Why It’s Wrong To Use The Word ‘Retarded’

We need to talk about the R-word.

How many of us have been in a conversation with someone — a friend, a coworker, or a new acquaintance — and he or she casually uses the word “retarded” or one of its variants? As a medical label for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the word was once considered to be neutral, clinical and incapable of offending. But, over time the word has been put to other uses and has become problematic and incredibly hurtful. The word now carries a pejorative meaning that reinforces painful stereotypes.

It has become a slur.

When people use the word ‘retard’ or ‘retarded’ it isn’t to describe someone who has a disability. It is used to describe someone who they deem is inadequate or to describe something that doesn’t function correctly. When used in those contexts it becomes a word that hurts, it hurts people with disabilities and their families. In fact, using the R-word in this way is considered a slur and (to be blunt) a slur is considered hate speech. The definition of hate speech is, “attacks a person or group on the basis of attributes such as gender, ethnic origin, religion, race, disability, or sexual orientation.”

In this, as in other cases of discrimination, it’s best to let those directly affected speak for themselves.

“Why am I hurt when I hear ‘retard?’” John Franklin Stephens, Special Olympics global ambassador once wrote in a blog for Huffington Post. “Let’s face it, nobody uses the word as a term of praise. At best, it is used as another way of saying ‘stupid’ or ‘loser.’ At worst, it is aimed directly at me as a way to label me as an outcast — a thing, not a person. I am not stupid. I am not a loser. I am not a thing. I am a person.”

As Mr. Stephens makes clear in this blog post, and other op-ed articles he’s penned, people can often be thoughtless and cruel, never fully understanding the damage that their words can have.

In the past few years, there have been several high profile campaigns that have launched encouraging people to make a pledge to end their use of the R-word. Campaigns like “Spread The Word To End The Word” serve as heartfelt pleas that encourage audiences to banish the word from their vocabularies. One of the most memorable was a 30 second PSA that hit airwaves back in 2011 featuring Glee stars Jane Lynch and Lauren Potter reminding viewers that it is not acceptable to use the R-word.

The one thing public awareness campaigns from organizations like R-word.org and similar organizations do is stress that you stop and think before using the R-word next time. Once you realize that it is never okay to use the word in a derogatory way, let your friend, coworker, or new acquaintances know that what they are doing is wrong and that they’re words can hurt someone.

Christopher Turner

Christopher Turner

AmongMen’s Editor-in-Chief is a well-respected fashion and style writer whose works have appeared in Fashionism, Fashion Television, MSN, DesignLines, the Kaboose Network, the Disney Family Network and Sun Media. He also has a collection of designer kicks that would make Imelda Marcos blush and lives in Toronto’s trendy east end. Follow him at: @Turnstylin.

2 Comments
  1. Retard, Retarded, Moron, Imbecile, Mongoloid, Defective, Cripple, Fool, Idiot, Cretin, Gimp, Feeble Minded, Stupid, Nut, Crazy, Freak and Spaz are just a few of the words which have been stricken from the various diagnostic and statistical manuals of mental and physical disorders.
    Therefore these are just words now albeit pejoratives, they no longer represent any relation to mental or physical disability.
    If one were offended the hearing such terms then perhaps that’s a sign of a personal problem, which history has shown is best dealt with in relative privacy as opposed to airing it the general public.
    this way we can avoid drawing the ire of the big evil meanies who will no doubt offend your delicate sensibilities.
    Naturally for my part… no hurties intended.
    I am simply offering sound advice to the casually as well as perpetually offended people among us in the hopes that they may avoid a situation wherein the cold harsh reality & bad attitudes of the “F*** Your Feelings” generations may very purposefully inflict permanent emotional scars on the unsuspecting & naïve.
    Policing language goes against our constitutional guarantees of free speech & free expression, even and particularly if that speech or expression is unpopular and does not conform to some peoples views of the “politically correct” nerf bubble. Hate Speech is Nothing more than speech that some people hate. That standard is as slippery a slope as banning a flag or statue today and destroying our culture, history, heritage and any hope for a future tomorrow.
    As long as America exists, free speech will be the double edge sword that we so often love to hate.
    with that in mind it’s probably best not to entrust your feelings and vulnerabilities to a world of strangers, many of whom suffer with their own mental, physical & behavioral disabilities and who would relish an opportunity to share their deep dark misery with others.
    These people aren’t worth your time, effort or even a second thought.
    When the apes start throwing feces, it’s better to duck and run than to stop and get involved in world war poo. Just a thought… or two.

  2. Absolutely NOT! Hate Speech Is Nothing More Than Speech That You Hate!! Stop Trying To Criminalize Words And Learn Some Coping Skills!!!
    The desire to label and criminalize words as “hate speech“ says more about your low self image or low opinion of another than it does about the person saying the words you find offensive. We need to instill coping skills in our kids rather than feeding them the BS notion that the world will change to suit their neurotic sensibilities. When I was young if someone called me a retard and I went to tell a teacher or parent, the response I got was “well are you a retard?” I said no and they said “then what are you getting all upset about?” It made me think and it forced me to cope with the fact that people are not always going to be nice to me, thus I learned to let other people’s petty crap pass by rather than splatter on me and soil my self image!!!!
    Instead of wasting your life pursuing the unreasonable and selfish goal of violating everyone’s right to free will, free speech and free expression because you hate their decisions, what they say and who they are, take a good objective look at yourself and see if you can find somethings you can improve upon because the hard truth is this:
    The Problem Isn’t Everyone Else, The Problem Is You, So Focus Your Energy On Fixing Yourself!!!!!
    If you succeed Then you will truly be FREE to master any art or passion that your heart desires no matter your natural inclination, because you won’t be weighed down with the immense baggage of hatred and resentment toward others for your own feelings of Inadequacy!!!!!!
    Truth is the Ultimate Power in this World of Lies And Truth Is The Only Path To Your Personal Freedom!!!!!!!

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