The 'R Word' Is Out, Here's What's In

r word buttonThe campaign to end the use of the word "retarded" (or retard) certainly isn't a new thing: Everyone from experts in the medical community to people with developmental disabilities to the cast of Glee has been telling us for years that the r-word is exclusive, incorrect, offensive, and hurtful. Some people even say it's as bad as a racial slur. But it's particularly relevant today given that March 7 is the annual "Spread the Word to End the Word" advocacy day and because some people still insist on saying crap like, "OMG that's soooo [insert r-word here]". And why is that exactly?

How hard is it to use a more correct term that doesn't hurt so many people's feelings?

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The whole problem with the "r-word," of course, is that while it started off as a clinical term -- "mental retardation" or "mentally retarded" -- it has evolved into a slang term used in everyday speech that degrades people with developmental disabilities. Even when the term isn't being used specifically against a person with disabilities, it's still offensive. Joking that someone is a "retard" because they're being dumb or foolish just reinforces painful stereotypes of people with intellectual disabilities being less valued than others. Medical terminology and government policy have been changed -- for example, from "mental retardation" to "intellectual disability" -- to be more correct. I don't think it's too much of imposition to follow suit with how we talk to each other.

I know that people don't like being told what to do, and that it seems ridiculous to be so sensitive about just one word. But if people with developmental disabilities and the people who care for them are saying the word is being misused and is hurtful, then maybe it's up to all of us able-minded people to shut up and listen. It might be hard to get used to it, but the r-word is on its way out. What's in? How about having compassion for people and not needlessly hurting other people's feelings just because you can?

Do you say the R-word?


Image via Saucy Salad/Flickr

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