Friday, April 13, 2012

A couple of days ago...

I was reading this post on Femina about the little things in motherhood, like the unloading of dishwashers before the dinner time rush. The point made in it was worth making and helpful to think about, although I confess that most days, my dishwasher is unloaded before the dinnertime rush begins here (we're once a day dishwasher people in this house)...not that I'm proud, or legalistic about it or anything like that. It just happens or it doesn't and we get by either way. On days when it doesn't happen, yes, that does add a little bit of extra effort to the evening chaos and clean-up time.

Anyway, I digress. I was more than a little offended by the use of the word "spastic" in the post. This was in the context of "everything will feel spastic at dinner time" (if the dishwasher is not unloaded). I showed my husband the post. He didn't like the use of the word either. As therapists, we know that the word "spastic" actually means something completely different to that implied in her post. He actually was commanded in first year physio to never refer to other things (or people) as being "spastic" because the term is so offensive to people with cerebral palsy.

He said I should comment. I was unsure. So I didn't. I thought if I did, the comment might get moderated out of existence.

Fortunately, two other Australian readers were braver than me and said something. I'm glad they did (and Deb, if you're reading, was it you that said it first??).

It's just a reminder that we need to be careful about our choice of words on the world wide web. I do read Femina reasonably often. It's quite good, although I think that sometimes it edges into the territory of home and motherhood idolatry a little too far. In general, the posts are helpful and Biblical. But it's a bit of a turn-off when this kind of language creeps in.

7 comments:

Sarah said...

I also cringed at the use of the word, but didn't mention it. It was my first time reading (someone had linked to that particular post), so thought I'd keep quiet.

Glad some others spoke up!

Deb L said...

Yes, it was me. I did some research before I commented just to check. And in the US it's really not considered offensive. It was used in an episode of Friends at one stage and that caused some uproar especially in the UK for the same reason we would find it offensive. I can't see how it would NOT be offensive but that's may just be my cultural bias. I hope though that by politely saying something it might provoke other readers to think more about their use of language.

Deb L said...

Excuse the typos in the above.

Tasmanian said...

I think it is worth you commenting, because it is not offensive in the US but it is here, and I think she will change it in her post if she realises this.

Karen said...

I just commented. Thanks for the gentle nudge, Tasmanian! I'd been checking in every so often to see if she'd returned to look at any of the comments but it doesn't look like she has...I hope it will be noticed at some point!

Deb L said...

It's finally been changed. I think your comment might have finally tipped the scales! I'm not sure whether to make another comment though as to why it was so offensive to us. It's not like the examples she gave of "tinkle" and "knock up" which are words that have two different meanings. Surely her use of the word "spastic" is offensive to us in the same way "retard" is offensive. If they can recognise that "retard" is offensive - see this article http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29981699/ns/us_news-life/t/special-olympics-fights-use-word-retard/ which is American - surely they can see "spastic" falls in the same catergory?

I guess I'm especially hurt because I really respect the author of that blog post and I was very much thrown that she couldn't see the offensive it would cause. I understand the different cultures thing.... but still....

Karen said...

Deb, I get it. I said thanks to her for acknowledging the comments but like you, I'm not sure it registered that perhaps not using the word at all in future might be a more helpful way to go? Hopefully she might remember in future and not use it, but it didn't sound as though she was that worried about it.
Your link to that article on the word "retard" was really interesting. I'm surprised people with cerebral palsy in the States don't do something similar, to be honest.
I don't think I'll have time to post a comment again on femina before we go away and by the time I get back I guess the blog will have moved on to the next day's topic (as they do!). If you do, I do understand where you're coming from.
Of course, now that I've stuck my head up over there, then people might come back to my blog and notice that I perhaps used some less than complimentary words about femina too (I tried to choose my words there carefully, but it is my honest opinion!). And in many ways it is a helpful blog for Mums to read. But this has definitely turned me off a bit from it, unfortunately.