(skip to main)

slurs are still very harmful when they are aimed at a situation/action/thing instead of a person

icon: "passionate (a red stylized gas mask: the Benjamin Gate symbol)"

What does it mean to use a slur?

a slur is a word with derogatory meaning which gets its negative connotation from the 'undesirability' of a group of people. It's a word used to mean 'bad' because it refers to a group of people who are labeled 'bad' by society. It doesn't matter if it is being used against a person or not; it is still a slur. Slurs still cause harm when they are used about situations or actions, because they're still reinforcing the idea that a certain group of people is less worthy. The logic train is mostly subconscious, but it works like this: someone says "this situation is gay" and the implication is "this situation is bad like gay people are bad." If you said a situation was shitty, that would have no meaning if people didn't assume that shit was something unpleasant and unwanted.

So, if someone calls a situation 'gay' or an action 'st*pid' or a thing 'cr*zy' when they find the situation/action/thing upsetting and undesirable, they're (unintentionally) implying that anyone who is put in those categories is also upsetting and undesirable just for existing. When someone uses the word 'b*tching' to mean 'complaining' they are reinforcing misogyny. When someone uses the word 'id*ocy' to mean 'selfish evil' they are reinforcing ableism. (I see that last one so often in people speaking against oppression, and it fucking burns) Etc.

So please, don't call your actions st*pid, or use other slurs to describe things, situations, or actions. Usually what you mean is "illogical" or "thoughtless" or "careless" or "clumsy" anyway -- be more creative! be more accurate! Just take slurs out of your vocabulary completely. There is no acceptable way to use a slur.*

I can't be friends with people who use slurs. When I say I can't deal with this, I don't mean I can't deal with people who call names. That's a problem too, but it is WAY less common. I mean, every time you use these words in ANY WAY AT ALL it stabs me in the soul and there is only so much of that that I can take.

[this is also inversely true.]
This is also inversely true (calling people 'fit' when you mean you find them attractive is fatphobic and saying 'be a man' when you mean 'be brave' is misogynistic, etc) but that's a next-level analysis and at least it doesn't involve slurs. I don't like it but I can tolerate it. it's more like you gave me a hard finger-jab in the soul rather than stabbing.

*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.

back to top

slinkslowdown ══╣╠══
I don't mind if you give me [public or private] nudges if I use a slur. I've taken most out of my vocabulary, but some are harder to break because it's only recently I've learned there's issues with the words.

What do you think of reclaiming slurs? Have you reclaimed any for yourself?

Off the top of my head, though I'm sure I'll leave some out because I'm tired... I've reclaimed fat, crazy, queer, and tranny [and other versions of said words] for myself.
belenen ══╣interconnectedness╠══
I appreciate that -- it is incredibly difficult for me to say something directly without invitation ahead of time. *heart*

fat and queer I have reclaimed for myself. I need to edit this to mention that self-labeling in a reclaiming way is fine by me.
(Anonymous) ══╣╠══
(Anonymous) ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣adoring╠══
belenen ══╣adoring╠══
thank you *love!* I am glad to know!
delicatexflower ══╣╠══

yessssss. i felt this way about the word "retarded" to describe something stupid.. i don't even like that word to describe the condition itself. my old self used to call myself stu*id or cr*zy but it was because i was called that by my mom, so of course i believed it. i'm learning new vocabulary everything so thanks for reminding us how words have feelings and weight to them. <3
belenen ══╣giving╠══
*offers all the hugs!*
merzb ══╣╠══
I agree that people can be more precise about their language when wanting to express certain feelings but that goes beyond slurs. (just look at how people use "ironic" these days...)

But I don't get the unnecessary censorship for certain words. Let me elaborate: I do not clearly see the correlation between censoring some words and solving a perception problem.

Hmm, I use stupid or retarded to describe some things which lack intellectual properties - like, my thesis ;) - and I think I am in the right to do so - but I am open for discussion about that. It doesn't mean I think stupid people are bad. I would agree if someone called me out for saying, for instance, "Ted Bunty was such a retard" because that's not actually correct.

What do you think of the word bitchin in the context: "The party was bitchin!" ?
belenen ══╣analytical╠══
Censorship is when someone with the power to stop people from saying things stops them from actually saying them by threat or coercion, not when someone says they don't like/approve of people saying those things.

You may not see the correlation between use of words and a perception problem, but if that is true then you are unaware of the way words work on perception. As a sociologist and statistician, I assure you that the merest mention activates negative perceptions. If you want to know more, I suggest you read up on stereotype threat.

Using slurs in any negative way reinforces stereotypes. No one is going to ask "does this mean you think stupid people are bad?" because this shit is subconscious and pervasive. You're not in the right to use slurs regardless of your attitude toward the people they reference. It can't harm you to avoid slurs, and it can and does harm others for you to use them. To risk damage to others rather than making a small effort is not a right action.

In that context, I don't know. I wouldn't do it but it could be reclaiming if the person saying it was perceived as female.
(Anonymous) ══╣╠══
belenen ══╣giving╠══
I'm really glad this made sense! I realized that the way I was talking about it before was unclear on this aspect so I wanted to be more specific. I really appreciate you taking this seriously and working on it, it means a lot.
raidingparty ══╣╠══
Will have to think hard about specific uses and repurposing for "crazy" and "stupid".

Definitely want to reclaim "queer", although difficult when talking with 40-somethings who had horrifying experiences with people using it.

Also had a hard time explaining to someone else that "athletic" or "fit" don't work to describe a person's physical appearance since one of our mutual friends weighs more than I but also bikes, rows, runs, and has a second-degree blackbelt.
belenen ══╣queer╠══
repurposing? *confused* can you explain?

I feel ya on queer, I actually never heard it used in a derogatory context so I forget that it can be a slur.

YESSSS. Glad you get that about 'fit' as a synonym for 'thin.'
raidingparty ══╣╠══
I'm totally on board with acknowledging the ways in which mental-ability-slurs are harmful.
I'm trying to think of the ways in which I do use them, and if there are less-victimizing descriptors to fill in the space for things I do want to say. Assuming they have a utility for me, I would like to replace them if possible.
The latter is easier to go over; it's not a necessary epithet by any stretch of the imagination... the Shakespearian Insult Generator supplies any number of other organs to belittle. Simple-mindedness isn't offensive to me, and I rarely have need to comment on it (I suppose I can see caring for someone and needing to explain to someone else so they can be accomodated appropriately). A more accurate description of the problem is stubborn and/or willful ignorance... and I can use that phrase (or related assery), so problem solved.
Insanity is much more difficult to pull away from, but the specific words should depend again on the specific uses. While I don't remember the last time I've said "crazy", I have a sense of myself and friends using it in place of impetuous, ill-considered, hard-to-understand, incomprehensible, irrational, dangerous, violent, vindictive, manic, overloaded, fugue... nothing else at the moment, I'm sure there are others. And again, it looks like while there's a much wider variety of responses needed (especially since such a nondescript shortcut for mental health problems runs the gamut of completely disparate conditions), it's still possible to use something else. I have to admit it's going to be difficult to reprogram three decades' worth of habit, but I'm ready to start.

Appendix: Also looking at a way of relating people with different abilities. I'm not sure if there's a good way to describe measurable qualities as "greater" or "lesser" that doesn't allow assumption about the underlying value of the person with those qualities.
caseyj ══╣╠══
Hey there! Just wanted to stop by and say hi... and that I love the journal layout / colors.

Back to your topic though... I have always felt that people resort to using slurs, profanity, derogatory terms, when they don't have anything intelligent to say... they have nothing that they can actually fight with, and instead of actually getting a point across they try to bring you down and beaut you with their stupidity.

Racial slurs especially. It takes a special type of person to be able to deal with all the different types of people there are in the world. All I am going to do is to teach my child what I believe is right, in acceptance, and that no one is 'lower' or anything else like that.

The world is full of too much hate as it is.
belenen ══╣garrulous╠══
well, part of what I am saying is that "stupidity" is not something to scorn people for, that it shouldn't be used to mean bad behavior. It's not a kind of intellect that uses cruelty, it's a kind of attitude. "Stupid" is a slur because people literally get abused for having an intellect that is considered inferior. Instead of saying that some people beat you with their "stupidity" you could say that they beat you with their cruelty and that would be true.
meri_sielu ══╣muggles╠══
I wholey agree on the use of slurs as being unacceptable, I have tried very, very hard to eliminate words such as 'gay', 'retarded' etc from my language because they were picked up just from the use of slang and subconsiciously I used to use them as a teenager and not really give much thought to how much hurt it could cause. Of course now I know and I wouldn't ever use those words either in public, out loud, in my private thoughts or in my journal. That's a given and anyone who does still use them, I personally think, is being willfully ignorant.

As for things like 'mad', 'crazy', 'stupid'... the more 'innocent' ones.... well they are a lot harder to remove. That's not to say someone shouldn't try but the English language comes with a lot of double meanings and possibilities. For example the last time I used 'stupid' I was describing something that I did to injure myself that was genuinely absolutely the most ridiculous thing I have ever done to myself and I caused myself unnecessary pain through my own actions. I don't think it's wrong to berate myself in that way if the action was well and truly that unfortunate. I really don't think anyone still calls being who are less intellectual than others or have learning difficulties stupid anymore unless they are absolute assholes. In a way that word has shifted from that connotation if that makes sense? I am not denying that it hurts individuals however... if I am aware that my language in that sense hurts someone on my friends list or that I know then I will make more effort not to use those words as I have been trying to do.
belenen ══╣honesty╠══
I don't think it is wrong to berate yourself, but using the word "stupid" to do so is like using the word "retarded" to do so. People with cognitive disabilities are abused and treated as lesser, but they are not unfortunate for their disability.

I really don't think anyone still calls being who are less intellectual than others or have learning difficulties stupid anymore unless they are absolute assholes. In a way that word has shifted from that connotation if that makes sense?

This makes sense logically but is quite untrue. I think that without the experiences of having cognitive disabilities, all we can do is listen to those who do have those. A lot of times people know that it isn't acceptable to be overtly cruel to oppressed people so they only do it when they are not likely to be seen by people who would judge them for it (as I imagine you would and I certainly would). The problem is that stupid is really closely associated with a group of oppressed people. Not only does it reinforce in the prejudiced people's minds that to be cognitively impaired is to be inherently lesser, it can be triggering to people who were literally beaten while having that word hurled at them.

I think that it is excellent that even if something doesn't seem logical to you, you are willing to make the effort for others, just to keep from hurting them. I really appreciate this. So many people are like "I think you're wrong so I'm gonna keep doing this" instead of "I'm not convinced, but it's a small effort so I'll change just in case."
eristic_writer ══╣╠══
I am so glad to see you posting about this. I really, really struggle with not using these slurs, and there's truly no excuse for it.

Though I intellectually know all the reasons not to use them, it's become something of a reflex. And because, as someone with PTSD, I just happen not to be offended by mental health-related slurs, it's often difficult for me to remember that my experience is not the norm.

Thank you for the reminder, for your ongoing willingness to correct other people for their use of slurs, and for your very clear explanation of the issue. And if you see me using these slurs, or variants thereof, please call me out on it.
belenen ══╣honesty╠══
I feel you on the mental health ones. I always thought of sanity as a sort of sign of too much conformity, so "crazy" and "insane" were always compliments to me. But if they hurt others, then there is no good reason for me to use them, regardless of my personal connotation. (unless reclaiming them, but since my mental illness goes into remission sometimes, I don't feel like it's appropriate for me to self-identify that way).

I really appreciate you saying this! I will keep it in mind.
zimtkeks ══╣╠══
I totally see your point and I'm trying to get better. Thank you for bringing these topics to my attention and posting reminders. I like to be precise with language, but there are some slurs that are so ingrained in our culture that I hadn't even realized what they were! Work in progress ...
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.
October 2019
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31

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.