Help - Search - Members - Calendar
Full Version: Let's discuss derogatory terms for people with mental
The Other Side forums - suitable for mature readers! > The Other Side forums > The Issues Forum
Daria
An interesting point arose from Dr Doom and Syuu talking about the Aphex Twin record "Windowlicker" in the Whatchoo Listnin' To, Foo'?" thread, when Cath modded out the word "Spastic". Personally, I find referring to someone as a "spaz" or "spastic" incredibly offensive- as I would referring to anyone with Down's Syndrome as a Windowlicker. It's interesting, though, as Spastic was a completely acceptable term in the 50s for anyone with Cerebral Palsy, and the charity Scope used to even be called the Spastics Society. However in the US, the term "spastic" is totally innocent and not offensive.
I do believe, however, that Dr Doom saying "Windowlicker= Spastic" wasn't offensive (might be a little bit incorrect, as they refer to different kinds of disabilities) as he wasn't saying "Syuu- you are a spastic". It would be like me saying now that some people refer to African Americans as niggers. I'm not saying I do, nor am I saying they should do, but just pointing out a fact.
Thoughts?
Pikasyuu
This is a short post, but hopefully it will explain some of the US side - I have never heard 'spastic' used as a derogatory word in any way. In fact, over here it typically means 'hyper'. To add, I'd never heard 'windowlicker' either and didn't know that either were offensive until it was called to my attention earlier. I (and I suggest other US-people do as well) have looked up some of the top ten most offensive words in the UK, and while some of them speak for themselves, others may get used without the user having any knowledge that they can hurt another person's feelings.

As far as derogatory terms go, I try to be politically correct. For instance, instead of applying one word to mean a broad range of people ('retard' for instance), I find it's usually wiser to stick to the correct term when discussing those individuals, like 'cerebral palsy' or something along those lines.
Doctor Doom
Mercy. I was unaware that I was posting amongst such dainty, hypersensitive naifs, wilting at the slightest slur or derogatory remark. Nice to see the OP playing Reductio ad Niggerum straight off the bat there, because that's exactly the same thing, obviously.

Do let me know now if there's anything else you guys find particularly shocking and offensive. "Moron", perhaps? I've already been chided for expressing disdain for all things religious, so I assume God/Christ/Hell/Damn are all out as well?
Daria
QUOTE (Doctor Doom @ May 19 2008, 03:48 PM) *
Mercy. I was unaware that I was posting amongst such dainty, hypersensitive naifs, wilting at the slightest slur or derogatory remark. Nice to see the OP playing Reductio ad Niggerum straight off the bat there, because that's exactly the same thing, obviously.

Do let me know now if there's anything else you guys find particularly shocking and offensive. "Moron", perhaps? I've already been chided for expressing disdain for all things religious, so I assume God/Christ/Hell/Damn are all out as well?

I really don't understand what the problem is here? I don't think Cath was right to replace "Spastic" with "Gooey in the brain" as it is just as bad, if not worse. This thread is meant to be vaguely tongue in cheek, but apparently that went under your radar. If you unruffled your feathers a bit, and re-read my post, you may find that I wasn't disagreeing with you. In fact, the only person who has, so far, disagreed with you has been Cath- and as I said previously, perhaps she was being a bit more sensitive than necessary in the first place, as she may just be finding her feet whilst being new to all this.

Wookie, if you really must come back and start complaining about everyone again, you could at least wait more than seven days between reregistering and doing so.
Forever Unknown
QUOTE (Daria @ May 19 2008, 04:01 PM) *
This thread is meant to be vaguely tongue in cheek, but apparently that went under your radar.


Wow, really? Really really? Or are you just saying that? Because your first post seems entirely serious.

I don't see what's wrong with disagreeing with an issue regardless of when registering, etc etc. It's not like the points aren't valid, and it's not like you're not all capable of standing up for yourselves.
Daria
The thread title is sung to the tune of "Let's talk about sex, baby, let's talk about you and me, let's talk about all the bubbles in the tub, let's talk about love". Although sex, love and bubblebaths are all very important and serious things too.
Doctor Doom
Am I so transparent? Ho well.

Anyways, I was enjoying good times in a couple of listening threads, and then apparently everyone thinks spastic is so offensive, and what am I going to do? Not poke fun at the wonderful silliness of it all?

Your post may not have been disagreeing the the original usage in context, but I honestly think it is Very Silly to find the word "incredibly offensive", and comparing it to "nigger" would be utterly ridiculous if it wasn't so predictable.

QUOTE
The thread title is sung to the tune of "Let's talk about sex, baby, let's talk about you and me, let's talk about all the bubbles in the tub, let's talk about love".


No it isn't. Try it, it just doesn't work at all.
Forever Unknown
QUOTE (Daria @ May 19 2008, 04:11 PM) *
The thread title is sung to the tune of "Let's talk about sex, baby, let's talk about you and me, let's talk about all the bubbles in the tub, let's talk about love". Although sex, love and bubblebaths are all very important and serious things too.


... No it isn't! It doesn't even fit with that! And the logical way to have done that little play on the title would have been to use 'talk' instead of 'discuss'. The title is perfectly normal and not at all tongue in cheek, to a normal bystander who is not resident in your head.
Daria
I suck with song lyrics and tunes. But that is what was in my head when I made the thread. Mata's "I've got a new job" thread reminds me of the Wurzles >_<

I went to a school that had a specialist centre attached to integrate kids with learning disabilities and or physical disabilities with "mainstream" kids. When you have friends who have Down's syndrome, and you see them being hurt everyday by bullies who call them derogatory terms, you end up hating those terms and not finding them funny at all. Because it was also a rural school, there were very few kids who weren't white C of E- one, if I recall, out of 370 (it was a small school). Racism wasn't seemingly present, because there was no one to be racist against. To me, nigger and spaz or spastic are just as hurtful and just as harmful. I know not everyone will feel the same way, as any reaction you get from someone regarding a word will totally depend on the person in question (the film Waking Life explains it better than I could).
pgrmdave
Spastic isn't generally considered an offensive word in the US. Neither, as I can tell, is "retard" (although it's considered much more offensive if used to deride someone who is actually mentally retarded than if it's used against someone for being a bit slow to think, or, to use my thesaurus powers...retarded). Racist terms are generally frowned upon, although there is a bit of a backlash against the hyper sensitivity of some politically correct people. See Barack Obama's speech on race for a bit more understanding of the complexities of racism in the US. Different words are offensive to different people and different cultures. One of the oft-used examples is "fag", which can mean a cigarette in some places, apparently, but is only a very hateful term for a homosexual male here.

So Doctor Doom, chill. Perhaps you don't find the word offensive (as I don't) but somebody else did. It's not a big deal - perhaps they simply associate the word with different connotations than you do. And remember, words themselves are not offensive, only meanings, which can differ from person to person.
leopold
Ah, the old adage - is it offensive or just politically incorrect?

The term "spastic" was used commonly in the UK to cover a range of mental illnesses until a mixture of improved knowledge of such illness enabled us to categorise them, and political correctness drilled it out of us on the basis that people were using it as a term to cause offence.

I'm not outraged by any of this stuff, in fact I grew up with a lot of it, these were common schoolyard comments. You'd call someone "spastic" or a "flid" (a term based on the thalidomide children of the late 60's) if they displayed certain types of behaviour. I believe the term "windowlicker" came from the same stable. All offensive terms but at the time it wasn't outlawed by political correctness.

It surprises me when my teenage daughter comes out with these things because I thought such terms died out, not because I'm particularly offended. It cheeses me off that kids find it funny, but that's because it isn't, not because of any personal affront. In some respects I like to see that PC is being given a tough time by the kids because I think it's all gone a bit too far.

Anyway, derogatory terms. Best left unsaid, really, because nobody really likes being offended.
Calantyr
Context. Cultural associations in the community with which it is used.

The most glaring example I can think of is when President G.W. Bush called people from Pakistan 'Paki's'. The US has not had the sort of exchanges with south Asia as the UK has, nor is it a dirty term there. Simple ignorance lead to it being used but there was no malice behind it, simply abreviation.

But in that case is it a derogatory word and what makes it so? In that case i don't think it was but then again I suppose every 'group' or community of like individuals gets to choose for themselves what exactly they take umbridge at.

'Cracker' is apparently a derogatory term for white people, but am I offended by it? Well... nope. As terms go I find it stupid if anything. It just doesn't have the same emotional impact because it's not used often where I live (outside of American media) and so doesn't have any baggage associated with it. But then again if there were gangs of people trying to beat me up every day screaming "Get the cracker!" I suppose I might find it derogatory pretty damned fast...

As it pertains to people with mental illnesses (or any disease/affliction I suppose) I guess it comes down to public awareness and how words are applied to individuals. 'Spastic' originally refers to, if I remember correctly, people with specific muscle or nerve problems. Some sort of spasms or wasting disease? I suppose it only became offensive when (idiots) started labelling anyone with learning disabilities as 'spastic' as well for no reason. If no one ever made that link in the US, well, there you go.


It's an interesting thought to wonder what it would be like if the same process were applied to other diseases. Cancer is a terrible affliction that has quite a high visibility and emotional impact. What would be the effect if people started using terms for cancer victims for those with other less 'socially tolerable' problems? Say, if someone were quite weak and scrawny? What would be the backlash? *Would* there be a backlash? Is it any different from what's happenned already?

Interesting topic though I may be rambling now.
leopold
QUOTE (Calantyr @ May 20 2008, 12:17 AM) *
The most glaring example I can think of is when President G.W. Bush called people from Pakistan 'Paki's'. The US has not had the sort of exchanges with south Asia as the UK has, nor is it a dirty term there. Simple ignorance lead to it being used but there was no malice behind it, simply abreviation.

That may be true, but when world leaders make this kind of mistake it only exacerbates the issue. Since the US and the UK are supposed to have a "special relationship" I'd have expected that GWB's aides would have at least had the sense to check there'd be no offence.

I grew up in an area where there were a lot of Asian immigrants, mainly from Bangladesh, but there were a number of Pakistani too. During my formative years I'd often hear the term "Paki" being bandied about (along with the delightful* phrase "Paki bashing") and at the time never considered what it all meant. Until one day a friend of mine was called it; his family were originally from India, so I couldn't quite work out why he got that name when he wasn't from Pakistan.

Unfortunately, the Asian youths became very tired of the abuse from the indigenous White folk and started to fight back. Which is fair enough, nobody should be persecuted. The whole thing escalated to the point where I didn't feel safe in the town any more and I left. Not long after that there was a massive race riot. All very unpleasant. And it happened in other towns, too. It was big news.

So how come Team Dubya missed that one?

* I use the word "delightful" sarcastically, in case anyone missed it.
Mata
I remember in the 1980s that 'spastic' was a common term in the playground, but as the decade moved on it was considered too offensive and fell out of use - or at least it did where I was living. Eventually it came to be viewed as a really offensive thing to say. That's a personal sensitivity from my life that I probably share with quite a few other people from the area that I grew up in.

I have seen the word becoming more commonly used again, and I find it pretty distasteful - using a word that describes a person's ill condition to insult another person. Cal's point is a good one: would it be okay to use words describing a cancer patient as an insult? How about AIDS? These are all terminal conditions, so what's the difference?

Context and intention is important. I would have read the original post that started this and been surprised at the choice of words but probably not acted on it because it wasn't meant to be offensive. I find the use of the word as slang offensive in itself, but not necessarily enough to be offended by it, if you see what I mean.
This is a "lo-fi" version of our main content. To view the full version with more information, formatting and images, please click here.