Scott Adams: I meant to do that!

Note: This post originally ran, in slightly different form, on Man Boobz.

There’s a classic scene in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure in which our hero falls off his bike in a spectacular fashion in front of a bunch of kids. Instead of lying there in misery and shame, he quickly gets up, dusts himself off, and says, somewhat less than convincingly, “I meant to do that.” If you’ve never seen the movie, or simply want to relive the moment, here it is.

It’s perhaps the oldest, crudest, and most utterly transparent strategy ever invented to recover from an embarrassing mishap: we either pretend that nothing happened, or that whatever did happen was all part of our super seekret master plan all along. We’re not the only animals that do this. Cats do it. Birds do it. Even drunk squirrels do it.

Now we can add Scott Adams to the list. Recently, as regular readers of this blog will be aware, the Dilbert mastermind caused a bit of a contretemps on the internets by posting a blog entry showing such a complete lack of thought or common sense, and so patronizingly misogynistic, that it managed to offend Men’s Rights Activists and feminists alike. Adams managed to make himself look like an even bigger idiot by pulling the blog post down in what seems to have been a futile attempt to make the controversy go away, only to find it reposted on an assortment of sites; some have begun to wonder if he actually understands how the internet works. (Things posted generally cannot be unposted.)

I wrote about the whole embarrassing spectacle here, and when I posted a version of that piece here on Feministe — as many of you know all too well — Adams showed up to defend himself– badly – by insisting that his critics were too dumb and/or emotional to understand his oh-so-subtle argument. He then insisted, puzzlingly, that we actually weren’t his critics at all: “You’re angry,” he wrote, “but I’ll bet every one of you agrees with me.” Naturally, this did not advance his cause.“Mr. Adams,” wrote Sheelzebub, speaking for many, “thank you so much for coming back here and entertaining us with your special brand of epic fail.”

But rather than letting this whole thing die, Adams has come back with even more detailed, and even more transparently ludicrous and contradictory, explanations as to why he wrote the post in the first place, why he subsequently deleted it, and why he decided to defend himself in such an obtuse manner on Feministe and (apparently) elsewhere. The whole embarrassing spectacle wasn’t an embarrassing spectacle at all: He totally MEANT TO DO IT. As Laurie sarcastically summed up his new claims in the comments here, the whole thing was apparently “a form of sophisticated performance art,” and the controversy it generated was all “part of Adams’s master plan in the first place. He’s pulling all the strings. BWAHAHAHAHA!”

Yeah, right.

So let’s try to make some sense of his explanations.

Adams wrote the original post, he says, in a deliberate attempt to send the Men’s Rightsers into a frenzy:

I thought it would be funny to embrace the Men’s Rights viewpoint in the beginning of the piece and get those guys all lathered up before dismissing their entire membership as a “bunch of pussies.”

This part of Adams’ explanation actually rings true. Originally, you may recall, Adams decided to let his readers pick the topic of his next blog post for him. When he saw “men’s rights” jump to the top of the poll results, he knew, as he put it, that “the fix was in. Activists had mobilized their minions to trick me into giving their cause some free publicity.”

This is in fact true: MRAs on Reddit, and perhaps elsewhere, did indeed flood his site to vote for their pet issue.

And so, even though he agrees with some of the Men’s Rights agenda, Adams says he’s been suffering from a “wicked case of ‘whiner fatigue.’” In a world full of “financial meltdowns, tsunamis, nuclear radiation, and bloody revolutions,” complaining about men having to open doors doesn’t seem like such a big damn deal.

So far, so good. But it’s about here, as he gets into his decision to take the post down, that Adams’ explanations go completely off the rails. Indeed, he’s got two distinct, and almost completely contradictory, explanations for why he took the post down.

First, he says he deleted the post, even though he knew people would repost it, as a sort of “meta joke” apparently designed to rile up feminists and garner even more attention. As he explains, somewhat less-than-lucidly:

A few people appreciated the meta-joke of removing the post. If you didn’t get it, read the deleted post, consider the feminist backlash, then think about the fact that I took down my post and ran away.

And to those of you who triumphantly scrounged up a copy of the deleted piece from Google’s cache, republished it, and crowed that I don’t understand how the Internet worked, I would politely suggest that perhaps I do.

Adams goes on to suggest that the seemingly obtuse and arrogant comments he left on Feministe (and, apparently, elsewhere), were part of the same Puckish strategy of provocation:

I was enjoying all of the negative attention on Twitter and wondered how I could keep it going. So I left some comments on several Feminist blogs, mostly questioning the reading comprehension of people who believed I had insulted them. That kept things frothy for about a day.

But, he says, this wasn’t the whole story. And so he sets forth his second explanation for why he took down the original post:

I didn’t take down the piece just because I thought doing so would be funny, or because I wanted attention. Those were bonuses. The main reason is that when a lot of drive-by readers saw the piece, and they didn’t know the context of this blog, it changed the message of the post to something unintended. As a writer, unintended messages are unbearable.

You might notice that this new explanation does not so much complement but completely contradict his earlier explanation: in the first scenario, Adams portrays himself as a “meta joker,” a deliberate provocateur, trying to rile up readers outside of his normal audience with a puckish prank.

In the second scenario he portrays himself as a writer deeply concerned about being misunderstood, and troubled that his words were being misinterpreted by “drive-by readers” outside of his normal audience, a situation he describes as “unbearable.”

In other words, after telling us that he pulled down the post in an effort to rile people up and garner even more attention, he tells us he that he really didn’t like the extra attention his words were getting, and that he pulled down the post in an attempt to cut the discussion off. As he puts it:

Men thought I was attacking men, and women thought I was attacking women. The message changed when the context changed. I saw that developing, so I took down the post.

There is, of course, a simple way for us to cut through this confusion: to recognize that Adams’ talk about “meta-jokes” is almost certainly utter bullshit.

My theory as to what actually happened is much more straightforward, and fairly similar to Adams’ second explanation: Adams wrote a post designed to rile up MRAs, and it did. But once the discussion spilled over beyond the relatively safe confines of his own blog, with its sympathetic – or is that sycophantic? – audience, he had second thoughts, and in a moment of peevishness he took the post down, hoping the whole thing would just go away. It didn’t.

Then the whole debate got a second wind after feminists, myself included, noticed his post, and noticed that it happened to be crammed full of patronizingly misogynistic bullshit. Unable to simply wish away the criticism, Adams waded into the fray. Unwilling to, or simply incapable of, either justifying his original post or apologizing for it in front of an audience of non-adoring non-fans, Adams simply asserted that none of his detractors understood what he really meant. So far, he has not given us any explanation as to what this might be.

Instead, in his post as in the discussion on Feministe, he simply repeats his assertion that those who have criticized his post are too emotional or invested in the issues to truly “get it.” The culmination of this line of, er, “reasoning” is this bit of passive-aggressive fuckery at the end of his post:

To the best of my knowledge, no one who understood the original post and its context was offended by it. But to the women who were offended by their own or someone else’s interpretation of what I wrote, I apologize.

This sounds like it would be his last word on the subject. No such luck. Like a terrier worrying a bone, Adams still hasn’t quite let this one go. He’s weighed in on Men’s Rights on his blog again yesterday. And when Salon ran a couple of articles on the controversy earlier this week, including an interesting interview with Men’s Studies doyen Michael Kimmel, Adams urged his minions readers to rush over and defend him in the comments against the “the poorly informed [who] are in full unibation mode over their shared hallucinations of my Men’s Rights post.”

“Unibation?” Apparently they speak a different kind of English up Scott Adams’ ass.

Author: has written 5 posts for this blog.

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199 Responses

  1. Brandy
    Brandy April 1, 2011 at 10:07 am |

    “He’s weighed in on Men’s Rights on his blog again today.”
    Yesterday, actually.

  2. raven_feathers
    raven_feathers April 1, 2011 at 10:44 am |

    @1 this piece, as linked in the first sentence, originally ran yesterday. pedantry upon pedantry! ;)

  3. Rachel
    Rachel April 1, 2011 at 10:45 am |

    I wish we could all just stop picking on Scott Adams! He’s already apologized that we’re all just too stupid to understand his superior intellect! What more do we want?!

    It’s not about misogyny or blatant discrimination. It never is.

  4. Personal Failure
    Personal Failure April 1, 2011 at 11:41 am |

    Scott Adams is simply too meta to be understood. Perhaps even to be seen. His thinky thoughts are on a whole other plane of existence from the rest of us emotional, disabled womenchildren.

    Oh, and we hurt his feewings. That he doesn’t have.

  5. Brandy
    Brandy April 1, 2011 at 11:48 am |

    raven_feathers:
    @1 this piece, as linked in the first sentence, originally ran yesterday. pedantry upon pedantry! ;)

    No, the manboobz one ran the day before the latest from Scott “Reading Comprehension” Adams (linked from the sentence I quoted). I’m getting confused just thinking about it.

  6. Tony
    Tony April 1, 2011 at 11:49 am |

    Scott Adams a misogynist? Not really. Sounds like his fan base is 80% MRA, and he was trying to give them a little pushback. His March 31 post is entirely reasonable.

  7. fannie
    fannie April 1, 2011 at 11:58 am |

    Scott Adams wrote:

    “So why’d I pull down the post? That question is more interesting than you might think.”

    It’s really not. Actually. Being asinine for attention is old hat.

  8. The Nerd
    The Nerd April 1, 2011 at 12:09 pm |

    Next I can picture Scott Adams laughing at all of this, saying (a la Steve Urkel) “did I do that?” http://premisepunchtag.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/urkel-did-i-do-that.jpg

  9. JeSsMaNiA
    JeSsMaNiA April 1, 2011 at 12:11 pm |

    lol

    also

    “stand by your misogyny”, Scott Adams.

  10. chipchop
    chipchop April 1, 2011 at 12:12 pm |

    I read his latest post, and I feel really embarrassed for him. It really seems like it’s the first time he’s ever thought about sexism, and he thinks he’s coming to novel conclusions. Like, I think he genuinely believes that his observations–which are basically along the lines of, “Y’know, it’s all perspective!”–are so profound that they’d stop decades of feminist scholarship in their tracks.

    Also, nice trans erasure at the end, there.

  11. Sam
    Sam April 1, 2011 at 12:21 pm |

    I actually hadn’t heard about the matter before reading this post. But to me, the main message of this doesn’t seem to be that one guy made a mistake since he didn’t get the internet. I think it shows how hard it is to have a reasonable debate online about such matters. Which it why reasonable debates are so rare and valuable. It really seems to me that for gender matters the online debates are more often than not increasing rifts between people who would, in person, likely be able to come to a point of agreement. This seems like a classic echo chamber mutual escalation case.

  12. Nieuwsronde « De Zesde Clan
    Nieuwsronde « De Zesde Clan April 1, 2011 at 12:35 pm |

    [...] bedoeld voor vaste lezers die intelligent genoeg waren om zijn bedoelingen te begrijpen. Of zoiets. Feministe brengt de hele nasleep, inclusief de rare verdediging van Adams. Zie voor een analyse van het originele verhaal dit [...]

  13. Juniper Elliot
    Juniper Elliot April 1, 2011 at 12:45 pm |

    Tip #1 of starting a reasonable online debate: Don’t compare women to children and mentally handicapped persons.

  14. Florence
    Florence April 1, 2011 at 12:49 pm |

    Sam: This seems like a classic echo chamber mutual escalation case.

    Uh, what Adams doesn’t understand is that his echo chamber of intellectual gratitude is not only visible to those outside the chamber, but available for fair critique. Not to mention that there’s a whole body of scholarship that says his ideas are bullshit, not merely an issue of online vs. offline debate, but since ladies came up with this body of scholarship and collection of life experiences it doesn’t count. It’s what we might call, in non-ironic discussions anyway, “deeply problematic.”

  15. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 1, 2011 at 12:55 pm |

    Tell me more about the echo chamber at Scott Adams’ personal blog. It must be just filled with Jumped-Up Feminist Bitchez (TM), amirite?

    Pro-tip: if you’re looking for a “reasonable debate,” maybe you shouldn’t call into question everyone else’s reading comprehension. Funny how that shuts shit down.

  16. fannie
    fannie April 1, 2011 at 12:56 pm |

    Scott: “I think it shows how hard it is to have a reasonable debate online about such matters.”

    Is the question of whether or not women are like children or mentally handicapped people really a debatable matter?

    “This seems like a classic echo chamber mutual escalation case.”

    No, what happened was Adams believed the entire internet would be as echo chamber-y as his sycophantic blog readership.

  17. fannie
    fannie April 1, 2011 at 12:57 pm |

    Re: my previous comment- I intended to quote “Sam,” not “Scott.” Sorry for the confusion.

  18. Bitter Scribe
    Bitter Scribe April 1, 2011 at 1:04 pm |

    I think Scott Adams is a genius cartoonist who should stay far, far away from “men’s rights” issues outside the context of his comic strip.

  19. Joe
    Joe April 1, 2011 at 1:05 pm |

    What an utter asshole.

  20. Hippodameia
    Hippodameia April 1, 2011 at 1:38 pm |

    I’m not going to have a “reasonable debate” online or offline with a man who thinks it’s OK to treat me like a child. Nor will I dispense sex to men who treat me this way.

  21. Juniper Elliot
    Juniper Elliot April 1, 2011 at 2:04 pm |

    Oh my god, the comments on his site are amazing… and not because of their reading comprehension. Goldmine of hilarity.

  22. Jess
    Jess April 1, 2011 at 3:32 pm |

    Is this a variant on the classic troll line, “It was a social experiment?”

  23. A Student
    A Student April 1, 2011 at 3:40 pm |

    Alright, I have to post this quote from Mr. Adams’ 3-31-11 blog on fairness and workplace discrimination:

    [BEGIN QUOTE]

    Take the question of equal pay for equal work. If you see it as a gender issue, aren’t you leaving out a few dimensions that are also important? I saw an interview the other day with the woman who is the lead plaintiff for the class action suit against WalMart. Her complaint is that WalMart discriminated against her for being a woman. The thing that fascinated me is that somehow she managed to discern that the discrimination she experienced was because of her gender and not the fact that she’s also obese, unattractive, and African-American. Based on the interview, she also seems to have a sketchy command of grammar. I couldn’t judge her height or personality, but those are two more factors that have a big impact on career advancement.

    [END QUOTE]

    Wow.

    It reminds me of an economist I heard argue that being a Sub-Saharan African nation was a good predictor of poverty. The same implicit idea that “these two things are correlated, and that correlation is either okay by me or at least doesn’t demand any critical analysis” was there.

  24. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla April 1, 2011 at 4:03 pm |

    Personal Failure:
    Scott Adams is simply too meta to be understood. Perhaps even to be seen. His thinky thoughts are on a whole other plane of existence from the rest of us emotional, disabled womenchildren.

    Oh, and we hurt his feewings. That he doesn’t have.

    Scott Adams must be God. If that’s really so, well God is quite a crybaby.

  25. Li
    Li April 1, 2011 at 4:32 pm |

    Wow, A Student, that quote…

    Personally, I totally hadn’t realised that people could suffer discrimination on more than one axis at a time! In fact, no feminist or womanist I have ever met has ever taken up issues of weight or race. Someone should really call the third wave and tell them about these important revelations.

  26. auditorydamage
    auditorydamage April 1, 2011 at 4:33 pm |

    Scott Adams is clearly no Andy Kaufman.

  27. Tori
    Tori April 1, 2011 at 4:35 pm |

    … the Dilbert mastermind caused a bit of a contretemps on the internets by posting a blog entry so astoundingly idiotic, and so patronizingly misogynistic, that it managed to offend Men’s Rights Activists and feminists alike. Adams managed to make himself look like an even bigger idiot…

    David, I know that idiot is a pretty commonly used term, but it’s also one with a lot of ableist implications. I agree that what he did was misogynistic, lacking in good judgment, and bad — but I don’t see the need to conflate any of those qualities with cognitive impairment.

  28. Helen
    Helen April 1, 2011 at 5:19 pm |

    One small typo-

    …you might notice that this new explanation does not so much complement but completely contract his earlier explanation:

    Should be “contradict”, I think, from the context.

  29. randomosity
    randomosity April 1, 2011 at 5:58 pm |

    Social experiment, huh. That’s what I called it in high school when I did harmless but totally inappropriate things in public places. mainly things that were just plain rude. The idea was: What would happen if I…?

    Obviously our esteemed cartoonist is not yet past high school in terms of maturity.

  30. makomk
    makomk April 1, 2011 at 6:26 pm |

    I don’t believe Scott Adams for a second, and ironically it’s related to a reason he was accidentally partly right about the pay gender gap.

    Even though the target varies, the entireity of his post is consisistent in tone and attitude and corresponds quite nicely to traditional gender roles, including the anti-MRA part. I fully believe that he was expecting everyone else to have the same views because that’s what society says everyone should think.

    How does this relate to the gender pay gap? Well, there’s an interesting idea around here called “equal value” where women are supposed to receive the same pay for doing different work of equal value. In particular, it’s almost impossible not to hear complaints about how (mostly male) garbage collection workers are paid less than (mostly female) cleaners, and I think my local council may even have given in and paid them the same. Except there’s one big difference being ignored: collecting garbage is far more dangerous – it involves working in traffic and using powerful machinery with inadequate safeguards, and has a really high injury rate. In fact, that’s why it’s all-male in the first place – the public would get upset if a female worker got crushed to death!

    Of course, complaining or even thinking there’s anything wrong here marks you as “pussies”, as not real men, in the exact same gender-based attack Scott Adams used against MRAs. There’s nothing surprising about him turning on them, the only reason it seems so is because unlike all the other dodgy stuff in his post this problematic aspect of gender roles doesn’t get addressed much.

    TL;DR version: the whole post was sexist, and the interaction between men’s issues and women’s issues is more complex than it appears.

  31. Diane K
    Diane K April 1, 2011 at 6:50 pm |

    Tori: idiot is a pretty commonly used term, but it’s also one with a lot of ableist implications. I agree that what he did was misogynistic, lacking in good judgment, and bad — but I don’t see the need to conflate any of those qualities with cognitive impairment.

    And I would call you a fucking dumbass, but I wouldn’t want to engage in any sex-negative thoughts while also portraying you as having cognitive impairment or showing any anti-nature bias.

  32. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla April 1, 2011 at 6:57 pm |

    David Futrelle:
    Typo fixed, and the whole “today” thing also fixed. (See, I posted this as a draft to Feministe yesterday, when “today” really was today, but Jill didn’t put it up on the site until today, that is, the real today, which is yesterday’s tomorrow. I hope that clears things up!)

    So you fixed the typo, but you’ve completely ignored this:

    Tori: David, I know that idiot is a pretty commonly used term, but it’s also one with a lot of ableist implications. I agree that what he did was misogynistic, lacking in good judgment, and bad — but I don’t see the need to conflate any of those qualities with cognitive impairment.

    Indeed, David, you’re showing a pattern of ignoring or blowing off polite requests to remove ableist language. The request above would have been just as easy for you to respond to as a typo; it even includes suggested alternatives to “idiot[ic]. I dunno, but I wonder if you think that those pointing out ableist language in your posts have poor reading comprehension and that’s why you’re not bothering to respond?

  33. Vigée
    Vigée April 1, 2011 at 7:17 pm |

    Ha! Scott Adams acts like cats, birds, and drunk squirrels. I mean, I’m not saying he’s the Same as a cat, a bird, or a drunk squirrel, just that he acts like them.

  34. AmberP
    AmberP April 1, 2011 at 8:13 pm |

    Hi David,

    I have really enjoyed your contributions to Feministe, and hope you continue to come back.

    Thanks!
    -Amber

  35. Diane K
    Diane K April 1, 2011 at 8:28 pm |

    You realize that by changing your language you’re only encouraging them, right? Wouldn’t want anyone to feel offended or not have their feelings validated.

  36. Mandolin
    Mandolin April 1, 2011 at 8:33 pm |

    …no, in general, I don’t want to offend anyone or fail to validate the feelings of people in oppressed groups.

  37. konkonsn
    konkonsn April 1, 2011 at 8:41 pm |

    [quote="Scott Adams"]So I propose a simple test to determine if you, individually, are a victim of gender unfairness. If a genie gave you the chance to magically switch your gender, and become a member of the other sex, would you do it? And let’s say the new you would be about the same as now on the scale of attractiveness, intelligence, ethnicity, circumstance, and health. The only real change would be gender. Do you take the offer?

    If your answer is no, then maybe fairness isn’t what you really want.[/quote]

    @_@ I feel like I want to cry.

    Yes, that’s the entire solution. Women just need to find some magical way (*cough*like surgery and hormone therapy*cough*) to change into men, and everything will be fixed. We just need to become a world of men! I’m sure transmen have never had an issue with this.

    Also, gender and sex =/= synonyms. Unless my reading comprehension’s just a bit too low to somehow get the meta idea behind using them incorrectly.

  38. Li
    Li April 1, 2011 at 8:44 pm |

    David, you’re getting very defensive here, and in a way that follows fairly easily predicted patterns of privilege. Noone has so far said that you are “an ableist” or even “ableist”. They have stated that the language you have used is ableist. This, and I think you are very capable of understanding this, is an important distinction.

    You are of course under no particular obligation to investigate the ways in which dismissing people you disagree with as having lower cognitive ability than yourself is a ultimately ableist (an also kind of misleadingly easy) tactic, but while you write in this space, I don’t think it’s too much to ask to conform to certain requests about language norms, especially given the number of people with disabilities who frequent it and its problematic history on these kinds of issues.

  39. Tori
    Tori April 1, 2011 at 8:55 pm |

    Let me ask you a perfectly serious question: “Idiot” is a word that is used all the time, by virtually everyone. If you are so offended by the word that you classify anyone using it as being in the same category as a misogynistic asshole like Scott Adams…

    David, I’m seeing this as a little disingenuous. When I initially pointed out the problematic language, I made no such comparisons. It was only after you changed and responded to a later comment regarding a typo — while not addressing the ableist language in any way — that such a comment was made. If folks are offended, it may well be by the lack of consideration you seemed to show for their concerns, rather than solely by the initial wording.

    … how are you able to have normal conversations with people without them all turning into discussions of language and accusations of ableism? When you read a book and the author uses the word “idiot” or a synonym, do you continue reading or does this immediately lead you to dismiss the author as an ableist?

    I cannot speak for everyone here, but —

    1) How are other people able to have normal conversations with people without devaluing and dehumanizing their experiences via ableist tropes (idiot, crazy, etc.)? The normalization of certain speech doesn’t necessarily make it a good thing.

    2) But let me give a perfectly serious response — Mostly, a large chunk of my socialization teaches me to simultaneously shut my mouth, grin and bear it, and give the place of privilege (in this case, using ableist terms with impunity) the benefit of the doubt.

    3) On the occasions that I do speak up about ableist usage, there will almost certainly be silencing or dismissive pushback. Even odds that the pushback comprises the majority. So whether it’s because of my internalized ableism or because of conscious fear of dismissal, I’m quite good at reading texts and/or having conversations without ever mentioning ableism out loud. It’s the ones where I do that scare me.

    4) But some days, I am fucking Out. Of. Spoons. I do not have the energy to shut up and take it, sorry.

  40. Rosa
    Rosa April 1, 2011 at 9:04 pm |

    “That’s so gay” used to be unquestioned and commonplace, until people discussed it and realized, “Gee, that’s a pretty assholeish thing to say.”

    David and Diane K, you are totally showing your asses and need a serious privilege check. Cuz ferreals. (Especially Diane K. People call each other pussies and bitches all the time. So that means those are impossible to extricate or dampen in our common lexicon, yeah??? Smh.)

  41. Florence
    Florence April 1, 2011 at 9:09 pm |

    The constant chorus about ableist language is distracting and frustrating. As a person with several disabilities I think it’s condescending and ridiculous to problematize language for the purpose of blog-gotchas.

    Language has history. A lot of words that we use on the regular have extremely socially colorful roots. To insist that we change or constantly mitigate the use of standard English to participate in discussion demonstrates a lack of understanding of how language spreads, works, and grows, and encourages us to police and silence one another despite clear authorial intent and meaning, which is in itself an appropriation of power and privilege.

  42. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla April 1, 2011 at 9:12 pm |

    David Futrelle: David Futrelle

    You can change one word, or you can expend a lot of energy to get defensive. Your choice.

    My choice is to disengage from you. I have lots of beautiful topographic maps to have a look at.

    Peace, bro.

  43. Rosa
    Rosa April 1, 2011 at 9:14 pm |

    Um, so you’re assuming none of us “whiners” deal with mental/emotional challenges, why exactly? I, for one, am not appropriating anything, thankyouverymuch. And I daresay, you saying you deal with certain disabilities sounds very much like the argument that post-1968 discussions of race are vapid and useless just because “this one member of supposedly oppressed group here” personally doesn’t have a problem with it.

  44. Rosa
    Rosa April 1, 2011 at 9:18 pm |

    And I’m totally piping up on here about made-up issues for attention cuz I’m a total loser who has nothing better to do than pretend to be offended. Blog-gotchas my ass.

  45. Diane K
    Diane K April 1, 2011 at 9:27 pm |

    Florence: I think it’s condescending and ridiculous to problematize language for the purpose of blog-gotchas.

    *APPLAUSE*

    Will you marry me?

  46. Rosa
    Rosa April 1, 2011 at 9:37 pm |

    Uh, mod – I don’t understand why you’re not allowing my comments to be published. Explanation please?

  47. PharaohKatt
    PharaohKatt April 1, 2011 at 11:37 pm |

    Oh for fucks sake, David! Some politely asks you to reconsider a word and you ignore them. Then when someone calls you on this, you get defensive and post disingenuous shit about how we obviously can’t have proper conversations with people because we’re too busy being offended. Why, because someone politely asked you to reconsider language?

    You showed in your first Scott Adams post a lack of awareness about ableism, and when called on it you brushed it off as a misunderstanding. You have a pattern of ignoring requests like this, as GG pointed out. Is it really such a stretch for hir (I’m sorry, I don’t know your preferred pronouns) to get angry? Really?

    ALSO I am getting really fucking sick of the casual use of “mentally handicapped” in the comments here. Really? Seriously? You see no problem with using that phrase? How about “people with cognitive disabilities”?
    And how about recognising that the reason that you shouldn’t treat women like children or PWDs is because PWDs and children are treated as less-than-human and this is a bad thing!

    Dianne K,
    Yes, how dare he “encourage” us to speak out about our own oppressions! How dare he encourage us to question privilege when it occurs again and again and again and again.

  48. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 1, 2011 at 11:44 pm |

    So, if I were to call Diane K a bitch on the pretext that the third dictionary definition at dictionary.com is “a malicious, unpleasant, selfish person, especially a woman” and I’m not offended by its use, that makes it totally okay, right? Because using the dictionary definition, she’s being a bitch.

    No, friends. Words have meaning. It doesn’t matter if you’re not offended by them. To be frank, no one gives a damn if that’s the case. However, if someone tells you your language is offensive and all you have to do is find a synonym for what you were trying to say that isn’t offensive, why the hell wouldn’t you do that?

  49. Lis
    Lis April 2, 2011 at 12:26 am |

    Let me ask you a perfectly serious question: “Idiot” is a word that is used all the time, by virtually everyone. If you are so offended by the word [...] how are you able to have normal conversations with people without them all turning into discussions of language and accusations of ableism?

    Easy. Sometimes I swallow shit and let it pass, because I can only fight so much in any given day.

    I realize the idea that the world is soaking in prejudicial attitudes to people with disabilities, that it’s expressed in language, architecture, and much more, and that this is a bad thing is new and distressing. I realize that disability activism hasn’t permeated public consciousness very much yet, so this might be the first time you’ve been exposed to the idea that using words like “lame”, “retarded”, “crippled”, “idiot”, and “moron” is not on.

    That doesn’t give you a free pass on being ablist, and it doesn’t mean people with disabilities have to enjoy swallowing your shit.

  50. David
    David April 2, 2011 at 12:50 am |

    It’s easy enough. If you peeps don’t like Futrelle, get him banned.

  51. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla April 2, 2011 at 1:16 am |

    PharaohKatt: I’m sorry, I don’t know your preferred pronouns

    I prefer female pronouns. Thanks for asking.

  52. sabrina
    sabrina April 2, 2011 at 2:27 am |

    david, part of being an allie is understanding that women are oppressed in different ways. Ableism is a particularly difficult one, mostly because a lot of people are unaware of where terms come from. We all make mistakes, but the difference between an allie and someone who isn’t is the ability to listen, understand, apologize, move on, and be aware enough to do better next time.

  53. Yonmei
    Yonmei April 2, 2011 at 3:49 am |

    So instead of discussing Scott Adams, let’s all [complain] about that [ass] David Futrelle, who’s obviously MUCH worse. That makes sense. (Sentence edited.)

    Mind you, I guess we did discuss Adams to death in the last blog post about him, now let’s move on to taking down another guy for equally inappropriate use of language.

  54. PharaohKatt
    PharaohKatt April 2, 2011 at 4:09 am |

    GallingGalla: I prefer female pronouns.Thanks for asking.

    Thanks, I’ll know now for future reference :)

  55. paraxeni
    paraxeni April 2, 2011 at 4:20 am |

    Yeah florence and diane – go and marry each other, david can be your flower girl, and you can live happy ever after in your ableist paradise.

    Florence – your disabilities do not give you a free pass to say that ableist language isn’t a problem. It’s a problem for me to see people use words that mean “having a mental or physical disability” as shorthand for “this person’s views offend me”. This blog has a real problem acknowledging that disabled people are real, that they read blogs like this, and that they deserve to be treated with the same respect as everyone else.

    David- your “everyone uses it, why shouldn’t I?” is a classic denialist trope. Shouldn’t I be able to throw around racist, sexist and homophobic language here like the mythical ‘everyone’ does? Should I be able to say “OMG that’s so gay!” because it’s common parlance in some places? I can guarantee that anyone trying to use the “everyone says it” defence in here to support the use of racist, sexist or homophobic dialogue would be run out of here in a second. But, as usual, any upset over ableist language is met with “shut up and stop whining, go away, stop being so PC you’re spoiling our fuuun by reminding us you exist”.

    Well we are here, we’re not going away, and this site will learn that ableist language is as disgusting and unacceptable as sexist, racist and homophobic language. I will roll over your precious privileged toes until you beg for mercy. I will not allow anyone to erase our lived experiences.

    @Tori – a solidarity fist bump for you, you fabulous person!

  56. tricia
    tricia April 2, 2011 at 5:59 am |

    “Idiot” was, in living memory, a widely-recognized legal and psychiatric term for a person with severe cognitive disabilities. Its present, more colloquial use comes directly from that previous meaning. It stigmatizes people with disabilities and its use is profoundly offensive to many people, as has been pointed out repeatedly in this comment thread and others, and its continued use in direct and flagrant disregard of its history and potential for offensiveness – especially when so many people here have already made very clear that they *are* offended – is retarded. Please show a little humanity and refrain from using the word.

  57. Diane K
    Diane K April 2, 2011 at 8:16 am |

    Shorter this entire thread: “Calling people stupid is is an abelist slur against stupid people! J’ACCUSE! PRIVILEGE!”

    As Florence said, the inability to accept the evolution and common meaning of words is ridiculous. So if a word was ever, at some point in history, used by people to oppress other people, it is now off-limits? We must ignore all current meanings and authorial intent? I find this crazy idiotic lame moronic ungood. It’s almost fetishistic, holding perceived oppression and offense above all things. Haven’t all words with negative connotations been wielded against groups of people at one time or another? If we can’t express negative thoughts or opinions about others by using commonly accepted terms, how are we to express them? The amateur linguists here could find good work amongst the rulers of Airstrip One*.

    *I’m sorry if my references to The Dreyfus Affair and 1984 are “culturalist” and leaves anyone feeling butthurt**

    **I’m sorry if my usage of the term “butthurt” is offensive to people without butts, or people with large butts, or really anyone with a butt that is not accepted by society. I do have a large butt, but I realize that doesn’t give me a free pass.

  58. Diane K
    Diane K April 2, 2011 at 8:21 am |

    PrettyAmiable:
    So, if I were to call Diane K a bitch on the pretext that the third dictionary definition at dictionary.com is “a malicious, unpleasant, selfish person, especially a woman” and I’m not offended by its use, that makes it totally okay, right? Because using the dictionary definition, she’s being a bitch.

    Fire away, as that term is certainly the correct one to use. I would even add a modifier and go with total bitch. Glad to see someone around here willing to call a spade a spade*, and not hide behind the “Oh, I wasn’t CALLING you an abelist, just saying you act like one” bullshit defense.

    *Or can I not say that because it carries The Taint of Perceived Oppression?

  59. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 2, 2011 at 8:54 am |

    lulz at the lack of education on the topic.

  60. Tony
    Tony April 2, 2011 at 9:00 am |

    I can tell right now that this thread is heading in an awesome direction.

  61. Rosa
    Rosa April 2, 2011 at 9:05 am |

    Well, I’ll give that you’re consistent, Diane K. Unapologetically about her privilege and condescends all that may call her on it. Good day.

  62. saurus
    saurus April 2, 2011 at 9:42 am |

    Diane K:

    **I’m sorry if my usage of the term “butthurt” is offensive to people without butts, or people with large butts, or really anyone with a butt that is not accepted by society.I do have a large butt, but I realize that doesn’t give me a free pass.

    Actually, in all seriousness, I do think the phrase “butthurt” – much like the 4chan tendency of pinning “fags” onto the end of everything – is a bit objectionable. Words like “hurt” – or, getting closer to the connotations of “butthurt” – even “whiny and self-pitying” would probably do just as well. “Butthurt” suggests a tie-in between the supposedly weak and pathetic nature of having your feelings hurt (i.e., illegitimately or due to being too sensitive) with the supposedly weak and pathetic nature of being penetrated anally against your will, and I think there’s a lot of problematic things about that.

    Anyway, I think there’s room for these three ideas to coexist:

    - Policing language isn’t, in and of itself, enough. In other words, thinking in the right way or speaking in the right way aren’t, unto themselves, enough to end an oppression. We shouldn’t just shout “Hey, wrong word!” and then pat ourselves on the back for being Good People. Obviously.

    - The way in which language policing goes down isn’t always productive or healthy. Sometimes people get so mired in discussions of *how* something was said that the discussion never progresses. In feminist communities there’s also the tendency for people to ascend on a ladder towards behavioral perfection, in which you never say or do or feel or think the “wrong” thing, and the end goal is doing everything “right” – instead of the end goal being, you know, like, liberation.

    This “say shit right” focus can make discourse harder for lots of people; people who don’t have an academic background, people for whom our jargon is unfamiliar, people who are not fluent in English, and yes – even some people with disabilities. It can also be a little alienating for people whose main goal is liberation, not excellence. While I think it’d great to educate (and self-educate) on language, it’s easy to make a mistake and I think, as with any fuck-up, it would be nice to find a way to address the issue and move on without the whole attack-defense spectacle.

    - This doesn’t mean we should stop inspecting language altogether. Language can reveal a lot about our underlying attitudes, it can reinforce hegemonic norms and oppressions, and it can make people cry. Look at how heteronormative language can make queer people feel immediately closeted and excluded, or how ciscentric language can cast trans people as freaks or sideshows, or how language that conflates people with disabilities with everything ignorant and ugly and misconceived in the world just supports the idea that there’s something negative about being disabled. Language isn’t just “presentation”, it’s a substance unto itself and a powerful one at that. It’s not innocuous, and it’s not abstract. It can have real, tangible effects on things – laws, policies, people’s feelings, people’s understanding of the world and their perceptions of how much it values (or devalues) them.

    So if we can take steps towards using language that doesn’t piggy-back off of racist, sexist, ableist, transphobic, etc usage – why not? If a word has a history of making oppressed persons feel like shit and we want to avoid making oppressed persons feel like shit, can we not dig our heels in just because we feel like we have the right to use whatever words we want and damn the consequences?

    As per the aforementioned points, language is not the end-all-and-be-all, and it’s something that needs to be addressed with the intent to progress the conversation instead of being used the fuel the much-loved Good Activist vs. Bad Activist theatrical smackdown – but it does have incredible power to cause pain and reinforce oppression, and we should wield it accordingly.

  63. Li
    Li April 2, 2011 at 9:52 am |

    tricia:
    “Idiot” was, in living memory, a widely-recognized legal and psychiatric term for a person with severe cognitive disabilities. Its present, more colloquial use comes directly from that previous meaning. It stigmatizes people with disabilities and its use is profoundly offensive to many people, as has been pointed out repeatedly in this comment thread and others, and its continued use in direct and flagrant disregard of its history and potential for offensiveness – especially when so many people here have already made very clear that they *are* offended – is retarded. Please show a little humanity and refrain from using the word.

    I really, really hope that your use of “retarded” here was some kind of complex joke and not a Morissette-level failure to grasp irony.

  64. Vigée
    Vigée April 2, 2011 at 10:01 am |

    Saurus at no. 59 nailed it. I’m saving that comment for future reference.

  65. Dominique
    Dominique April 2, 2011 at 10:08 am |

    This thread is getting derailed in a manner that would never happen under the usual moderators.

    When someone calls you out on a slur, the humane thing to do is apologize, not write 5,000 words defending your use of it.

    Personal attacks and insults lead nowhere, no matter how much “fun” you think it is. The rest of us don’t appreciate it.

    As for the original topic, viz., Scott Adams: well, bla, bla, bla. He obviously has no idea of what his privilege actually looks like and is trying to mansplain human rights. It looks like a lot of people are letting him do it. The only possible response to anything he says is to direct him to Feminism 101.

  66. Nahida
    Nahida April 2, 2011 at 10:12 am |

    I thought the term “butthurt” had to do with rape, like “screw you,” and I find it entirely offensive regardless of the existence of my butt.

  67. Mandolin
    Mandolin April 2, 2011 at 10:26 am |

    For people who find the idea of scrubbing language relating to cognitive disability from their vocabularies (incl. David), perhaps consider doing so in social justice spaces whether or not you do so in other parts of your life? Part of the point of communicating in this space is to communicate with the people interested in social justice, yes? Consider accepting tighter restrictions on your political writing than you would on your informal speech.

    I would also suggest that the problem of “how can you use your resources to fight this when it’s so common” is actually of more concern to people protesting things like being asked not to use “lame” or “crazy.” How much energy does it take one to complain about it? (And how much energy do you demand that other people take to answer your complaints?) Presuming that you want to be an ally to disabled people, is it really worth making a fuss over the tiny points of disagreement that don’t really matter all that much in your life, but matter quite a lot to other people? Maybe part of your role as an ally is not to pick at the 1% of things on which you disagree that are A) relatively small concessions, and B) much more important to the people you’re arguing with than they are to you.

    E.g. I like the metaphor of madness and disagree with some of the premises put forth about why it’s unacceptable to use. I have a mental illness; however, it is not one that involves psychosis, and generally that’s the group stigmatized by the term, so my relationship to it is peripheral. I sometimes use the metaphor though I’m trying to limit my usage and may eventually eliminate it. Also, I try not to use it conversationally when I am around people who I know are upset by it, and I try not to use it in my political writing. What does it cost me? Little: accepting some limits on the use of one metaphor among thousands that I happen to like, trying to identify places where I’ve used the metaphor without thinking about it, and spending a few seconds to replace those instances with an alternative. What does it gain me? The ability to discuss things with people who are hurt by the term. And also, the ability not to add to their burden by hurting them. Not hurting people means something to me. It means more, in fact, than my interest in the metaphor of madness, or my attachment to the reasons why I disagree with their premises.

  68. Nahida
    Nahida April 2, 2011 at 10:28 am |

    David Futrelle: When you read a book and the author uses the word “idiot” or a synonym, do you continue reading or does this immediately lead you to dismiss the author as an ableist?

    The LANGUAGE is ableist, yes. Not the author. No one is dismissing anyone entirely. Galla didn’t dismiss everything else you said.

  69. Mandolin
    Mandolin April 2, 2011 at 10:29 am |

    Corrections:

    “For people who find the idea of scrubbing language relating to cognitive disability from their vocabularies (incl. David)” – should read “For people who dislike the idea of…”

    Presuming that you want to be an ally to disabled people – people with disabilities

  70. Brandy
    Brandy April 2, 2011 at 10:34 am |

    Well said, saurus. I used to be the sort of person who didn’t understand why I should make any effort to stop using ableist words, but that question – “why not?” – really did it for me.

  71. sabrina
    sabrina April 2, 2011 at 10:40 am |

    tw for mention of rape and panic attacks
    thank you nahida! fist bump and hugs if they are welcome, I appreciate you standing in solidarity with rape survivors
    Oh and I’d just like to give diane k an extra dose of feel goods with the fact that her awful language to try and prove a horrendous point sent me into a fucking panic episode because gods forbid we should be mindful of other people and their very real experiences in a space whose commenting policy specifically states
    “We will do what is possible to prevent publishing comments that are racist, sexist, ableist, homophobic, or transphobic. Controversy is not scary to us, but we do aim to create a space that is safe for the expression of pro-feminist ideas.”

  72. Diane K
    Diane K April 2, 2011 at 10:48 am |

    sabrina:
    her awful language to try and prove a horrendous point sent me into a fucking panic episode

    You had a panic attack from reading a comment on the internet? How do you leave your house?

    Nahida:
    I thought the term “butthurt” had to do with rape, like “screw you,” and I find it entirely offensive

    OK, this thread has been like a weird tooth I couldn’t stop poking at. But the shit has officially gotten too bananas for me. Bye.

    Oops, I probably should have added a trigger warning for “tooth pain”

  73. Jadey
    Jadey April 2, 2011 at 10:50 am |

    Diane K: It’s almost fetishistic, holding perceived oppression and offense above all things.

    I love Kinsey Hope for writing an incredibly timely post* on this issue in general and why fighting back on -ist language and slurs is not about offense. I can’t say she speaks for everyone here, but she certainly speaks for me.

    My own personal contribution is that the role of semantics (i.e., the literal meanings of words, which sometimes vary dramatically) is being over-emphasized and the importance of pragmatics, the meaning of speech in the context in which it is used, is being underemphasized in some of these analyses. A dictionary definition or even a whole series of them is only a very small and limited aspect of a living word – context can transform the meaning of any word or series of words well beyond what any dictionary, no matter how comprehensive, can predict (e.g., when used sarcastically, a word tends to mean the opposite of any of its agreed upon dictionary meanings).

    So, David, to chalk something up to a dictionary definition is to deflect the responsibility of how you chose to write and communicate with your audience. You’ve actually been cut a considerable amount of slack considering that this has been going on for two posts and number of opportunities to step back and edit. You seemed much more receptive to changes on the first thread, but given your response here I’m starting to feel that your responses there were meant to be shallow appeasement and you’re frustrated that people still seem to expect genuine change. Are you going to have your own “I meant to do that!” moment? Perhaps you’ve been staring into the void of Scott Adams and MRAs for a bit too long.

    I agree that the pointing out of ableist slurs has become almost tedious in its repetitiveness, but I’m pretty sure that the problem is that people keep doing it, not that people noticing how fucked up it is.

    *not, as far as I can tell, as a direct response to any of this, but not exactly a new thing

  74. Carolyn
    Carolyn April 2, 2011 at 11:16 am |

    Diane K’s last comment is incredibly ableist and cruel. How on earth did that get published?
    And how on earth is it SO HARD for people to scrub a couple of words from their lexicon, or even just in certain contexts not use those words? SERIOUSLY. It is not that hard. It doesn’t matter whether you agree or not – wouldn’t you want to do what you can to make other people feel safe?

  75. jemand
    jemand April 2, 2011 at 11:17 am |

    “Haven’t all words with negative connotations been wielded against groups of people at one time or another?”

    This is a far, FAR different point than using the actual *names* that refer to a class of marginalized people as synonymous with negative, as if that is obviously sufficient to indicate a negative connotation.

  76. sabrina
    sabrina April 2, 2011 at 11:26 am |

    here’s the deal those of you who are so privileged as to not know what it’s like to be triggered on a daily fucking basis by the insensitivity of others.
    For most of us when we leave our houses we expect to go out into the world and be met with hateful mean spirited misogynists, racists, homophobic bigots, ableists, classists, dudebros, MRA’s and the like. We also expect to run into those who don’t know any better and who would change their behavior if they truly knew how much it hurt other people. The key in that though is prepare ourselves for it. When we are reading on the internet in a space that is supposed to be monitored and safe, a space that uses trigger warnings when talking about harmful topics, we expect a certain level of freedom in not being triggered. We can come here, read about the horrors of the world knowing that we are in a group of people who care about our welfare and are therefore going to do their best to be sensitive to our needs. When you openly and purposefully break the rules you turn our only place of safety into yet another place where we have to arm ourselves in order to exist here. You have the rest of the world. Leave the little space that is afforded to us alone.

  77. Yonmei
    Yonmei April 2, 2011 at 11:32 am |

    You know, I can’t remember the last time I saw a contemporary reference to people of diminished mental capacity being called “idiots”. I would regard it as immensely rude to use the word “idiot” in anything but the pejorative sense, used about people who are not of diminished mental capacity but who are behaving stupidly and wrongly.

    Use of the word “bastard” has undergone a similiar transition: I hear it used in the pejorative sense quite frequently, I never hear it used in contemporary reference to refer to a person whose parents are not married to each other.

    I live in the UK, and I’m not aware of any current usage of “idiot” in anything but the pejorative sense.

  78. Florence
    Florence April 2, 2011 at 11:40 am |

    Like I said before, it’s condescending and ridiculous to problematize language for the purpose of blog-gotchas. Emphasis on “problematize” and “gotchas”, evidenced by the inability for the commenters to avoid hijacking the blog by masturbating over demands for apologies, threatening to flounce, and complaining about how Feministe is soooooo grody.

    paraxeni: Yeah florence and diane – go and marry each other, david can be your flower girl, and you can live happy ever after in your ableist paradise.

    Florence – your disabilities do not give you a free pass to say that ableist language isn’t a problem. It’s a problem for me to see people use words that mean “having a mental or physical disability” as shorthand for “this person’s views offend me”. This blog has a real problem acknowledging that disabled people are real, that they read blogs like this, and that they deserve to be treated with the same respect as everyone else.

    We had this disagreement last time, didn’t we? Hi again! And I didn’t say that ableist language isn’t a problem, but I did say your approach here is a problem. Why? Because we can’t talk about anything other than you and your needs because the rules that encompass “ableist” language are expanding to ridiculous areas. Why do you assume PWD all go around with flashing neon signs declaring their identities as PWD and demanding social justice as defined by the in-group, instead of accepting that some of us who are just as informed and dedicated to social justice as you think this is misplaces, wasted energy, and roll our eyes EVERY FUCKING TIME you ruin perfectly fine discussions going gonzo over some piddly bullshit? Some of us disagree with you. I’m not oppressed or self-hating, I just think this is a wildly dumb use of a person’s spoons and SJ skills, not to mention an extremely shallow understanding of linguistics. This is also, to-date, a successful way for this particular group of commenters to control and manipulate this blog and others, the blog commenters, and the rest of the community, which is, like I said last time, maladjusted, shitty, rude behavior. I apologize for the pushback, but this is what I see and I don’t know why more people can’t stand up to it and call it abusive.

    Language has history. It changes and evolves. You’re trying to keep it static to support your rhetorical beliefs, but it doesn’t work that way and you can’t make it so. Snarking and ostracizing people for disagreeing with you and controlling the forum until you get your way is classic abusive behavior, an exercise in power and privilege, and I find it appalling that it’s accepted anywhere in the SJ-sphere. This isn’t activism, it’s abuse of activist means.

  79. Florence
    Florence April 2, 2011 at 11:53 am |

    I also want to talk about this, since we’re going there:

    This blog has a real problem acknowledging that disabled people are real, that they read blogs like this, and that they deserve to be treated with the same respect as everyone else.

    I don’t see that. In fact, all of the bloggers here to date have been pretty open about their disabilities, and I recall all of the bloggers here talking about their disabilities at some point or another. Also, a great majority of the bloggers, guests and otherwise, are pretty open to discussing this and changing their behavior, disagreement or no.

    Decent people all want to be nice and we all want to honor everyone’s feelings, but we aren’t beholden to anticipate every possible situation ever in order to avoid offending or triggering someone, when people are complaining of others hitting un-anticipatable triggers. Diane K may be abrasive, but she has a point, and I’m saying this as someone treated for PTSD long-term: If you’re triggered by reading a comment on the internet, it’s your responsibility to remove yourself from the conversation. Knowing your limits is part of recovery and mental health maintenance. If you have a legitimate point to make about social justice, pointing out ableist language for example, share your opinion and argue your point, whatever, but don’t dogpile people, hijack conversations, and make every discussion about you, and for godsakes, try to contribute something ON TOPIC too.

  80. rae
    rae April 2, 2011 at 2:05 pm |

    I think it’s clear what happened with Scott Adams on Feministe. When he realized he was being criticized by feminists, he tried his usual tactics for dismissing women’s opinions as unimportant. This didn’t work, because Feministe readers are not pushovers, and he was mocked. This drove him crazy because women (especially feminists) are not supposed to be funny. We are especially not supposed to make insightful or cutting humorous remarks that provoke laughter from the audience! He tried again repeatedly, failing ever more spectacularly. He can’t let it go because he’s Scott Adams and he can’t lose an argument with a bunch of dumb chicks!

    On the upside, that was one of the most fun Feministe threads in ages. It didn’t even devolve into internecine sniping.

  81. Natalia
    Natalia April 2, 2011 at 2:29 pm |

    I’m with Florence. Though I don’t think this is “abusive” – I am also tired of how language is often treated. I find this approach to be reductionist, particularly from a linguistic point of view, and don’t wish to fall in line with it. I also don’t wish to fall in line with it because well, like Florence said, not all of us are in agreement here – and I don’t want anyone necessarily speaking for me. I mean, is this OK? Can we disagree? I certainly hope so. Especially since I’ve been called an “idiot” and “crazy” – precisely because of my own mental health situation, unfortunately – but that doesn’t mean I want the English language scrubbed of those words.

    Also, Scott Adams is a tool.

  82. Sarah J.
    Sarah J. April 2, 2011 at 3:22 pm |

    Yeah, I’m going to go with Diane K., Florence and Natalia here. And before people jump down my throat: I do have disabilities. I have faced discrimination due to one of those diagnoses (a mental health condition). Yet typically I am completely unbothered by the use of “idiot,” “crazy,” etc. Context is everything, as far as I’m concerned. And I refuse to be told, as a person with disabilities, what I must find offensive. I believe it’s arrogant, and it is just as offensive as the so-called ableism people are complaining about.

  83. Sarah J.
    Sarah J. April 2, 2011 at 3:25 pm |

    Yeah, I’m going to go with Diane K., Florence and Natalia here. And before people jump down my throat: I do have disabilities. I have faced discrimination due to one of those diagnoses (a mental health condition). Yet typically I am completely unbothered by the use of “idiot,” “crazy,” etc. Context is everything, as far as I’m concerned. And I refuse to be told, as a person with disabilities, what I must find offensive. I believe it’s arrogant, it’s alienating, and it is just as offensive as the so-called ableism people are complaining about.

  84. Nahida
    Nahida April 2, 2011 at 3:42 pm |

    David Futrelle: It is one thing to say, “I think this word is ableist.” It is another to derail topic after topic if others disagree with you on this.

    Along these lines, Diana K., it is one thing to say, “I disagree that this word is offensive.” It is another to

    Diane K: OK, this thread has been like a weird tooth I couldn’t stop poking at. But the shit has officially gotten too bananas for me. Bye.

    Oops, I probably should have added a trigger warning for “tooth pain”

    pull something this fucking douchey. Hey why stop there? Why don’tcha throw in some mock racism and victim-shaming while you’re at it? And then pretend you were just trying to prove a point. That would be awesome.

  85. sanna
    sanna April 2, 2011 at 3:49 pm |

    Hi, I am Dutch and in my mid forties. I’ve been reading English for at least three decades and have heard English via TV and radio all my life. Just today I learned from this thread that the word idiot was once used as a psychological term for a particular dissability. Since it is a word that is also used in Dutch as an insult, I immediately googled the term in both Dutch and English. I found to my surprise it was indeed once used in both English AND Dutch as a label for people whose I.Q. was 25 or less. I never knew.

    Usually, when people are asked to refrain from using words like retarded, or imbecile or lame as an insult on websites in English I get the point. This is because I always most certainly am aware of its connotations within the context of disabilty first and it becoming an insult because of this after the fact. From being pretty much inudated in English in daily life, both contexts are just part of my knowledge of English.

    I think being aware of both contexts is the key here when suggesting people refrain from using certain words.

    I can’t speak for the awareness of both these contexts for native speakers of English and I suspect there might be regional differences here as well. But it seems to me that it is highly likely that just as in Dutch, for a very large group of English speakers, the context of psychological jargon of idiot as a dissability (IQ< 25) is totally unfamiliar to them in English just like it was for me in Dutch.

    Accusing people of being abelist is fine when you can expect people to have the knowledge, no matter if it's hidden under layers of priviledge, to spot the connection to dissability. It just takes an aha moment, a mental click.
    ( "Don't call that argument lame, my sister is literally lame". "sorry, I wasn't thinking" )
    But when a word does not have that connotation at all for the majority of speakers you have a different situation.
    (" don't call Scot an idiot, my sister is literally an idiot" "huh?")

  86. Diane K
    Diane K April 2, 2011 at 3:51 pm |

    Nahida: pull something this fucking douchey. Hey why stop there?

    Isn’t “douchey” an insult solely because it is associated with women and vaginas?

    wow.

  87. sabrina
    sabrina April 2, 2011 at 3:53 pm |

    douche and any combination thereof is acceptable because it represents something that is harmful to women.

  88. chava
    chava April 2, 2011 at 4:03 pm |

    If you’re going to publish/guestblog on Feministe, it’s logical to be pre-informed that, yea, a majority of the more vocal members of the community and several of the mods are firmly in the camp that doesn’t stand for “idiot,” “lame,” etc. Let alone “retarded.”

    So unless you’re trying to make some sort of stealth point, it *does* look a little ill informed to keep using this sort of language in your posts—and if you *are* making a stealth point, abyss, monster, Nietzsche, all than, man.

  89. LaScaramouche
    LaScaramouche April 2, 2011 at 4:13 pm |

    I’m also with Diane K., Florence, Natalia, and Sarah J. (I’m speaking as someone with a severe mood disorder, and I resent being accused of swimming in privilege when this topic is under discussion.) While there’s no excuse for using ableist terms like “retard/retarded”, “lame”, etc., policing the language to a level where the word “idiot” is a point of contention isn’t doing anything except derailing threads OVER AND OVER AGAIN.

    I’m certain everyone is well aware that “idiot”, while in the past used as an actual (if absurd) diagnostic term, does not carry the same meaning today. You know this, I know this, and we all know that whoever might use “idiot” is IN ALL LIKELIHOOD using it to describe a person whose actions they find absurd/ridiculous/incomprehensible. (Hell, I’ve actually witnessed people arguing about the appropriateness of using “stupid” as an adjective.) You are deliberately choosing to be offended by a word when you know FULL WELL that the meaning you ascribe to it is a meaning THAT IT NO LONGER CARRIES.

    (And before anyone tries to compare the use of “idiot/idiotic” to the use of racist or sexist epithets, “idiot” is in no way comparable to disgusting racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic language. “Idiot”, while derogatory, does not in any way carry the same weight or depth of bigotry and hatred.)

    Yes, there is language that is entirely inappropriate. Yes, these words have no place in a civilized discussion. There is respecting peoples’ sensibilities and feelings, and then there’s going too far.

    And crap, now I’m wondering whether someone’s going to jump on me for “civilized”.

  90. Nahida
    Nahida April 2, 2011 at 4:19 pm |

    Diane K: Isn’t “douchey” an insult solely because it is associated with women and vaginas?

    wow.

    sabrina:
    douche and any combination thereof is acceptable because it represents something that is harmful to women.

  91. Nahida
    Nahida April 2, 2011 at 4:27 pm |

    Wow yourself, douche. Natalie and Florence managed to explain their perspective without OMGLMFAO IT’S SO FUNNY THAT YOU’RE OFFENDED let me make a joke about tooth pains after someone tells me that butthurt is rape term!

  92. Nahida
    Nahida April 2, 2011 at 4:29 pm |

    Natalia.* Sorry Natalia, that’s the second time now that I’ve misspelled your name. =/

  93. Nahida
    Nahida April 2, 2011 at 4:31 pm |

    I am pretty pissed off right now that recognizing a RAPE TERM led to mockery of language checking, so I’m leaving this thread.

  94. Natalia
    Natalia April 2, 2011 at 4:35 pm |

    That’s OK. :)

    Like Sarah, I think context is very important. A fellow Nice Pregnant Lady (TM) whose blog I read was recently called “an idiot” for daring to procreate while bipolar. Not cool. She’s also the same person who told me to “stop being an idiot” when I had one of my online whining sessions about how Life Is Shit And We’re All Going To Die. Cool.

  95. Tori
    Tori April 2, 2011 at 4:42 pm |

    You are deliberately choosing to be offended by a word when you know FULL WELL that the meaning you ascribe to it is a meaning THAT IT NO LONGER CARRIES.

    This isn’t accurate. Personally, when I chose to comment about this term, I was remembering a recent school board meeting. One person sitting near me suggested, in conversation, cutting the life skills programs (essentially, self-contained classes for students with particular levels of cognitive impairment) at the high schools because the students were “quite literally, idiots” and that we’d be better off applying our resources to “kids who are actually going somewhere in life.”

    So what I understand full well is that there still are people who not only view people with cognitive disabilities as a lower class of human but that “idiot” is still used as a term to help them justify that discrimination.

  96. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 2, 2011 at 4:57 pm |

    WTF? It’s not okay to derail a thread because you’re offended by a term, but it’s perfectly okay to further derail a thread by whining about derailing? You know what would have stopped the second derail? Adjusting your language to keep from offending others. Jesus Christ, someone asks you to change one fucking word because it makes them uncomfortable and you’re acting like you’re the Goddamned martyrs of the internet.

    David Futrelle: Not only that: it is manipulative. It is a form of silencing.

    Seriously? Asking you not to use the word “idiot” was silencing? Why, because you have to shut up for two seconds to right click and select “synonyms”? Life must be super hard for you, David. All those mean activists on the internet asking you to reconsider your offensive word choice.

  97. Diane K
    Diane K April 2, 2011 at 5:05 pm |

    Really? Douchebag was originally a term of contempt for women, that later became associated with men that other men didn’t like. Here’s good coverage:

    My thinking is, “douche bag”, used against patriarchists and male supremacists, is an insult, not because we now realize regular douching is bad, or because douching is per se bad, but because the term hearkens to the reasons for which douche bags were invented, namely, to clean what men believed to be women’s foul-smelling, diseased genitalia. When we use the word, the patriarchists we intend to insult are insulted, not because douche bags are bad things, but because of the revulsion over women’s bodies which the term “douche bags” evokes and which inspired their invention. A douche bag is a neutral object with some valid reasons for existing. It is only revolting or disgusting when it is connected with sexist views of women’s vaginas and bodies. And for this reason, using words like “douchebag” as an insult is, I believe, sexist.

    So, under the Original Word Intent doctrine which you have established in the case of “idiot” et al, douchebag is sexist language.

    Or, y’know, maybe the definition of words depends on the time period, speaker, and who they are talking to.

    You can call me douchey all you want (and be right), although I would say I’m being more of a huge bitch right now.

  98. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie April 2, 2011 at 5:23 pm |

    Wow. Did I stumble into Shakesville?

  99. Verity Khat
    Verity Khat April 2, 2011 at 5:28 pm |

    To the naysayers: Isn’t it important to dissect all the different ways society tells people that they’re less than worthy?

    I got called out on a blog about two years ago for using “lame.” I had never thought about ableist language beyond condemning perjorative use of the word “retarded” (which gets my goat because my brother and I are both non-neurotypical). At first I was defensive, because I didn’t mean it that way; who does? Then I thought about the language and force of society behind it and realized that it was all the same; describing something as “lame” “crazy” or “retarded” was in the same vein people implying that I’m dysfunctional because my brain works differently. Not cool. So I, and anyone else who opposes oppression, should just scrub those words and phrases from my vocabulary, because it’s accidental collusion, right?

    But when faced with someone displaying an appalling lack of judgment and awareness it is REALLY hard to get a set of satisfyingly derogatory insults going without some -isms creeping in, because as a language English formed with those -isms being the standard for unacceptability.

    So what we need is to make up new insults! (Yesssssssssssss…) Except, until the rest of society gets with the program, those insults won’t have much force because they don’t appeal to universal standards of unacceptability. >_<

  100. Diane K
    Diane K April 2, 2011 at 5:38 pm |

    Verity Khat: So what we need is to make up new insults! (Yesssssssssssss…)

    Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

  101. Kelsey
    Kelsey April 2, 2011 at 5:50 pm |

    I have never – EVER – heard someone use the term “idiot” to refer to anyone with a legit cognitive disability/disorder. It is exactly this kind of trivial, childish finger-pointing has turned the concept of “ableism” into another Whiny Stereotypical Liberal buzzword. Seriously, these comments remind me of a far-right parody of leftist thought. Is Alan Funt waiting in the wings somewhere? Because that’s the only possible excuse for this shitpile of a thread.

    Recently, my dad had to pull a stint of time at the funny farm (his terminology). As far as I know, he doesn’t really care so much about policing other people’s language because he has BIGGER FUCKING PROBLEMS.

  102. Lis
    Lis April 2, 2011 at 6:02 pm |

    I would really like someone to explain to me how being asked not to use ableist language is abusive, because I’m not seeing it.

  103. ellen
    ellen April 2, 2011 at 6:18 pm |

    While I’m aware that this thread has derailed pretty significantly, I found it really helpful. Ableist language is something that I need to be more careful about avoiding than other things. Part of this is because I’m 20 and so didn’t realise that certain words were used to describe people with disabilities fairly recently – but posts like this are helping me to appreciate why it’s so important.

    It annoys me that when I do use ableist language, nobody would dream of correcting me or saying anything the way most of my friends would if I said anything that was racist or sexist, and so the internet is really the thing reminding me to check my privilege in this way.

    Galling, Tori and others – thank you!

  104. Florence
    Florence April 2, 2011 at 6:19 pm |

    I always thought “butthurt” was like “got spanked.”

  105. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 2, 2011 at 6:25 pm |

    @ ellen, if you’re interested in more background on this topic, you can reference http://disabledfeminists.com/2009/10/11/ableist-word-profile-idiot/

  106. Florence
    Florence April 2, 2011 at 6:40 pm |

    @ellen and others, if you’re going to look at the Ableist Word Profiles, also take note that the project was never intended to be used to police others’ language, but to consider the current and historical usage of said language (and clearly good grounds for excellent discussion and debate).

  107. Yonmei
    Yonmei April 2, 2011 at 6:53 pm |

    I’m reminded of a discussion I had with someone who told me my use of the word “crippled” to describe Doctor House after his infarction was able-ist. (House MD fandom, go figure)

    I thought about it, decided it wasn’t worth fighting about, and replaced the one word I’d chosen with a 27-word sentence: “became the bitterly angry/hurt man who believes everyone he ever cares for will damage him and leave him that he became after his leg was damaged and he became addicted to Vicodin”.

    The critic reacted with “that was unnecessary, all you had to do was change ‘after he was crippled’ to ‘after his disability’”.

    I pointed out that I had meant, by my use of the word ‘crippled’ exactly what I’d expanded it to.

    It struck me, considering that exchange, that if all she’d really wanted was for me to lose that one word she found offensive, she could have simply posted an acknowledgement; her insistance that she should get to edit my meaning seemed mentally intrusive – like bullies at high school, whose favoured technique was to claim that they were doing this for my own good, to “correct” me, to make me a better person – and I agree with David: this is bullying.

  108. Dominique
    Dominique April 2, 2011 at 6:53 pm |

    The bully is the one with the power, not the one with objections.

  109. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 2, 2011 at 7:02 pm |

    I’m super excited you found your personal cheerleading squad. Here’s what happened, since you revised thread history to make me the bad guy:

    I was NOT the person who asked you to change your use of “idiot.” The term, in its diagnostic usage, never applied to me nor, I’m guessing, anyone on this thread. When it was used as a diagnosis, it was to indicate that the person in question had an IQ of 30 or below. You said you had an issue with the use of “retarded,” right? Why’s that? It has a perfectly legit meaning in the dictionary too. Given that “idiot” was used in the California legal code until 2007, maybe we can get off our high horses when we act like it was the distant past.

    So no, it is NOT my personal sensitivities. But it is for other regular readers of this blog. I am not the arbiter of what is offensive to other people, but kiddo, neither are you. I cannot fathom – and you haven’t given me a reason to understand – why you are so fucking defensive when someone asks you to change one word that offends them. I got irritated – and involved – when you were being a giant shitbag over it.

    But yeah, I’m the bully. I guess it’s only okay when you’re defending your right to hurt people with your language choices.

  110. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 2, 2011 at 7:05 pm |

    And how about “uninformed”?

  111. Florence
    Florence April 2, 2011 at 7:26 pm |

    PrettyAmiable: But yeah, I’m the bully. I guess it’s only okay when you’re defending your right to hurt people with your language choices.

    Says the one who thought nothing of calling someone else a bitch upthread for having the audacity to disagree with her.

  112. Rosa
    Rosa April 2, 2011 at 7:30 pm |

    Just a big WOW at David. The phrase “white women’s tears” definitely comes to mind…

  113. Li
    Li April 2, 2011 at 7:31 pm |

    Among other things David, it’s also not just that you’re using a term that people find offensive, it’s that weaponising metrics of intelligence perpetrates an inherently ableist hierarchy. It’s not something I expect people to get their heads around easily (it’s not something I expect myself to get my head around easily), but it is one of the major narratives of an ableist society that we can dismiss people solely on the basis of perceived lack of intelligence or sanity.

    It’s the same kind of pattern (to get back on topic) Scott Adams engaged with when he came to feministe with cracks about “reading comprehension”. His behaviour would have been substantially less problematic had he assumed that the feminists critiquing him had reasons for doing so even if he ultimately disagreed with those reasons. Instead, he put himself and his supporters on the top of some opaque ranking of intelligence and rationality and denigrated anyone who disagreed with him. And ultimately, while I think that his actions were profoundly ill-judged, they were also enabled by a set of opinions he held about his own intelligence and the irrationality of women as a group, and not a lack of thought or reasoning on his part.

  114. Rosa
    Rosa April 2, 2011 at 7:36 pm |

    @Florence, I appreciate that you’ve been civil throughout this discussion, but I think it’s pertinent to note that Diane came out of the gate with overtly provocative ableist slurs in a very clear effort to offend/hurt people. I’m glad you weren’t affected by her choices (beyond semantic), but I and many others were. I don’t understand why you can’t fathom the idea that folks are not simply piping in on this thread to self-righteously dogpile someone in a position of privilege. I really don’t.

  115. chava
    chava April 2, 2011 at 7:37 pm |

    Calling your “feminist friend” and handing down opinion on what is and is not “a healthy thing for feminism”? Calling longterm and respected commenters on this site “bullies” and (wtf) Maoists?

    So. not. cool. I have some issues with excessive language policing myself, but Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, maybe you could respect where you are and check it a bit.

  116. Mandolin
    Mandolin April 2, 2011 at 7:37 pm |

    Re: “Again, you’re being manipulative and, yes, silencing. I literally just got off the phone with a feminist friend of mine (a woman); we were going through some of the comments here, at her suggestion, and she had to call a stop to it because the comments from you and others on your side in this debate BROUGHT MEMORIES OF UNPLEASANT AND ABUSIVE TREATMENT SHE ENDURED IN COLLEGE 20 fucking years ago.”

    Whle I’m very sorry your friend is feeling upset by this, some activists note a trend in which “your calling out my oppression = abuse” is used to, yes, silence and manipulate conversation:

    http://www.amptoons.com/blog/2011/03/14/right-speech-vs-white-privilege/#comment-202493

    David, you rock. Your blog rocks. I just wonder whether you might consider that you’ve got hold of the wrong end of the stick here. Not even in terms of your argument per se, but in terms of how you are framing your response.

  117. chava
    chava April 2, 2011 at 7:38 pm |

    That was in ref to David @ 106, btw.

    chava:
    Calling your “feminist friend” and handing down opinion on what is and is not “a healthy thing for feminism”?Calling longterm and respected commenters on this site “bullies” and (wtf) Maoists?

    So. not. cool.I have some issues with excessive language policing myself, but Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, maybe you could respect where you are and check it a bit.

  118. Mandolin
    Mandolin April 2, 2011 at 7:38 pm |

    I apologize. I meant to link to the thread in general, not the particular comment.

  119. chava
    chava April 2, 2011 at 7:46 pm |

    er…..cheerleading is an incredibly problematic sport (went to HS in Deep South, hi!)

    Yes, very hard. Very dangerous. They also had to decorate the football players lockers, make a tunnel for them to run out at pep squad *of their own bodies* and the entire sport was predicated on cheering an all-male team on. If the men didn’t play, the cheerleaders didn’t cheer. They might go to competition, yea, but that wasn’t the reason for their existence, at root.

    I haven’t even BEGUN to talk about their costumes and when/how they had to wear them, the status over other girls, who could or could not cheer, cheerleading and weight/class/etc.

    So yes, cheerleading is hard and all, but pls let’s not pretend its unproblematic so you can score a cheap linguistic shot at PrettyAmiable.

  120. Becky
    Becky April 2, 2011 at 7:53 pm |

    David, I appreciate the good work you do in calling out other men on their misogyny. But I’m not sure it’s really your place as a man to tell a group of mostly female commenters on a feminist website what is and isn’t good for feminism. Maybe consider taking a step back?

  121. Yonmei
    Yonmei April 2, 2011 at 7:54 pm |

    ….so you can score a cheap linguistic shot at PrettyAmiable.

    Actually, Chava, I thought PrettyAmiable was making a nasty, dismissive, sexist comment about me and about several other women on the thread. But apparently that’s OK, because we’re defending the use of “idiot” in its ordinary sense, and that’s so offensive that it’s OK to make offensive comments about us. It’s all for our own good, after all: we’ve got to learn better.

    Oddly that’s exactly the justification the bullies in high school used back in the day, too.

  122. Sarah J.
    Sarah J. April 2, 2011 at 7:55 pm |

    Wow. This, people, is why we’re still forced to defend feminism. This excessive, manipulative, and yes, abusive sort of pile on is unacceptable. If you’re not capable of recognizing the importance of context to deciding what is or is not a truly privileged statement you have no business commenting on this thread. At all.

  123. Kathleen
    Kathleen April 2, 2011 at 8:06 pm |

    Dave Futrelle — it may take you a few days to realize it, but you are really, really in the wrong here. I for one kind of have faith that you are going to come back and apologize once you do some more reading and thinking.

  124. paraxeni
    paraxeni April 2, 2011 at 8:25 pm |

    @florence – if you honestly think that the mods here give a flying fuck about ableism then try making a comment using any other kind of slur, and then see how long it takes for you to get banned. One of the mods is quite fond of taking the piss out of disabled posters openly. She’s rarely called on it.

    One mod tries to keep the ableist shit to a minimum (I bet you weren’t around the other night when someone referred to people with bipolar disorder as ‘mentally handicappeds’ and ‘crazies’ – no, no ableist intent there, the poster was just upset that the ‘mentally damaged’ were allowed to live in the same housing complexes as ‘normal’ people. Fair enough yeah?) and the mods let it go. Only one was prepared to do a thing about it.

    Yeah, this place is a veritable haven of support for feminists with disabilities. Well… as long as they’re prepared to fully internalise their ableism and go along with it if the name of not derailing, of staying on topic.

    Kelsey- look a few comments above yours. I guess the words of someone who witnessed it isn’t enough.

    To everyone whinging about being called out on their privilege- maybe try not using as a stick to beat people with? Calling you out is not ‘abuse’, calling your friends and telling them about the nasty people who object to your word usage in order to trigger them so they’ll agree with you? That’s shady.

    Diane – poor effort. You won’t win FNTT with that attitude.

  125. Li
    Li April 2, 2011 at 8:55 pm |

    Yeah, ok, I was being civil and assuming good faith, but I’m done here now.

  126. Diane K
    Diane K April 2, 2011 at 10:05 pm |

    Kathleen: I for one kind of have faith that you are going to come back and apologize once you do some more reading and thinking.

    I’m seeing a lot of this here, people assuming that those that disagree with them are just being idiots uninformed, and once they get some education and understand what the rest here are talking about they will see the light.

    Not to speak for the rest of the David Futrelle Spirit Squad, but I’m fairly certain that we are not making our arguments because of ignorance, but out of a fundamental disagreement about the topic at hand. We’re not stupid. We’re not misogynists. We are feminists. We just think you’re wrong. We don’t like that people have appointed themselves the language police and demand that David change his article. Or speak for entire groups as to what insults are ok and not ok. Or turn everything into some strange, holier-than-thou privilege pissing match. Or constantly attack someone for nonadherance to personal feelings and then masturbating over demands for apologies

    I have read all of the links that people have placed here to support their arguments, and guess what, I still don’t agree. I stand by my previous 1984 allusions. David is essentially being charged with thoughtcrime because he refuses to adhere to the (frankly ridiculous) definitions demanded of him by segments of the commentariat.

    If I can criticize David at all, it is with how he initially handled everything. It would have been much easier if things went like this:

    : Hey David, I find your use of the term “idiot” to be ableist and offensive.”

    : I’m sorry you feel that way. I don’t agree.

    : Why hasn’t the post been changed yet!?!

    : I’m not going to change it. It’s my post and I don’t think it is ableist.

    : GRAH PRIVILEGE!!!

    : …

    ~ FIN ~

    Damn, I completely forgot to say something offensive in this comment. But knowing this crew, I’m sure someone will find something.

  127. Diane K
    Diane K April 2, 2011 at 10:09 pm |

    Florence:
    I always thought “butthurt” was like “got spanked.”

    That’s how I regard it as well. Analogous to the whiny moans of an annoying child. But I guess that if someone somewhere regards it as a RAPE TERM then it must be verboten.

  128. Rosa
    Rosa April 2, 2011 at 10:12 pm |

    The blindness/lack of empathy here is amazing. I’m done with this post, thread, and blog until there’s an explicit statement from Feministe stating that they’re actually interested in being non-ableist and dealing with those who are intentionally using provocative slurs. I’m really pissed that the mod wouldn’t publish two comments I tried posting earlier while letting seemingly every one of Diane K’s cruelly mocking comments through.

  129. Cara
    Cara April 2, 2011 at 10:18 pm |

    David,

    I disagree with you. I think you are wrong. I think the thread was not derailed until you responded as you did (very poorly). And I’m really disappointed and upset to see you responding and engaging in this manner here, at Feministe.

    I don’t have anything else substantial to add to the conversation that has not already been said by paraxeni, Li, PrettyAmiable, and plenty of other folks I missed while I scanned through this mess. I don’t even think it is a conversation, anymore, let alone one that is worthwhile. But as a Feministe moderator — albeit one who has CLEARLY not been doing her job, lately, and for that I apologize to everyone here — I feel that it is necessary to, at the very least, say that much.

  130. Cara
    Cara April 2, 2011 at 10:27 pm |

    Oh, and Diane, I just read a bunch of your comments and now you’re banned.

  131. Florence
    Florence April 2, 2011 at 10:35 pm |

    If we’re talking about the ways in which words may affect people, I would suggest that dismissing a group of women as a “cheerleading quad” is patronizing and designed specifically to shame women.

    I think this sort of thing is par for the course in internet discussions, but if you’re concerned about language that demeans people I would suggest that using the term “cheerleading squad” in this context is much more problematic than “idiot.”

    Word.

  132. Florence
    Florence April 2, 2011 at 10:48 pm |

    paraxeni: Calling you out is not ‘abuse’, calling your friends and telling them about the nasty people who object to your word usage in order to trigger them so they’ll agree with you? That’s shady.

    What’s shady is twisting what David actually said to make it sound like he violated his friend. If manipulating people’s words like that isn’t abusive, I don’t know what is. There are PWD all around you who are pushing back on this for valid reasons and you can’t go around dividing us into self-loathing internalizers and privileged abusers.

    Also, what is this about the mods not doing their jobs (on ableism only, conveniently)? I think you’ve got some weird expectations of how blogs work, and unless they’re, like, Gawker Media, there isn’t someone manning all blogs 24/7 for potentially offensive comments.

  133. Sarah J.
    Sarah J. April 3, 2011 at 12:35 am |

    “…as long as they’re prepared to fully internalise their ableism and go along with it if the name of not derailing.” That, paraxeni, is fucking offensive. You’re implying that I’m somehow internalizing ableism despite the fact I’ve got a couple medical conditions and still manage to understand that David was not being ableist in his post. I disagree with you. That doesn’t mean I’m participating in ableism. Get over it.

    I’m extraordinarily disappointed in this blog’s commenters, and by Cara’s comments. You have completely ignored the fact that commenters engaged in completely unnecessary language policing and participated in a huge pile on, while completely ignoring those of us who are actually disabled when we disagree with them. That’s not ok. Safe space my ass.

  134. Lis
    Lis April 3, 2011 at 2:22 am |

    Cara, thanks for stepping in.

  135. Natalia
    Natalia April 3, 2011 at 2:23 am |

    Yeah, this place is a veritable haven of support for feminists with disabilities. Well… as long as they’re prepared to fully internalise their ableism and go along with it if the name of not derailing, of staying on topic.

    Paraxeni, that is extremely patronizing. I disagree with the way language has been used here (and in many other threads) – I aim to respect people’s feelings, but my reasons here are no less valid. This kind of passive-aggressive “I’ll talk about you as if I’m having a conversation behind your back, only it’ll be out in the open, because I get to decide what is and isn’t offensive to you – since you’re so helpless or otherwise worthless as to have internalized a bunch of shit, and I don’t actually have to respect that you’re right here, reading”, while certainly not offensive, is just plain rude and unnecessary (I could go on about how it also makes a bunch of assumptions about certain groups and essentially perpetuates the notion that we cannot decide for ourselves how to react to a word such as “idiot” and beyond, but what’s the point? We could do this forever).

    It should be OK to disagree about this stuff without making nasty implications about one another.

    Oh, and lolz – I was a cheerleader briefly. It was one of the few ways I could attain a sports credit in school that year, because of (ha ha!) my health and it was when I was still short enough to do it. It’s certainly not something I need approval for. I’m not going to try to make anyone apologize for their pejorative use of the term “cheerleading squad” – now, whether it’s OK to imply that I or anyone else is merely cheering David on is another question, imho. You want to use it as an insult? I couldn’t care less, even if I certainly don’t like being insulted in the first place and am really disappointed, overall, with what I am seeing here. The phrase has different meanings – and contexts.

  136. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston April 3, 2011 at 6:47 am |

    I didn’t change the other use of “idiot” in my piece because I frankly think it is patronizing to imply that people with disabilities are so exquisitely sensitive that they can’t handle seeing or hearing the word “idiot.”

    In other words, you knew that your use of the word “idiot” was going to start an argument, but you chose to use it anyway.

    A criticism doesn’t count as a derail if you provoke it, David. If you want to actually have this metadiscussion, ask Feministe if you can put up a post devoted to the subject. If you don’t, stop using the that you know people find obnoxious.

    If you choose to do neither of those things, we’re going to keep getting “derailed” in exactly this way. And people are going to get more and more exasperated, and more and more aggressive.

    You say that this kind of discussion “alienates potential allies who come here to read about feminism and then see this sort of thing erupt in thread after thread.” But it seems crystal clear to me that if that’s true, you’re the one who’s responsible for it in this instance.

  137. Ashland
    Ashland April 3, 2011 at 7:57 am |

    So Diane is now banned. This shit is priceless. I used to read Feministe for the content; however, I quickly realized how it was ruled by some commenters determined to perform the most “blog gotchas” (thanks Florence!), and now I read it when I’m bored just to witness the drama of the tantrums thrown. Some of the “moderators” are the worst offenders. Unfortunately, I long ago stopped taking this site seriously as a source for feminist news.

  138. Yonmei
    Yonmei April 3, 2011 at 8:21 am |

    In other words, you knew that your use of the word “idiot” was going to start an argument, but you chose to use it anyway.

    Victim-blaming, now? It’s David’s fault that some people have appointed themselves the thoughtcrime language police and he knew they were going to pick on him and derail the thread?

    I did and said things in high school I knew would get me bullied. When I didn’t do them, to avoid the bullies, I felt ashamed of myself, even though my parents and teachers had told me that changing my behaviour to avoid “provoking” the bullies was the sensible thing to do. It may be. But when I got bullied when I wasn’t “sensible”, I wasn’t the one starting the fight.

    I don’t see how David was either, here.

  139. Vail
    Vail April 3, 2011 at 8:59 am |

    I have been reading this thread and I’ve decided to delurk for a bit. I myself have a problem with the way rape is used in video games. Yes word meaning evolves with time but is that always a good thing? Should we encourage it? Should I have to listen/read males online complain about getting “raped” when killed and just shrug and say “hey it’s the enviable change of meaning” and not get upset? Is it so hard not to say a word that offends when the English language has so many different ways to say something?

  140. Rosa
    Rosa April 3, 2011 at 9:16 am |

    @Cara, thankyou.

    @Florence, Actually, paraxeni’s comment on some of Feministe’s mods not being allies of PWDs is legit IMO, even in the confines of this post. A mod (not Cara) *was* active during this kerfluffle and was letting some comments through and not others. I understand that you don’t agree with me on the ableism happening/not happening here in this post, which is fine, there’s nothing anyone can do about it. But that you can’t seem to acknowledge how Diane’s contributions here, throughout, haven’t been purposely and needlessly needling and hurtful is incredible to me. I’ll give it to you that there have been questionable word choices (eg, cheerleading squad) by commenters on “my side,” but I also clearly see the ridiculous provocation created by Diane. Her comments were the *only* comments that seem like bullying to me. Everyone else, on both sides of this debate, are merely voicing their perspectives, passionately.

    @Sarah J, you think I’m a self-righteous, loserly blog-gotcha getter who has nothing better to do than to find offense in people’s language choices. Ok, fine, that’s your POV, whatever. I completely disagree with you. But I’m also a PWD with PTSD among other things and am a teacher who works with youth with special needs. We might not have your ability to shrug these things off as well as you and Florence (power to you both), but we still COUNT and our feelings of pain, fear, and disappointment are real.

    When a group of people, especially oppressed people, say “Wiw, dude. That language is problematic and can be changed so as to not trigger folks, including myself, who are sensitive. Mind a word change? Thanks”, that is NOT a pile-on for the sake of a pile-on. The characterization of that as abusive and bullying completely astounds me in its privilege…

  141. Florence
    Florence April 3, 2011 at 9:18 am |

    In other words, you knew that your use of the word “idiot” was going to start an argument, but you chose to use it anyway.

    What?! Ha! He said he didn’t change it *after* someone had pointed it out. I mean, I do get the offense even if I think it’s misplaced, but why don’t we expend our energy on things that actually happened.

  142. switchintoglide
    switchintoglide April 3, 2011 at 9:21 am |

    Some of us with disabilities don’t even know we should be offended when a person says “idiot.” Seriously, I am definitely not speaking for all people with disabilities here, but getting up in arms about an “ableist word” doesn’t really help my life in a material way–it just seems condescending to people with disabilities who don’t have a college education and can thus understand the etymology and history of the word “idiot.” Get offended by the “R” word for sure, but I’m not going to snatch away your ally card if you don’t spend 145 comments parsing one word. That time could be well spent, I don’t know, making this blog white text on black, or black text on yellow so it is easier for people with dyslexia to read?

  143. Rosa
    Rosa April 3, 2011 at 9:21 am |

    Vail:
    I have been reading this thread and I’ve decided to delurk for a bit.I myself have a problem with the way rape is used in video games.Yes word meaning evolves with time but is that always a good thing?Should we encourage it?Should I have to listen/read males online complain about getting “raped” when killed and just shrug and say “hey it’s the enviable change of meaning” and not get upset?Is it so hard not to say a word that offends when the English language has so many different ways to say something?

    Perfect analogy, Vail. Thank you.

  144. Rosa
    Rosa April 3, 2011 at 9:30 am |

    switchintoglide:
    Some of us with disabilities don’t even know we should be offended when a person says “idiot.” Seriously, I am definitely not speaking for all people with disabilities here, but getting up in arms about an “ableist word” doesn’t really help my life in a material way–it just seems condescending to people with disabilities who don’t have a college education and can thus understand the etymology and history of the word “idiot.” Get offended by the “R” word for sure, but I’m not going to snatch away your ally card if you don’t spend 145 comments parsing one word. That time could be well spent, I don’t know, making this blog white text on black, or black text on yellow so it is easier for people with dyslexia to read?

    I’ve read through this entire thread. Show me one comment wherein someone revokes David’s ally status for simply (mis)using a word.

    And the whole “I’m a PWD, and I’m not offended!!!11″ sentiment is really killin’ me. That’s exactly like me saying “Well, I’m Asian which is non-white, and I don’t find the use of ‘n*gger’ at all affecting, which must mean it’s not at all offensive or objectionable. Silly people who are so weakwilled, they can’t ward off a five-letter word– Those abusive, bullying fiends!”

    ^Obviously uncool.

  145. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston April 3, 2011 at 9:39 am |

    It’s David’s fault that some people have appointed themselves the thoughtcrime language police and he knew they were going to pick on him and derail the thread?

    If you know that X will happen when you do Y, and you believe that X damages a cause that you consider important, I do think it’s a good idea to look for ways to avoid doing Y, yes.

    I did and said things in high school I knew would get me bullied. When I didn’t do them, to avoid the bullies, I felt ashamed of myself.

    I honestly don’t see David being bullied here.

  146. Florence
    Florence April 3, 2011 at 9:42 am |

    Rosa, I disagree with your assessment. Yes, I think DK took unnecessary glee in the argument and crossed real lines in her later comments. I also think that some of the commenters here that favor our lack of the use of the word “idiot” have called those of us who disagree, so far in this thread, “bitch” and “cheerleading squad” among others, in addition to accusing the blogger of victimizing a friend to win an argument and trolling the blog he was invited to post on. Additionally, commenters like paraxeni have been called to attention for repeatedly talking about PWD who disagree with hir as self-loathing, ableism-internalizing sycophants like we aren’t here trying to speak for ourselves.

    We might not have your ability to shrug these things off as well as you and Florence (power to you both), but we still COUNT and our feelings of pain, fear, and disappointment are real.

    This has a passive-aggressive edge to it I’m not comfortable with. Like I mentioned upthread, I am also a PWD with PTSD. Personally, I find that having people mean-girl me out of conversations and tell me I don’t know my own mind is far more oppressive that someone using “idiotic” as an adjective. But it’s up to me to regulate myself, my limits, and decide what triggers I can and can’t handle.

    Other bloggers have made the case that we should have “reasonable expectation” not to be triggered on feminist websites, presuming that all feminist websites are safe spaces. I question how exactly one can guarantee safe space online without regulating all challenge and dissent out of that space. Anyway, I also know that triggers aren’t always obvious and that I can’t place my recovery or mental health maintenance in another person’s lap, unless that person is my care provider, and even then there is a level of responsibility that is mine alone. I just don’t believe that even though others may have my best interests in mind that I will be safe from triggers as long as I interact with the world at large, even in feminist spaces. Some things merit clear trigger warnings, and typically people in social justice circles try to honor those. This topic, however, is one of those things that has debate around it as one group sees it as bigotry and a sign the movement hasn’t progressed enough, and another group sees it as a pedantic way to claim oppression where none exists.

  147. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 3, 2011 at 9:52 am |

    Florence: Says the one who thought nothing of calling someone else a bitch upthread for having the audacity to disagree with her.

    Did you really not get that I was demonstrating why it’s not okay to use language even if I, the user, don’t find it offensive? This was the point. And I called out Diane K because she was horrifically callous. (PS, callous is an appropriate word to use in place of something sexist like “bitch.”) Please reread that comment, because I have no idea how you actually walked away with the idea that I think it’s okay to call someone a bitch. Maybe you skipped the second paragraph. Also, I specifically haven’t addressed you because of the falling out we had last time over this topic. Maybe you can respect that enough to do the same.

    David Futrelle: Interesting that you chose to use this particular expression to dismiss the women who agree with me on this point. Because, frankly, it’s patronizing and sexist.

    ..Cheerleaders cheer someone on even if they’re winning or losing. This wasn’t meant to be derogatory towards anyone, and as far as I know, was never used as a diagnostic word, nor did I use my metaphor to shut her opinion down because she’s a woman. Since this is offensive to several commenters and I have no interest in making them feel like I am discounting their opinion on the basis of a gender I share with them, I’d be happy to replace with “pep squad.” As far as I know, pep squads aren’t gendered the way cheerleading squads are (though I’d argue they are less effective in support, which is why I had an initial preference for cheerleading, but the point is still there with “pep”). If someone disagrees and thinks that pep squads ARE gendered (my only experience is my high school’s and college’s – both skewed a bit male but it’s only two data points), I’d be happy to amend what I was saying as long as I can still convey that “calling your friend who agrees with you” is inappropriate when I can “call my niece with Down’s who gets teased at her elementary school for being an ‘idiot’ and she can tell you who is bullying here.” i.e. I have my own pep squad.

    PS, see how it doesn’t really matter to me if I find “cheerleading squad” offensive (and I don’t because I know I didn’t mean it in any kind of a sexist way)? I’m happy to change it regardless. Why? Because it is not the end of the world to edit something when you inadvertently write a word or phrase that you later found out hurt someone. I still. don’t. understand. why. this. is. such. a. big. deal. — unless you genuinely think no one has a right to be offended by that word. Or that your personal comfort in writing ought to be respected more than the personal comfort of your readers when you’re writing on a social justice site. But I’d argue both are pretty pessimistic explanations.

  148. saurus
    saurus April 3, 2011 at 9:59 am |

    When I close my eyes, here is how this thread goes:

    1. A commenter mentions that they are troubled by the use of a particular word, as they feel it reinforces an oppression they experience.

    2. The original post writer, because ze cares about people not feeling excluded or derogated, and because part of zir liberatory practice is to take concerns like this seriously, tries to make the commenter feel better (this will definitely include not doing it again, and may or may not include an apology – the point is that the end goal is making the commenter feel better).

    If the poster feels like the commenter’s feelings are ludicrous, the poster will self-educate (and therefore find that there is, in fact, a pretty large faction of the PWD community who aren’t cool with the word “idiot”, and in fact are trying to find ways to communicate that don’t rely on intelligence-based insults) instead of taking out zir skepticism on the commenter (because again, no one wants to make that commenter feel bad, and because if we assume good faith about each other, we know that the commenter’s objection was genuine).

    3. Other commenters cannot disagree with the first commenter’s personal experience, as there is no objective experience of oppression, but they can voice their own (which may or may not be different). Because they too care about not making the first commenter feel bad, they note that just because they may have differing feelings, that doesn’t make the first commenter invalid or the first commenter’s pain less real.

    After all, as other feminists have analogized – if one person in the room complains that it’s filling with poisonous gas and is slowly collapsing to the floor, the right thing to do isn’t to dismiss them just because no one else or a minority are affected; the right thing to do is to turn off the gas. Or, less dramatically, if you know that one of your friends finds horror movies very troubling, why not watch something else? Why do we give less of a shit about a person who says a word carries oppressive meaning than someone who says they hate watching gore?

    In other words, in my imaginary thread, we would actually prioritize each other. As though, as people with feelings, we matter. But of course, what does that have to do feminism? Feminism is about issues and ideas, not about real flesh-and-blood people and how we make them feel, right? We don’t have to trust and take seriously diverse experiences of oppression, do we?

    No, upon second thought, I think we’ve done a bang-up job here:

    1. Commenter “A” says – quite civilly, I think – “David, I know that idiot is a pretty commonly used term, but it’s also one with a lot of ableist implications. I agree that what he did was misogynistic, lacking in good judgment, and bad — but I don’t see the need to conflate any of those qualities with cognitive impairment.”

    2. Poster doesn’t respond.

    3. Commenter B makes fun of Commenter A, presumably for being “too politically correct”.

    4. Commenter C expresses annoyance and disapproval that the poster never responded to the first commenter.

    5. The poster responds, saying that the word carries no ableist connotations, and that suggesting that it does is counterproductive to the movement and drives away allies.

    And so on. How are we okay with this? How do we not see this as a grave problem with our feminism? It’s so ironic, as feminists we’re sitting on some really powerful theory and language and ideas, and yet this ship we’re building has a thousand gaping holes because we don’t even treat each other well. It’s like, let’s treat each other like crap, and then take our seats to watch the spectacle unfold, and then analyze and deconstruct it, and then move on to the next topic because we’re bored now. The bruised up people we’ll just leave behind once we’ve exhausted their potential for entertainment. Thoughout this, let’s convince ourselves that we’re doing something politically important.

    Yay feminism.

  149. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston April 3, 2011 at 10:03 am |

    Futrelle:

    I understand and agree with complaints about “retarded” — and I explained my sarcastic use of that loaded term in the previous discussion — and “that’s so gay” and the like. There are numerous terms and slurs that are properly considered offensive by a large number of people. …

    Historically speaking, this sort of policing of language, and the demand that others retract statements determined to contain the “wrong” language comes out of the Maoism that infected large portions of the New Left and the nascent women’s liberation movements in the late 60s -early 70s.

    Which is it, David? Are complaints about offensive language legitimate and proper, or are they Maoist thought-policing?

  150. Florence
    Florence April 3, 2011 at 10:04 am |

    PA, I read the whole thing. The issue is the irony that you did so in this thread of all threads. You want to know how I came away with the idea that you think it’s okay to call someone a bitch, and yet you did. Couching it in “ifs” and hypotheticals doesn’t change that you went below the belt. Considering that DK didn’t seem to care, I say no harm no foul, but it’s actually a really good illustration of how our perceptions of words, offenses and oppression can be relative and why language policing is an exercise in futility. IMO, we need to be going after people’s hearts and minds. The vocabularies will follow.

  151. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 3, 2011 at 10:05 am |

    I fired off before apologizing to anyone who I hurt with my usage of “cheerleading squads” and for not conveying clearly that my disgust with David’s friend example had nothing to do with gender. If a mod could change “your personal cheerleading squad” in my comment at 110 to “a friend to agree with you” (as I’m not sure how pep squad will be received yet, though I think better), I would appreciate it.

  152. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 3, 2011 at 10:10 am |

    … There was no irony. That was the point i was making. I don’t give a damn if anyone calls me a bitch, but I DO NOT use that word against others. I said in the comment that it is NOT okay to call her a bitch just because I don’t care if someone uses it against me. But whatever, if you want to read into my comments bad faith and manipulation and bullying, I’m not going to say anything to stop you. I don’t really fucking care, to be honest.

  153. switchintoglide
    switchintoglide April 3, 2011 at 10:10 am |

    @Rosa
    When I referred to ally status, I was actually talking about the commentariat here. But seriously, I didn’t say: ““I’m a PWD, and I’m not offended!!!11″ (Because my disability means I can’t type?)–I said that this sort of circular discussion will not materially impact the lives of a lot of people with disabilities.

    I feel it is condescending to have a whole bunch of nondisabled feminists speak on my behalf and tell me I should be offended–but I guess that is just, you know, my lived experience, so feel free to take it or leave it. I have so many overzealous nondisabled feminists speaking on my behalf, in fact, that sometimes I don’t get a word in edgewise about what sort of accessibility options would actually impact my life.

    I don’t think that point merits your condescending rebuttal or comparison to antiracist politics (no two oppressions are the same). And really, I shouldn’t have to flash any cred here to be taken seriously, but I have a number of disabilities and I also do disability and accessibility case studies for a living. Saying “idiot” does not make a space inaccessible the way–as mentioned–not having different text and viewing options for dyslexic readers does. The disability rights movement has to deal with things like the fact that the Public Interest Research Group (the radical left organisation on my campus) is not wheelchair accessible, or the fact that rad politics and the social niceties they require aren’t always accessible for people like me with social impairments (Asbergers), or Tourettes, or the fact that a lot of feminist ideas are in and of themselves disabling (ie. independent women)

    Also, I used to contribute to disabled feminists [MOD NOTE: switchintoglide was not a FWD contributor], and I feel that this is apt:

    You can tell me my objecting to the now 152 comments spent here on one word is illegitimate all you want, it doesn’t change the fact that that is time spent parsing one word instead of actually making easy Universal Design changes to make spaces accessible is confounding to me.

  154. switchintoglide
    switchintoglide April 3, 2011 at 10:15 am |

    whoops, HTML issues: here is the quote from disabled feminists:

    Here’s what this series is not about: Telling people which words they can use to define their own experiences, rejecting reclamatory word usage, telling people which words they can and cannot use.

    You don’t necessarily have to agree that a particular profiled word or phrase is ableist; we ask you to think about the way in which the language that we use is influenced, both historically and currently, by ableist thought.

    http://disabledfeminists.com/2009/11/19/an-expansion-on-what-the-ableist-word-profile-is-and-is-not/

  155. Florence
    Florence April 3, 2011 at 10:16 am |

    Which is it, David? Are complaints about offensive language legitimate and proper, or are they Maoist thought-policing?

    Since your website says you’re a historian I assume you realize these aren’t comparable statements and also that historically the history of the New Left is a little more complicated than a black/white statement about acceptable expressions of thought in leftist movements.

  156. Rosa
    Rosa April 3, 2011 at 10:22 am |

    Florence, I’m glad/relieved that you acknowledge Diane’s needlessly provocative comments. As I said in my previous note to you, I acknowledge that commenters on “my side” have made questionable word choices. Mistakes happen, just as I feel like David’s response to all of this is a mistake. I don’t hate the guy or see how I or anyone else here has been in any way bullying or threatening him. Yes, paraxeni implied that David somewhat intentionally victimized his friend. That might not have been cool or accurate, but that’s what she might have thought how things were going on. I don’t see that as abusive or bullying. Bullying, to me, connotes constant sniping with the clear and singular intention of needling/hurting someone. Again, I don’t see anyone having done that save for Diane, who is the only one who’s been banned.

    I’m sorry that you thought I was being passive-aggressive. I didn’t mean to be in the slightest. I read and noted earlier that you also deal with PTSD. But that doesn’t at all change my sentiment, which is why I didn’t bring it up.

    Only *one* person implied that you were internalizing ableist ideas and narratives in order to argue your side of the fence. One person. Whereas numerous commenters have called me and others out for being oversensitive whiners who probably aren’t even being affected or triggered. *That* “mean-girling” has been going on relentlessly, comment after comment. To be clear, I’m not saying that my hurts > yours. I’m just acknowledging that that’s what’s been happening, so we’re all reasonably affected, even if for different reasons.

    I agree with you that people who deal with PTSD have to prepare themselves to encounter triggers daily. But I also agree with those who’ve been pointing out that some mods here don’t seem interested in making this blog safe for PWDs, even though Feministe claims to have that interest.

    I feel the need to acknowledge that I myself wasn’t triggered by David’s (mis)use of the word “idiot.” My sense of equilibrium wasn’t struck until Diane K started in — immediately — with her bullying and victim-blaming. Her comments were condescending and cruel because she purposefully chose to use ableist slur after slur. I felt Feministe was making a very clear statement that that intentionally vicious use of provocative slurs was and is okay when they published DK’s clearly offensive and hurtful comments while not letting through innocuous, if sarcastic comments by me. A Feministe mod was actively on-call, and those calls are reflective of what this site determines to be okay and not okay. Some of those things were triggering, hence no safe space.

    For the record, I don’t think David or anyone at Feministe were remiss by not putting a trigger warning for PWDs on this article. David didn’t find it objectionable, let alone questionable. That’s fine; people make mistakes. But when mods let bullying happen *continuously*, that is *not* cool. That is a choice to not render a place safe.

  157. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston April 3, 2011 at 10:25 am |

    Actually, Florence, I didn’t want to get off on a tangent, but David’s suggestion that the criticism of the word “idiot” here “comes out of the Maoism that infected large portions of the New Left” is historically unjustifiable.

    There were heated debates over the use of language on the American left for decades before the late sixties. There’s nothing specifically “Maoist” about the kind of disagreement we’re having here, and plenty that would have been immediately recognizable to the Old Left of the 1930s or the civil rights organizers of the early 1960s, to give just two examples.

    David’s use of the term “thought police” to describe his critics here places him squarely in the rhetorical camp of people who fly into a tizzy when someone objects to terms like “retarded” and “that’s so gay.” If there’s a way to distinguish between the position he’s taking here and those arguments — beyond a claim that he’s right on substance and they’re wrong — I’m not seeing it.

  158. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 3, 2011 at 10:28 am |

    switchintoglide: Telling people which words they can use to define their own experiences, rejecting reclamatory word usage, telling people which words they can and cannot use.

    Has this happened here? I’m pretty sure Tori asked the author of this post to reconsider a word used and then the author told her she shouldn’t be offended because “here’s what the dictionary said.” But okay.

  159. Rosa
    Rosa April 3, 2011 at 10:28 am |

    Ps. I apologize if I’m not coming off very clearly and/or have mis-read points of yours, Florence. Running on E here.

  160. Medea
    Medea April 3, 2011 at 10:29 am |

    Rosa: The blindness/lack of empathy here is amazing.

    The irony here is amazing. You used blindness as a metaphor while writing that you are done with Feministe because of ableist language choices.

    I’m not saying this because I love being snarky–its just that, if you’re going to take a strong stand on something, shouldn’t it be consistent? And if you think “blindness” is fine, can’t you see how others would think “idiot” is fine?

  161. Natalia
    Natalia April 3, 2011 at 10:34 am |

    And the whole “I’m a PWD, and I’m not offended!!!11″ sentiment is really killin’ me.

    Rosa, it really kills me when people speak for me and then, when I voice a dissenting opinion, refuse to take it seriously and act as if I do not know what’s best for myself (possibly because I’m just too damaged, or something – not enlightened enough, clearly having “internalized” a bunch of harmful crap, as opposed to engaged in some critical thinking and come to a radically opposite conclusion about a particular issue). And I’m not merely “not offended” here – I’m for a different approach to the English language altogether. I find the arguments presented herein to be reductive at best. I think people have every right to their feelings, and every right to point out that to them, a certain word is hurtful, problematic, and so on. But this alone does not mean that others will scrub their language of that word – or that they won’t defend its use within various contexts. Must there really be universal agreement on this issue for everyone to be able to engage in good faith? I don’t think so.

    A note on *triggers*: I like what Florence has said about them here. I regularly read, comment and guest-blog here. There can be a lot of triggering stuff on a feminist blog. The other day, I read some comments about the various health situations that arise during and after pregnancy. I suffer from chronic pain, I’m also going to have a child in a few months. Reading some of those comments, there was a part of me that felt hopeless and terrified, even though I view my pregnancy as a positive event and experience, and for the most part, like being pregnant. But when people frame it as something negative and dangerous, I instantly have a reaction – particularly because I have yet to work out many of my own issues around pain. The reaction is nobody’s fault. It’s just how things have worked out. I find a lot of the language around pregnancy, both positive and negative, to be terribly problematic, but I also give people the benefit of the doubt. I just recognize it as one of those situations where I perhaps don’t need to participate. It’s very difficult, but if I recognize it as an important conversation that needs to happen without me, then so be it.

  162. bekabot
    bekabot April 3, 2011 at 10:49 am |

    “Unibation”? Unibation? Heck, that’s a word even I wouldn’t use.

  163. Yonmei
    Yonmei April 3, 2011 at 10:52 am |

    Angus: I honestly don’t see David being bullied here.

    Well, David’s the only person who can say if he feels he’s being bullied or if he takes this as just ordinary blog discussion. You’re not: your view that you don’t perceive this as even analogous to bullying, is exactly as valuable as any of the bully’s who would, with apparent sincerity, tell the teachers that they weren’t trying to have a fight with me, they just wanted to be helpful.

    David’s use of the term “thought police” to describe his critics here

    You are the first person to make use of that term in this thread. I used the term “thoughtcrime”. David has not used either term, nor has he referred to the “language police”, though others have, including myself.

    places him squarely in the rhetorical camp of people who fly into a tizzy when someone objects to terms like “retarded” and “that’s so gay.”

    …and you’re wrong about that, too.

    Look, Angus, it really isn’t difficult to search through the thread and figure out who said what. It’s a long long thread, but Firefox gave us the “Find:” field for a reason.

    If there’s a way to distinguish between the position he’s taking here and those arguments

    I’m gay: I’m offended/hurt when people use “that’s so gay” to describe something bad, and I say so. So do lots of other gay people. Straight allies back us up on this one. Language police jump up and scream at us when we use “faggot” and “dyke” among ourselves.

    My best friend is dyslexic. She got described as “retarded” by her teachers, and this was offensive/hurtful to her (I wanted very much to take the medal she was awarded as the best in her year when she graduated with honours, back to her school and make her teachers eat it!). My girlfriend works with learning-disabled people. They affirm – and so does everyone else I know with personal experience of being called retarded, or of working with the learning-disabled, that retarded is offensive and hurtful. As an ally, I oppose the use of that word.

    The word “idiot” was used formally for less a century to describe people of profound mental retardation, IQ below 80, incapable of any independent living, mentally aged 3 or below. It is not used now, and has not been so used for decades. The word “idiot” has an older meaning (“ignorant person”) from Middle English, and is commonly used in modern speech to mean a person of extreme folly or stupidity, without reference to or presumption of learning-disability, such as “retarded” presumes.

    That’s the difference.

  164. sabrina
    sabrina April 3, 2011 at 10:57 am |

    florence, my problem was not with you at all. I disagree with you, but that’s not the problem. I can disagree with someone all day long and as long as you remain respectful I could care less. My problem was with diane k and her use or rape imagery which is specifically against the rules of feministe’s comment policies. She then went on to mock me because I dared to have a trigger episode over her language.

  165. Nahida
    Nahida April 3, 2011 at 11:08 am |

    Rosa: I feel the need to acknowledge that I myself wasn’t triggered by David’s (mis)use of the word “idiot.” My sense of equilibrium wasn’t struck until Diane K started in — immediately — with her bullying and victim-blaming. Her comments were condescending and cruel because she purposefully chose to use ableist slur after slur.

    This.

    Also, I did find it strange when David didn’t respond, but I didn’t actually think anything of it. I didn’t think he was trying to be malicious or even dismissive, because I read Tori’s comment as “just so you know” and not “please change it.”

    And maybe I misunderstood it. Maybe Tori was requesting that it be changed, not just that David be aware of it in the future. Either way, I wasn’t triggered until people deliberately started being cruel. Tori didn’t bother me. Neither did Florence nor Natalia. For full disclosure, I don’t have a disability, which is basically why I didn’t say anything about the word in question–and might be why I didn’t feel prompted to say anything, having never experienced oppression from that angle, I didn’t want to speak for others–until a word came up that I did identify as oppressive. Even before then, DK’s malicious attitude toward those who were triggered by the original word was pissing me off, even when I wasn’t sure what to feel about it in the first place.

    Language is very personal. I can understand why people feel it’s invasive when others ask that they watch theirs. One of my friends had a serious problem with the word “bastard” a few years ago, and I didn’t want to let it go for her, because I write, and words are important to me. Eventually I did give it up around her, (after she asked would I respect her enough to at least not use it around HER?) because I have to live here, in this world, with other people, and I do care about her, and I don’t want to make her feel bad every time I used it. And because she was an awesome person, and would have probably done the same with “butthurt” and other vocabulary I associated with rape.

    Audience is important. I never want to admit it is, but it is. When you’re speaking to people, it’s courteous to be aware of what hurts them and avoid it. Expressing what you feel is a personal truth doesn’t excuse you from empathy or tact. I totally don’t always practice what I’m preaching right here, especially not if I’m already a ball of fury because I feel someone else was being an ass, but ideally, I would want to. Along the lines of what PrettyAmiable said, I don’t mind being called a bitch, I might even enjoy being called a bitch, but I wouldn’t want to call someone else a bitch who didn’t appreciate it (unless that person is a Diane K and started a flame war first, because I’m petty like that.) But in this case Tori was being perfectly polite, she (preferred pronoun?) wasn’t trying to hurt anyone or make a mockery of pain or BULLY anyone like DK, and everything just went to Hell.

  166. Sarah J.
    Sarah J. April 3, 2011 at 11:16 am |

    “I think it’s condescending and ridiculous to problematize language for the purpose of blog-gotchas.” Florence, I think I love you.

    And yep, Rosa, you got it. I do think that. You are in fact psychic. Thanks so much for assuming what I think! That’s not patronizing in the least!

    “I feel it is condescending to have a whole bunch of nondisabled feminists speak on my behalf and tell me I should be offended–but I guess that is just, you know, my lived experience, so feel free to take it or leave it.”

    This, this, this a thousand times. If you’re not a PWD I don’t think you really have any right participating in this sort of discussion. You are not my self-appointed proxy and I don’t give a fuck, in fact I would give less than a fuck if possible, about what you think offends People Like Me.

    I’d also like to point out that David mentioned that he has depression, and that was completely ignored by these righteous Defenders of the Disabled and the moderator. Way to go, guys!

  167. Miss S
    Miss S April 3, 2011 at 11:24 am |

    And other women — again, feminists — have told me they simply cannot stand taking part in discussions here because of this constant derailing, and the inevitable pile-ons that happen whenever someone challenges this derailing

    I believe this. Just recently, while discussing oppression of WOC on this blog, commenters were called ablist for using the phrase White Women’s Tears. WTF?? So now, WOC need to adjust their language to appease the feelings of a random white woman?? This social justice? This is liberation?

    Language is a powerful tool. Language is how people express themselves, their thoughts, their perceptions, and their feelings. Policing it is a form of bullying, and it’s often a waste of time. It’s also really annoying, especially for those of us who aren’t always up to date with all the politically correct terms, and for those of us who don’t give a fuck. People who are dealing with multiple oppressions on a daily basis aren’t interested in discussing the right words- they’re looking for solutions.

  168. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston April 3, 2011 at 11:24 am |

    Yonmei:

    I said I didn’t see David being bullied. I used the first person for a reason — because that wasn’t how I saw the situation. If David thinks he’s being bullied, he can say so, and it may change how I see things.

    Apologies on using the term “thought police” rather than “language police,” and for not noticing (and thus not making it clear) that David used the latter term at his own blog rather than here.

    As for the rest, you seem to have missed the distinction I was drawing. David says that it’s legitimate to criticize people who use the word “retarded” as a slur, but Maoist language-policing to criticize people who use the word “idiot” the same way. What I’m pointing out is that people who like using the word retarded as a slur call THEIR critics the Maoist language police, too.

    The form of the “Maoist language police” criticism is what I’m challenging here, not its applicability to any one argument — I’m asking David by what standard his critics are acting like Maoists, and how that standard may clearly be distinguished from one that would be used to call him a Maoist when he gets angry about someone saying something is “so gay.”

    Finally, the use of “retarded” as a hateful slur has a strong analogue in the use of “idiot” as a hateful slur — by the same people, against the same people. The history of the two terms isn’t precisely the same (when is it ever?) but the arguments against the two are quite similar.

    You may embrace one and reject the other (I myself embrace one much more vigorously than I do the other), but the arguments (and their counter-arguments) are far more notable for their similarities than their differences.

  169. Rosa
    Rosa April 3, 2011 at 11:25 am |

    @Medea, it was thoughtless, and I regret it.

    @switch, I’m sorry, I misread your comment. But I do believe others here have expressed that sentiment, in which case my analogy stands.

    I don’t think material changes happen uniformly and instantaneously to be worthwhile, but I think we’re just going to have to disagree there.

    You don’t necessarily have to agree that a particular profiled word or phrase is ableist; we ask you to think about the way in which the language that we use is influenced, both historically and currently, by ableist thought.

    I agree with that. I don’t think anyone’s actually policing here however? I think folks have been commenting in despair to the response of others to the above.

    @Natalia, I agree that one need not be internalizing ableist thoughts and messages in order to disagree. You have a different opinion/approach to communal language. That’s cool, and I respect that. But comparing and dismissing oppressions (which you haven’t done, but others have) is not.

    Re: your view and response to encountering triggers, I think your self-possession is admirable. However, not everyone feels that way or is able to.

    I find a lot of the language around pregnancy, both positive and negative, to be terribly problematic, but I also give people the benefit of the doubt. I just recognize it as one of those situations where I perhaps don’t need to participate. It’s very difficult, but if I recognize it as an important conversation that needs to happen without me, then so be it.

    I agree and usually respond similarly. But as I said in a previous comment (that Nahida just quoted), I personally didn’t feel the need to engage until Diane K started in.

  170. Miss S
    Miss S April 3, 2011 at 11:25 am |

    Also, the focus on being politically correct seems to be something that hipster liberal white people do more than anyone else. Not the people who need the most help from a social justice movement.

  171. Florence
    Florence April 3, 2011 at 11:25 am |

    Rosa:Ps. I apologize if I’m not coming off very clearly and/or have mis-read points of yours, Florence. Running on E here.

    I gotcha. :) It’s noon and I haven’t had my cup of coffee yet, so I’m making weird typos and sentence structures myself.

    More broadly, Natalia hinted at something upthread that I think is worth exploring as well, regarding the implications of protecting PWD (especially WWD) from harsh realities, opinions, and words. I don’t want to accuse anyone of going all Yellow Wallpaper up in here, but I think that’s problematic. I think we’re all pretty capable of deciding when, how, and to what degree we participate in certain communities. Personally, I float in and out as time and spoons allow.

    I also have some problems with the implications that someone is “just” asking David to change his words — and that his reluctance to do so is evidence of his bigotry and of the moderators’ collusion in that bigotry. It could be any word choice and any guest blogger at this point, but asking a speaker to edit their work after the fact is an issue of power (controlling how someone expresses hirself is a huge exercise in power and control) and it sets a dangerous precedent for the community’s standards and expectations. The community is largely in agreement over a lot of acceptable/unacceptable language, but in a situation such as this where the community is not in agreement, I think the writer has the right to hold hir ground, offer an explanation, and just say no. The community has the right to protest and grumble and disagree, and I think that’s healthy. But setting a precedent where people can be pressured to alter their words based on something as potentially arbitrary as personal offense is dangerous, especially in the context of a feminist space, where we hope that women and allies of all stripes can speak, discuss, entertain, and express themselves freely in ways we are encouraged NOT to do in the outside world.

    I also question whether we can really un-say things, and whether it’s healing or therapeutic to edit words when the community has collective and personal memory. And whether we expect feminist blogs to serve as therapeutic spaces.

  172. Miss S
    Miss S April 3, 2011 at 11:31 am |

    One last thing:

    Using the word idiot or retard is NOT the same as using the word nigger. It’s. Just. Not.

    Not. Even. Close.

  173. Rosa
    Rosa April 3, 2011 at 11:35 am |

    @Sarah J, That’s how I received Florence’s conclusion that commenters who’ve been vocally disappointed with the ableism here are only here for blog-getchas, a conclusion that you agreed with.

    “I feel it is condescending to have a whole bunch of nondisabled feminists speak on my behalf and tell me I should be offended–but I guess that is just, you know, my lived experience, so feel free to take it or leave it.”

    This, this, this a thousand times. If you’re not a PWD I don’t think you really have any right participating in this sort of discussion. You are not my self-appointed proxy and I don’t give a fuck, in fact I would give less than a fuck if possible, about what you think offends People Like Me.

    I’d also like to point out that David mentioned that he has depression, and that was completely ignored by these righteous Defenders of the Disabled and the moderator. Way to go, guys

    How do you know which commenters aren’t PWDs?

    Finally, the use of “retarded” as a hateful slur has a strong analogue in the use of “idiot” as a hateful slur — by the same people, against the same people. The history of the two terms isn’t precisely the same (when is it ever?) but the arguments against the two are quite similar.

    You may embrace one and reject the other (I myself embrace one much more vigorously than I do the other), but the arguments (and their counter-arguments) are far more notable for their similarities than their differences.

    Co-sign.

  174. Rosa
    Rosa April 3, 2011 at 11:45 am |

    @Miss S: I never equated the impact of those two terms.

    I also have some problems with the implications that someone is “just” asking David to change his words — and that his reluctance to do so is evidence of his bigotry and of the moderators’ collusion in that bigotry. It could be any word choice and any guest blogger at this point, but asking a speaker to edit their work after the fact is an issue of power (controlling how someone expresses hirself is a huge exercise in power and control) and it sets a dangerous precedent for the community’s standards and expectations. The community is largely in agreement over a lot of acceptable/unacceptable language, but in a situation such as this where the community is not in agreement, I think the writer has the right to hold hir ground, offer an explanation, and just say no. The community has the right to protest and grumble and disagree, and I think that’s healthy. But setting a precedent where people can be pressured to alter their words based on something as potentially arbitrary as personal offense is dangerous, especially in the context of a feminist space, where we hope that women and allies of all stripes can speak, discuss, entertain, and express themselves freely in ways we are encouraged NOT to do in the outside world.

    I think I can agree with this, Florence. I definitely think the discussion is and has been valuable, to myself and others. I still stand by my opinion that DK’s needling contributions in this thread have been not at all productive though and feel that Cara’s choice to ban her was legit.

    I also question whether we can really un-say things, and whether it’s healing or therapeutic to edit words when the community has collective and personal memory. And whether we expect feminist blogs to serve as therapeutic spaces.

    I’ve clearly been of one mind on this so far, but I’m currently mulling on this too. Thanks for bringing it up.

  175. Sarah J.
    Sarah J. April 3, 2011 at 11:45 am |

    Rosa, I wish that in this particular conversation commenters who are also PWDs would be willing to identify themselves. Otherwise, it feels like a group of privileged individuals have appointed themselves my protector, and that is bullshit. I stand by the statement that people who are not PWDs do not have any say in deciding what is or is not ableist.

    And I don’t recall saying anything about blog-getchas, or accusing you of participating in them. I repeat that your tone is extraordinarily patronizing and alienating to any of your fellow PWDs who happen to disagree with you. You quite offensively implied that those of us who disagree are internalizing ableism. That’s unacceptable.

    And again, because this has been completely ignored by everyone: David stated he has depression. And yet you’re all here treating him like he’s enemy number one. Does depression suddenly not count as a disability? Or is it just too exciting to prove to him how Wrong he is?

    This thread quite effectively portrays the greatest enemy of feminism today. And it’s not ableism, or even sexism. It’s infighting. I no longer feel like this a safe space and I am highly disappointed in the commenters and moderator.

  176. Natalia
    Natalia April 3, 2011 at 11:57 am |

    Rosa – the problem with Diane K is that she didn’t engage in good faith, I believe. She has the right to her opinions, but she should have voiced them differently. If you want people to hear you, esp. if these people are ones you respect and generally wish to trust as well, then you don’t poke them with a stick. I can admit that sometimes, poking someone with a stick can be fun – but I wouldn’t do that to someone I consider a friend and/or ally, and certainly not in a space where we all try to at least occasionally reach common ground on important issues. I’ll poke someone with a stick if I have pretty much written them off.

  177. Dominique
    Dominique April 3, 2011 at 12:01 pm |

    Thank you Cara. As a PWD myself, I am relieved that I won’t be subjected to a lot of personal attacks and insults, or have to witness them, while expressing my views. To other PWDs who are not offended: again, this is not the point. It costs you, and non-PWDs, far less not to hear certain words than it costs us or others to hear them. That should be clear and simple enough.

  178. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 3, 2011 at 12:05 pm |

    Rosa: How do you know which commenters aren’t PWDs?

    I also want to point out that while I AM a PWD, I don’t think my severe PTSD qualifies me to speak better than anyone who isn’t a PWD on the subject of whether or not “idiot” ought to be offensive to people who have severe developmental delays. This goes back to what you were saying @150.

    As a person, I think I’m fully qualified to say that if someone says a word is offensive or hurtful, and especially if it has a history of being used in a manner that degrades people with developmental disabilities, there’s no reason we can’t be considerate of others.

  179. Rosa
    Rosa April 3, 2011 at 12:06 pm |

    Sarah, I agree that it would help that those with disabilities mention that and somewhat feel the same regarding the role of those who aren’t PWDs in these discussions.

    And I don’t recall saying anything about blog-getchas, or accusing you of participating in them.

    Oops. I totally misattributed that to you. I’m sorry. :/

    Re: David’s depression and why different people have been having trouble seeing this blog as a safe space though: One, I don’t think having a disability gives David a pass in discussions of ableism. On the latter, it is clear that people’s sense of safety in any space is created and supported in different ways. I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s impossible for everyone to feel safe all the time. Which makes me consider Florence’s question of whether social justice blogs can or should endeavor to be therapeutic spaces even more.

    I repeat that your tone is extraordinarily patronizing and alienating to any of your fellow PWDs who happen to disagree with you. You quite offensively implied that those of us who disagree are internalizing ableism. That’s unacceptable.

    Sigh. I should (and will) totally quit now because I responded to Florence (I think??) earlier for misreading her point there and elsewhere, and for that, I apologize. (Needs sleeeep.)

  180. Natalia
    Natalia April 3, 2011 at 12:22 pm |

    To other PWDs who are not offended: again, this is not the point. It costs you, and non-PWDs, far less not to hear certain words than it costs us or others to hear them. That should be clear and simple enough.

    Dominique, both as a writer and as someone who obviously has something at stake here. I’ll say it for the third time, it’s not merely about being “not offended.” It’s about tactics I see as downright harmful, reductive and counter-productive – it’s also about how we relate to certain words and their contexts, and about the language we use itself, as well as acknowledgment of the history of said language. In the Victorian era, smartasses joked that the word “woman” is obviously derived from the phrase “woe to man,” because of Original Sin, baby! – completely ignoring the etymology of the word. I’d argue that we’re still experiencing fall-out from that utterly foolish appropriation today. I once again say all that with respect to the fact that everyone has the right to their feelings. So do I.

  181. Mandolin
    Mandolin April 3, 2011 at 12:37 pm |

    I’d like to point out, again (the previous time was not let through mod) that Diane K asking “How do you even leave the house?” is exceedingly cruel. I wrote:

    Directed at a particular commenter like this it’s extremely vicious. It’s entirely possible, you know, that she can’t leave the house. (Also, it’s possible that she can.) That’s a terrifying situation. Using it to mock someone is basically like taunting a stranger for having fibromyalgia so bad they can’t walk very far (If you can’t even walk to the market without being in pain, how do you even leave the house?) or taunting a stranger with memory loss from chemotherapy for being unable to remember something trivial (If you can’t remember a phone number, how do you even leave the house?).

    Your comment is astonishingly cruel if what it suggests is correct. It’s fairly cruel even if it’s not–one of the common causes of agoraphobia is panic attacks so severe that one fears having one in pubic where one can’t control the situation. Panic attacks *do* prevent people from leaving the house. & that’s not because they’re stupid or weak-willed or silly or oversensitive or whatever stereotype one may be tempted to marshal. It’s because they are ill. Painfully ill. Probably embarrassingly ill. It’s not cool to make a joke of that.

    I mean, really, we can argue over whether “crazy” is problematic. I don’t really think it is, which isn’t going to stop me from attempting to moderate my use of it when the potential for hurting people with it is high. But whether or not crazy is offensive in the abstract, it would definitely be offensive if you used it as a directed insult at someone in circumstances like these. “You take three psych meds? Christ, why don’t they just put you in an asylum?”

    I’m not very stirred by the kinds of words that have been marked out as problematic. But the ableism that comes out in response? Yeah. Yeah, I see that.

  182. Florence
    Florence April 3, 2011 at 12:38 pm |

    Rosa: I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s impossible for everyone to feel safe all the time. Which makes me consider Florence’s question of whether social justice blogs can or should endeavor to be therapeutic spaces even more.

    Thanks for considering this. I would also like to ask whether it’s fair to expect bloggers (typically amateur writers banging out opinion pieces from home) to run therapeutic spaces. Because to me, this expectation that untrained people have the authority and education to maintain therapeutic space (as well as a disagreement among PWD about how to define ourselves) is part of what is leading to such widespread disappointment in the feminist/PWD community. As you can probably guess, I think it’s really unfair to expect bloggers to be this authority to us.

  183. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. April 3, 2011 at 12:48 pm |

    @Saurus,

    That was a beautiful comment.

  184. Jennifer P. aka Captain Awkward
    Jennifer P. aka Captain Awkward April 3, 2011 at 1:02 pm |

    Hi! I’m one of David’s mysterious feminist friends who has been lurking (not the one who got very upset, though she is real). Long-time lurker, relatively new poster.

    I feel like Tori’s initial comment was thoughtful, polite, and interesting and added mostly-constructively to the discussion. To me, she did not ask David to change his post, just educated him and asked him to think about it differently. I read her link and thought “Hey, I didn’t know that, will think about how I use that word in the future.”

    Not the past, as in, I’m not going to go back and erase the probably hundreds of times I’ve unthinkingly thrown that out on Captain Awkward (SRSLY, if word “idiot” bothers you, don’t read back on my blog – Let’s make today a new day, ok?), but it may change the way I behave in the future.

    Cool. There is no need to change the original post, because the post and the critique of the post can coexist, people can read both and decide how they feel about it.

    How many people read David’s initial post and, based only on that, saw the word “idiot” and thought, wow, that word is not ok and I am offended? Raise your hands. Okay, I see….Tori….anyone else? Anyone?

    Really?
    Honestly?

    I mean, if you say yes, I’ll believe you. But my bet is that *most* people (including GallingGalla, who made the first “change your wording” request after Tori’s comment, but commented on-topic making fun of Adams well before that) read the initial post, didn’t notice the word “idiot,” and only jumped in later when it was a discussion about the discussion. Of course, there’s no deadline for being hurt or expressing that hurt, and it’s fair to have skipped over it until reading Tori’s comment and then think, you know what, hey, I don’t like that word!

    Once Diane K. chimed in…(we can still use the word assholish, right?)
    And once there was a demand that David change the language IMMEDIATELY…
    And once people started saying things like this (emphasis mine):

    I will roll over your precious privileged toes until you beg for mercy. I will not allow anyone to erase our lived experiences.

    Which, if we’re going with the overly-literal and worst-possible-motivation school of interpreting what people say, sounds like a threat to injure people who don’t agree until they agree….

    The thread stopped being about David and the relative acceptableness of the word “idiot” (on which it seems many people both with disabilities and without disabilities are in strong disagreement) and (re)became the (long-running) discussion about “What kind of community is Feministe and what is the community’s record on respect toward people with disabilities and what words are never ok to use here?”

    By the tenor of the discussion here and on other threads….sore subject, ay?

    Anyway, Florence summed up what I wanted to say beautifully:

    I also have some problems with the implications that someone is “just” asking David to change his words… asking a speaker to edit their work after the fact is an issue of power (controlling how someone expresses hirself is a huge exercise in power and control) and it sets a dangerous precedent for the community’s standards and expectations. The community is largely in agreement over a lot of acceptable/unacceptable language, but in a situation such as this where the community is not in agreement, I think the writer has the right to hold hir ground, offer an explanation, and just say no. The community has the right to protest and grumble and disagree, and I think that’s healthy.”

    If you see language you don’t like or that hurts your feelings and you think should not be used in a community like this one, BE ANGRY. Question. Educate. Raise the argument. Critique. Decide the other person is a dick and that you don’t want to credit anything they say. But when you ask the author to go back and change their language, or attribute the worst possible motives to people who disagree with you, it is alienating and yes…silencing.

  185. Jennifer P. aka Captain Awkward
    Jennifer P. aka Captain Awkward April 3, 2011 at 1:02 pm |

    Ah, horrible bold! Horrible bold! Sorry, can someone fix?

    Awkward.

  186. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable April 3, 2011 at 1:55 pm |

    Asking a person to use a synonym for “idiot” is silencing? Is David somehow not able to convey that Scott Adams sucks because someone asked him not to use the word “idiot”?

    I have no idea what definition of silencing is being used here. For example, I don’t understand why it’s okay (i.e. not silencing) to belittle a reader for objecting to David’s use of “idiot” (David at 34 when he displays incredulity at the idea that someone would be offended by it, quotes dictionary definitions back at GG, asks whether she stops reading a piece just because someone used a term that people might find offensive, and otherwise how she operates in public without turning every conversation into one about ableism). But okay.

  187. Yonmei
    Yonmei April 3, 2011 at 2:19 pm |

    Is David somehow not able to convey that Scott Adams sucks because someone asked him not to use the word “idiot”?

    Are you not able to convey that Scott Adams is an idiot without using a word that implies oral rape?

    ….just saying.

  188. Dwayne
    Dwayne April 3, 2011 at 2:19 pm |

    Pahaha yes!

    Personal Failure:
    Scott Adams is simply too meta to be understood. Perhaps even to be seen. His thinky thoughts are on a whole other plane of existence from the rest of us emotional, disabled womenchildren.

    Oh, and we hurt his feewings. That he doesn’t have.

    1. Cara
      Cara April 3, 2011 at 2:28 pm |

      Okay, so right around the 200 comment mark usually seems to be the time on threads such as this one to shut it down. Reading some of the recent comments and seeing significantly more bad faith than I would like being displayed, it seems that we are definitely at that point. Closed.

  189. On ableism, manipulation, and feminist flame wars « anthonybsusan

    [...] readers might be familiar with this weekend’s Feministe debacle. I’m referring to this thread, and I feel that I should include a trigger warning for anyone with particularly strong memories of [...]

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