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Meryl Streep and Donald Trump - is it time we look at language, ableism and disability?

Sophie_RamseySophie_Ramsey Posts: 4Member Listener

Meryl Streep used her Golden Globes acceptance speech as a time to call out Donald Trump and his mocking impression of a disabled journalist, which brings up the topics of language, ableism and disability.  Today, blogger Sophie talks about the words and actions that have such a negative impact.

Language is part of how we’re treated. When ableist language is used in an act of hate crime, it is the treatment itself or forms part of the treatment. When ableist things are said as a reflection of held beliefs as part of discrimination at work, it’s very much part of how we’re treated. It’s a false distinction to separate actions and language in this context.  If anything, language is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to societal attitudes and behaviour towards disability.

Scope’s recently published hate crime stats make grim reading. However they paint a picture of the abuse disabled people have to face regularly, that is part of their lived experience. 

So language does matter – because it affects disabled people – and feeds in to the narrative that their conditions are a negative thing. If I think about some of the terms still used frequently, like ‘retard / tard’, ‘lame’, ‘Scitz’, ‘flid’ etc including people actually doing impressions of disabled people whilst calling each other these things… it’s still rife. 


Not only are we using words associated with disability to basically mean ‘rubbish, crap, ignorant etc’ but I always think about disabled people hearing those things said in a flippant way when they’re lived experience is those words being used to insult them.

On a personal note, which I know is going to get scoffs of ‘I’m being ridiculous’ – I hate people using these words ‘bonkers, manic, crazy, mental, psycho…’ etc. What you mean is ‘irrational, illogical, ignorant, hectic/busy’. Or saying ‘I’m a bit OCD’. I get even more baffled and frustrated when social justice organisations use them in public communications, it makes me want to face palm!

Before you get annoyed, I’d like to point out it will mean a *tiny* bit of effort on your behalf to reach a bit further into the corners of your vocabulary and find a more accurate phrase. Use online resources if you’re stuck (like the awesome one by Autistic Hoya here) that provide alternatives to ableist language. In doing so, you’ll help disabled people feel less othered in a world that is often so othering. Is it that much of a big ask?

I love the idea your response now may be ‘it’s PC gone MAD’ Ah irony, my old friend.

I think I should point out here that I’m not perfect. Becoming an intersectional feminist (one who recognises how the intersections of sexuality, gender, class, race, disability etc impact us in the same structural way being female or femme presenting does) has made me question this behaviour of mine & try to stop it. I still slip up sometimes and my only comfort is I’m trying.


My point is that this negative language (which demonstrates attitude) is so heavily ingrained in us that it’s hard to tear away from. No one has to be perfect at it, but we can think about it a bit more and try and harder in the spirit of being more compassionate beings.

Language has such power. Especially emotive language. I can point towards the recent events of Brexit and Trump being elected to demonstrate how, when backed with little or no fact or evidence, someone can just say a load of emotive things and will people to think a certain way. So how can we deny our language around disability doesn’t matter?

What are your thoughts on language and disability? How do you deal with seeing verbal abuse? What is the best way to deal with people using ableist language?

Comments

  • DannyMooreDannyMoore Posts: 91Member Talkative
    The saying, "sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me" should be eliminated.
    My whole life, ever since nursery I've been bullied and abused. Verbal, Physical, Emotional, Neglect, verbal assault, nearly every form of abuse. Just because I'm disabled.
    Just like children are protected by laws, all disabled people need to be protected by laws. Especially since children bully disabled adult strangers just like adults. I've been told if a child makes a false accusation it gets believed, even without evidence. It should be the same for disabled adults due to how much hate crime occurs.
  • mossycowmossycow Posts: 104Member, Community champion Chatterbox
    I agree with you @DannyMoore, in some ways but I suspect many disabled adults would be concerned with all being protected as potential victims. Tricky.

    But yes, Words are as loud as actions.

    "We must bloom where we are planted" 



  • rachelclrachelcl Posts: 26Member Whisperer
    On a few occasions I've had adults behaving in this manner in the presence of children. I've also had adults calling me the name of a well-known football manager and children calling me "loony" and "Hitler".
  • FundamentalistFundamentalist Posts: 75Member Whisperer
    Hi from Fm. What do you expect in a country that is so ridiculously liberal and Godless and also so fiercely anti-Christian? This is why I stated in my introduction when I first joined that I believe in compulsory disciplinary service for school leavers like they have in some other countries and should have here too. How many of you have ever been to visit an all Christian community anywhere. I think you will find things are very different there and nowhere near as hateful and derogatory and far more decent and civilised. Christianity is far too often wrongly criticised these days and wrongly reported as being "hateful" which is totally wrong, that I know for absolute certain. Whenever you have a far too ridiculously liberal "anything goes" society like we have here in the UK and at the same time have such widespread Godlessness you will always end up with a whole culture of absolute impunity where far too many think they can do whatever they want to whoever they want wherever and whenever they want because they know they stand little or no chance of being punished for it. You just can't have such a totally liberal and Godless system and expect everything to be all nice and respectful, it just doesn't work like that and that has been proved throughout history. The Old Testament is full of examples. What we need is far better discipline in our schools which is where a lot of really hateful attitudes get started. Look at the way it is at the moment. We have headmasters coming into school dressed in a dreadfully slobbish manner and setting an appallingly poor example to the kids and we have youngsters running riot all over the schools and treating staff with total contempt and this has to stop, full stop! In other countries school discipline is far stricter and the staff have absolute authority and there is far greater respect and they have compulsory service of some kind after leaving school. Like the compulsory care work that some countries have which is a great idea. And do some folk here really still call anyone "flid"? I haven't heard that since the 70's. Fm.
  • Sam_ScopeSam_Scope Posts: 602Administrator admin
    I don't think religion makes a person be good and kind.  You can believe in God and be a terrible person or be an atheist and be a wonderful person.  
  • Sophie_RamseySophie_Ramsey Posts: 4Member Listener
    rachelcl said:
    On a few occasions I've had adults behaving in this manner in the presence of children. I've also had adults calling me the name of a well-known football manager and children calling me "loony" and "Hitler".
    Rachel - thanks for your comment on my post. That is horrible! These attitudes and words are definitely handed down from somewhere - and it's sad that parents not thinking about the consequences of their behaviour will impact childrens' worldview. That's why it's important institutions that educate children show them the proper way to aware of and respect marginalised groups.
  • Sophie_RamseySophie_Ramsey Posts: 4Member Listener
    Sam_Scope said:
    I don't think religion makes a person be good and kind.  You can believe in God and be a terrible person or be an atheist and be a wonderful person.  
    Yes, agreed. I also think the original comments strays off the point a bit. I'd also remind the poster that faith doesn't solve everything - there's a lot of so called Christians that voted in Trump - who is clearly ableist. I personally do not think conservatism is very kind at all - Jesus was more of a socialist IMHO ;)
  • Sophie_RamseySophie_Ramsey Posts: 4Member Listener
    The saying, "sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me" should be eliminated.
    My whole life, ever since nursery I've been bullied and abused. Verbal, Physical, Emotional, Neglect, verbal assault, nearly every form of abuse. Just because I'm disabled.
    Just like children are protected by laws, all disabled people need to be protected by laws. Especially since children bully disabled adult strangers just like adults. I've been told if a child makes a false accusation it gets believed, even without evidence. It should be the same for disabled adults due to how much hate crime occurs.
    Hi Danny, firstly, thanks for sharing your thoughts. No doubt children get believed in particular circumstances, when it comes to events that endanger their safety, however in order for any legal prosecution to occur, there needs to be evidence. I personally feel all abuse and hate crime survivors should never have their lived experience denied - they need to believed and taken seriously.

    I'm sorry to hear you've experienced this abuse. I'm aware that most disabled people have - to varying degrees - including myself. I think that's where we can really rally round one another as a community. We can use our shared experience of disability to help each other by empathising about what we've been through & empower ourselves to try & create change :)
  • FundamentalistFundamentalist Posts: 75Member Whisperer
    Hi, from Fm. Good points. Unfortunately it is very true that absolutely loads of people claim to be "Christian" but unfortunately the sad fact is very few really are. It's also very true that a lot of people who claim to be Christian are also very hostile, like some militia groups who claim to be "Christian" and commit dreadful atrocities all over the place. And then there is those who claim to be so "religious" but carry out unthinkable acts of terrorism and then grossly blaspheme the name of God in order to try and justify it which is right out of order. And someone mentioned hitler, well he was obsessed with really evil practices and he hated anyone who was disabled and he tried to wipe them all out across europe, along with Jews, Christians, gypsies, gays, etc. And there are still plenty around today who think that way, shame on them! And of course there has been all manner of unthinkable atrocities carried out in the past by so-called "Christians" like the spanish inquisition for instance. Did you know they also brutally tortured and murdered innocent genuine Christians because those running the inquisition didn't have a clue what they were really doing? And what really sickens me is that the same stuff that hitler was into is now being deliberately aimed at precious and vulnerable children who I care about and love passionately. But this is a wee bit off topic but I needed to clarify the points. Because of the above reasons I don't do religion, I have just committed my life to the lord and don't get involved in stuff that claims to be "Christian" but is nothing of the sort. Did you know there are so-called "Christians" in america who claim to worship God but they're also nazi's who hate anyone non-white? And there are plenty more such outfits all over the world. But it has been well proven throughout history that any nation that turns against God and embraces all manner of really evil practices like Britain has will suffer. There are plenty of examples all around the world today, just watch the news and you'll see. And can you believe there was a time about 20 years ago when I was absolutely tortured out of my skull by any sound made by innocent little children? But I was powerfully healed by God, but unfortunately receiving that healing can be a lot easier said than done but it certainly IS possible and the Lord is my only hope of being healed further and as I'm sure you'll agree victory comes only to those who persevere! Fm.
  • Sam_ScopeSam_Scope Posts: 602Administrator admin
    I think we are getting slightly off topic here @Fundamentalist but thank you for your input.
  • FundamentalistFundamentalist Posts: 75Member Whisperer
    The saying, "sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me" should be eliminated.
    My whole life, ever since nursery I've been bullied and abused. Verbal, Physical, Emotional, Neglect, verbal assault, nearly every form of abuse. Just because I'm disabled.
    Just like children are protected by laws, all disabled people need to be protected by laws. Especially since children bully disabled adult strangers just like adults. I've been told if a child makes a false accusation it gets believed, even without evidence. It should be the same for disabled adults due to how much hate crime occurs.

    Hi from Fm. The very same has happened to me for absolutely decades and still does which is why I've had to become so aggressive. I totally agree there should be legal protection for all disabled categories, not just some as at the moment. Fm.
  • DannyMooreDannyMoore Posts: 91Member Talkative
    @Fundamentalist,

    becoming aggressive isn't the solution. When people including myself get stressed, anxious, scared, angry etc. it clouds our judgement. Why do you think we say and do things we wouldn't usually do when we're angry?
    When I'm in a situation that's stressing me out and I can't think of a solution because my judgement is clouded I look at things from another person's point of view. By he/she not being in the situation at the present time their views won't be clouded.
  • FundamentalistFundamentalist Posts: 75Member Whisperer
    Hi from Fm. I mean controlled aggression. An aggressive attitude, i.e. not taking any nonsense from anyone. And it seems to have done some good in some areas, even up to 30 miles from home. Some folk keep away from me now if they see me because they know I won't take any nonsense and I won't back down. But of course there is some truth in what you say. Fm.
  • FundamentalistFundamentalist Posts: 75Member Whisperer
    Hi from Fm again. If you're going to take a wheelchair on to a beach then do make sure you check the local tides for the day you plan to go as it might not be safe on that beach that day. You can check this online on various sites like the BBC weather pages or the national hydro graphic office for instance or if you go to the same place often then there's a little booklet you can get which I use and is also used by seaside beach patrols which has tide tables for different areas around the UK for the whole year and it's available online from www.laverpublishing.com for about £3.45. It unfortunately has very small print so some folk, like me might need reading glasses or a good magnifier to read it. The tides are controlled by the moon and are roughly an hour later each day so some days the beach will be underwater for most of the day and some tides can come in faster than an athlete so beware! Also each little booklet covers a different part of the UK coast so make sure you order the right one for where you go to. Fm.
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