[Insert "ironic" use of offensive term to illustrate edgy-ness]

A tad behind the times on this, but there’s been so much idiocy going about these days one has had trouble keeping up – not to mention that The Christmas is fast approaching.

First things first:  Long story short, Paul Henry added to his incredibly long list of infractions against basic tact/class/decency/empathy by referring to Susan Boyle as “retarded”.

Second thing second:  The bloggers at The Hand Mirror have a post up with some ideas about how to actually do something more than ignore Paul Henry in the vain hope he’ll go away.

Third thing third:  I could go on (and on and on and on) about Paul Henry, but that gets a little dull after a while, and why bother when there’s a much higher calibre of stupidity on the menu?

I speak of an instalment of Moata’s Blog Idle on *shudder* Stuff.

Specifically, a post entitled (because she’s so clever!) Let’s get retarded.

I’m sure we’re all breathless with antici…pation to see where she’s going to go with this one, right?

Well, she’s straight into it with an innovative twist on the old “I’m not racist but …”:

Let me just start by stating quite clearly that I am no great fan, or any sized fan, of Paul Henry.

It’s not just that you can see the apologism bearing down on you from miles away, it’s that there’s also something of an attempt to invoke QoT’s Law Of Strange Bedfellows:  why, if adorable “thirtysomething”* quirky girl-blogger Moata is actually going to agree with crotchety wankstain Paul Henry, surely there must be something in it, right?

And after some meandering through the classic Stuff blogger’s “what I ate for breakfast today” opening paragraphs we’re into the meat of it, the delicious steak of oblivious privilege upon which all future paragraphs will be but an array of experience-enhancing sauces:

But let’s have a little discussion about the use of the word “retard”, shall we, since it seems to be very much a topic of conversation at the moment?  In the past I’ve been taken to task for my use of this word, and I’ve accepted that it’s not to everyone’s liking but I am relatively unapologetic about it.  I’m very much a fan of words and I’m not going to facetiously claim that a word is just a word and it can’t hurt you.  Certainly words do have power, but sometimes only as much power as you are willing to give them.

Talking to readers like they’re schoolchildren and having to type out this post is a chore? Check.

Martyr complex because ZOMG someone has previously expressed displeasure at your use of offensive words? Check.

Brash declaration of refusal to give in to The Soldiers of Political Correctness, buttressed with sanctimonious I LOVE LANGUAGE bullshit? Check.

Statement about not downplaying something’s offensiveness immediately succeeded by downplaying its offensiveness? Check.

Smug implication that it’s actually your fault for feeling offended, you hypersensitive snowflake? Check.

With AMAZING BONUS “oh but I said sometimes I didn’t mean you” weasel-clause? Ladies, gentlemen, small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri, we have a winner!

This is a princely piece of work, this.  The word “retarded”, you see, is simply not to everyone’s liking. It’s a matter of personal taste, an aesthetic choice, much like those stimulating “whence” vs. “from whence” debates one might have over a cup of wanker tea.  Nothing serious.

Nothing, for example, like a word with strong negative connotations used as a blanket term for both all mental illness and a lack of intellect, forethought, reason, or rational capabilities.

Nothing that could possibly give any kind of message, like “mentally ill people are all stupid”, certainly nothing that could be used to dehumanize an entire group of people, nothing that could be a part of common usage as a putdown because we view people with mental illness as being lesser beings,  because we [being of course the neurotypical majority who get to decide these things] consider it a bad, awful, horrible thing to be thought of as a retard.

If you’re having a hard time drawing the comparison, consider “throwing like a girl”, which I’ll come back to in a moment – because first, Moata has to let us know just how unwilling she is to acknowledge reality.

My take on the use of the word “retarded” is that it falls into two distinct categories.  You can use it derogatively or jocularly to refer to someone or something that is judged to be stupid or behave stupidly.  For instance, “trying to flirt with a woman by telling her you’re going to kidnap her (I overheard a guy yell this at an attractive female as she walked past a couple of weeks ago) is retarded”.  This is probably the way that the word is used by most people, most of the time (though not on television).

The second use of the term is to refer to someone who has some kind of deficiency of intellect that can accurately be described as a kind of mental retardation.  As best as I can tell this is the origin of the word “retard” which has since acquired a broader usage by being applied to things (or people) who are not, in fact, mentally deficient.

Like an episode of The Simpsons, we’re working on multiple levels here.  So, the first “distinct category” – retarded = stupid (oh but remember, it can be used jocularly!).

The second, retarded = mentally deficient.

First, the junior circuit stupid.  Moata apparently wants us to believe that when people call someone retarded, we just mean “stupid”.  Nothing more.  It’s just a synonym, with no implications or assumptions. No one, hearing a person say “That guy is retarded” (jocularly!), could possibly understand it to mean “that person is mentally deficient the way a generic person with mental illness (but let’s face it, probably someone with visible illness/condition/disability, and let’s face it further, almost certainly down’s syndrome) is mentally deficient”.

No no no, they hear “that guy is retarded” and it magically has no associations with the second “distinct category” at all. Fuck me, I think Moata’s a psychic and hasn’t figured out the rest of us aren’t.

Senior stupid:  if we look very closely in the thick undergrowth of the bloggy rainforest, we may be able to make out some fan-fucking-tastic normative language.

some kind of deficiency of intellect

It’s beautiful, isn’t it?  The way Moata, and a lot of her readers, and certainly all the other people who hit on this particular defence of the word, make nice big bold statements about how there’s obviously a normal level of intellect, and some people just don’t have it, and so they’re deficient.  Not like us normal people who have normal intellects.

And it’s obviously totes cool to refer to these deficient people as retards, because they’re backwards.  You know, like referring to indigenous peoples as primitive or barbaric because they haven’t discovered the joys of urban disease and nuclear warfare.  I mean, it’s a thoroughly objective thing to do, because we’re normal.  Right?  I mean, we must be, because everyone knows that not being normal would be a terrible thing.

But don’t let me get carried away.  Moata continues to impress by finding new and astounding ways to make my jaw drop:

So the irony with regards to the current Paul Henry debacle (there’ll be another one next week) is that he’s got himself into trouble for using the word, not in the derogatory way that it is often used by people like me, but by actually applying it to someone who apparently is a little retarded.

Now, the fact that “Paul smooth-as-a-gravy-sandwich Henry” took a gleeful delight in reading about Susan Boyle’s misfortune in life is an entirely different issue.  He could have used any word to describe her mental condition; what’s really upsetting is the silly, schoolboy laughter that accompanied it.

(emphasis hers)

I mean, shit on a brick.  The irony is that Paul Henry was actually calling a person retarded who IS retarded!  Isn’t life funny that way?  I mean, obviously he went too far with the laughing, the implication in his laughter that being retarded is a bad thing.  Because we all know that it can just be an accurate term for someone who’s mentally deficient.  Right?

And Susan Boyle obviously is retarded, I mean, Moata’s a physician psychic so she knows, it’s not like she, just like Paul Henry, is making assumptions about people based on their appearances or lives or attitudes or anything.

It’s certainly not like she, like Paul Henry, like many other people, feel quite comfortable saying “this woman looks a bit dim and is single and old and sings songs from Les Mis so she must have been brain damaged because no normal person could be dim/single/old/a Les Mis fan”.  It’s not like the continuing casual use of the word retard in any way supports these assumptions.  That would be wrong.

It’s par for the course that, naturally, Moata doesn’t really take these ideas any further.  That would involve her having ideas.  Instead, it’s back to the Stuff blogger’s grab-bag of tricks and making it all about her:

Personally, I’m going to continue to call myself or my nearest and dearest “retarded” when I or they do something stupid.  I’m going to continue to prefer the original version of the Black Eyed Peas song otherwise sanitised-for-our-safety as “Let’s get it started”.  I’m going to continue to think Paul Henry’s a dick, because he kind of is one. What I’m not going to do is taunt someone with an intellectual handicap with the word “retard” or laugh at their misfortune because the thing that I am most grateful for in life is my good mind.

LOOK OUT, WORLD!  We’re dealing with a FREE SPIRIT here who will NOT BE DENIED her right to be a fucking insensitive douchebag of the highest order.

Christ, Moata. Just tattoo “I don’t know anybody with visible disability and I lack the capacity for basic empathy unless something personally affects me” on your forehead while you’re at it.  They can take your original-edit Black Eyed Peas from your cold, dead hands, right?  Because the word “retarded” is just so essential to the subtext of that song, it loses its meaning without it.

And oh good Lords and Ladies, that last sentence.  Let’s see it again for the audience at home:

What I’m not going to do is taunt someone with an intellectual handicap with the word “retard” or laugh at their misfortune because the thing that I am most grateful for in life is my good mind.

So apparently, even though “retarded” is a totally appropriate word to use (jocularly!) to describe people who are “mentally deficient”, Moata … has reservations about using it to a person’s mentally-deficient face.  I guess that’s back to not to everyone’s liking, or maybe it’s just taunting people with it.  Context, tone, these things are all so important when you’re not just taking half a fucking neuron to not be an offensive wanker.

And remember, kiddies, Moata’s most important message: even though there are no bad connotations to a neurotypical person being called a “retard”, because it’s fucking jocular, we should still be mindful of the MISFORTUNES of people with intellectual disabilities.  THOSE POOR FUCKING SOULS, DON’T WE JUST WEEP FOR THEM, THEY’RE LIKE PINOCCHIO ONLY RETARDS INSTEAD OF PUPPETS.  Fucking misfortune, Moata?  You’re going to play the “words only have the power you give them” AND the “it’s technically accurate” cards and then you are going to fucking pity people who have mental disabilities or illness.

Good thing you’ve got a “good mind”, Moata.  That should make up for your complete lack of basic fucking soul.

*Personal gripe: OWN YOUR FUCKING AGE, WOMAN.

7 comments

  1. Boganette

    That was beautiful! I wanted to post on this but I had like red flashes after reading it. I’ve never been so angry before.

    It’s fucking unbelievable. I read it three times just trying to figure out how someone can think like that.

    The comments were even worse. I had to have a lie-down after someone suggested using the word “downer” as well as retard.

  2. Kowalski

    Ugh.
    This post is so condescending to non-neurotypical people, I kinda barfed in my mouth a little… I don’t even know where to start, so for brevity I’ll use an analogy:
    You kind of come across like someone who’s offended by someone else’s use of the word “faggot” and because you’re self-righteous like that, call him out on the homophobia by telling him to stop being a pussy and act like a real man.

  3. Anemone

    “It’s par for the course that, naturally, Moata doesn’t really take these ideas any further. That would involve her having ideas.”

    So she’s stupid because she uses stupid as an insult?

    I agree that using “retard” is offensive, but using offense to fight offense is not really the best solution here. (I’m with Kowalski on this.)

    • QoT

      I’m just not seeing the comparison between “defending the use of an offensive word” and “critiquing that defence” being somehow on the same level, or the same thing. Declaring “I’m going to keep calling my kids retards when they’re stupid” and saying “this writer is stupid because she doesn’t develop her ideas” are different things. Critiquing a person’s writing and “using offence” ditto.

  4. Kowalski

    QoT, sorry for the late response, (the X-mas stress and I’m a bit sick) anyways, it’s really hard to explain and ended up being a huge ass post.