After the debate, Anne Coulter took to twitter to degrade president Obama and in the process was disableist.

People living with disabilities (PWD) have worked very hard to make it clear that the word retard is offensive because it is disableist.  Essentially, to use the word “retard” in this fashion is to take someone’s life and use it as a pejorative to attack neurologically typical people.  Even when confronted with the problematic nature of her chosen language, Ann Coulter — being Ann Coulter — decided to double down on her bigotry by saying, “the only people who will be offended are too retarded to understand it.” Ann Coulter has built a career by touting the indefensible and by being as offensive as she possibly can be, so it’s not hard to understand why when pressed on the offensiveness of her speech, Coulter decided to up the ante.

There will be some people who will look at her tweet and say that it is irrelevant because of the source, but PWD cannot afford to take this stance.  John Franklin, who is a disabled Olympian, penned the following response to Coulter’s tweet.

After I saw your tweet, I realized you just wanted to belittle the President by linking him to people like me.  You assumed that people would understand and accept that being linked to someone like me is an insult and you assumed you could get away with it and still appear on TV.

I have to wonder if you considered other hateful words but recoiled from the backlash.Well, Ms. Coulter, you, and society, need to learn that being compared to people like me should be considered a badge of honor.

No one overcomes more than we do and still loves life so much.

Come join us someday at Special Olympics.  See if you can walk away with your heart unchanged.

I fall into the category of believing that Coulter does not have a heart.  Whether she truly believes all of the vile things she is on record as saying, or simply does it as a shtick to make a profit, it’s quite clear that as far as historically marginalized people are concerned, Coulter has a vested interest in insuring our continued oppression.

It was heartwarming to see that many people spoke out about Coulter’s choice to use the word retard pejoratively but it got me thinking about the everyday acts of disableism that have become so normalised in our culture. As a disabled woman, they are readily apparent to me because I have to negotiate them. I am well aware that the able-bodied sometimes have no idea of exactly how offensive their choice of language is, because there is no national conversation built around disrupting or eradicating disableist language, with the exception of the word “retard.”

The truth of the matter is that the word retard is not only ubiquitous, but there are plenty of other words in our discourse.  On a daily basis, language is peppered with the pejorative use of the words lamecrazymoron,idiotspecial, to name a few.  Little thought is given to how it affects us, dehumanizes us and others us. They’re just words right? No one means to be offensive right? The thing is, there is no shortage of adjectives in the English language which aren’t offensive and still yet these words are still spoken and PWD are silenced when we raise any opposition or erased altogether. Intent does not mean that harm has not been done.  I have a physical disability, and every time the word lame is uttered, it reminds me that my body is viewed as deficient and that I am perceived as less than.

The cynical part of me wonders how many people were actually upset that Anne Coulter used the word “retard” and how many people just saw this as an opportunity to attack one of Fox news’ bigoted talking heads?  The ease at which disableist language is used makes me believe the former.  The word “retard” is far from the only disableist word in common usage but you wouldn’t think that given the silence surrounding the various ways in which the able-bodied attack PWD. If Anne Coulter is guilty of being disableist, so are many people on both sides of the political spectrum.  Why aren’t we talking about that?  Why aren’t we having a discussion about how disableist language perpetuates the idea that PWD are “other” and that it leads to poverty and discrimination?  I highly suspect that if we were to get honest about disableist language that it would convict many. People would rather live the paternalistic lie that they are kind to PWD and that they don’t see us as an inconvenience, than challenging privilege. It is far easier to embrace power, than to realise that social power comes at the cost of those who are marginalized in some way.

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  • Jae Bee

    Although I agree that Ann’s usage of the word was deplorable, and was certainly used as a slur, I do have to note that the term “retard” is still used in clinical settings. Of course the person wouldn’t be called a “retard”, but they would still be diagnosed as having mental retardation/being mentally retarded.

    • SpkKay

      I am not sure which clinical setting you are referring to, but as a speech-language pathologist who works with people with special needs, the new terminology is INTELLECTUALLY DISABLED or INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY. Mental Retardation, Retarded, and anything else that is remotely similar and/or just as offensive has been removed due to regulations.

  • ANN COULTER has a Imparied bias Jim-crow mind and views to make such a Bigot statement to say or try and classify the Commander and Chief Obama as a Retard this got to be the biggest joke in 2012. maybe she use to ride the short school bus to school and got a flashback when she heard the pres is close to 4 more years. i futher say ms Coulter must be ” Special’ herself to make such a false statement in judgement about the president where is the respect from these people. This President is a STELLAR a hero

  • YiaYia

    Somebody kick her in her throat, please…

  • Val

    Two things. First, I am pleased that someone stood up for those that are intellectually challenged. That’s a good thing.

    Secondly, Ann Coulter is a media whore. She will say anything to get attention. So it would be great if the media just ignored her. If the media did ignore her she might actually go away. And that would be a great thing.

  • Ann coulter is a troll

    • KJ Hardwick

      That’s an insult to trolls universally…ig’nant IS as ig’nant does…ignorance is NOT the same as being mentally disabled tho’.