sorry for talking/writing like a cissexist, ableist, sexist asshole

[this post has been edited for awesomeness.]

ok, so the title is extreme hyperbole, but hear me out!  i ‘ve been fucking up, peoples.  i’ve been using ableist, sexist, cissexist language.  sure, i didn’t mean anything by it, but i still fucked up.

i’ve been using words like “ret*rded” (ableist as fuck).  i only recently stopped saying that i “identify” as non-binary (cissexist).  i went through my blog a few weeks ago changing “transpeople” to “trans people” (again, cissexist), but i still haven’t apologized for writing it in the first place.  i throw the words “man”, “guys”, and “dude” around like they’re glitter and the world is dan savage’s face (blatantly sexist).

and that’s not fucking neon, peoples.  “ret*rd” is a hate-word and “transpeople” is accidentally cissexist.  referring to a mixed-gender group as “guys” is sexist, though embedded in the language, and is starting to annoy me.  i mean, what’d go down if you referred to a mixed-gender group as “ladies” or “gals”?  at the very least, it’d be laughable.

i don’t dig censorship.  i don’t think governments should get to censor the internet.  but i think this is different because this isn’t about me deciding what’s good for other people– it’s about me not wanting to contribute to the rampant sexism, cissexism, and ableism in this society.

so i’m gonna try not to write/say shit like, “hey, guys!” unless i am literally writing/talking to a bunch of GUYS.  the word “mankind” has always pissed me off (cuz what am i?  a fucking orange?), so this just makes sense.  masculinity is not the default.  and point it out if i write/say “ret*rded”.  that’s no less hurtful than writing/saying “tr*nny”– which i haven’t done in years.

if you (i was going to type “guys”) PEOPLES have any wicked and inclusive substitutes for these shitty words that have been staples of my vocabulary for years, lemme know.  new words = fun times!

cuz these words are embedded in my brain and even as i write this, my brain leaps to ableist, sexist language.  that doesn’t excuse me, though.  peoples, i sincerely apologize.  i fucked up and i have some work to do; i need to retrain myself.  feel free to point it out if i slip up– this isn’t going to be easy.

*   *   *

lemme know what you think about all this, cats.  am i censoring myself?  am i dumbing anything down?  i don’t feel like i am, but i’m interested in your marvelous brains.  (does that make me sound like a zombie?  braiiiins…)

*   *   *

just thought i’d point out that i’m not going to censor your comments unless they contain hate speech/slurs.  you’re still allowed to write, “hey, guys!”  without sticking an asterisk in there.

31 responses to “sorry for talking/writing like a cissexist, ableist, sexist asshole

  1. I think the issue of discrimination is very personal to you, as it is to me, so you are noticing thing in areas where you may be a little more critical. That is just my opinion. I think you do a really good job of avoiding it, but it is a part of our culture and it is totally up to you if that is a habit you desire to purge. As for the word retarded I look at it this way… People with mental handicaps aren’t retarded, in fact many of them are more educated and motivated to be more than their conditions than any one of us.

    People who neglect their own gifts and intellect to follow faulty thinking, to persecute others, or to just waste what mind they have and not test what they know and find truth are retarded. Sexists are retarded, Racists are retarded, however mentally handicapped people are not because they living to their full potential and doing the best they can with what they have. I don’t feel any human being has the right to grade the value of another’s life, potential or meaning. It is ableistic think that gives the word retarded the negative meaning. Retard = Willful Ignorance in my book.

    Slang, such as Dude/Guy, is simply are explicative words that really only have the meaning you give them. Many of these terms though have cultural connotations that are negative, but remember this… Words only have the meanings you give them either through usage or situational application. I don’t find your writing cissexist, ableist or sexist. Some of the language you use may have connotations that trace back to a slur of one of the prior, however, I feel none of your usages commit that error.

    Words only have the power we give them. I find your slang and writing style to make your blogs an enjoyable read. A bomb with a parachute is a retarded bomb, but ableism shanghaied the word to be an insult. Different ≠ Lesser. However, it’s your choice as to how you speak, and I share similar sentiments with some words. There is a difference from saying/typing “Retarded” and ableism, “Dudes” and sexism, “Trans people” and cissexism. These things do cross my radar, but I evaluate why I use those words to understand their meaning to me.

    To err is human, but it’s not a failure until you refuse to correct it.
    Failure because you refuse to change is truly retarded because it holds you back and stifles growth. Obstinance is not a virtue, and you are not obstinate, sexist, ableist, or cissexist in my opinion.

  2. thank you for the intelligent and thorough reply! yay! and thanks for calling my blog “an enjoyable read”. that makes me ever so smiley!

    k, so to business. “People with mental handicaps aren’t retarded…” i agree with this. this is exactly why i’ve been using the word “ret*rded”; i don’t think of people with disablities that way. i don’t associate that word with them. i hear you, my friend.

    but. it IS a hate-word. as such, it belongs to the people oppressed by it– people with disabilities. i feel that i have no right to take part in reclaiming a word that never belonged to me in the first place. for me, a (currently) abled person, to attempt to reclaim a slur aimed at people with disabilities would be simple appropriation. that said, i’m not advocating against phrases like “flame retardant”. lolz.

    i would also like to say this: most people i’ve known with mental disabilities have flinched upon hearing the word “ret*rd”, regardless of intent. in high school, i was friends with someone with severe dyslexia– and she asked me to stop saying “ret*rd” in any context related to people (so, “flame retardant” was cool). she told me that she had been oppressed by the word and that hearing it from her friend’s mouth made her uncomfortable. i don’t think i really stopped saying it. my excuse was this: my intent was positive and had nothing to do with disabled people. in retrospect, i wish i’d listened to her. the word simply did not (and does not!) belong to abled people (like me).

    “Words only have the power we give them.” this is true to an extent. however, if some cis person commented on my blog and called us (or some of us or whatever) “a bunch of tr*nnies”, even if the tone were friendly, i would edit/delete them. hate speech is not ok, and intent isn’t always the whole story. i know “tr*nny” makes some people feel veryvery unsafe, regardless of intent. i feel that it’s my responsibility to keep my space free of (un)intended hate speech.

    i think the “man”, “dude”, “guys” thing is different because those words aren’t actually slurs. i’m just personally uncomfortable with using them because they imply that masculinity is the default. i’m not planning on censoring them out of other people’s comments, though. and i won’t call YOU a sexist asshole for using them– i know you aren’t ANY kind of asshole.

    i don’t think people who use these words are necessarily sexist, cissexist, ableist. i think their choice of words, however, DOES perpetuate sexism, cissexism, ableism. so i’m gonna try to be more inclusive, dig?

    thanks again for the input; i seriously value your brain-fish. lemme know what you think about my reply, k?

    so, yeah. seriously, i need some rad/colorful/possibly random words to use in place of “ret*ard”, “guys”, “l*me”. i’m thinking i might go with “cats” instead of “guys”. i love cats and i’m a jazzer, so it seems natural. mwah.

  3. mx. punk = windy-ful

    …what a long fucking comment… sdjfjjdfgjdfkljgd

  4. How about “Ignorant” for a person who retards themselves with intentional mockery? I agree, and I too try to avoid the word retard. I am disabled though to many degrees, so… I have dysorthography, which literally means that my brains and my hands don’t get along. I think things and my hands don’t always repeat exactly what I said. It’s a form of dyslexia. Also, I have semi-debilitating injuries that will never heal, as well as a sleep disorder. The culmination of them happens to make it nearly impossible to work, or sustain a job.

    I am fine as long as I put 0% stress on my body and my joints, but if I for example… Walk 2 miles to the super market (4 round trip), my sleep will suffer for two days over pain, and it will be difficult to walk for a week. Sometimes I seriously luck out. However, as you said “retarded” is one of those words that just doesn’t need to be said. I learned to avoid such usage by thinking about writing in a professional frame of mind. I have that kind of experience through 10 years of military service, but anyone can do it.

    But, I do cringe when I hear retard either out of my mouth or others; however, contextually retarded as an adjective doesn’t bother me and in those cases I don’t see a reason to take offense with it. However, other people could be more offended by it… After-all I was in the military and I learned to have thick skin… Especially since I was usually the butt of other peoples jokes. But, throughout my life this has usually been the case. You’re too girly for a boy, you’re too weak for a boy, too small, too soft, you type too slow, you’re gay, you’re retarded, worthless, et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseum.

    So I grew up to be a woman who is strong, happy to be attracted to people of either sex, who can actually type fast and overcame her learning disabilities, and is totally happy okay with being called girly, weak, slow, gay or et cetera, and so forth. My life, my happiness and my accomplishments toss all those insults ever hurled at me on their head. Enough said. I admire your desire to think for yourself, and applaud it. Let no one condemn you for respecting others with the power of words, or for trying to be better than the rest rather than just better than the next guy.

    Mx. Punk = wondy-ful and awesomeness X (:3)
    Yes that is a cat face and a 3 :P

  5. I got a blog popper for you… When it comes to change, progress, and equality why are so many people lazy defining and noticing oppression? Why do most peoples standards of fair treatment of other people only lie in that “just better than the other guy” realm? Food for thought.

  6. [I'm not going to censor anything in this comment because I don't believe that the ****s are necessary; we're all adults, here.]

    This really is an interesting topic, Mx. Punk; where do we draw the line in terms of what we call people and situations? I’ll be honest: There was a time when my go-to word for… well, damn near everything even somewhat negative was “gay”. Then, out of habit, I just said it while I was in my office, doing some analysis homework with Josh, while my coworker (who is a gay man) was there. He called me out on it, and I apologized, because he was right: “Gay doesn’t equal lame.”

    And I get that; “gay” is a thing that a person can actually be, just like “retarded” (on which I’ve been trying to cut back my use) and “lame” (on which I definitely need some work). But, as before, where do we draw the line? Are pet names OK? “Angel”? “Hun”? “Babe”/”Baby”? Is an apology required if we walk up to a group of people saying “Hey, guys! What’s up?” without realizing that there’s people of other genders in the group? Do we need to call everybody by “human” labels all of the time? Certainly we do if we wish to be 100% politically correct and respectful of all other people, but what about people we’re intimate with (not necessarily romantically)?

    I’m not too sure where I’m going with this; this is more of just a brain dump of my thoughts. Sorry. :-P

  7. @ brennan c.: i wouldn’t censor any of the words you used, either (except for “ret*rd”). other than “ret*rd”, none of them are slurs as far as i know. just words that people misuse, sometimes. and just so you know, i do censor slurs, regardless of adulthood. since i started this blog, i’ve had to edit/delete a few comments because they contained hate-speech. not that you sling slurs all over the place; i’m just saying.

    “He called me out on it, and I apologized, because he was right: ‘Gay doesn’t equal lame.’” this is pretty much how i feel about ret*rd, which i WILL continue censoring cuz it’s a slur. pretty much what happened to me. only, i didn’t listen the first time, so it happened a few times with different people. that’s why i feel like an asshole.

    “Is an apology required if we walk up to a group of people saying ‘Hey, guys! What’s up?’ without realizing that there’s people of other genders in the group?” i don’t think so. honestly, that would make me giggle and get all fucking silly. i think “hey, guys” is a sexist comment because it assumes masculinity is the default, but i don’t actually find it offensive. maybe other people will disagree, but i fucking annoy myself when i say it, even though i don’t really give 2 fucks when other people say it. yeah. include me in “guys” all you want– ‘s’all cool. seriously. this really isn’t a big deal to me; the post title is, like, hyperbole x 10 trillion to the power of 89.

    “…what about people we’re intimate with (not necessarily romantically)?” this is a totally different situation, in my opinion. a public blog is different from a private conversation in that the blogger probably doesn’t have an intimate relationship with each of their readers. as such, the blogger has no way of knowing what words make their readers feel unsafe or oppressed.

    “’Angel’? ‘Hun’? ‘Babe’/’Baby’” these piss me off. i’ve been called these a few times in my life– and those people still regret it, i’m sure (or maybe i’m funny when i get all pissed off… i dunno). i won’t censor them because they aren’t slurs, so feel free to write them here if you feel they’re the right words for the moment. i think they’re total shit, though, since you’re wondering.

    “I’m not too sure where I’m going with this; this is more of just a brain dump of my thoughts. Sorry. :-P” that’s like apologizing for a crayola dump of crayons. i always appreciate your thoughts! thanks, cat!

  8. @reneta: “Why do most peoples standards of fair treatment of other people only lie in that ‘just better than the other guy’ realm?” oh, fuck. it’s seriously weird, isn’t it? why not just do what you think is right? and if you find out you’re wrong, why not learn from it? you’re full of wonderful questions!

    i think it’s laziness, in part. it means that people don’t really have to think about things and do research and do the right thing (which can be a shit-ton of work!). it means that people don’t have to modify their behavior very much and it means that they don’t have to confront themselves over moral issues. it’s a way of justifying unfair treatment of other people, you know? “i’m not THAT bad; look at that person over there! they’re WORSE.” yeah.

    thanks again for your thoughts– and for the rad picture! it’s my desktop background. yay!

  9. Thank you and you’re totally welcome.

  10. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhjUJTw2i1M Predictable Rationality may have some explanations for the phenomenon.

  11. I like “ya’ll” and “folks” to go after “hey”, but that may be too southern for where you live, just a thought.
    Hey, Humans! is funny and might work with the right group.

  12. “humans!” i love it! and instead of saying, like, “cya, man” i could say, “cya, human”. lolz! thanks x 10 trillion!

  13. It just so happens that after reading this post about the problem with “you guys,” I read a wikipedia article about language and an equivalent phrase is “you lot!” So I’m gonna start saying that now. Let’s make it catch on.

  14. i love “you lot”! i’ve been saying it quite a bit– it’s sorta a novelty where i live.

  15. I think that it’s not really necessary to “censor” oneself to such extremes, and the “you guys” thing really does not bother me that much, and I am a woman. Technically speaking, the proper English plural form of “you” is “you.” Why the confusion? Well, in Ye Olde Englishe, the way to address someone of a lower social status, or for conversation in informal situations, was to use “thou,” which is a 2nd-person singular pronoun. However, when addressing one’s superiors, one would always use “you,” which was originally only a 2nd-person plural pronoun. (It was considered too impolite to refer to one’s superior so directly as to use the “singular” pronoun. The same social norm is also behind phrases such as “Your Majesty,” which addresses the person’s qualities, but not the person directly.) People didn’t want to offend each other, so they started using “you” in almost all situations, reserving “thou” for insults (i.e., “I thou thee, traitor!”) Now, since nobody in American don’t speak no English alright, there are dialectical differences that compensate for the vacuum left by the dilution of the original 2nd-person plural pronoun. In New Jersey it’s “yous,” in the South it’s “y’all,” and where I live, in the Pacific Northwest, it’s “you guys.” It’s used to address groups of men and women and frankly it’s never been insulting to me. Spanish has a similar phenomenon, but with the 3rd-person plural pronoun, which can be translated as “ellas” or “ellos.” The former is for groups of females or “female-gendered” objects specifically, the latter is for groups that have at least one male or “male-gendered” object in them. But my books are just as grammatically male as a group of men are, so it might not be perfectly analogous. Anyway, linguistics.

    I reject the notion suggested by the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis that the nuances of our language can influence or determine our worldview. To me, the fact that words change meanings and that new words are being adapted and invented all the time to reflect our society’s evolving worldviews proves the exact opposite. The point of language is to communicate abstract ideas, including things that have no physical actuality, and things that do but are not present for the speaker and listener to refer to. If we did not have these ideas in the first place, there would be no language to describe them.

    “Retarded” has a medical context, and “retard” is a verb that has many non-pejorative meanings. I agree, however, that it is impolite to refer to a person as “ret*rded,” but it is not impolite to describe someone’s intelligence as “ret*rded,” or their social skills as “ret*rded,” if it means that they are less advanced at those things than what is usual for their age.

    I don’t see how “identifying as non-binary” or “transpeople” is cissexist. I would like more clarification on this myself. As for the latter of the two, I do not see the implicit difference in bigotry afforded by something that could just as easily be a typo rather than a deliberate attempt to be absolutely, perfectly, politically correct.

    Censoring oneself form saying “man,” “guys,” and “dude” is, in my humble opinion, taking it way too far. I use these things all the time, but it is not to address the person as if they are a man. It is to get their attention. It is an exclamation, not a declaration of their gender. (Although I did have a friend in school who addressed girls as “dude-ettes.”)

    I don’t think that you are terribly cissexist or sexist. There are real slurs out there (i.e., “tr*nny,” “cunt,” etc.) that you don’t use. You’re careful not to come across as bigoted in all your blog posts. To be perfectly frank, to purge one’s own language of any word which you consider to be laden with sinister implications, despite its innocuous accepted meanings, reeks of Ingsoc. Ingsoc was intended to make it linguistically impossible for anyone to express negative statements about Big Brother, and to prevent them from thinking negative thoughts by extension. While an eerie and chilling concept in 1984 (which I don’t think you embody, just to be clear), it would break down incredibly quickly because we invent new words to suit our needs all the time. Even if you get rid of this language which you consider “bigoted,” it does absolutely nothing if the bigotry behind the supposed negative implications of those words still exists as a meaningful force. “Antisemitism” was originally coined in the late 19th century in Germany as a more “scientific-sounding” alternative name for “Jew-hatred” (“Judenhass”). It would be more effective to simply raise awareness of the issues that minorities face, and then the associated slurs can be more easily suppressed.

  16. thanks for leaving such a detailed and thoughtful comment! seriously, yay! and, yes, i did censor your comment with a few ***’s. i hope you’re ok with that (if you’re not, shoot me a message about it and we’ll work it out). i think censoring slurs with ****’s is a token of respect for the people oppressed by those slurs. that’s just me, though, and i totally respect that you might feel differently about it.

    about “you guys/dude”: i think this is macro sexist, but i don’t think people who say it are necessarily sexist. i also don’t get offended when people address me as “dude” or whatevers; i know they don’t mean anything by it so i really don’t give 2 fucks. that said, i totally dislike the implication that the default human is male (and white/heterosexual/cisgender/currently-abled/above the poverty line etc.). as i said, i just find it annoying when i imply a male default– so i’m working on it.

    strangely, i DO get upset when people try to use gender-specific language. like, i’d rather someone just called everyone “dude” than trying to call guys “dudes” and women “dudettes”. i guess that’s cuz i’m neither dude nor dudette. personally, i think the most awesome solution is for me to use non-gendered language– which i’m getting pretty good at. huzzah!

    as for the ableist language: http://andythenerd.tumblr.com/post/21932331980/ableist-speech-is-hate-speech yeah. reclaiming words used to oppress other people isn’t ok, cat. cuz it still hurts. i don’t know how to explain this other than that i don’t want to hurt people needlessly (unless they’re stealing my crayoooons), ya know? i know i can’t avoid hurting people’s feelings some of the time, but i think it’s important for me to try to limit that as much as possible.

    (note: i’m not trying to be confrontational, but i AM going to be blunt.) it IS impolite to refer to someone’s intelligence with a slur. i’m still debating whether i should further censor the 3rd paragraph of your comment. i’m sure you didn’t mean anything shitty, but i think it’s a pretty problematic paragraph. from that paragraph, i read the implication that pwd are “less than” abled people and that abled people get to judge pwd. i think there’s a difference between identifying a specific mental disability (for health reasons) and declaring that certain mental states are more advanced than others. i just really think it’s unkind.

    i think our words can be divorced from our worldview entirely– or connected to it intimately. for example, i called everyone “dude” for about 15 years– but i’ve never considered the default human to be male. i don’t think my choice of words (in that case) influenced my worldview at all. HOWEVER, i do think my usage of “dude” occurred in a system in which the default human is male. and i’d be shocked if those 2 things (my usage of “dude” and the patriarchal system) weren’t related somehow. as for language and worldview being related, consider the word “woman”. people in my family regularly use “woman” as an insult. with this fucked up influence, the kids in my family (ages 4-10) are starting to use “woman” as an insult. and ya know what? they’re really taking it to heart. and it really hurts my niece’s feelings (she told me so)– but now SHE’S starting to use “woman” as an insult. i really think there’s something to this, cat. really. i mean, i listen to death metal and i don’t think it’s poisoning my soul, but i think language can be veryvery powerful, sometimes.

    “It would be more effective to simply raise awareness of the issues that minorities face, and then the associated slurs can be more easily suppressed.”

    one way i try to raise awareness of these issues is by calling people on their language (i’m not talking about “dude/you guys”). for instance, if somebody goes, “don’t be a pussy!” i can be like, “what’s wrong with pussy?! …are you saying there’s something inherently shitty about pussy?” i think language IS important, if not all the time, then a lot of the time.

    and this isn’t about oppressing people through censorship (like ingsoc). this is about not oppressing people with language backed by systemic prejudices.

    while i disagree with you, i’m stoked that you’re taking the time to disagree with me. that’s pretty fucking splendid and i sincerely appreciate it. so… rebuttals?

  17. oops! i forgot: “I don’t see how ‘identifying as non-binary’ or ‘transpeople’ is cissexist.”

    it’s subtle, but i think it’s a valid concern. cis people don’t have to identify as men or women, do they? i mean, technically, they DO– but they just go around saying that they ARE men and women. but trans* people are almost always described as “identifying as _____”. so when i say i identify as non-binary, i’m saying that i’m not reeeeeaaally non-binary, i just IDENTIFY as non-binary. as i said, it’s subtle (and lots of trans* people don’t give a shit) but it matters to me. a little bit, anyway.

    as for “transpeople”: you wouldn’t call a straight woman a “straightwoman,” would you? i mean, you might, but you probably wouldn’t. “gayman,” “blackchild,” and “disabledbloke” don’t really fly, either. so why “transpeople”? “transpeople” implies that we aren’t really people– we’re “transpeople”. whereas “trans* people” implies that we’re people who’re trans*. again, subtle difference that doesn’t matter to everybody.

    and i won’t censor/correct comments containing this stuff. some trans* people DO identify as their gender and that’s cool– i just won’t be saying/writing it about mx. punk anymore. and “transpeople” isn’t a big deal to me, either. it’s just something to be picky about.

    whew! i’m long-winded! gfhugdfugd!

  18. “thanks for leaving such a detailed and thoughtful comment! seriously, yay! and, yes, i did censor your comment with a few ***’s. i hope you’re ok with that (if you’re not, shoot me a message about it and we’ll work it out). i think censoring slurs with ****’s is a token of respect for the people oppressed by those slurs. that’s just me, though, and i totally respect that you might feel differently about it.”

    Thank you for your response. Yes, I’m fine with the asterisks. It’s your blog, after all. I can still tell what the slurs are, but I can somewhat understand why you would want to censor them. If you feel that you have to censor some words that I use in this reply, go ahead, but keep in mind I will probably not catch everything myself. I appreciate your politeness in this matter, by the way. Civility tends to crumble when people have masks to hide behind.

    “about “you guys/dude”: i think this is macro sexist, but i don’t think people who say it are necessarily sexist. i also don’t get offended when people address me as “dude” or whatevers; i know they don’t mean anything by it so i really don’t give 2 fucks. that said, i totally dislike the implication that the default human is male (and white/heterosexual/cisgender/currently-abled/above the poverty line etc.). as i said, i just find it annoying when i imply a male default– so i’m working on it.”

    We agree here about society’s idea of the “default human.” I, too, am bothered when people on the internet refer to me as masculine without bothering to find out my real gender. (Of course, the whole trope “There’s no girls on the internet” probably has something to do with this. And the prospect of “Tits or GTFO” comments aren’t exactly welcoming.) I do not think that this “default human” idea is necessarily rooted in or reinforced by language. I am an atheist, but I do not feel threatened when people say “God bless you” after I sneeze. (There are some who get really pissy about it, but frankly I’ve never heard a good reason why.) Even I say it (albeit I tend to slur mine to sound like “G’blesh,” which looks like it came out of some strange Lovecraftian chant). Why? Because its intended meaning is entirely divorced from its literal meaning, and it’s a harmless social norm of the English language. I view “you guys” and “Man!” and “Dude!” and “Duuuuuuuude!” in much the same way. Also, what do you mean by “macro sexist?”

    “strangely, i DO get upset when people try to use gender-specific language. like, i’d rather someone just called everyone “dude” than trying to call guys “dudes” and women “dudettes”. i guess that’s cuz i’m neither dude nor dudette. personally, i think the most awesome solution is for me to use non-gendered language– which i’m getting pretty good at. huzzah!”

    I understand what you are getting at here. There are some places where the author has used “man” to refer to people of all genders. Now it is more fashionable to use “humankind” instead of “mankind” or “men and women” instead of “men,” but the latter trend has its own problems in that it excludes the non-binary-gendered. Although I admit I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, I do not know of any modern language that has a commonly-used pronoun for genderqueer people. There are some languages that have gender-neutral pronouns, but Modern English is not one of them. Middle English, however, had two gender-neutral pronouns (“ou” and “a”) but they have long since died out (not that I don’t want to revive them, lol).

    “as for the ableist language: http://andythenerd.tumblr.com/post/21932331980/ableist-speech-is-hate-speech yeah. reclaiming words used to oppress other people isn’t ok, cat. cuz it still hurts. i don’t know how to explain this other than that i don’t want to hurt people needlessly (unless they’re stealing my crayoooons), ya know? i know i can’t avoid hurting people’s feelings some of the time, but i think it’s important for me to try to limit that as much as possible.”

    First of all, how did you know I was a cat person?
    I think I understand this part a bit more.

    “(note: i’m not trying to be confrontational, but i AM going to be blunt.) it IS impolite to refer to someone’s intelligence with a slur. i’m still debating whether i should further censor the 3rd paragraph of your comment. i’m sure you didn’t mean anything shitty, but i think it’s a pretty problematic paragraph. from that paragraph, i read the implication that pwd are “less than” abled people and that abled people get to judge pwd. i think there’s a difference between identifying a specific mental disability (for health reasons) and declaring that certain mental states are more advanced than others. i just really think it’s unkind.”

    I don’t care if you censor any of the words in my paragraph or not, as that’s up to you. To clarify, I did not and do not intend to insult people with disabilities.

    However, I disagree with the idea that it is wrong to consider people with disabilities… well… disabled. (If this phrasing bothers you, feel free to change it, but I was really scratching my head as to how to express this sentiment.) That flies in the face of medical fact. People with dyslexia have impairments in the ability to read. Is this statement inherently ableist? There are people who have severe intellectual disabilities which negatively impact their ability to function in their environment. Is this statement inherently ableist? Conversely, there are hyperlexic children who read at a level far above the average expected for their age, and people with genius intelligences. There are some people who are more mentally advanced than others.

    Note that I do not consider people with disabilities “less than” abled people, because obviously a person’s mental abilities have no bearing on their value as a person. Mental advancement != inherent human value. One could be the smartest person on earth and still be a complete douchebag. I will concede that “retarded” (adj.) is one of those terms that has been on the “euphemism treadmill” and has lost its neutral implications. The noun form has always been a coarse insult to me and I never use it.

    “i think our words can be divorced from our worldview entirely– or connected to it intimately. for example, i called everyone “dude” for about 15 years– but i’ve never considered the default human to be male. i don’t think my choice of words (in that case) influenced my worldview at all. HOWEVER, i do think my usage of “dude” occurred in a system in which the default human is male. and i’d be shocked if those 2 things (my usage of “dude” and the patriarchal system) weren’t related somehow. as for language and worldview being related, consider the word “woman”. people in my family regularly use “woman” as an insult. with this fucked up influence, the kids in my family (ages 4-10) are starting to use “woman” as an insult. and ya know what? they’re really taking it to heart. and it really hurts my niece’s feelings (she told me so)– but now SHE’S starting to use “woman” as an insult. i really think there’s something to this, cat. really. i mean, i listen to death metal and i don’t think it’s poisoning my soul, but i think language can be veryvery powerful, sometimes.”

    Our choice of words can express our worldview, but not necessarily in their literal meaning, such as in the “God bless you!” comment above. I do not believe in God, but I say it anyway because it is in the etiquette of anglophone culture to wish health on someone who may be displaying symptoms of sickness. It expresses our worldview, but only in our self-defined terms. For instance, my step-grandmother will freely use “shvartze” in everyday conversation to refer to black people. Although its literal translation (from Yiddish) is “black,” its modern connotations are up there in severity with the N-word. If I said that sort of word, whether in English or any other language, my mom would make me wash out my mouth with soap. However, my step-grandmother does not see a problem with it because she grew up in an era where it was not considered improper to use that word to refer to black people. To me, saying “shvartze” would make me a racist. To her, saying “shvartze” carries no negative connotations whatsoever.

    (As a random side note, I recall a certain conlang that no curse words. There was no equivalent for “fuck” because sex was not taboo. Neither were there equivalents for “shit” and “crap” because there is nothing taboo about biological bodily functions. etcetera, etcetera…)

    I don’t think it’s possible to prove that “Dude!” and patriarchal culture are related. In my opinion, it is drawing conclusions where there may just as easily be none. It is probably just coincidence. I have never heard the word “woman” used as an insult (rather unusual, I suppose, but I haven’t), but the fact that your relatives are using and considering it as one is unfortunate. I think the difference between saying,”Dude!” and using “woman” as an insult is in intent. The former is an exclamation that doesn’t use its literal meaning. It is simply used to grab someone’s attention, to exclaim strong emotions (excited, impressed, angry, etc.), or simply as a stalling word (in the same vein as “like”).

    “one way i try to raise awareness of these issues is by calling people on their language (i’m not talking about “dude/you guys”). for instance, if somebody goes, “don’t be a pussy!” i can be like, “what’s wrong with pussy?! …are you saying there’s something inherently shitty about pussy?” i think language IS important, if not all the time, then a lot of the time.”

    Fair enough. I call people out on using “gay” as an insult, so yeah.

    “and this isn’t about oppressing people through censorship (like ingsoc). this is about not oppressing people with language backed by systemic prejudices.”

    I understand where you’re coming from a bit more now. I just don’t think that an entire patriarchal social ladder can be deconstructed simply by not using “you guys.” If I were raised in the South and said “y’all” instead, would that make my language any less oppressive? Would it dismantle the default of the male at all?

    “while i disagree with you, i’m stoked that you’re taking the time to disagree with me. that’s pretty fucking splendid and i sincerely appreciate it. so… rebuttals?”

    Thank you for taking the time to respond to me, and thank you again for your politeness. You’ve definitely made me think. I am looking forward to your responses. I also read your follow-up comment on the “trans*people” topic, and I get where you’re coming from. (I know I’ve been saying that a lot, but I do appreciate your reasoning a little more now.) But just out of curiosity, why do you put an asterisk in the phrase?

  19. sorry for taking so long, cat! i was thinking up a great reply, shit happened, and i totally forgot. sorry about that!

    by “macro sexist”, i mean that it’s sexist on a societal (macro) level as opposed to sexist on an individual (micro) level. “you guys.” “dude,” “man,” “boy,” “mankind” etc. imply a male default human on a macro level because. well, there’s a pattern there. do you know of ANY mainstream/widely-accepted anomalies to this pattern? cuz i don’t (not that that means anything. ). the pattern is macro sexist because it’s a direct product of a sexist society. it isn’t micro sexist, though in that people whose language falls into that pattern aren’t necessarily sexist.

    “…I disagree with the idea that it is wrong to consider people with disabilities… well… disabled.”

    i think we can agree on that, cat. people with disabilities are certainly disabled people. “disabled” is not hate speech and is widely used within the disabled community. sorry for not being clear about that. :( saying that someone has disabilities (specifically “disabilities”) isn’t inherently rude. there’s no point in denying biology and there’s also no reason to do so. saying that someone has disabilities doesn’t really involve ranking people. yes, you are noting that pwd can’t really do certain things that other people can, but you’re still not really ranking people.

    “People with dyslexia have impairments in the ability to read. Is this statement inherently ableist? There are people who have severe intellectual disabilities which negatively impact their ability to function in their environment. Is this statement inherently ableist?”

    i don’t think so, but i’m currently-abled, so i might not be the best judge. i don’t think these statements are ableist cuz they don’t pass any sort of judgment on pwd; they don’t compare them to their currently-abled peers or talk down to them. so i think they’re probably ok– but you should probably ask someone with disabilities. (i felt ok talking about the other ableist stuff cuz i’ve read a lot about those specific things in articles written by pwd.)

    “There are some people who are more mentally advanced than others.”

    i have a problem with the word “advanced” cuz it feels like you’re ranking people again. ya know? like, “this end of the spectrum is ‘advanced’ and that end of the spectrum is ‘waaaaay behind’.”

    “To her, saying “shvartze” carries no negative connotations whatsoever.”

    if she’s white, this could have something to do with her inherent white privilege. i don’t know her and i’m not going to start speculating, but racism is never cool. i think the only excuse one could possibly have for using an anti-black slur is being a poc.

    …and i think slurs DO speak for our worldview– that we are either reclaiming slurs used against US or that we have a lot of unacknowledged privilege.

    “I think the difference between saying,”Dude!” and using “woman” as an insult is in intent.”

    i respectfully disagree. i think the difference between “dude!” and phrases like “don’t be such a fucking woman!” is that “dude!” doesn’t instantly disparage a whole group of people. also, i think intent is way overrated. yes, it can be hugely important, but i don’t think intent trumps IMPACT. you can throw “tr*nny” around as a “friendly” joke, for example, but you’re still emphasizing that trans* people are public property to be examined, judged, and laughed at. ya know?

    sorta about the male default: http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/why-is-white-male-the-default/

    http://www.womanist-musings.com/2011/04/gender-free-world-might-default-to-male.html

    and “trans*” is more inclusive than “trans” (thanks for asking, btw). i don’t think i can explain it as well a this article does (http://life-in-neon.tumblr.com/post/23714560950/trans-the-trans-asterisk), so check it out! huzzah!

    thanks for sharing your brain with me. this is super interesting conversation; it’s fun to disagree while still being totally friendly! it gets my brain going!

    and i’m a cat person, too. yay!

  20. oops! i forgot to mention that my family members aren’t the only people i’ve heard use “woman” as an insult. i hear it in public from strangers, i hear it at school etc. also, “don’t be a pussy” is totally a thing. “dick” as an insult doesn’t count cuz dominant systems of oppression think dicks and men are rad, so using “dick” as an insult doesn’t really have much clout.

  21. “by “macro sexist”, i mean that it’s sexist on a societal (macro) level as opposed to sexist on an individual (micro) level. “you guys.” “dude,” “man,” “boy,” “mankind” etc. imply a male default human on a macro level because. well, there’s a pattern there. do you know of ANY mainstream/widely-accepted anomalies to this pattern? cuz i don’t (not that that means anything. ). the pattern is macro sexist because it’s a direct product of a sexist society. it isn’t micro sexist, though in that people whose language falls into that pattern aren’t necessarily sexist.”

    It’s hard to say what is a sexist pattern of speech and what can be chalked up to linguistic evolution. In many gendered languages (note that this does not necessarily correspond with the actual gender of the thing being described), “masculine” things hold precedence over “feminine” or “neuter” things. This has little, if anything, to do with the inherent sexism of the language or its culture, but the words linguists have ascribed to its traits. Again, I bring up the example of Spanish (and most Romance languages). They have no intention to declare disparaging things about one gender or praise another, they simply *are*. For all I care, the terms “masculine” and “feminine” could be replaced with “feline” and “canine,” or with “type-1″ and “type-2.” People picked binary gender because they needed a pair of words that were “opposites.” (Arabic, by the way, has “sun” and “moon” letters.)

    This is different from using a gender as a slur, such as using “woman” as an insult, as you’ve described above. That is clearly meant to describe all women as being inherently inferior.

    “i think we can agree on that, cat. people with disabilities are certainly disabled people. “disabled” is not hate speech and is widely used within the disabled community. sorry for not being clear about that. :( saying that someone has disabilities (specifically “disabilities”) isn’t inherently rude. there’s no point in denying biology and there’s also no reason to do so. saying that someone has disabilities doesn’t really involve ranking people. yes, you are noting that pwd can’t really do certain things that other people can, but you’re still not really ranking people.”

    I’m chill with that.

    “i have a problem with the word “advanced” cuz it feels like you’re ranking people again. ya know? like, “this end of the spectrum is ‘advanced’ and that end of the spectrum is ‘waaaaay behind’.””

    But there are some people whose abilities are farther ahead than average on the continuum, and there are some whose abilities are a bit below average. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it is a biological reality. A person with severe mental disabilities probably cannot perform a certain task at the same level of a person without them. A person without disabilities will probably not perform as well as a person who is particularly advanced at performing a certain task. The only thing being judged is their ability at a certain task compared to the average, not whether they are better or worse as human beings because of it.

    “if she’s white, this could have something to do with her inherent white privilege. i don’t know her and i’m not going to start speculating, but racism is never cool. i think the only excuse one could possibly have for using an anti-black slur is being a poc.”

    To be perfectly honest, I have no idea what her race is. Regardless of whether she is white or a person of color, it doesn’t give her an excuse to speak the way she does, because by modern standards what she is saying is absolutely offensive. Being a POC doesn’t give you a pass to say racist things. Being a POC does not make you immune from being a racist.

    Although props to you for acknowledging that there are Jews of color. I can speak from experience and from reading a lot of posts by JOC that this kind of racism is a problem. (I’m not a JOC, but frankly with all the shit Jews have been through, we should know better than to automatically resort to racism.) I think part of the confusion arises from the fact that even a lot of Jews are confused as to whether Judaism is a religion or a race/ethnicity. All denominations agree that anyone whose mother is Jewish is also a Jew, regardless of their religious beliefs or observance. I could write a while about issues facing the American Jewish community, but I digress.

    “i respectfully disagree. i think the difference between “dude!” and phrases like “don’t be such a fucking woman!” is that “dude!” doesn’t instantly disparage a whole group of people. also, i think intent is way overrated. yes, it can be hugely important, but i don’t think intent trumps IMPACT. you can throw “tr*nny” around as a “friendly” joke, for example, but you’re still emphasizing that trans* people are public property to be examined, judged, and laughed at. ya know?”

    “Dude” does not instantly disparage an entire group of people, and I certainly agree with you there. That’s why I think it’s not possible to draw a strong connection between using “woman” as a slur and using “Dude!” as an exclamation.

    I will be sure to read your links. ;)

    “thanks for sharing your brain with me.”
    ZOMG ZOMBIE. D: (jk)

    “this is super interesting conversation; it’s fun to disagree while still being totally friendly! it gets my brain going!”

    Yuppers.

    “and i’m a cat person, too. yay!”

    Meow.

  22. mew! and i am totally a zombie-cat… in space! huzzah! (that makes me reallyreally happy!)

    ‘k, so some pwd may have a problem with being described as being “less advanced” than abled people, but others might not give a shit. i personally think it has the potential to be problematic, but i’m not a pwd. it’s just something i avoid saying cuz i think it might bug some pwds. i can see how some people might not like being ranked or “scored” according to what they can and can’t do– you can identify and adjust for disabilities/impairments without comparing pwd to currently abled people.

    honestly, cat, this is rad conversation, but i’m starting to think that i’m overstepping my bounds as a currently abled person; i’m gonna send some sweet reading your way in place of trying to speak for pwd too much. i really can’t speak for people with experiences so different from my own (or for anyone other than myself).

    http://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/confined-disability-language-microaggression-0315124/

    http://disabledfeminists.com/2009/10/23/ableist-word-profile-intelligence/

    http://disabledfeminists.com/2009/11/23/o-language-again/

    http://disabledfeminists.com/2009/10/16/what-we-talk-about-when-we-talk-about-language/

    i can’t find anything that specifically mentioned the word “advanced”– if any of my readers are pwd who have an opinion on this, feel free to butt in. :) sorry if i’m sending too much reading your way. it’s stuff that’s at least kinda relevant and totally interesting (imo). and i’m not trying to make you go away by sending you articles! :) this is fun and you’re always welcome around here; friendly debates are seriously hard to come by. too many people just get pissed off, ya know?

    so, yay!

  23. Okay, thanks for the links. Yeah, I don’t want to be one of those asshats who goes “RHHHHAL:KSJ:JFAISJLH RAEG Y U NO IN KITCHEN” at everything they disagree with. Frankly I have no idea how those people survive in the real world, as if even the thought that someone doesn’t think exactly the way they do. For the record, I don’t believe in the IQ test at all, and I think the SAT needs serious reform. (I have taken the SAT, but frankly it was a long time ago and I remember little of it, except that I totally flunked the math section but got a perfect score on the writing section.) I think there are other ways to measure intelligence, and I totally believe that there are multiple intelligences out there. I also know that there are more reliable ways to measure brains – namely, in neurological tests. (There’s not much bias in a brain scan.) Neurology already knows that a person’s computational ability has no bearing on their reasoning ability, which has no bearing on their reading ability, which has no bearing on their writing ability. (Surprised? I was too. But there are cases where a person loses their ability to read – the part of the brain responsible for reading is in the visual cortex – but not their ability to write, which is in a different part of the brain entirely. Thus there are some cases of people who write fluently, but cannot read what they just wrote.)

    My parents taught me to read before I entered kindergarten, so I was considered abnormally advanced by my school curriculum. It was actually on one of those IQ tests, in first or second grade, that I got a score considered “above average,” so they determined I was “gifted.” (I still hate that term with a passion and cringe when I hear it applied to a child, as if it’s not their hard work that needs recognition, but some quality or expectation that is intrinsically higher about them that their efforts must constantly strive to meet.) Some parents might be ecstatic to hear about how awesome their special little snowflake was, but my family was incredibly disappointed. The school official (she was the one in charge of accommodating kids with disabilities, by the way) used my IQ score, my “early reading,” and my grades to “prove” that I did not have a disability (I had been diagnosed as a child and as an adolescent with ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome, and sensory issues), and therefore they did not have to make accommodations that would allow me to be comfortable in my school environment. (Such accommodations, by the way, were not extreme: Being able to go to a quiet room during loud activities like assemblies, going to a separate room for testing, sitting at the front of the room, etc. I really have no idea what they would have lost from a few adjustments for one student.) After all, my IQ score was high, so it was impossible for me to have a disability! /sarcasm

  24. we’re like SAT twins! kinda. i skipped the math section entirely and got 1,000,000% on the writing section! k, that’s cool.

    “I think there are other ways to measure intelligence, and I totally believe that there are multiple intelligences out there. I also know that there are more reliable ways to measure brains – namely, in neurological tests. (There’s not much bias in a brain scan.) Neurology already knows that a person’s computational ability has no bearing on their reasoning ability, which has no bearing on their reading ability, which has no bearing on their writing ability.”

    this.

    also, i totally assumed you would’ve mentioned that you had a disability if you DID have a disability, so… yeah. cuz reclamation is totally one thing, while appropriation (what i was talking about for a bit) is another. you’re still rad, cat– even if you can be minutely troll-ish. in, like, the funny way. and maybe i shouldn’t’ve assumed.

    “The school official (she was the one in charge of accommodating kids with disabilities, by the way) used my IQ score, my ‘early reading,’ and my grades to ‘prove’ that I did not have a disability (I had been diagnosed as a child and as an adolescent with ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome, and sensory issues), and therefore they did not have to make accommodations that would allow me to be comfortable in my school environment.”

    this is just deeply shitty/disheartening. even if the accommodations you required had been extreme, you should’ve been accommodated! one size seriously doesn’t fit all cats. how can students learn if they can’t “be comfortable in [their] school environment?” people suck super hard.

    thanks for rocking my think-tank and keep being totally splendid! ps: if this comment is incoherent, it’s cuz i didn’t sleep last night and i’m all silly as a result. ‘n stuff.

  25. Although my condition is classified as a disability, I do not really think of myself as disabled because over time I have learned to compensate in other ways. A quiet work environment, for instance, is something any student would benefit from, and I fail to see how asking for that accommodation would require proof of having a “flaw.” While some traits have lessened over time, the ADHD is still just as prominent now as it was then. The only difference is that I have had to work harder to get around it. (I still have an embarrassingly loose grasp of the concept of time, however.) I think the school was a shoe that only came in one size, and I was a foot half a size too large.

    When I said “retarded,” I meant it in the medical sense and not in any pejorative way. In retrospect, reading over my post I think I should have added this and made it more clear. My bad. :x I know that it does have pejorative meanings and is unjustifiably offensive out of its original context, however, so it’s not actually a regular part of my vocabulary.

    I’m sorry if I came off as a bit trollish at times – it’s sort of a bad habit of mine, but I do have a love of irony and all sorts of sarcasm.

  26. “Although my condition is classified as a disability, I do not really think of myself as disabled because over time I have learned to compensate in other ways.”

    totally within your rights, cat.

    “A quiet work environment, for instance, is something any student would benefit from, and I fail to see how asking for that accommodation would require proof of having a ‘flaw.’”

    word. i think requiring “proof” that someone needs a quiet work environment is ridiculous– they should’ve just accommodated you.

    “I think the school was a shoe that only came in one size, and I was a foot half a size too large.”

    this is just awesome. i seriously love this! XD

    and lolz– i use the word “troll-ish” pretty loosely. i was really just giggling and wondering if you did that on purpose to mess with me. if you were really troll-ish, i wouldn’t even publish your comments. let alone publish them, debate awesomely with you, and giggle. you’re totally welcome here– your brain is rad!

    and i’m a zoooombieeee caaaaaaaat… arrrrrgaaaaa… crunch crunch.

  27. AAAAAPGIOSDJGKLS:KSD:FJ MAH BRAIN NOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooo

    But yeah I’ll be sticking around. ;)

  28. I really don’t think guys or dude are sexist/masculine pronouns. I think they started out that way but now they’re used as a more gender neutral/unisex word and in my mind it is a gender neutral pronoun. The English language does change. Also, how do you pronounce Mx. ?

  29. i’m aware they’re used as though they’re nongendered; that’s exactly why i think they’re sexist. words like “ladies” and “girls” are never going to be nongendered in that way, ya know? unless as a joke. that’s how i feel about it, anyway.

    mx. is pronounced “mix.” thanks for asking! <3 take care.

  30. Mx. Punk, that is exactly why I enjoy your thoughts on things. And that is a very poignant way to put it… To “autogender” from a word that has a masculine basis is sexist as it’s most basic sense… I object to being called guy or dude personally, as a woman.

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