A friend forwarded a blog post by S. E. Smith, cofounder of FWD/Forward: Feminists with disabilities for a way forward, which led me to another blog post of Smith’s “In Which I Voice (A Potentially Unpopular) Dislike for Disability Euphemisms” (http://meloukhia.net/2010/05/in_which_i_voice_a_potentially_unpopular_dislike_for_disability_euphemisms.html).
I think this a great must-read post for anyone who struggles with the language they use to name other people. (Smith makes this distinction between the language we choose to describe ourselves, and the language others use to describe us–with or without our consent.) And obviously, the struggle pertains not just to abilities, but to other aspects of identity, as well.
It’s not that Smith’s language choice is right, and she certainly doesn’t claim to speak for The Whole Disabled Community. She simply raises important questions about our motivation for using the language we use (how much is about ego and our fear of being perceived as insensitive, discriminatory or ignorant?), about how far apart intention and impact can sometimes be (as Smith points out, the best-intentioned people can still “other” others) and about how important it is to reflect on and name differences that matter in the world, rather than clamming up to preserve our “good and sensitive person” aura. Because disability doesn’t cease to exist just because we go mute. And ultimately, this isn’t just about the words we utter to identify other people, it’s about the attitudes we hold about them and ourselves. And we can and do express those loudly and clearly even when we say nothing at all.
** Thanks to my friend EB for sharing the post “On ‘Handicapped,’ Disability Euphemisms, and False Etymologies”:(http://meloukhia.net/2013/07/on_handicapped_disability_euphemisms_and_false_etymologies.html).