Sunday, August 17, 2008

Language and Discrimination

The “Tropic Thunder” debate rages on. I hope that this will be my final post on this.

I was in nursing school when the word "mongoloid" was still used freely for Down's syndrome, and it was used as a slur as well. Eventually they used other phrases. But ANY word which is used for the mentally disabled, whether it is "Mongoloid", "Moron", "imbecile", or "retard", or (now) "full retard" WILL eventually be used to hurt and slander people. Because people feel that the intellectually challenged* are worth less. They cost money. The intellectually disabled* community is discriminated against to the point that most fetuses with Down syndrome are aborted.
Boycotting "Tropic Thunder" will not change that. As long as people hate, there will be improper use of language, taunts, and slurs.
Telling people to not see the movie will not help. Those who are insensitive would not listen anyway. I think that a NEGATIVE approach will not get us very far.
I think that our main thrust has to be at PROMOTING rights and respect for the disabled. We have to support the closure of large institutions where the "clients" are treated as numbers, not people. (If an institution is so big that they don’t have a say in what they eat for breakfast, they have lost their rights to be an INDIDUAL.) We have to encourage and support places that hire the intellectually disabled. We have to protest when someone calls a teen with Down syndrome a nick-name fit for a three year old. We have to encourage our child’s right to make certain choices.
However, I do feel the Ben Stiller owes a debt to the disabled community for three things:
1. marketing specially the sub movie "simple Jack"
2& 3. Two disturbing scenes involving Mcconaughey, where he is obviously unhappy with his intellectually impaired* son. This was too similar to the way the “regular”world views parents of children with Down syndrome. It is definitely reinforcing a stereotype that is as false as can be.

For these three things, I personally would tell Mr. Stiller, that the only way he can hope to make recompense would be by paying for public service announcements favoring those with intellectual disabilities*.

I would like to see (much more than protests) many more videos like the one I put on my blog on Wednesday.
And, in the meantime, we must train our children to have self respect, and to know how to react as safely as possible in the face of discrimination and abuse.

* Can’t we find a SHORTER euphemism than “Intellectually impaired/disabled/challenged”???

[Note: Please see added comments.]


Terri said...

I agree with you that protesting is only a first step in creating a more welcoming culture. I do not agree that we should develop a shorter, catchier sounding label--labels should be really cumbersome so that people are less likely to use them at all. People should get to know my daughter--rather than getting comfortable with her label!

FAB said...

Amen! Great post!
The positive that has come out of Tropic thunder is that it has united people and they are being heard!

I do think protest is important, it is how every other civil rights movement got attention.

moracity said...

The coverage of the boycott does change things by establishing the fact people are offended. Stiller & co still don't get that people are offended. How could any "typical" person be offended by making fun of the intellectually disabled? They are clueless, just like the actors portrayed in the film. The movie is making fun of themselves. It is shining a light on how people really feel - including them. There won't be any PSA's because they simply don't care.

rickismom said...

AUUGGHH !! I just typed out an answer, and it got lost in the never-never-land of the cyber-world ("This page can not be displayed......")Well, here goes again.....
Yes, I agree that protesting does get the issue out in the open. However, many people enjoy the "action" of protests, and the feeling that they are "doing something". I just want to give a warning: in and of itself, protests will not get us very far.
As for shorter euphamisms, Terri, your point is very good! Actually, I wrote this tongue-in-cheek, as I type using the "Columbus method" (find a key and land on it...). Although I have gotten, amazingly, pretty fast (in English at least; in Hebrew I am slower), these LONG terms are a real pain to two-fingered typists like me! LOL

Anonymous said...

I have been thinking about a shorter term and here is what I came up with. I thought about "special needs" but that won't do because it is too inclusive. Besides we all have special needs of some sort. I need glasses to see, dentures to eat, a wheelchair to get around, ect. I'm not going to refer to myself as visually, orally, and mobility impaired/challenged. I think that maybe the best thing we could call ourselves and our children might be our names. Wouldn't it be something if everyone could just say "hi, I'm _____ and that be enough? What if we could just assume that everyone would get what they needed without first qualifying themselves as needful or special? What if we all knew we were special? A fairy tale, I know but what if?

Kathie Graham said...

Thanks for visiting my blog, I will certainly be coming by yours to check on how things are going with Ricki, and the rest of your family. I've been drawn in :).

frumhouse said...

Great post! I agree that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar - boycotts probably won't do much for the cause. I wrote a post about Tropic Thunder and had trouble coming up with politically correct shorter euphamisms.