Words hurt

Have you seen the GEICO commercial, “Words Hurt”. Funniest freaking commercial out there.  It cracks our family up every time we view it.

Then Abby said to me (in all seriousness): You know mom, words really do hurt. They just don’t leave a bruise.

Once in a great while my girl takes my breath away. Words do hurt. I know they hurt me. I was a beyond awkward teenager with very large front teeth, unruly hair and no fashion sense. Before bullying was a killer it was just part of growing up. It was teasing or just in fun. There were so many words that at the time we didn’t know hurt beyond measure. Words that are echoed in our head 30 years later when we look in the mirror.

At our child.

I’ve written numerous times at how I have evolved as a person when it comes to the word retard. I have spoken up repeatedly when family or friends use the word retarded. I have admitted to my past use and my goal to have that word obliterated from our verbiage. I also contend that I am more appalled when I hear that someone is acting/being/is a retard more than when I hear that a “thing” is retarded (i.e. the amount of time spent on a town meeting article). True story, in our last town meeting I overheard “this process is so retarded”.

The truth is, when you say someone is/being/acting retarded you are really saying something else. You are referencing the thousands of people with disabilities. The ones who cannot throw like a girl, the ones who drool or the ones who are not “typical”. When you say that person is acting like a retard, you excuse it and say I wasn’t talking about your daughter. You do not realize you are comparing the two and finding her less than. You are implying that someone is broken, not whole, stupid or less-than others.

I am often asked, why this fight? Those who say that I make others feel bad when I correct their use of the word. I’m told that the word isn’t used “that often” anymore–false. I heard it last week at a town meeting. I hear it at my daughter’s school when the older kids don’t realize I am behind them. I hear it at the local bar, at a friend’s house party and read it in books. I am asked, out of all the battles I fight for Bridget to be accepted, included and for her to remain healthy why am I “stuck” on this fight?

Because this one I can win.

I know words hurt, but I know they can also heal. When a word starts as a medical diagnosis and is bastardized to hateful slang the establishment evolves and to help remove the stigma. I know that technically Bridget’s development is slow or limited (medical definition of retarded via Merriam Webster). The definition also states that it is sometimes offensive. So if you are going tell me, Kerri it’s a medical diagnosis, it’s in the dictionary. Then you also have to say it’s offensive.

That you are deliberately using one word that by definition is offensive when there are thousands of others you can choose.

How can I win the war against the “R” word? Simple: if you picture Bridget the next time you are using it to describe someone’s actions.

IMG_3162

Does it make you shudder? I hope it does. I hope it makes you become one more person who vows to Spread the Word to End the Word. Seven years ago the Special Olympics created a site to spread awareness of how hurtful the R word can be to others. In 2010 legislation was enacted to remove the words mental retard/retardation from federal, employment, education, and medical terms/laws. In seven short years (almost as long as Bridget has been alive) change has happened and continues.

Why do I fight this battle? Because I know it can be won. Start with the kindergarten adage, “be kind”. Don’t leave unseen bruises on persons with intellectual disabilities or the parents, siblings and others that love them.

Together we can end a word that hurts.

2015-Logo-Dated

Want to join the #Respect movement? Share this post (or your own thoughts) on Facebook, Twitter (@endtheword) and other outlets with the #Respect showing that you stand with Bridget and not against her.

20 thoughts on “Words hurt

  1. Meg C. DeBoe

    I feel the same way about the use of ‘retard’ and ‘gay’. If you are using it as a synonym for ‘lame’ then you definitely need to make another word choice.

    Like

    Reply
    1. firebailey Post author

      Exactly, there are words that you wouldn’t say today without others gasping. The goal in awareness is first to show others that this word falls into that category. The second goal would be to eliminate it all together.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  2. Katie

    I can see where you are coming from in terms of calling someone the r-word… not so much in the other contexts you note. It is interesting (and brave) of you to admit to using the r-word in what you (then) thought of as a non-offensive, “no biggie” manner.

    The this-is-the-hill-I-choose-to-die-on-because-it’s-a-winnable-battle? Interesting choice, given the sheer number of ways in which individuals are discriminated against, in this day and age.

    – signed,
    a mom whose neurotypical kid gets called the r-word (among other choice epithets) 40x times per day by a classmate with SN (Toutette’s) and has no choice but to cope with it.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. firebailey Post author

      Katie, thank you so much for your words. I am someone who frequently airs my failings as a person more to show that I do not (or try not) judge others who may not know they are being offensive. BUT how can they know if we do not speak up?

      Yes, there are so many battles with Bridget. Heck even with Abby (hello future feminist!). So this one I gladly fight knowing the moment someone realizes that they are inadvertently causing harm, the harm will stop. That acceptance and willingness to see the world through another’s eyes leads to true inclusion and hopefully will begin to diminish discrimination. It’s these seemingly little battles that help us win the war.

      Regarding your child…I am so freaking sorry that he is being bullied at school. They does not have to just cope with it. The teachers/admin should not be accepting that behavior from the SN child. Can he help it? No, but can they must provide safety for all. Bullying is bullying, regardless of ability. Personally, this is something I struggle with when it comes to my daughter. I want her included (hell yeah) but I do not want her inclusion to come at the expense of the NT children in the environment. It is something we work on at each monthly meeting. Thankfully Bridget does not have disruptive behaviors. But if she develops them I will keep your words in mind. I think having an older NT child helps with that parental awareness. At least I hope it does.

      Like

      Reply
  3. tamaralikecamera

    I can’t believe how often I hear that word. And I do shudder when I hear it so I can’t imagine saying it. And I would never picture her beautiful face in the same sentence. Never.

    Like

    Reply
  4. ruchira

    such a lovely post, Kerri, Straight from the heart!
    I absolutely agree with you…words hurt a lot thus, gotta ponder over them and not use them for the heck of it.

    That ad of Geico was hilarious yet, left an impression.

    Like

    Reply
  5. Lisa @ The Meaning of Me

    Use of that word makes me so angry, Kerri. I taught high school for fifteen years and I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve stopped dead in my tracks to explain to teenagers why their use of that word is simply not OK. It’s a lot. I’m absolutely with you on this.

    Like

    Reply
    1. firebailey Post author

      See, Lisa, that is JUST it. People of our (ahem) generation think that the word isn’t used anymore in our children’s social sphere. But it is, everyday.

      Like

      Reply
  6. Dana

    I’ve never seen that commercial – it is hilarious but true. I remember when the word retard was used commonly, and now I rarely hear it. If I do, I say something, and I hope my kids do too.

    Like

    Reply
    1. firebailey Post author

      Thanks, Dana. Just when I think the word is leaving the younger generation I hear it in a program Abby was watching. Let’s hope it truly does go away. And that commercial? Freaking hysterical!

      Like

      Reply
  7. Pingback: Want to change the world? Make it personal | (Un)Diagnosed and still okay

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s