I have come to the very upsetting realization that the phrases “that’s so gay” and “that’s retarded” are, in no way, on their way out. When these sayings started I was in junior high: eighth grade probably. I don’t remember ever saying them, but I’m definitely not going to say that I didn’t. As a junior high or even high school student, we often overlook the hurt in those phrases. “It’s just something you say.”
My disdain comes from how, as adults in the world, I still hear these things being said on a daily basis. I can walk down nearly any hall and hear someone call something “gay” or “retarded.” My first instinct is anger, my second and third instincts are also anger. We live in such a wonderful world with hundreds of words for “stupid” and those are the ones you choose? I’d hoped this was a fad we would all outgrow when we realized how hurtful these things can be. Clearly, this is not the case.
“But I don’t mean it to be rude.”
Okay…but it is. If somebody is hurt by something you say, your response is “well I didn’t mean it that way, so you can’t really be offended by it”? In my experience, if you offend somebody they’re offended. There isn’t much you can do: except change your words.
I have yet to hear someone say either of these phrases to mean “oh how cool!” and that’s because that’s not what people are thinking when they call something gay or retarded. Their brains are saying “idiotic,” “stupid,” “frustrating,” and what comes out of their mouth is a terribly offensive comment.
I think as college students, it’s time for us to look at ourselves and see how we could be hurting other’s feelings. I could go on for awhile about how frustrated I am that our society still associates “gay” and “retarded” as insults instead of simply ways of being, but I had a thought while planning this post. What if I’m the only one who gets it? Thankfully, I’m not. There are many other college students who are just as appalled as I am, so I asked them why:y offensive comment.
“I used to not really understand why it would be offensive if “I didn’t mean it that way”. Now I realize how incredibly ignorant it is to use someones way of life as a synonym for stupidity. There is such a wide selection of words I and any other person could use. Why pick “gay” or “retarded”, when you could use “dense” or “fatuous” or “witless” or any other word that gets your point across without hurting someone.” -Jessica Yonko, 19, Clark College.
“I went through my fair share of phases with these words- I said “retarded” in a negative way for about a year until I heard my health teacher talk about his mentally retarded daughter. The story moved me to change my vocabulary forever because while using the words may not mean anything to you, you never know who is listening, you could be the reason…someone goes home crying.” -Rebecca Cort, 19, Western Washington University.
“As a person who doesn’t identify as gay, or as somebody who is not mentally handicapped, you wouldn’t have a reason to find [those phrases] offensive. What’s important in all aspects of life is that you respect the opinions of the people around you. If you know something could potentially hurt somebody, then it is disrespectful to say it. Just because you personally don’t find it offensive doesn’t give you the right to disrespect those around you.” -Katie Nance, 19, Western Oregon University.
This is all about respect for those around you. How often do you say these phrases? What do you mean by it? What could you say instead?
Take a second out of your day to think about how you could be hurting others without realizing it: and find a new way to say “stupid.”
By Quinn Murphy