I just say whatever words I want, because no matter which words I use, I'm bound to offend someone. So what's the point in worrying?
Seriously guys, words only can mean whatever you want them to mean. They can only kill you if you let them. Only you can decide how something can make you feel. I wish everyone could see the George Carlin special where he talks about how we went from Shell Shock to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. It's beautiful.
Obviously, not everything applies since this was made in the late 80s/early 90s, but the point is still valid.
Except for when you have severe anxiety caused from people who purposefully have used such words to degrad you. Out of all people, we as writers should know the power words have.
For an example, @Nora
I've always used this as meaning stupid compared to whatever level you're at (like you're a self aware, well educated person and you vote for trump, that's the definition of a "retarded" action) or retarded in time, as in hey we'all make this new bill and oh look it includes all the good old discriminations we got over in the last 15 years. Retarded.
But that's a big issue. By saying "what level you're at" that kinda dehumanizes people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Because we can't "be held responsible as we don't know any better". I've heard it before as justification, but there's a flaw there. And there are other words that can be used. Many of us don't care about stupid, even though it has the same connotation, or dumb. But I guess it's because those were so long ago that they were used in such a way. Retardation only got taken away as a classification a few years ago. It hasn't been out of practice long enough for it not to be connected.
Another example. Who here has heard the come back "What are you, autistic?" Cause I'm autistic, and every single time I hear that I want to sit whoever it is down and give them a hour long lesson on why who I am is not something to be used as an insult. The way that's used makes who I am out to be a bad thing. Why not just put someone's name in there?
"What are you, Greg? That's so stupid."
Then there's the entire:
"We're not insulting YOU."
Yeah. You kinda are, because I'm not a person with autism. I'm autistic, and a lot of others feel that way. It colors everything about us and how we see things. It can't be separated. By using that as an insult you're using me as an insult, and that's just not cool.
"But you're high functioning!"
Okay, first of all, those labels are kinda trash. Second of all, don't you dare throw other members of the autistic community under the bus to get out of this, because that just makes me even more angry. I've spoken with people on all sides of the spectrum. Nonverbal autistics. Straight A autistics. Autistics who will always be codependent. Autistics who are straight up genius level. Autistics who are still stuck at elementary school level. Guess what, the internet is a great way to find people, and what you see standing face to face isn't all there is to a person.
These are conversations I've had countless times. The disabled community is the largest minority group, and yet we're also the ones that are often looked over.
I just saw the new Power Rangers movie last night, and the Blue Ranger is autistic. You have no idea how happy I was. He was shown as a person. He stimmed like me and was kinda awkward and overshared information. He was enthusiastic. He had special interests. Billy was autistic, and a superhero, and shown as a person instead of a stereotype. He was autistic. He was like me. It's something I wish I had seen growing up, and the funniest thing is he's the crowd favorite of a vast majority of people who went to see the film, and I have to wonder how many have used these insults. The insults I'd heard from my first grade teacher and the bullies at school. The ones that get thrown around at anything anyone doesn't like online.
It's something that really hits, and it IS important to a lot of people. Words matter, and when you use a word from a specific group of people as an insult, that matters.
Try it with races. Genders. Sexualities and see how that sounds. No. That's already been done and it's pretty much accepted it's not a good thing. So why is this different? It really does hurt. So listen to the people who tell you that instead of brushing them off. I think one of the reasons Billy worked so well in that movie, is that his actor did what so many fail at. He sought people out who were on the spectrum and asked them their stories. Ask about what it's like to live with this disability. He listened and didn't tell them what was right and what was wrong about their own lives they've lived, even though so many others have. That was the first time I'd ever gotten to see myself up on a screen without being made into the butt of a joke, or have it centered around how horrible it must be to have autism. It was the first time I saw myself shown, in a famous franchise no less, as a person. And because he listened and showed that, I'm hoping others will be able to grow up seeing us as normal. As people who just see and think a bit different than everyone else.
But that will never happen if we brush off these "small" things that keep happening. If we continue small side comments that dehumanize a group of people. I'm not mad at you, because I know a lot of people don't think about it. But if you don't know how are you ever going to? This is something that's really important to me, and something I think is important for other people to realize. Because in times like these we need to be able to come together and understand each other and listen. And that's not political correctness. That's being a good person.