Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Don't Call People Stupid

English: A 2010 Girardin MB-II school bus belo...
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I'm always looking for other resources about kids with disabilities.  Recently, my daughter told me about a blogger named Angie Jackson.  The following is a quote from one of her blog posts that I believe our readers might be interested in; NOTE these are not my words but they are quoted with permission from the author:

The Word “Stupid” and Why You Shouldn’t Use It

The word “stupid” exists to justify discounting and disenfranchising individuals and groups. The idea behind it is “Some people are inherently inferior, so I don’t have to treat them with basic human respect.” The supposed mental inferiority of women, black people, people with disabilities ranging from cognitive to physical to emotional, fat people, and convicts has always been a primary argument and justification for their mistreatment.
Now, I know people are going to object to this. They’re very attached to their “right” to use the word stupid without critique. They will defend their use of the word and what they “really mean” when they say it. But if what you really mean is “willfully ignorant”, then say “willfully ignorant.” If what you really mean is “what you say is hateful and hurts people”, then say “what you say is hurtful and hurts people.” If you mean “that makes no sense”, say “that makes no sense.” If you mean “that’s factually incorrect”, say “that’s factually incorrect.” “Stupid” is not a precise label. The reason you want to use it is the exact reason you shouldn’t: Because it has power. And that very real power has been used to hurt very real people.
The concept of stupidity was used to justify keeping the right to vote from black men and women and from all women. Around the world disabled people are denied the right to vote, based on their presumed mental incompetence. The idea that cis women and trans men are too inherently “stupid” to make their own reproductive choices in regards to birth control and abortion is alive and well today. The idea that cognitively impaired adults are “stupid” and therefore worth less helps enable the subminimum wages paid to those same adults.
Calling someone “stupid” is no better or different from calling someone “crazy.” It has the capacity to do tremendous splash damage and it is not a word devoid of baggage. The word and the concept behind the word are both ableist and they have both been used to subjugate real horrors on real people. Horrors like institutionalization and incarceration,forced sterilizationpolitical disenfranchisementjob discriminationwage discrimination, and higher rates of bullying victimization.
“Stupid” people, whether that means people with a low IQ, women, fat people, racial minorities, or people who couldn’t afford to go to college in this economic reality, are more likely to be unemployed or under employed, more likely to be politically disenfranchised – yes, here in the US too – and are more likely to be bullied.
... “Stupid” has been used as a weapon and as a tool of oppression long enough. Let it go.

#stupid, #AngieJackson, #abelism, #name-calling, #specialedlaw, #gerl, #law


  1. Say what you mean!! Stupid should not be used as a blanket descriptive word for anything you don't like or don't agree with. I love that you gave specific examples of the definition of the word stupid in specific contexts. I teach Pre-K Special Education and we are often telling students not to say that word because it is mean and hurts peoples feelings. I like the idea of teaching them to say ( with appropriate words) what they mean much better!

  2. I love this post because I agree that people all to easily throw around words like stupid to describe anything they do not like. I think many do not even realize that they are not being specific and if you told them to say what they mean they would not know how to be more articulate. I also find it amusing in a sad way that we are constantly teaching very young kids not to say stupid, but many adults seem to have forgotten this lesson. I also think it is important for people to understand that just because someone is different than you does not mean that they do not have feelings. I have worked with students of multiple ages with disabilities and it seems that even the staff has to be occasionally reminded not to speak about the students in front of them. Just because they seem like they are not paying attention or incapable of processing what you are saying does not mean that they do not understand and have feelings.

  3. Anon & Anon,

    Thank you for your comments!