February 2017
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we can't be friends if you use slurs because it damages me & breaks my trust in you / TW: slurs
If there is someone I want to be open with and they want to use slurs*, I have to choose between feeling like they occasionally and without warning slap my face hard and then pretend it didn't happen, or I have to put up a wall to them and not connect. I don't want to have to make this choice over something as simple as a single word. As my self-care, I put up a block to people who refuse to make such a sacrifice, because to put up a block to feeling hurt over the word would be to cut off a part of my own soul. I experience hearing slurs with every bit as much pain and disrespect as if someone physically attacked me (more, really, at least I'd feel able to punch someone back if they slapped me). Some days I want to just drop contact with every single person I come across who uses slurs, even if I love them. I just want this shit out of my life. Maybe one day I’ll actually do it and then when people ask why, I’ll say I just couldn’t take the constant punching and maybe then they’ll finally get it. Or maybe they’ll be like “why don’t you value me more than a word?” and I’ll be like “clearly you don’t value ME more than a word. why do you think I should invest in someone who cares more about slurs than about me?”

These words are often connected to violence and abuse, and because of that they have trigger-power: they can make people relive abuse with almost as much pain as the first time. If you have been physically, sexually, or emotionally attacked by someone while they called you a slur, that word may be a damaging one for you to come across, especially in an angry or attacking context.
[list of slurs, trigger warning]

[TW: slurs]----------------------------------

The ones that most people (who I know) can recognize as slurs because oppressed people have said it over and over and over: gay, retard/ed, nigger, jew or gyp (as in to swindle/cheat), tranny, shemale, cripple, slut, whore, fag/got. Words that people do not generally accept as slurs:

Stupid, idiot, dumb -- these words have their power because we devalue people who are neuroatypical: people who don't think in the ways that are valued by mainstream society. They reinforce the idea that to be neuroatypical is to be less-than, much like the word "retard" does. Stupid, in particular, is often used in reference to people who have done something harmful to someone else: this places the responsibility for making moral choices on a person's neurology, and implies that people who may not think as quickly or in the same way are incapable of making moral choices.

derp, that thing where you turn "o"s into "er"s (ermahgerd etc) -- these both get their power from the mocking of people who think slowly or speak differently. They reinforce the idea that to think slowly or speak differently is to be an acceptable target for mockery; to deserve less respect.

crazy, insane, psychotic, wacko, mental, psycho, cray-cray -- these gets their power from the devaluing of people with mental illness. They reinforce the idea that to be mentally ill is to be less-than, to the point of having your rights stripped and your words invalidated.

bitch -- this gets its power from the devaluing of females (and perhaps the devaluing of dogs). It reinforces the idea that to be female is to be less-than. It often is used in the context of rape and thus legitimizes the idea that to be less powerful is to be deserving of rape.

douche, pussy, cunt -- this gets its power from the devaluing of vaginas: if vaginas were respected, not only would the concept of the douche not exist, but liquid that had been in the vagina would be value-neutral. Calling someone a pussy would have no derogatory power. Use of these words as insults reinforces the idea that vaginas are dirty or disgusting.

lame -- this gets its power from the devaluing of people with mobility impairments. It reinforces the idea that to be disabled is to be less-than.

ghetto -- this gets its power from the devaluing of people who live in ghettos. It reinforces the idea that to be poor and/or a person of color is to be less-than.

blind or deaf -- when used to mean "not paying attention" these imply that deaf and/or blind people do not pay attention, or that they are less capable of sensing and interacting with the world.

[/end TW]----------------------------------

Note: when I say slur, I mean that an oppressive word is being used in an insulting or negative way -- I'm not referring to self-labels.

To extrapolate and summarize: "does this word get its insulting power from an association with an oppressed group?" if the answer is yes, don't fucking use it that way. If you don't know what to call a person if you can't call them a bitch or a douche, look up 'bad' in the thesaurus (scroll down past the usage notes to find a shitton more). Or consider actually saying what you mean. On that note, for more eloquent and less me-centered examination of slurs: on use of 'lame' 'gay' 'retarded' etc. as insults or negative expressions.

*except for reclaiming: that is, society puts you in a group labeled with a slur, and you self-identify with that as a way of rejecting the stigma. For instance, I have reclaimed the word "fat" and use it as a self-label. I do not ever use it to mean something negative.


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Comments
bunnika bunny: despondent
I'm trying really hard to eliminate some of these words from my vocabulary, but it's hard. (Try being the cripple who used to call things "lame" for an insult. Winner winner.) I understand people still trying to eliminate words from their vocabulary, and don't get angry if they do like I do all too often: Slip, then go back and correct the word. Or at least notice their mistake, and attempt not to repeat it. I learn new things about words all the time, and I try to adjust my vocabulary so as not to offend others (even if I don't necessarily understand the offense; it's not my place to say something is or isn't offensive to another minority).

That said, pleeeease consider censoring the slurs you don't have the right to reclaim, or at least spoiler-cut them with a warning. It's a million little gut-punches in the middle of the page. >.<
belenen overwhelmed
oh god, good point, edited.

Also I don't have a problem at all with slip-ups. I'm talking about when people aren't trying. They don't edit, they don't correct themselves, they get annoyed when I talk about it, etc.
bunnika bunny: despondent
tbh my inner critic always sees things like this and is like, "They're talking about yooooou, what did you doooooo?" which is sorta why I said what I did. I'd hate to think you're getting close to cutting me out just because my linguistics aren't nailing it. :-(

I wish I had the guts to confront people about their language more. It's just always turned out so horribly for me. Hell, I lost a (RL) friend of over a decade because I asked her to not use "lame" as a pejorative. I'm scared of what would happen if I confronted people who are new to me.
I'm glad I'm not the only one who takes these things personally, I always feel sort of ridiculous for it. Also, I had the same thought about slipping up...I'll definitely take even more care not to do so in the future. I don't understand people who don't even give a thought about how their words affect others.
Also,
that thing where you turn "o"s into "er"s (it is a mockery of the way some people actually speak)
I'm missing something here. What do you mean?

I think ze is referring to the "Ermahgerd" meme...if you haven't heard of it, it goes back to a picture of a teenage girl looking very excited about a stack of books. It says "ERMAHGERD BOOKS" (as in, "Oh my God, books") on it.

I myself have never interpreted it as mocking people with a genuine speech impediment but rather as making fun of someone getting over-excited and squealing so the words come out like that, but then again I can be a bit dense when it comes to ableism.
I've seen people say the same for such: It's a bad word not because it's associated with the vagina, but because it's useless and bad for women and a symbol of patriarchy.
I admittedly have been in the habit of using a few of these terms. It's probably time to start thinking more about the effect that my usage of these terms could have on people. I do try to avoid using the ableist slurs, particularly the R-word, which is triggering to me personally due to the bullying in my past. As a teenager, I went through a little phase of using the anti-gay slang because "everyone else was doing it" (bad excuse, I know) but then I realized how I was sounding.
classical_wolf BBT - Dafuq!?
I hear you completely and have the same concerns/hot button issues regarding these terms as well! There are many other words which could be used but they're not as controversial (IMO), which may contribute to why people may prefer terms over others. One way or another, discussion does form, albeit more often negative than positive in nature.
But what if I, as someone with cerebral palsy, wants to reclaim and call myself cripple, lame, gimp, since I do it all the time. And with my clinical depression and multiple anxiety disorders, I don't mind reclaiming and uusing crazy and insane for myself. It's really personal. I don't mind when lame is used to describe a weak unbalanced situation. I dont mind crazy as extreme. But as you sasaid it depends.
When I said "when I
say slur, I mean that an oppressive word is being used in an
insulting or negative way -- I'm not referring to self-labels" I was meaning that reclaiming is totally different. I think Isecified in a different post but I've written on this so often lately that each one is a bit scattered.

as far as things like using crazy to mean extreme, i dont thibk that is inherently problematic, but i thibk that people will take it as endorsement of using it in a negative way. so i dont, to keep out of the habit around people who might not understand that i dont mean 'bad' when i say crazy .

as for use of the word 'lame' to mean weak/ineffectial/etc, as someone who deals with physical disability that is not for me to know how to use it. I know that some of my physically disabled friends are hurt bu it, so i do not use it at all, and i correct people who i know to be non-mobility-impaired when they do so. I'd rather make a slight change to my vocabulary than risk hurting someone with the weight of my privilege behind it.
Hi

We're working our way through your important posts - we have memory issues too so it might not always sink in but we'll do our best.

This post is really thought provoking. We've been trying to become more aware of the words we choose to use in the last year or so; you raised some here that we do tend to still use without thought, and made us think about that. Thank you!

I did just want to let you know that very occasionally if we're feeling particularly frustrated, we do vent on our journal as a kind of pressure release, and at those times we might not be super careful about the words we choose to use. I don't think we use slurs in them often but there's a chance that a couple of the ones you've listed here might slip through. We always use a cut tag on those posts and make it clear that they're venting posts.

If that's not comfortable for you, please let me know and I will be happy to filter those posts so they don't show up on your feed.

belenen artless
*nods* I totally understand about memory issues. No need to filter -- as long as it is not common and I know the person is working towards removing slurs, I can manage. It just gets to me if it happens a lot, or if the person just doesn't care.

Thank you for the thoughtful response <3
You're welcome! It's important to me to do what I can to help my journal be a comfortable place for my friends to hang out.
on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.