Friday, April 27, 2007

What is Demeaning of This?

Back on April 19th, the Man of Steel (one half of the Mud & Steel podcasts) posted about Overused Words.

Some of the words given were Amazing, Awesome, Freakin', Sweet, and my own two contributions, Pimp and Bling.

Over the last week I've been thinking of other words that are overused, and it led to three words that not only are overused, but are insensitive and demeaning.


You typically hear these words casually uttered by younger folk, or by gamers.

If they feel something is stupid, weird, or unfair, these people will declaim, "That was Gay!" or "That was Retarded!"

It seriously irks me to hear this, or to read in chats. My own nephew has used both words in this context and was taken to task by me over his use of them.

I explained to him, more vehemently than was needed, that these terms are very demeaning to people. He may not like gay people, and feels no compunction in using that word to describe things in an insulting manner. Like most people, he fears homosexuals because he doesn't understand that lifestyle and subsequently fears it. (He is also only 13, and follows current trends so as to not be ostracized, plus his previous upbringing was one of hate towards difference ... women, skin color, etc).

We all know that the word gay has dramatically changed from its original meaning of happy, carefree, or colorful. This occurred in the late-17th century to extend the "carefree" definition to include all manner of sexual behavior perceived as immoral. Its usage evolved over the years so that by the mid-20th century "gay" was an antonym for "straight", or for homosexual behavior.

Now that word has evolved to describe objects or events in an unflattering manner by comparing those things to a homosexual; a deviate in many eyes, as something wrong.

I find the usage of it as demeaning and wrong as calling someone a nigger. (I was going to type "the n-word", but let's be blunt. Euphamising a word detracts from the discussion of it and lessens the impact).

Don Imus was vilified and fired from his radio and television job for calling the Rutger's university women's basketball team "nappy-headed ho's". It was wrong to say, sure, but that's what his show's draw was; being irreverent, crude, and asinine. His ratings prove people liked his style. (Or lack of, in my opinion).

Yet we allow our kids to use the word gay in this way, demeaning a group of people, because ... why? We don't agree with their life choices? We don't understand them? We fear them? They do not have loud-mouthed, big name advocates like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton?

As with Imus' comments, it comes to respect for others. Respect whether we agree with someone, or not. Respect whether we like someone, or not.

Some people go by the phrase, "Respect Must Be Earned". I prefer to live by the phrase, "Respect May Be Lost."

Even more agitating to me is using the word "Retarded" in the same manner as "Gay".

Webster's describes retarded as "developmentally slow." It is derived from the word "retard" which is to "impede or hinder."

I worked with retarded "kids". We called them "Special Citizens" to avoid the negative connotations "retarded" often brought, and though many were far, far older than I, mentally most were between 4 and 12.

These gentle souls did not choose to be developmentally retarded. (I also don't feel most homosexual "choose" to be so, for that matter). Yet they suffer the stigma of being shunned, outcast by "normal" society for their disabilities. We try to avoid staring when we see one, yet we are also driven to keep watching them from the corners of our eyes; waiting, almost hoping, to see something that we can inwardly laugh at, or feel pity over, something to make us feel more "normal", more a part of society instead of apart from it.

We're all insecure deep inside, wanting acceptance, wanting to be a part of something larger. Retarded folk help us feel that by allowing us to be secretly glad its not us, by making us feel "normal." Yet, we feel they are less than us.

Using the name of these peoples' disability as a negative term to describe something disliked is abominable. It is demeaning and disrespectful.

The last word is one that doesn't depict a group of people, per se, more than it does a horrible, despicable action.

Rape has been commandeered by a youthful gaming community to describe when something, or a group of somethings, easily (and often humiliatingly) beats that player's character.

"I was raped!" they cry, after a horde of enemies quickly slays their valiant warrior.

"Owned" is another term more often used by gamers for this type of scenario. "Pwned" is another version of it. Neither are particularly offensive, even though the connotations are still the same.

Those who use the term "rape" in this crude manner have no idea what the horror of that word really means.

Being forced to submit to sexual predation through violence or trickery. Being personally violated by another human being for their own pleasure. Being used, abused, and treated like an object so someone can get their twisted jollies.

It is a disgusting act. An evil act.

I was raped by a family member when I was a child. There are only vague memories of it; horrible flashbacks of murky scenes, the faint feel of a leather belt around my neck, a dark, indistinct shape forcing my mouth open, gasping for breath ...

I near lose it when I see some clueless individual say they were raped by some video game enemies. I see red. I want to scream at them to shut up. I want to reach through the screen and smack them for so casually belittling what millions of women, children, and even men have actually endured.

Of all three words, this is the one that makes my blood boil the most. I would prefer to see the most vile curse words flit across my chat than to see rape used in such an uncaring, uneducated, callous manner.

My two nephews do not use the word rape. I am glad they do not, but get even angrier at those who do when I think of why my boys won't use it.

I hope those of you who are reading this think a little closer about what you say, or type. If you use these words, I pray you reconsider them. If you know someone who does, I ask that you make it known those words are inappropriate, even wrong, to use that way.

It's funny how a single, simple word can hurt someone.

Today's Penny Doubled Daily Cumulative Amount for 117 days is:



Swinging Sammy said...

I agree that all three words are horribly misused. I am the father of a child w/ down syndrome, so I am more conditioned to respond that one than the other two. The effect that words have on your emotions varies greatly with your life experience. Those young people using rape, retarded and gay don't have the life experience necessary to understand the hurt it causes others. I commend you for taking your nephew to task on this, we are responsible to teach our young how to behave in our society.

Tera said...

When I first started reading this, the word 'actually' burst into my mind; because of a recent telephone conversation with a sales-type-person.

Your words became more serious however, and brought back to the front of my mind how cruel people can be. You are right that it is usually the ignorant that so nonchalantly throw these words around. Well done for doing your bit and telling people you don't like it. More should.