I just received a message, via NaBloPoMo, from someone in the Feminist Blogger group who wanted me to sign a petition about “ableist” language over at the Feminsting blog. Now, if I hadn’t read an article in the New York Times yesterday, which happened to use and explain the term “ableist”, I wouldn’t have had a fucking clue what this person was talking about. This annoyed me straight away because I find it exclusionary and elitist just to assume that everybody is as educated as you are. Anyway, if you didn’t already know, “ableism” means “discrimination against people with disabilities”.
The blogger in question, s.e. smith (aka meloukhia), from this ain’t livin’, took exception to the use of the word “invalid” in this Feministing post. You can read her open letter to “Feministing” about this matter by clicking here.
Now, is it just me, or has s.e. smith just made a mountain out of a molehill? I honestly don’t see the tiniest thing “ableist” in this article at all. To be honest, her complaint struck me as being a load of politially correct codswallop, and it just brought back bad memories of being in graduate school and taking classes with a bunch of po-faced, stuck-up, spoiled bitches (yes, bitches, s.e. smith) who identified as feminists and yet were some of the nastiest, hypocritical individuals I have ever met.
I also identify as a feminist, and I also think that it is important to use inoffensive language (I was, for example, shocked when I arrived in the US, and heard how often people use the term “retarded” to describe something as being “stupid”) but I believe that you can take political correctness too far. In my experience, those very people who pay such attention to the language coming out of their mouths, and are so smug about how right-on they are, are the very ones whose behaviour always spectacularly fails to live up to their words. My Master’s thesis advisor was a perfect example of this. She was a lesbian and a feminist, and her whole raison d’être was dismantling sexist hierarchies and questioning the status quo through her academic work. So far so good, right? Well, not really. The bad reference she gave me, after promising me a good one, because of some perceived slight to her ego (God knows what) showed she was perfectly willing to throw her weight around, and make use of her power and position within an institutional hierarchy, if she felt like it.
I remember her nose wrinkled in distaste when I once used the word “bitch” to describe someone. This annoyed me because, yeah, even though my language is far from being “proper” a lot of the time, my actions and behaviour are much more honourable and respectful than many people who take so much care to purge their vocabulary of everything unacceptable. I would, for example, never promise to give someone a good reference and then sneakily sabotage their chances by giving them a bad one! If I can’t use the word “bitch” to describe this woman, then I don’t know what word I can use. And if it had been a man who had done the same thing? Oh, you can be sure I would have found some equally horrible epithet to describe him.
Sometimes I really miss “the motherland” which, I suspect, is perhaps the most politically incorrect nation on the planet. Every second word is “cunt” this and “cunt” that. Not only that, but we’re also very creative about making new words up, such as “cuntybaws”. Is this really so bad? I, personally, think this adds flavour and colour to the way we speak, and I love the way we don’t take ourselves too seriously.
For a nation which uses such offensive language, I think we generally show a great deal of warmth and compassion when dealing with our fellow human beings. Sadly, I think the US is the other way round. People here will be smiling and caressing you with their words while stabbing you in the back.