3 Reasons Why Your Use Of The R-Word Makes You Look Stupid

by Meriah Hudson
Originally Published: 
An angry woman looking at the upsetting text message on her phone screen
diego_cervo / Getty

I was humming along my Facebook feed when I came upon what started off as a really funny post about text messages with a tattoo artist. It started off as humorous, but then got not funny real fast when they slid down the slope of asking “are you retarded?” when the person appeared to be missing the cues in the conversation. I was left shaking my head with my face in my palm.

I wasn’t angry, just blown away that someone is still equating “retarded” with “stupid.”

Stop. Seriously, STOP. Here are just 3 (of countless) reasons why.

1. “Retarded” Does NOT Equal “Stupid!”

First of all, if you are saying the R-word, the way you think you want to be using it — as a pejorative to someone’s intelligence — you are wrong. “Retarded” as it used to relate to someone’s intelligence means “delayed.” It never meant stupid. It only meant delayed.

But that’s not even used any more. In fact, in 2010, Obama signed a bill that removed ‘mentally retarded’ from health, education, and labor policies.

No one uses this word anymore, except for some out-of-touch stragglers apparently. Listen up: It’s YOUR use of an outdated, offensive, degrading word (and an incorrect use of the outdated word to boot) that makes YOU just look…kind of stupid.

2. Learning Disabilities or Developmental Disabilities Do Not Equal Stupid Either, BTW

Learning disabilities do not equal stupid. Developmental disabilities do not equal stupid either. Good grief, I wish I had a dollar bill for every time someone said something like, “She doesn’t have a learning disability; she’s not stupid!” Or “Wow! Your child [with the developmental disability] is actually pretty smart.”

I can’t believe we are having this conversation, or that anyone still says or thinks that a correlation between learning disabilities, developmental disabilities, and stupidity exist. STOP perpetuating these harmful, ableist stereotypes, please.

I mean, we’ve watched all the movies. Forrest Gump comes immediately to mind, but there are a ton of movies (linked here) about disability. The common theme in them all is that of someone being misunderstood (and usually thought of as stupid) because of their disability, then the world is proven dead-wrong by the person with the disability. Amiright? I mean, this is a thing. This is a trope — it’s all over the place with eye-rolling amounts of regularity.

And I say “eye rolling” because:

(1) It’s annoying to me when those of us with disabilities are just not allowed to fail in movies. Are we not allowed to just be people, flaws and all? We have to be the “supercrips” (or super-whatever) and inspire the non-disabled, so that they view us in a more positive light.

(2) It’s obvious that the trope — even used as often as it is, for whatever reason it is — is a fail for disability acceptance because people are still equating learning disabilities and developmental disabilities with stupidity. It’s BS.

3. Quit Saying “Retarded” At All! There’s no reason to say this word.

Like I said already, most of us have moved on from saying the R-word for any reason at all anymore. We’ve removed it from our vocabulary because we acknowledge the undue harm it causes. Have you heard of “Spread the Word to End the Word“? There is a whole organization dedicated to getting the “R-word” off the radar, and out of the mouths of everyone, once and for all. This is directly because people with developmental disabilities — who have historically been called “retarded” have asked everyone to.

They’ve asked. We need to respond and find better words to use, words that actually mean what they say and say what they mean.

And if we don’t, we’re just being… callous, harmful, and….stupid.

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