A few months ago, we had a discussion about whether the original name of this website, Blind Privilege, was ableist. As is typical when someone raises a question like this, there were several people who agreed with changing the name and several who thought it wasn’t necessary. And a few who thought it was ridiculous to even consider changing it.
This prompted me to do a lot of reading and research online. There are a number of worthwhile opinions on both sides of the fence – for example, if you ask a group of women whether the term “bitch” (as a slur against a woman) should be eliminated, you might get the following answers:
- Yes, completely. You’re comparing a woman to a dog!
- No, it should just be applied equally to men.
- No, when someone calls me a bitch, I thank them, thus turning the phrase into a compliment and ruining it for them.
- It should be eliminated in some contexts, but not others.
All of these are sound opinions. I’m sure I could have found some visually impaired people who didn’t mind me using “blind” as a metaphor for ignorance. But you know why that wasn’t the point? It took me months to get this. One day, I was thinking about which terms were permissible to describe people who don’t bother using their brains when they should, and I discovered to my shock there isn’t one. “Stupid” describes someone who lacks cognitive capacity. There’s no shame in that. I want a term that shames someone who has cognitive capacity but refuses to think out of laziness and irresponsibility. The problem is not simply that “retard” or “idiot” are ugly because they refer to actual neruological conditions and “stupid” also technically refers to someone who lacks some cognitive ability; it’s that English doesn’t even bother having a word for people who can’t be bothered to apply their cognitive ability.
Question: what does that tell you about English? Answer: that we, as a culture, think the best way to insult someone who deserves an insult is to equate them with a person who has a condition and does not deserve insult. That’s pretty sick.
“Blind” is the same raw deal. No matter what anyone thinks of it, it’s using a condition that does not deserve insult as a way of insulting people who don’t have that condition.
It took me a long time to come up with an equal or better name that had a nice ring, but I finally did. Here it is.