope to be future skin contributors. [Side bar: This assumes honest intent and does not apply to the language policers seeking nothing but destruction.]
As a last point (“please sir, do go on…..this is all so very fascinating”), when considering this language stuff, it’s also important to distinguish between groups that are historically stigmatized/dehumanized from those that are not. Hence, labeling one of my patients a “fat crazy person” is quite a bit different than labeling Michael Reynolds a “fat crazy person.”
Nope, it wasn’t about standing (see reply to CSK above).
There was a post around that same time about a psychiatrist who had been reprimanded by the APA and her academic department for having “diagnosed” Trump (and written a lot of lay articles about it). I expressed my opinion that this was unprofessional and unethical. So you may have been thinking of that.
Some idiots looted and rioted during the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder.
Would you damn the whole lot, then? (Joyner did.)
Tell me how you would prefer I describe someone I’ve known for decades whose doctors, parents, friends, and indeed, he himself, have described as a “paranoid schizophrenic.”
And do, please, enlighten us all of any other terms you might consider stigmatizing.
I did not intend to mischaracterize you. I was speaking from faulty memory. I am sorry.
I am a middling sized crazy person. I used to be a skinny crazy person.
I am watching portion size to address that. After quitting nicotene cold turkey I snacked like a fiend.
I am basically a skinny person that recently got a gut and love handles. It is correctable.
(Well, the gut, anyway. The craziness is inherent.)
I am clearly struggling to communicate in a way that does not aggravate you.
This has nothing to do with my preferences. Nor am I in the enlightenment business.
The phrasing “a paranoid schizophrenic” reduces the person to their diagnosis / mental illness. By comparison, we don’t typically refer to someone with prostate cancer as “a prostate cancer.” Rather, we refer to them as a person (guy, dude, patient, etc) with prostate cancer.
Person first language puts the person first and the diagnosis second. Eg, “he is someone with paranoid schizophrenia” or “he has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia” as opposed to “he is a paranoid schizophrenic” or “he has been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic.”
Similarly, it’s the difference between saying someone “has” bipolar vs. someone “is” bipolar (though this phrasing is a bit more complicated and not essential to our discussion).
That said, and following on other OTB discussions about the ever changing nature of language, there has been a recent emphasis in some communities on identity first language. This is particularly prominent in the younger autism spectrum community. In this case, many stakeholders prefer “autistic person” over “person with autism.” And there is near universal disdain for being called “an autistic.”
No worries mate.
ps, I’m pleased to hear about your quit success. I’ve been curious but didn’t want to pry. Good thoughts your way for continued success.
I don’t know how people speak where you are, but I have never heard anyone referred to as “a bipolar,” nor have I ever heard anyone referred to as “an autistic.” And I’ve certainly never heard anyone with prostate cancer referred to as “a prostate cancer.” On the other hand, I have heard (with my own two ears!) real, actual psychiatrists refer to “paranoid schizophrenics.”
Doubtless they’re all just insensitive beasts.
They are properly called Autists, with as overwhelming a fake french accent as possible, and perhaps a hand flourish.
Other than that, I completely agree, but it’s really hard to overcome decades of practice. Thus my brother is delusional freak, not a person who consumes right wing media.
I’m pretty sure that I didn’t. Rather, I worried that their actions would be used to detract from the legitimate concerns that sparked the protests themselves.
If the project were accomplishing something useful, I’d support it. I don’t think it is. I think, as I’ve said many times, it’s self-soothing, magical thinking. Further, it makes unnecessary enemies – unnecessary defined as fights we don’t need to pick because they don’t help anyone. I’ll happily pick a fight to defend a person being picked on – as I’m sure you’ll agree – but I won’t pick a fight just to please the Brown University liberal arts faculty.
There was a similar thing with trigger warnings. I was told at great and tedious length how necessary they were, how they helped people. I said, no, I don’t think they do help people, and they’re utterly impractical for several reasons. A meta study was done which concluded that such warnings had no beneficial therapeutic effect, and might even come in slightly on the harmful side by enabling avoidance. And basically no one bothers because, as I said at the time, it is impractical.
I’m triggered every time I see a hypodermic needle. It’s my very own phobia. Should I have suggested TV not show needles during a pandemic because they skeeve me out? If not, why not? What hierarchy of phobia or trauma would justify imposing my preferences on the world, and not someone else’s?
Re bipolar, I’ve not heard this either. I have heard the following: “Jennifer is bipolar.” As I wrote above, this has different meaning than: “Jennifer has bipolar.” And as I also wrote above, this phrasing is a bit different than the issue of person first language, but it does convey a similar idea: people with mental illness cease to be people…..they become their illness, they are their illness and nothing else.
Re autistic, I have often heard of people referred to as “an autistic” (without the subsequent “person/girl/child/etc”). And I have heard this all across the US and in many places abroad. But again, as I wrote above, this specific issue (identity first) is somewhat adjacent to the issue of person first language, which was the focus of our discussion.
And that is precisely my point. With the exception of lung cancer, cancer tends to not be stigmatized, nor are the people dehumanized…….and to the extent that they are, it pales in comparison to mental illness. This fact makes the phrase “a prostate cancer” so jarring.
But people with mental illness are indeed stigmatized/dehumanized. And, thus, the phrase “a paranoid schizophrenic” can pass by without notice. And this can reflect, contribute to, and reinforce stigmatization/dehumanization. Person first language seeks to push against that.
So have I. In fact, I have heard myself use such language. And I have corrected myself (though not enough) and been corrected by others (thankfully). And yet I still struggle with certain phrasings.
As I wrote in my initial comments months ago, and repeated several times here, this is not about bad people or bad intent. I have not referred to anyone as insensitive beasts. Not even close. I have made the point, many times over, that our language can contribute to stigma even when our intent is otherwise. Even among us (you clearly are in this group) whose hearts are in the right place.
I truly don’t understand why my comments aggravate you so much.
Possibly they irritate me because you come across as a sanctimonious, self-righteous, smug twerp.
Twerp is such an under-used word.
Well, in that case, they should irritate you. Trust your feelings.
Indeed. Smug too. They both have such a great mouthfeel.
Just doing my part to ensure that useful words never die.
You like to question, I have one for you. @CSK and I are both hardcore liberals. We’re both irritated by the language police. Examine the political implications of a practice that pisses off liberals without changing anything for real people.
This is no-doubt going to sound smug, perhaps self-righteous and twerpy too…. that is not my intent, but as being discussed on a different thread, intent doesn’t matter….
Nevertheless, here goes: I don’t understand the question. Probably because you didn’t ask one. Please clarify and I will do my best to answer.
Question: Do you see a positive purpose in alienating allies?
BTW, who is claiming intent doesn’t matter? That’s moronic. Intent is the difference between murder one and manslaughter. It’s the difference between assault and a hate crime. It’s the difference between me calling my wife a bitch and meaning it, and not only not meaning it, but meaning just the opposite. Meaning is the point, words are at best symbols pointing to meaning. Intent is tone, word choice, emphasis, backstory, you know, like all of literature? Or do you take it literally when in Casablanca, Capt.Renault says, “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!”
I mean, you know he’s not actually shocked, right? Because the words said one thing but his intention was very different?
In order for me to even approximate an answer, I’d have to make a lot of assumptions and do a lot of mind reading. I’m surely to make at least one mistake, which would yield an answer that is unsatisfactory to the both of us…..and that wouldn’t help us have an actual discussion.
So I’d appreciate it if you put a bit more specificity to the question. Eg, positive for whom/what? Purpose for what? Allies on what issue?
Note, I’m not asking in order to avoid, rather I’m asking in order to answer.
Yeah, you are avoiding. I’ve asked the question twice, you know what I meant, and everyone upstream here understands what I was asking. You like to take on a gentle inquisitorial tone, ask thoughtful-seeming questions. This affords you a position of authority. I was happy to play along, albeit with some off-camera eye-rolling, but the game goes both ways or it doesn’t go at all.
I think I’m starting to appreciate what’s happening here. I think that CSK and you are writing about this from a dyad perspective. That is, what one says to someone else. Eg, what CSK says to his friend. In that case, they surely have a shared language about all kinds of issues, including this one about paranoid schizophrenia. Hence, the words have a specific meaning and their mutual intentions are clear….and good hearted.
By contrast, I’ve been approaching this from a social perspective. That is, what is written on social platform with all kinds of people in attendance (seen and unseen). In that case, there is less a shared language, words have diverse meanings, and intentions are less clear. [Side bar, all along I have noted that CSK clearly has good intentions wrt his friend.]
So, when I write about stigma/dehumanization, I was referring to the social transmission, not to the dyadic exchange. I think that these signals got mixed and I gave the impression that I was focusing on CSK’s relationship with his friend. I was not. Rather, I was taking an opportunity to highlight a broader social issue.
Of course, I could be misreading this too. But that’s my current understanding of what I perceive to be a misunderstanding.
Swell. Now answer my question.
You can say that I am avoiding. But I’m the one with access to my consciousness. Of course, I could be deluded and you could be a spot-on mind reader, but that requires quite a bit more evidence than me asking you to clarify a broad and unspecified question SO THAT I may answer in a productive way. I will try in a follow-up comment, but I wanted this one to stand on its own.
@Mimai: @CSK: As an asthmatic–starting year number 7o as that category in 3o days–I’ve been on the E-ticket ride for name calling, false assumptions, “good-natured ribbing” (hint: it isn’t, it’s hostility), and all the other assorted stuff that goes with having conditions you have minimal control over. For me, I learned early on that sympathy was, as the old joke goes, just a word between shit and syphilis in the dictionary. I was able to get past the fact that most people were either ignorant buffoons or worthless, vile assholes–and that for the most part, you can’t tell them apart. It would be nice to live in a world where people stopped labeling each other, but I don’t and don’t expect to during my remaining lifetime, either. As an educator, I’ve watched as the labels that we apply change, but the attitudes they engender don’t. Because in addition to being an asthmatic, I lean a touch antisocial and probably misanthropic, the best advice I’ve been able to come up with for people who have been labeled is that the best life you can live is also the best revenge. Get over what other people call you. Not everyone is able to do this. That’s something I can’t help. The best I’ve got is to try to treat others like I didn’t get treated very often, but wished I had. I’m not as good at it as I’d like to be.
Your question: Do you see a positive purpose in alienating allies?
My answer: As a general rule, no I don’t see a lot of purpose in alienating allies. But of course, this all depends on context. Let’s take the one re language about mental health. And let’s assume that by allies, you are referring to Democratic voters. And let’s further assume that I am a member of that tribe, hence they are my allies. And let’s further assume that by purpose, you mean electoral politics.
Now, given those assumptions, with the further caveat that I am nowhere near a politically savvy commenter (as I’ve noted in the past), I don’t think it’s a generally good idea to purposefully alienate these political allies, as it might lead them to be less motivated to show up to vote. And this could lead to an election loss.
I do think that reality is not so neat. In fact, there may be some things that alienate these political allies but that serve a different purpose…..maybe even a “higher” purpose. Re language, suggesting that people use person first language, and reminding them of when they stray, might indeed ruffle some allies’ feathers.
And yet putting one’s efforts into social change vis-a-vis language might be empowering, positive, humanizing to a different set of allies and stakeholders……those in the mental illness community. In this case, one might reasonably choose to prioritize one good over the other. Given my personal situation, I choose the latter good and without apology. And I can recognize and understand people who choose the former good.
So there’s my answer. An answer.
[Last side bar, you can say that I am playing a game and that I am seeking authority and that I am being insincere. I can only reply that I am not.]
You’ve asked me a number of questions I could have avoided with tactics similar to yours. I chose instead to answer honestly. Repeatedly.
In my experience people who insist on playing inquisitor and avoiding answering questions are hoping no one will notice that they don’t really have much to say. One of the best ways to avoid answering questions is to attempt to pathologize or diminish your interlocutor. You know, like:
And then there’s passive aggression like:
IIRC @CSK is a professional writer, as I am. What you may think is subtle reads as blaring headlines to pros. You adopted a condescending character from the start. I was wondering what your deal was. I guessed insecurity was the issue.
See? Pathologize and belittle. It’s fun, isn’t it?
Wow, we are clearly on different planets re this. You say that my quoted words were my attempt to pathologize and diminish. I’m truly dumbfounded by this. I simply said that you and CSK had a different perspective than I do. I didn’t include any adjectives, pejorative labels, etc.
Re my question asking, you are correct, often I ask questions because I don’t have anything to say at the moment. I ask so that I can hear more about what you and others think, which then might lead me to have something to say. Again, it really is amazing how differently you and I see this.
I do indeed have my insecurities. And I do indeed try to hide/disguise them. But we are nowhere near my insecurities here.
What about this Mr. Reynolds?
Oklahoma senator James Lankford (R.) confronted Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra Thursday over the department’s replacement of “mothers” with the term “birthing people.”
The senator questioned him about the “language in the President’s proposed budget regarding maternal health that referred to ‘birthing people’ instead of mothers even though the science is clear that women give birth.” The Senator ls comments come after Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Shalanda Young doubled-down on the Biden budget proposal’s use of “birthing people,” insisting it’s more inclusive and equitable, at a congressional hearing Wednesday.
“There are certain people who do not have gender identities that apply to female and male, so we think our language needs to be more inclusive on how we deal with complex issues,” she remarked.
“Our official policy is to make sure that when people get service from their government that they feel included, and we’re trying to use inclusive language,” Young concluded.
So what’s next? Father replaced by “Sperm Donator”? Which reminds me this weekend is Sperm Donator Day. Happy Sperm Donator Day to all you Sperm Donators.
At one point do we acknowledge this is silly?
I suspect that this is part of what is pissing people off, because clearly it is about your preferences, and you are taking it upon yourself to enlighten the benighted. (Another fun word that deserves better than its likely fate.) This posture of objectivity is untenable.
You have taken a position that “your way of behaving, which is common, is wrong and despicable, while this other way of behaving, that no one you’ve ever met actually does, is the only only acceptable way of behaving.” That’s a very strong assertion, especially when (as Michael points out) by pushing it you are liable to alienate the very people who are also concerned about the same issues and injustices you are concerned about.
Have you not considered the possibility that people might have carefully considered the argument you are making, and have concluded that the net value of crusading for others to be chided for saying “is disabled” instead of saying “has a disability” is probably negative, if what you really want to achieve is wider empathy for people living with disabilities?
I fully understand the desire of those living with specific conditions to not be defined by them. I heard an inspiring story just today of a young man with Down’s Syndrome lobbying Congress to understand that people with Down’s Syndrome are in fact all individuals, just as much as Congresspersons are all individuals. On the other hand, I gave up a long time ago on thinking it would be better if people would not call me short, and insisting on chastising anyone who says “short” instead of “living with below average height” (or whatever the person-first formulation would be) is not going to help anyone at all to empathize with all the ways being short is a hassle in modern America.
No, you didn’t. You pigeonholed them — you explained away their disagreement as being due to an attribute or approach (“dyad perspective”) that allowed you to dismiss it, rather than grappling with the substance of their objections. Whatever your intentions, it read as “Oh, you’re one of those…”.
Re preferences, I don’t recall ever saying anything along the lines of “I prefer that you say XYZ.” Rather, my recollection is that I have pointed out that certain language can have a stigmatizing/dehumanizing effect. That is a statement of fact, not preference. If you can show me where I have elevated my preference over that fact then I will concede the point, apologize, and try to do better.
Similarly, I have made no such assertions about people being wrong or despicable. Again, show me otherwise and I will accept and apologize. What I have done is repeatedly note that this language is common and that it can have a stigmatizing effect even when people don’t intend it to. Hell, I even wrote how I have and continue to use such language myself.
Again, you are mischaracterizing what I wrote when you say that I am “crusading for others to be chided for saying “is disabled” instead of saying “has a disability”” Rather, I have said that there is less stigmatizing language that could be used, and I have provided several examples. I have never said that people must use this language or that they are bad people if they fail to use person first language. Again I ask you, show me where I have done that and I will accept and apologize.
And yes, I have considered the possible downsides of pushing on this language issue to hard. Indeed, I mentioned this in my answer to Michael’s question. And I specifically said that I understand why people might hold that position.
My position has never been to browbeat people. And I haven’t argued for this. Rather, and to repeat myself, I have noted that certain language is stigmatizing, I have offered alternatives, I have noted that this is not about bad people (note my use of “good hearts”), and I have articulated two possible perspectives (dyad vs. societal) that may contribute to the misunderstanding here.
Here is what I wrote:
I contend that I did not dismiss it. Rather, I wrote what I perceived to be a different perspective. And I gave both perspectives equal time and used similar structure for each. If I dismissed their perspective, then I dismissed my own too. Note also my side bar. Finally, I ended the post with this:
I really can’t help it if people read bad motives into what I wrote. I can only say that I wrote honestly about how I see this.
And I don’t know what you mean when you say I imply “Oh, you’re one of those…”.
Those what? People who have a dyad perspective on a language discussion in an online forum? Like I am othering them because my tribe is people who have a societal perspective on a language discussion in an online forum?
I admit that these questions are written with a tinge of irritation. Which happens when I am repeatedly having my mind read and being accused of doing/meaning things that are the opposite of what I did/mean.
“If you use this kind of language you are being stigmatizing and dehumanizing, but far be it from me to suggest that you ought not be stigmatizing and dehumanizing. I’m just pointing out facts.”
How does that sound to you?
So you couldn’t find an example then? But just so we’re clear, yes, I do prefer that people use person first language. But then the question is: Why do I prefer that? Which leads us to my point, repeatedly articulated: The reason to use person first language is because it can be stigmatizing and dehumanizing……..not because I prefer it.
That does not sound good to me. Show me where I wrote that or a variant of that and I will apologize for it. Please, show me.
Argh: The reason to use person first language is because it is less stigmatizing and dehumanizing……..not because I prefer it.
I cannot distinguish what you did write from my paraphrase of it. Especially since you just doubled down on it with a reiteration that the reason to use person-first language is because if you don’t you’re being stigmatizing and dehumanizing.
I suspect (though of course I can’t be certain) that this is true of the other people in this thread who have pushed back against your framing.
Being called short can indeed be hurtful. Lots of people get bullied for this. And I think you are wise to move beyond what people call you.
And this is quite a bit different than the stigma and dehumanization experienced by people with mental illness……..many of whom do not have the cognitive-emotional self regulation skills that you do. Hence, there is not a movement (of stakeholders, advocates, and allies) to adopt person first language for short stature (not attributable to a health condition).
The attempt at equivalency could be perceived as minimizing the challenges faced by people with mental illness. Similar to how some low-income White people try to compare their situation (historic and current) to that of Black people.
I don’t think you intended any such thing. I am merely pointing out the potential pitfalls (and misunderstandings, sometimes motivated) of the comparison. Again, I repeat, I don’t think you intended to minimize the challenges of people with mental illness, nor do I think that is what you did.
Let me try again, and then I’m off to bed. But let me use race instead of mental illness. People can do things, say things, write things that contribute to the ongoing disenfranchisement of Black people in the US. I hope we can agree on this.
Assuming we can, even with knowledge of these effects, people can nevertheless continue (though often with less frequency) to do, say, write these things. Now, one approach to this is to focus the blame on the person. “You are disenfranchising Black people” Or the short version: “You are being racist.”
Another approach is to focus on the impact and decouple it from the person. “Words like that can disenfranchise Black people.” “When people do that, it strengthens racist institutions.”
Now, returning to mental illness, I have attempted to take the second approach. Of course, given that I was interacting with CSK and then with Michael, I used their names and situations. But as best as I can tell (please, show me when I have erred), I have framed this as “the language is stigmatizing” rather than “you are stigmatizing.”
You keep insisting that I have done the opposite, that I have focused on the person instead of the words. I contend that I have not. But again, I am open to being corrected.
Is that clearer now?
For example, in a recent comment, I wrote:
“The reason to use person first language is because it is less stigmatizing and dehumanizing”
Note my use of “it” (referring to language) and not “you” (referring to person).