Progressive. Queer. Feminist. Opinionated.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Fighting on the internet

This post is now about what I was going to use as a subject line for a post about something else. I was fighting with people on Live Journal, and thought I remembered a sort of saying about fighting on the internet, but I couldn't remember what it was. So I googled it, and discovered many variations on saying that fighting on the internet is like competing in the special olympics-even if you win you're still retarded. What bothers me even more than this saying is the knowledge that at some point I thought it was fine. Now I have noticed friends, family, and teachers supporting disability rights and explaining things to me repeatedly and basically...Yeah. It's not funny. It's awful.

A friend and co-worker says "that's gay" to mean that something is bad. For the first year I worked with her, I didn't really say anything about it. One time early on I made a joke-she had said that her friends were all being gay, and I said that, no, my friends are gay. Because at that point everyone I hung out with was. I was trying to make a subtle point to her. It didn't really work. Lately I've gotten on her case about it. She explains it's just her word for stupid, and I know she is not someone who hates gay people. It's just this is the way people around her talked etc. So now she is, at least, starting to not do it around me. She is trying to not do it in front of me at all. I explained that I used to say things were retarded, and that being around people with siblings with disabilities etc I learned to not say that. I kind of hope that by having to think about what it means, and by not saying it around me, she will stop saying it. But really I don't know what to do. How did I go from someone who said retarded to mean stupid to someone who finds it offensive? I think it was partially our old writing teacher throwing so much disabilities rights stuff at us, but I know that at the time I found it annoying, and that was coming from a teacher. From a peer I honestly would have ignored most of it.

My general theory of teaching my beliefs is sort of derived from St. Francis saying to teach the gospel at all times, and if necessary to use words. I live my life in the way that my beliefs decree, and I hope that people will be influenced by that. Nothing deafens someone like shouting. The vegetarians and vegans I know who yell or chastise just make people hate vegetarians and vegans. The vegan I knew who never said anything about it had me almost convinced to be a vegan-she just ate lovely looking meals every day, and made it seem do-able and more right than not doing it. Then there was cheesecake in the world, and I failed. But still, the point is, I believe that the best convincing is not done by shoving something at someone. However, nobody is going to change if I sit by and do nothing....
So. Advice?
And I guess my original post topic will happen later.


Blogger reasonably prudent poet said...

this is such a tricky subject: language and its power to wound. hard to fight the feeling sometimes that a slur is just a word, just slang, just funny, etc. i know for myself that, when i use those excuses, i'm just being lazy and a bit afraid of my own passion and compassion for people. it's hard to bring political and social consciousness to the vernacular of our peers and sometimes it's pretty unwelcome, but worth the trouble, i think. thanks for mentioning it.

5:46 PM

Blogger thelatinist said...

When I encounter things like this (and as a teacher of teenage boys I encounter it far too often) I try a simple and, I hope, minimally preachy approach: I say something to the effect of "using names for minorities in negative ways perpetuates traditional hatreds and discrimination" and try to let the statement stand on its own.

When others have insisted on arguing the point, I have had to explain in more detail my belief that society is shaped by language as much as language is shaped by society. This, sadly, many people are not willing to admit.

9:04 PM


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