Saturday, September 15, 2012

L#rdass Thinking

I made an enemy.

And probably did something mean.

I'll let you be the judge.

I got on the bus this morning greeting, as I do, the other occupant who was a very large woman sitting on a four wheeled scooter. The driver chatted with us both while strapping me in. Once on our way my fellow passenger was startled by the movement of the bus and laughed and said, "I should be used the bus by now, sometimes I'm just so ret#rded." I immediately said, "Please don't use words like that, I find hate speech upsetting and I work with people who are very hurt by that word."

Predict what happened next.

She acted like I victimised her!

In all of what she said, including that it didn't mean anything, it's just an expression, she mentioned that she had a 15 year old boy with, and this is a direct quote, "the mind of a six year old." She went on about how she makes sure no one calls him names. She wasn't using the word as a name so it was OK.

I asked her if she spoke like that in front of her boy and she said that she did. Her answer was defiant. She was angry.

I was angry too.

I said, "That's just really lardass thinking."

She said loudly, "What did you say to me?"

I said, "I said, that I thought that it was so lardass that you think that it's OK to use words like that in front of your son."

"Don't you call me names, you are really fat yourself."

"I'm fat but I don't have lardass thinking, thank God."

"I am going to report you for being offensive."

"Why, I'm not calling you a name. I'm just using a word, it doesn't mean anything." My point was made.

She got off the bus, stopping the scooter on her way down the ramp and said, "I really hate you." There was such anger in her voice.

I don't get how people don't get that words hurt. I didn't really mean to upset her to the degree that I did. I just thought that if she heard a hurtful word used in the same way that she used the 'r' word, she might think twice.

It didn't work.

Or maybe it did.

All I can say is that if I see her again on the bus, I'm going to be very, very quiet.

28 comments:

Kate said...

I like it. Good for you for creative thinking and speaking up. I hope she got it. Maybe she will later after thinking about it.

Anonymous said...

Love it! Thank you.

Anonymous said...

A year ago I had a job interview. I noticed on my way in that they employed a gentleman who had Downs Syndrome. During the interview the business owner referred to him as a mongoloid. Although the owner was a Mennonite, I never thought people still used that terrible term. I just about jumped over the desk.

Anonymous said...

"Hate Speech" - really? Using a word in an inappropriate way is hate speech? I am so glad you spoke up but my gut says that term was a bit harsh. And what is "lardass thinking"? You accused her of it for effect - get it - but what is it? Let us hope she isn't on the bus again. And let us hope once past the anger she learned something.

Beth said...

Not mean, I think, because it was to make a point like that, illustrating how the woman's reasoning is lacking even by her own standards. I do hope, though, that she doesn't wholly miss the point and just go with thinking some fat guy on the bus called her a "lard ass" (which you didn't). Strong possibility of that, I guess, but I doubt there's much of a chance of reaching a woman who'd say such things given her intellectually-disabled son in so brief an encounter. Just... by what you relayed, she seems so far from "getting it" that I bet it'd be hard to lead her any much closer in such a short single period of time.

If it's ok, I have a rant:

She said her 15 year old son has "the mind of a six year old"?! No. Just no. Granted, he may well test at some tasks with the ability of the average six year old, but that doesn't mean he has the mind of a child that age. Leaving aside the issue of how testing is inherently unable to measure complexity of thought (inability to accurately perceive the tests and/or control one's responses can get in the way), the teen has nine years more experience than a six year old. Every experience changes the brain and he's had a lot more time to have them than a six year old. And presuming he's been allowed to develop hormonally (I hope), that'd make his mind much different from a six year old. I hope she will come to understand this and that her boy will have some education in both how to keep safe and, well, healthy sexual expression. Whatever she may think, he ain't 6. His body is 15. His brain, part of his body, is 15. His mind, a function of his brain (part of his body), is 15.

I have lots of (acquired) cognitive problems. I've done the neuro-psych thing. My scores fall literally across the entire percentile range. I write all this... and often have more difficulty making choices than your average toddler. When someone meets me and I'm doing something incredibly hard for me (and easy for most everyone else), it's not uncommon for them to talk at me as if I was a small child. I'm not. Even if that was the peak of my ability level, it still wouldn't mean I had "the mind of a child" -- it'd mean I was an adult with significant cognitive disabilities. Similarly, her son is in no way 6; he's a teenager with significant cognitive disabilities. Just because the disability is in the brain doesn't make it affect your age any more than, say, being unable to walk makes one an infant. Ridiculous and harmful proposition!

Becca said...

I truly love you, Dave. This was BRILLIANT!!!!!

shayneswife said...

Dave for president!

Rachel Douglas said...

OMG!!! You crack me up! And yep Anonymous it is Hate Speech. Like the word N***er is....Can't help but make the connection with being on a bus either, lest we forget those kind weren't allowed to ride with lardasses. And it took that moment to teach people that word was a word of Hate.

Anonymous said...

Well, you did that for yourself not for her enlightenment which is perfectly ok and she absolutely deserved it. But she didn't learn anything and you gave her the excuse to disregard what were probably very good arguments leading up to that final exchange by focusing on you calling her an ugly name. And, by the way, can you imagine the abuse she has likely endured every day of her life. That's what she will remember. However, at that point, what the hell, go for broke.

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

Much of the time, really deep learning happens when we are uncomfortable or even hurt. We have to move out of our comfort zones to learn many life lessons. I think that is what you did for that woman. She may hate you for it but I guarantee that she will never forget it. She will think about it. Maybe she will get it.

I think that it took courage and conviction for you to do this. I am sorry for this woman's hurt but I am glad that you did it - possibly, if she eventually gets it, it will save many others hurt.

I agree with you, the word r@tard is hate speech.

Colleen

Anonymous said...

I think you can know that you are doing good work when someone says they really hate you. When people say they really hate you in my experience it means that through your/my actions they have come up against something profoundly difficult and profoundly transformative and you/I have held them there.
A few times in my life people have said something I really hate you and sometimes I really love you. I think it means you have had a real-ationship, albeit for a brief moment or 20 years of partnerhood.
I love this story and Dave you are so strong and brave.

Anonymous said...

When the woman used the word retarded, she was speaking of HERSELF. It was an expression - not a good one, but an expression. When I do something less than stellar, in frustration I may say that I am stupid. I'm not really stupid - just do some not so bright things at times. But is is an expression.

I'm overwhelmed with things, I may say I'm going crazy. Probably not. Just an expression.

Remember - the word retarded just means slow. It is used in baking and music. It is still used medically. To say she used hate language is over dramatic.

If she had called Dave or someone else on the bus retarded - as in "you are so retarded" then it is destructive.

I agree we should speak up - but if you had said that you find that word offensive and explain why in a gentle way - you would have still made your point and not made an enemy. Anger is one of the thickess walls to break down.

Yes - if I, as a white person, called a black person a nig**r, then I am using "hate" language, or at least inappropriate language. But it appears that when a black person calls himself a nig**r - it is ok, accepted, and even laughed at (comics).

If you wish to use the "n" word as an example - you need to put it into perspective.

Again - the woman used the inappropriate language about herself. Following your logic - she hates herself.

EK said...

Anonymous - by your analogy, it is more like a white person calling themselves the n-word to make a (possibly humorous) point that they conform to the worst stereotypes of people inherently associated with that label. And then claiming that it's "just an expression." Reclamatory use of this type of language is quite a bit different.

Hannah Jacobs said...

Dave, I seriously love you. I'm going to post your L#ardass post on my Facebook page targeting hateful speech. Makes me happy to think how much people are going to laugh out loud when they read it.
Thanks for making my day.

AkMom said...

Love!!

Andrea S. said...

I am a bit mixed about this story. I can understand being infuriated at the woman and feeling tempted to provoke her in the same way you were provoked. But I'm not sure I'm convinced that she necessarily came away from this having learned anything.

She *might* have. Because sometimes people do. And I also agree that the process of teaching someone to check their privilege sometimes *requires* making them feel uncomfortable because sometimes that's the only way a person is going to learn. So *if* she is the kind of person who thinks deeply enough and is capable of seeing situations from multiple perspectives, then maybe after she calms down she will come to some uncomfortable conclusions about herself.

The thing is, some people don't want to believe uncomfortable truths about themselves. And that makes them twist situations and experiences all out of recognition so they can retain their ability to perceive the world the way they want to believe it is (I'm a good person, and nothing I do is wrong or mean). So I'm not sure she went away having learned much. So I'm not sure how much was accomplished except for Dave letting off a little steam. Someone who claims her 15 year old child "has the mind" of a 6 year old doesn't sound like someone who has that much nuanced insight to me.

On the other hand, I'm not convinced that a gentle approach would necessarily have done much better. A gentle, tactful approach may do fine if you're doing something like pointing out to an embarrassed 14 year old that they need to start using deodorant more often. But when you're trying to educate a person about why the language they are using is abelist (or racist or homophobic or sexist etc), then there really isn't ANY way you can convey that message "gently" or "tactfully" because many people will interpret ANY hint that their language is inappropriate and hurtful to others as a hostile attack on them. They will READ it as "angry" and "harsh" no matter how you frame it. People who like to claim that they would have listened if only the other person had been nicer forget (or are oblivious to) the ways that tone is not only something that a person conveys, it is ALSO something interpreted by the listener--and if the listener doesn't like the message, they will "hear" the tone as hostile even if it didn't come anywhere close to it.

Pam said...

About having the mind of six year old - that is a very clever and perceptive age; more so than most adults. A few years ago I read a story about a man with an intellectual disability who stayed on the family farm when his parents passed away, and someone described him as having 'the mind of a six year old with fifty years of experience working on the farm' - entirely capable of everything that mattered. Others believed the farm should be sold, with the profit used to pay for his care somewhere 'more appropriate.' They were the ones who could not think their way out of a paper bag.
And, yes, the r-word is hate speech.
I still have some 'words can hurt like a fist' cards to hand out when I am at my most diplomatic. But a few months ago I 'went off' at a couple passing by our grocery store checkstand who had made a hurtful remark about our clerk who had his hair streaked and delightfully stylish clothing. I did not say anything to them when they passed but shook my head and rolled my eyes at the clerk. I wish I had spoken up then.
We happened to pass them a few minutes later and the young woman used the r-word in that same casual manner. I turned around and told her I did not appreciate hearing hate language while we were going along enjoying our perfectly nice day. She said "I'm sor-ry" and laughed with her male companion.
I started yelling at her that it was not a laughing matter, and she told me quite snottily that she had said she was sorry.
I told her "Sorry is not enough! Apologize for real and then say you won't use that word again!"
Her companion said "Let's just get out of here. Ignore her."
I yelled at him "Do you think I can't follow you outside!" And I was ready to do that. But I did not. It dawned on me that my son had just observed me having a total melt-down and I should certainly not go chasing the young couple outside.
Let me say that I am an easy-going and even-tempered person for the most part. My reaction was as much about their remarks about our clerk as about her using the R-word, I think. I was so angry that they had used the R-word to poison the atmosphere! They left and I did not follow them out.
I turned to my son, thinking I should apologize for my uncharacteristic and obviously scary behavior, but he told me I had done a good job and he was proud of me. He really admired me for telling that young woman off. He smiled at me like he knew I had it in me all along.
Ever since, I have thought of all the times when I was somewhat more diplomatic, treating an incident as a learning opportunity for the offensive person when it might have meant more to my son for me to be somewhat more aggressive in my advocacy. The R-word is always hate language to him.

Anonymous said...

Dave - Are the "Words Hit..." cards available for download? If so, could you please provide a link?

Anonymous said...

an alternative script (using a technique called "broken record:"
"I should be used the bus by now, sometimes I'm just so ret#rded."

I immediately said, "I find hate speech offensive."

In all of what she said, including that it didn't mean anything, it's just an expression, she mentioned that she had a 15 year old boy with, and this is a direct quote, "the mind of a six year old." She went on about how she makes sure no one calls him names. She wasn't using the word as a name so it was OK.

"I find hate speech offensive."

But. . . (fill in the blank)

"I find hate speech offensive."

But, But, But . . . fill in any blanks

"I find hate speech offensive." (use until the conversation ends)

the more you explain yourself, the more apt you are to encourage the other person to dig in his/her heels . . .

Works well . . .

Dave Hingsburger said...

Hi, the Words Hit cards can be found at www.vitacls.org I didn't have them with me on the bus ... in all my rides I've never had anyone use disphobic language of any kind. I'd seen it as a safe place. I will carry them with me to work from now on.

Moose said...

Sometimes it takes an example to make an example. But sometimes people just refuse to get it.

People don't like changing their ways, or their beliefs. Yesterday in an online chat, a young man was called a dick for calling another young man "faggy". He was so wrapped up in his feeling insulted for being called a dick he refused to comprehend that 20 people were upset with him for using hateful a hateful word.

Belly (Liz McLennan) said...

Language that demeans is offensive and wrong, period. Sadly, we have all - at some point or another - demeaned and offended someone else with words.

When I started the DSW program at Loyalist last Fall, we spent some time throwing out all the words we know to be offensive...and the more we called out, the more we came up with and the lower I sank, in my chair.

I was horrified to realize how many words I used/use that demean or degrade, whether or not chose them consciously or without thinking. I was horrified further to realize how many of them I said IN FRONT OF MY CHILDREN.

Shame's got nothin' on this Mama, having realized how wrong, wrong, wrong I can be, even when I don't mean to be. Especially when I'm not thinking, which is, somehow, worse.

I blogged about it here (have included the link, I hope that's ok. If you need to remove it, that's ok, too):

http://www.lifewithbellymonster.blogspot.ca/2011/09/words-to-live-by.html

chloefpuff said...

Maybe she'll get it, maybe she won't. I find what you did perfectly fine.

Anonymous said...

Sigh. I don't think the woman learned a thing, because she immediately went on the defensive upon hearing the word "lardass." It's impossible for people to be reflective when their dander is up.

I really like Anonymous' (16 September 2012 12:38) idea of using a "script" and continually answer rebuttals with the same verbage. In this case I would have used the script, "The r-word is offensive; the term 'intellectually disabled' is much better."

Not every moment can or even should be a teachable moment, I suppose. Sometimes, interactions result in nothing but a verbal brawl. And that's pretty much what that was. Name it, own it, move on.

Sue

Ettina said...

"On the other hand, I'm not convinced that a gentle approach would necessarily have done much better. A gentle, tactful approach may do fine if you're doing something like pointing out to an embarrassed 14 year old that they need to start using deodorant more often. But when you're trying to educate a person about why the language they are using is abelist (or racist or homophobic or sexist etc), then there really isn't ANY way you can convey that message "gently" or "tactfully" because many people will interpret ANY hint that their language is inappropriate and hurtful to others as a hostile attack on them. They will READ it as "angry" and "harsh" no matter how you frame it. People who like to claim that they would have listened if only the other person had been nicer forget (or are oblivious to) the ways that tone is not only something that a person conveys, it is ALSO something interpreted by the listener--and if the listener doesn't like the message, they will "hear" the tone as hostile even if it didn't come anywhere close to it."

I think it depends. In this context, when he'd tried a gentler approach and she'd gotten defensive, I think an object lesson was probably warranted. However, in one of my guilds on World of Warcraft, another guild member compained on the guild chat about a non-member he'd had a conflict with and called that guy 'gay'. I said I found it hurtful when people used gay as an insult. He immediately apologized and went on for a bit about how he should have known better and he's got gay friends and they're upset by that kind of thing too. So I know at least some people can take being corrected on discriminatory language gently, and recognize that there was, indeed, a problem with what they said.

L. said...

I get your point, but I imagine that the analogy may not quite work for the woman because there is probably no one out there who ever felt that "lardass" wasn't perjorative (its very construction encodes the slur in the word), but there has been more cultural ambiguity about the r-word, which I think got its start as an attempt at a more neutral term. It's broadly recognized as a slur now, but that's really recent.

But I think your approach was completely understandable and obviously made a strong point. I wonder if it will sink in. I also recall your having been under some stress recently, so you might have been more likely than normal to take a harsher tack on this particular day.

I wonder if the Jay Smooth approach would have worked well in this situation:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0Ti-gkJiXc

Carol said...

This is brilliant!! Really makes the point with out having to argue. After she calms down and thinks about it, she will (finally) understand. Have you run into her again?

I am going to use this in the future! Only problem is finding something insulting to use for people who have no obvious flaw. ;)

Anonymous said...

I can't believe I'm so behind in reading your blog! Hope this comment isn't too late. Reading all of the previous comments, I can see the point that each is trying to make, and they all seem valid. But here is why I think this was a genius response to this woman: Knowing the way that my own mind works, after an interaction like this on the bus, I - as an overweight woman myself - would be angry. And yes, I would feel as though I had been called a name and would be devasted by that. I might even feel hatred toward the speaker, though I would never verbalize it. But the next time that I went to use the "R" word, another word would also run through my mind, "lardass." And I would feel the sort of hurt that went along with that word. That is where the connection would come in for me, and the two words would forever be paired as hurtful in my mind. It would only be a matter of a couple of times of this happening (thinking ret****** and immediately then thinking lardass), before I would lose the word from my vocabulary. I hope this woman gets the drift!