The R-Word


The ASAN (finally, an organized enough self-advocacy organization to get things like this done) are putting out this video on the offensiveness of using ‘retard’ as an insult:


About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods. Crochet or otherwise create constantly and compulsively. Write poetry and paint when I can. Developmentally disabled, physically and cognitively disabled. I'm not really part of any online faction or another, even ones that claim me as a member. The thing in the world most important to me is having love and compassion for other people, although I don't always measure up to my own standards there by a longshot. And individual specific actions and situations and contexts matter a lot more to me than broadly-spoken abstract words and ideas about a topic. My father died in 2014 and that has changed my life a lot in ways that are still evolving, but I wear a lot of his clothes and hats every day since he died and have shown no sign of stopping soon.

5 responses »

  1. Like the video–and I like even more that a self-advocacy org was able to put something like this together in such a timely manner as well.

    Meanwhile, you might know that Dave Hingsburger has made up some cards that people can distribute explaining why many people find words like “Retard” to be offensive. People can either download the PDF files (one for the front of the card, one for the back of the card) to print their own cards, or they can order free cards from someone who is donating 10,000 of them to people willing to distribute them:

  2. Off the point, but I found this post interesting — apparently it is not only Autistic advocates who are sometimes dismissed by some parent organizations:

    (That said, though, I think there tends to be a healthier relationship, at least in the US, between for example Deaf organizations and organizations of parents of deaf children than there is between Autistic organizations and orgs of parents of autistic children. Not perfect perhaps, but at least without the knee jerk exclusion that can happen among Autistic people. Perhaps it all depends on the history of the particular disability movement in the particular country involved.)


    FOR RELEASE CONTACT: Susan McCabe, 913-219-8623
    September 2, 2008

    Donates Documentary About Down Syndrome to PBS

    KANSAS CITY – Three steps forward, one giant step back. That’s how one Kansas City father describes the harm caused by Hollywood’s recent use of the word “retarded.” Now, he’s using his own movie to fight back.

    Local producer Girard Sagmiller, who is the father of a young son with Down syndrome, has donated his newest documentary, Dakota’s Pride, to PBS. The film, which chronicles Sagmiller’s search for answers about his son’s journey, provides an upbeat look at living with and loving an individual with an intellectual disability.

    “Because of the current Hollywood movie environment, and their repeated, improper use of the word ‘retarded,’ I think it’s time to re-educate our nation about the accepting ALL people,” says Sagmiller. “In this election year, we talk about prejudice and acceptance of different colors and creeds. Well, the same goes for the special needs community.”

    Sagmiller, who spent several years filming and producing the documentary, first aired it on Kansas City’s public television affiliate, KCPT-TV, in August, 2008. He has since donated it to the national PBS broadcast organization, which in turn, will make it available for other PBS affiliates to air for free. The documentary will air nationally in October. As the piece airs around the country, Sagmiller says he hopes it will begin to counter the negative effects of such Hollywood movies as Tropic Thunder and other film and television programming.

    “I can’t turn on a comedy show and not hear the ‘r’ word. I don’t believe great comedians need to degrade someone to be funny,” he says. “With my personal insight, I hope to reach out to others and encourage support of all of our difficulties.”

    Dakota’s Pride was produced through Sagmiller’s non-profit organization, The Gifted Learning Project. The documentary has already received acclaim from the Universal Film Festival, and is recommended by The Dove Foundation, a nonprofit organization encouraging the creation, production, and distribution of family entertainment.

    For more information about Dakota’s Pride, visit The Gifted Learning Project website,

    # # #

  4. Funny enough I am no longer righteously offened at the use of “retard” in causal speak. I use it too. It’s one of those words that are offensive out of context and no real place in intelectual conversations.

    However again it depends in context. My husband never ever called me “retarded” but when we’re angry about something we have used word as an adjective. Funny enough the word simply means slow. (latin student here) To be honest I have been desensitized enought to childhood insults that those words no longer cause mortal wounds to my self-esteem. I don’t use it as insult anymore I have bigger words for that.

    What hurts me are not the outright insults like “retard” “moron” or “idiot” but the more “PC” words and hidden razors-in-candy words that don’t seem offensive. Like “Diffrently-abled” or “special” Those words seem to hurt more because of their less abupt nature and the fact that they can taken out context completely and be totally harmless. They are more patrontistic then any blunt word. And that to me is more offensive then any hick-town slang.


  5. Words only have power if you believe they do, and its weight depends on the tone or phrasing. People can use the word “crazy” just the same way as an insult. Or imbecile. Only psychiatrists can make their descriptive terms physical with forced hospitalization/jail.

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