Stop Using The R-Word

Stop Using The R-Word

Rather than distancing ourselves from the true meaning of "retard," we must humanize individuals with disabilities.

Retard. Gay. Slut. Our language's vernacular is embedded with slurs such as these, used on a daily basis without regard to what they denote. These terms are used thoughtlessly, in a derogatory and offensive manner, to put people down. The term "retarded" has become so standard that even intelligent and thoughtful people use it to describe something as stupid or senseless. Our society is so accustomed to using the term that we do not even realize its effect.

Two summers ago, I had one of the most uplifting and eye-opening experiences of my life. I worked as a counselor at Camp Starfish, a summer camp for children with mental, behavioral, and emotional difficulties. Living with these campers for three months opened my eyes to their daily struggles; yet, the strength and positivity they radiated through their difficulties blew me away. They are some of the most inspirational, loving individuals I have ever met. It breaks my heart to imagine anyone hurting or victimizing any of them. Why do we employ a term used to describe their medical issues in such a derogatory, demeaning manner?

The problem is that people forget that the term they are using is the equivalent of a racial or gender slur. You mean to hurt the person or thing you are describing, but do you really mean to perpetuate this negative stereotype? There are literally hundreds of other terms you can use to describe a bothersome stimulus, so steer clear of this one. Rather than distancing ourselves from the true meaning of "retard," we must humanize individuals with disabilities and recognize that the use of the term is personally deprecating. You inadvertently categorize these people into a singular group, founded upon stereotypes, prejudice, and inequality. Whether you realize it or not, there are individuals in this world who look up to you. Is this the message we want to be delivering to future generations? Children in schools are running around calling each other "retarded" without recognizing the effect that language has. And those who fall into this category of special needs are given the message that it is an insult to be someone like them. Think about the effect that has on a child's self-worth as they attempt to grow up in a society that inadvertently affronts them.

There is such a strong stigma surrounding mental illness, and the callous use of this term is only furthering this effect. Individuals fear being diagnosed with any sort of mental difficulty because it makes them feel different and less worthy. Using the word "retarded" in a belittling manner is only perpetuating that stigma. The use of this term is directly making other individuals feel like lesser human beings. Is this really what you want your impact to be on this world? According to the new Diagnostic and Statistics Manual, 46.4 percent of Americans will have diagnosable mental illnesses in their lifetimes. That's almost half of our population. Just because a developmental disability does not manifest physically, it does not mean an individual does not have an issue, so if you think you can monitor your use of the term around those not impacted, think again.

Still not convinced? Imagine the case of a deaf, blind, or paralyzed individual. Would you use their disabilities in terms of insults? To put it into perspective, try replacing the term "retarded" with "handicapped" and see what happens. Imagine your child, your sibling, or your parent struggling with a mental difficulty, and through it all being surround by people with the r-word on their lips. And if you make the argument that we all have the right to free speech, and you're not "saying it offensively," then you are missing the point. This is not about political correctness or your right to free speech. It's about respect, thoughtfulness, and humanity. It's about erasing ignorance from our society and recognizing the hardships that these individuals go through. Individuals with mental difficulties experience an entirely different world—yet they emerge just as successful as those without that handicap. To overcome all they have to and still have a positive outlook on life? There's nothing derogatory about that. It's honorable.

I recently took the pledge to spread the word to end the word. You can too, just click here. Trust me, you'll be glad you did.

Cover Image Credit: Boston Globe

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.

Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black-and-white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble, and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling, whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die?" or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255

Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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In Real Life, 'Plus Size' Means A Size 16 And Up, Not Just Women Who Are Size 8's With Big Breasts

The media needs to understand this, and give recognition to actual plus-size women.


Recently, a British reality dating TV show called "Love Island" introduced that a plus-sized model would be in the season five lineup of contestants. This decision was made after the show was called out for not having enough diversity in its contestants. However, the internet was quick to point out that this "plus-size model" is not an accurate representation of the plus-size community.

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Anna Vakili, plus-size model and "Love Island "Season 5 Contestant Yahoo UK News

It is so frustrating that the media picks and chooses women that are the "ideal" version of plus sized. In the fashion world, plus-size starts at size 8. EIGHT. In real life, plus-size women are women who are size 16 and up. Plunkett Research, a marketing research company, estimated in 2018 that 68% of women in America wear a size 16 to 18. This is a vast difference to what we are being told by the media. Just because a woman is curvy and has big breasts, does NOT mean that they are plus size. Marketing teams for television shows, magazines, and other forms of media need to realize that the industry's idea of plus size is not proportionate to reality.

I am all for inclusion, but I also recognize that in order for inclusion to actually happen, it needs to be accurate.

"Love Island" is not the only culprit of being unrealistic in woman's sizes, and I don't fully blame them for this choice. I think this is a perfect example of the unrealistic expectations that our society puts on women. When the media tells the world that expectations are vastly different from reality, it causes women to internalize that message and compare themselves to these unrealistic standards.

By bringing the truth to the public, it allows women to know that they should not compare themselves and feel bad about themselves. Everyone is beautiful. Picking and choosing the "ideal" woman or the "ideal" plus-size woman is completely deceitful. We as a society need to do better.

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