Sunday, May 29, 2011

You're All Retarded Fags: A Pondering on Vulgar Language

Every once in a while there is a movement to phase a certain slang term out of the American vernacular because it is offensive to certain groups.  Two of the more common instances are with the words retard and fag/faggot.

The argument is that using these words as insults degrades the mentally handicapped and the homosexual.  Political correctness proponents will argue that since those words are used synonymously with a host of negative terms that the implication is that those groups are themselves negative.  I disagree and my disagreement stems from different places with each word.

I don't think the use of the word retard is particularly offensive because it's very definition is to mean slow.  I also don't think the word retard degrades those with mental illnesses because those people cannot be lumped into one group so easily.  There are plenty of disorders that are not characterized by a lack of intelligence and don't come close to falling under the realm of what has been considered mental retardation.

Faggot is a bit of a different case.  My first thought is always to the mouths I've heard utter the word faggot the most, those of gay men.  Form what I've learned from speaking to my gay friends, and from observing the use of the word in general is that it currently often pertains to a certain type of gay men.  All groups have certain sub groups that are unpleasant and the characterization of these subgroups isn't a testimony to the behavior of the group as a whole.  We're all familiar with terms such as bitch, cunt, drama queen, douchebag, asshole, slut, whore, and player, and each typically applies to members of a certain gender, but we don't think of those words as an idictment of that gender as a whole.

It starts to get a bit fuzzy when you consider intent.  The thoughts in this entry apply to me personally in my experiences with the mentally handicapped, the homosexual, and with people in general.  Having gay friends and a mother who often works with mentally handicapped children, my intent is never to denigrate those groups.  However, I understand that in the mouths of other people words like faggot and retard can be much more malicious and that there is weight behing the lobby to remove these words from our language.

As African Americans have proven with affectionate use of the word nigger, such things will neither be entirely one sided nor disappear anytime soon.

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