Monday, September 12, 2011

A Change Is Gonna Come

As most readers of I Should Be Laughing know, I have an affinity for the occasional F-bomb; okay, maybe not so occasional.  I use the F-word in every possible combination, usually when writing about politicians, who have a tendency to inspire my ire.
Fucktard is a personal favorite. and, though I've always known how the word was formed, for some reason it never really bothered me, though I never use the words "retard" or "retarded" because I find them offensive.
So, why fucktard? I dunno. But I liked it, and I used it, extensively; until today.
Late last week I received the following email from Susan, and I thought I'd let you read it:

Hi Bob,

I am a new reader of your blog and I like it.  You are smart and funny, an irresistible combination.

I would like to ask you to reconsider your use of the word "fucktard" on your blog.  It's a contraction of the words "fucking" and "retarded," as I am sure you know.  I hate the word because it includes the word "retarded" as a pejorative.

I am the mother of a developmentally disabled adult.  Along with many disability rights activists, I have spent years fighting to banish the word "retard" and the phrase "that's so retarded" from common usage as insults, for the same reasons that the gay community has spent years fighting to banish the word "gay" and the phrase "that's so gay" from common usage as insults.  Both words and phrases use the immutable status of being "gay" or "retarded" as insults.  Sometimes the people on the receiving end of these insults are gay or retarded, and sometimes they are not.  But every time these words are used as insults, the very use of them insults and hurts people who are gay and retarded by saying, in effect, that there is something so wrong and disgusting about being gay or retarded that the very words used to refer to people who are gay and/or retarded are insulting when they are hurled at others.  For this reason, these insults are incredibly hurtful.

You may have developed a protective armor against such insults, but unfortunately, most developmentally disabled adults and children remain at a developmental level that often makes it impossible for them to develop such armor. It hurts them every time someone uses the word "retard," and now the word "fucktard" in their presence.  My daughter attends an arts based day program for developmentally disabled adults.  One of her program mates wrote a terrific article about how he feels about the common use of the word "retard."  I'd be happy to fax it to you, if you would like to see it.  Just let me know your fax number and I will share it with you.

I know from your blog that you care deeply about the ways in which gay youth and adults are bullied.  I am asking you to extend your concern to the ways in which developmentally disabled youth and adults are bullied.  Both groups are being bullied for immutable characteristics over which they have no control.  Surely both groups deserve the same protection from bullying.   I would argue that having the very name of their status used as a common insult is, in fact, a form of bullying.  Based on your blog, I suspect that you feel the same about the use of the word "gay" or the phrase "that's so gay."  I am asking you to use your empathy and extend your concerns about bullying to people with developmental disabilities

Within the civil rights communities, we all look to the African American struggle for civil rights as our role model for the legal rights that we want for our own discriminated against group.  But African Americans and other racial groups, ethnic groups, and religious groups all have the comfort of growing up in families that look just like them, and often in communities with many people who look just like them.  Gay people and disabled people don't have this comfort - gay youth almost always grow up in straight families and in communities where very few adults are out.  Similarly, disabled youth almost always grow up in families with non-disabled parents and communities with relatively few disabled adults.  In fact, just as gay people often stayed in the closet to protect themselves, so too, disabled youth and adults often literally were kept in their homes or in institutions to "protect" them.  So, I've always thought that there is a unique common ground between my experience as the parent of a disabled child/my daughter's experience as a disabled child/adult and my friends' experiences parenting gay children and/or my friends' experiences as gay youth/adults. 

I found your website through a message board about Design Star, but I've been reading all of your posts and many of your past posts because I enjoy them.  Your use of the word "fucktard" just smashes my enjoyment in your work - every time I encounter it on your blog, I stop smiling at your cleverness and start remembering that the world still is full of people who hate on my daughter and other people with developmental disabilities simply because they are "different."  It is particularly hard when someone as smart and savvy about gay rights issues as you is one of those haters.  

I am assuming that you are not consciously hating on people with developmental disabilities.  And I am hoping that you are open to receiving my message.

I don't use the word "gay" and the phrase "that's so gay" as insults.  Won't you please stop using the word "fucktard" as an insult on your website?  You are such a smart and witty man, I am sure that you can find an equally delicious insult to substitute.

Thank you for your consideration.


There you have it.
Now, as most of those who read ISBL know, I loathe the phrase "that's so gay" and have railed against it both personally, and in this space. And, as I said before, I innately knew that the word Fuck***d was an insult, but I sorta felt it was okay because of whom I was speaking.
That was wrong.
So, starting now, you will no longer see that word on my blog. Searching for it in the tags will result in no findings, as I am removing those tags And, for those of you who know me personally, you will never hear me say it again.
And I would ask that each of you refrain from using it or saying it.
It's bullying, and I was bullying.
That's over now.
Thanks Susan, for the enlightenment. I truly do appreciate it. And I hope that your letter will inspire other to remove this particularly offensive word from their vocabulary.


froggy said...

You deserve a big kiss and hug! XO

David Dust said...

"Douchenozzle" always works for me.

Great post...


Princess said...

Susan also deserves a big hug for being so objective in her comments.

todd carr said...

Great post. Why can't politicians communicate like this? Brilliant!

Anonymous said...

Another awesome post. And kudos to Susan for so elequently and convincingly stating her case. I will never use that phrase in my speech or my blog. And I, for one, would be interested in reading the article written by her daughter's classmate.

Bullying sucks. All the time. We need more laws like CA's "Seth's Law.

designing wally said...

I am just awash in the LOVE right now.,..
Take a picture, 'cause Wally is speechless. You're more likely to see a dodo fly by than to see me speechless twice.

Kisses for Susan, you & everyone!

designing wally said...

OH, and
Hai Princess, Hai David, todd & froggy...

David Dust said...

Hai Wally!

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Very interesting.

Anonymous said...

Asshat works great but you know we'll have to stop using that word if Philip Treacy writes us a letter.

Mitch Block said...

Thanks to Susan for speaking up and for being so clear, intelligent, and gracious. Thanks to you for listening and for being so intelligent, sensitive, and gracious in return. I love your blog, but also hate that term. Susan just taught us both something and I now have even greater respect for you!

David Dust said...

LOLOLOLOL @Robyn!!!!!!!

Wonder Man said...

This happened to me once too

Rainbow said...

Kudos Bob for another great post! I have used the phrase as well and after reading the email from Susan, I vow to never use the it again either. Thanks Susan for such an intelligent and well written request. I am now publicly announcing that I am from here forward going to use the word "douchenozzle" if there are any nozzles that are offended please let me know soon.

Sam said...

You are a saint, and if it brings you any solace you are more than welcome to use "cuntbucket" a personal favorite of #9 and I.
We lifted it from Precious.
I'm sure the cunts and buckets across the universe will be honored!

Susan said...

Thank you, Bob's readers, for your warm, accepting response to my letter. And for those of you have taken the pledge to remove the word "fucktard" from your vocabulary, many thanks.

I found Bob's blog through a Design Star board. Last year on his DS vlog on HGTV, David Bromstad criticized a designer's work by saying it was "so retarded." I voiced my objection to this phrase in multiple emails to HGTV and a letter to the head of HGTV's parent company, Scripps Networks. I wanted them to edit out the phrase or take down that episode of Bromstad's vlog. I received no response from Bromstad, HGTV or Scripps. In fact, Bromstad's vlog with this hateful phrase is still up on HGTV. Unfortunately, Bromstad's, HGTV's, and Scripps' failure to respond to my request is all too common.

So Bob, you deserve a lot of credit for your enlightened and prompt response to my letter. I just wanted you to not use "that word" again. Taking it down completely from your blog is amazing. Thank you.

Joy said...

It's heartwarming to see such a congenial, intelligent, compassionate exchange! If only more people were like this, the world would be so much better! This isn't one of the words I use, but Susan has made me aware of checking what I do say. As a teacher I was always careful anyway about what I said. Well done to you both!!