An Expansion On What the Ableist Word Profile Is and Is Not
The Ableist Word Profile has a new introduction:
- Ableist Word Profile is an ongoing FWD/Forward series in which we explore ableism and the way it manifests in language usage.
- Here’s what this series is about: Examining word origins, the way in which ableism is unconsciously reinforced, the power that language has.
- Here’s what this series is not about: Telling people which words they can use to define their own experiences, rejecting reclamatory word usage, telling people which words they can and cannot use.
- You don’t necessarily have to agree that a particular profiled word or phrase is ableist; we ask you to think about the way in which the language that we use is influenced, both historically and currently, by ableist thought.
- Please note that this post contains ableist language used for the purpose of discussion and criticism; you can get an idea from the title of the kind of ableist language which is going to be included in the discussion, and if that type of language is upsetting or triggering for you, you may want to skip this post
This reflects the fact that there seems to be a bit of confusion about the purpose of this series.
Our goal with the Ableist Word Profile is to explore language, and the way in which language usage can subconsciously reinforce ableism. Indeed, the very structure of the English language reflects social attitudes about disability, and English language users are, therefore, steeped in these attitudes. We hope that all our readers can agree that the reason ableist language is so strong is because it is rooted in ideas about disability, and the value of people with disabilities, and prevailing conceptualization of disability.
While a lot of these posts are intended to get people thinking about word usage, they are not intended to dictate the language that individuals use. Only you can decide what language you use, but you should do so in full awareness of the impact that your language has. Ultimately, the person you need to be accountable to is yourself, not us.
This series is not about telling people that they cannot use language in a reclamatory way, as recently discussed by Lauredhel. At all. It’s also not about telling people which language they should use to define their own experiences. We cannot take that away from anyone, and we don’t want to, because we don’t want to police personal expression. When describing themselves, when choosing words that have meaning for them personally, people can find reclamatory word use incredibly empowering. That’s why we don’t edit comments in which people use language like “lame” self-referentially. Because we don’t view that as ableist.
What we are exploring is how these words are used against people. How words can become weaponized. And how they are used in settings far beyond their original context. We want to spark a discussion about the incredible power that language holds, and how much of this power is exercised on an entirely unconscious level.
I hope that this clears things up a bit; I will be writing more on this topic in the near future.