Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Think before you speak.

Retard, Handicap, Spa, Spastic
They're just words, or so I'm told. If you say you're offended by their use then you're too thin skinned or too PC.

So why the visceral reaction?
I have a sister who has an intellectual disability, she is the light of my world, she has made me and makes me want to be a better person. Call me a bitch and I don't care, call her a retard and chances are I will skin you alive. The reason? I can stand up for myself, I can take in your insult, I can decide you're not worth the time of day and I can get the hell out of dodge. Insult my sister for her disability and you're pretty much the type of coward who only picks on the vulnerable.

As bad as directly insulting someone with a disability, is using their disability as an insult against other people.
Last night Ann Coulter tweeted "I highly approve of Romney's decision to be kind and gentle to the retard". Coulter intended on insulting President Obama by calling him a retard - frankly like the letter writer below I also did wonder if she had considered other words but was worried about the backlash. I was livid and finding it hard to verbalise my anger at this happening. So I'm going to ask you to follow this link to the Special Olympics, where John Franklin Stephens, a global ambassador for the Special Olympics articulates his feelings on it far better than I ever could. By the way John has Down Syndrome.

'Retard' and words like it have evolved from being medical defining terms into mainstream as insults, believe it or not I've even heard the term 'Down Syndrome' flung around as an insult. We are told time and time again: 'they're just words', 'we're only havin' a laugh'. We are told that only assholes use the term 'retard'. I don't believe that's the case judging by some of the people I've heard use it. Regardless of who said it or how they meant it, the words are doing far greater damage than people think. The use of such words exclude people with disabilities as a different group, they tell them 'you're different, you are not like us, you're strange, in fact you're so strange we're going to use the term that we think describes you to insult someone else'. Such words tell people with disabilities that they are of so little worth that we only use them to insult others. The use of such words leads to further societal marginalisation of an already marginalised group.

I'll end by quoting the above John Franklin Stephens as once again he puts it far more succinctly than I can:
"I get the joke - the irony - that only dumb and shallow people are using a term that means dumb and shallow. The problem is, it is only funny if you think a "retard" is someone dumb and shallow. I am not those things, but every time the term is used it tells young people that it is OK to think of me that way and to keep me on the outside.

That is why using "retard" is a big deal to people like me."

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Gender divides in the abortion debate

Last week in the course of one day alone I heard/read five different people use variants of the phrase "women/girls/sluts should keep their legs closed" in terms of the abortion debate. The phrase on its own makes my skin crawl in terms of its misogynism. It's reminiscent of the Madonna/whore complex. It implies that like the Biblical Eve before us we are solely responsible for the morals (or lack thereof) in the world, that men are unable to resist such temptresses and for abortion to end we just need to accept the child or not wanting a child to simply "keep our legs closed". Interestingly not once in the abortion debate have I ever heard someone suggest รก la Twink that men should "zip up their mickeys". The other thing that use of such phrases indicates to me that the people who use them are not just anti-abortion they are also anti-sex for any reason other than procreation but that's a post for another day.

It stoked my curiosity though. Three out of the five people on that day were women and it got me to wondering about the gender of people who support either side of the debate and why. Discussing it with himself over a bottle of wine one night he says "it's a pity that we have no way of knowing". The great thing about being involved in different groups is that I now have an arsenal of people who have very particular sets of skills; skills they have acquired over a very long careers, skills that make them...(ahem, sorry got a bit carried away there). One such skilful person is Geoff @geoffsshorts, Geoff, over the course of knowing him vaguely on the net, has always impressed me with his ability to pull up stats on most things possible so I politely tweeted and asked could he run up data for me on this issue. He kindly complied and sent his findings to me and told me to run the commentary on my own no pressure on me at all then :)

What the data showed on Youth Defence is that the gender divide is pretty much 50/50, based on the first name of followers:

This wasn't overly surprising, after all pro-life seems to be a sort of 'default' position to hold. Many people find the idea of abortion abhorrent until they do more research. Many teenagers, including me when I was younger, hold pro-life views. Mainly because at that stage life comes in black and white and it's not until later that we discover the myriad of reasons why it is acceptable to hold a pro-choice view. I know myself on encountering Youth Defence at the tender age of thirteen signed up because "killing babies is bad mmmkay" until I went home and my mother explained to me that it wasn't that simple and told me to write them a letter retracting my interest in their group. Youth Defence target this angle through the photos and billboards they put up - who doesn't find them horrific? And they are horrific but they do not represent the reality of abortion.

The data on Choice Ireland shows a majority female interest, based on the first name of followers: 
I don't know for definite why this is. We are told time after time that abortion is not just a "woman's issue" and that the man should have a choice too. Something I whole heartedly agree with but I doubt there are many women seeking termination without at least discussing it with their partners. I know many of my male friends are pro-choice yet have never expressed interest in joining any of these groups. Himself even is pro-choice but hasn't signed up to support any pro-choice group and yet I have signed up to many. I discussed it with him last night and we came to the conclusion that choice is a topic where a lot of men can comfortably sit on the fence about. Most men will support their partners if they choose a termination but in reality the physical buck stops with the woman. However for women living in Ireland the choice is to keep the baby or travel to a different country in order to have a termination. So the women of Ireland can't afford to sit on the fence and therefore have a vested interest in supporting pro-choice groups in our own country.

Once again many thanks to Geoff who you can find here @geoffsshorts and here