Join 3,557 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Sticks and Stones
October 5, 2004 5:31 AM   Subscribe

What's worse, calling a disabled person brave or a window-licker? It seems it depends on your perspective. Check out the pretty cool blog too. I wonder how this stands up internationally?
posted by DrDoberman (28 comments total)

 
http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&ie=UTF-8&q=crip+community+disabled

Why don't you read up?
posted by kalessin at 5:51 AM on October 5, 2004


"Brave" is offensive? "Handicapped" is offensive? What the heck?

Also, the word "mong" amuses me to no end.
posted by reklaw at 6:23 AM on October 5, 2004


I know why brave is offensive. People use it all patronizing-like. "Oh, he's so brave struggling along like that with withered little legs. Look, he carries his own lunch, isn't he *brave*?" I think I'd get annoyed, too. Handicaped, I dunno.
posted by headspace at 6:36 AM on October 5, 2004


reklaw, i think what is offensive is the patronising way those words are used.
posted by quarsan at 6:39 AM on October 5, 2004


I'm speaking as an invisibly disabled person (as a chronic, serious asthmatic, I'm entitled to various protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act - but it's not obvious that I have this condition unless I'm having a flareup), but who has visibly disabled friends of all kinds, shapes, sizes and levels of ability.

I can say that the reason "brave" is offensive is akin to the way people tend to try to find positive things to say about things they find deeply disturbing and haven't really gone out of their way to self-educate about. When you're on the receiving end of a "brave" comment, it can piss you off. Especially if you don't think of yourself as "brave", but just as someone who gets along given the body you've got. It often comes across as patronizing and feels like an insult.

It's also problematic because of the cultural biases toward giving high praise to people who, "despite great disability, have achieved so much" a la most of the media reports you'll come across about disabled people. The disabled community (which often self-identifies as the "crip community", by the way - see my google link above) often calls people like this "super crips" and stories like this "super crip stories". It's hard to take when you're a parapalegic or a quadrapalegic and you'll very rarely show significant improvement in motor skills, when someone compares you to a super crip and says, "Oh, it'll get better".

A good guideline for dealing with disabled people and trying to be complimentary and trying to be supportive is to be a neutral as possible, to use the fewest loaded words as possible, educate yourself about what words can be loaded, and be present, but don't assume that you know what'll help until that person explicitly tells you what would help.

This applies to getting around, getting things for the person, accessibility issues, and even words. Think about it; some crips depend on words for self-expression. So talk softly, if you're trying to help.
posted by kalessin at 6:40 AM on October 5, 2004


This is awesome! I passed it along to some co-workers.

I wonder how this stands up internationally?
Actually, I wish there were an American equivalent. Most of our national sites dedicated to these issues are pretty dry and boring.
posted by whatnot at 6:58 AM on October 5, 2004


whatnot, look for blogs for less dryness and boringness. Also, I know at least one LJer who runs a sex ed site for crips who has no problem with being dry or boring. I'll see if I can find that URL for you.
posted by kalessin at 7:26 AM on October 5, 2004


Also, the word "mong" amuses me to no end.

I have a daughter with Down Syndrome. For me it's not so funny.
posted by m@ at 7:37 AM on October 5, 2004


Ok, that may not have come across as half-serious as I'd wanted it to. I know that reklaw wasn't making fun of people with Down Syndrome and I wasn't accusing of such.

Sometimes maybe I need to lighten up a bit. My lil 'un is only 4 and I've got her lifetime of crap from other people to look forward to.
posted by m@ at 7:44 AM on October 5, 2004


I'm sad it took 5 posts for someone to call reklaw on the "mong" word as being funny.
posted by agregoli at 7:47 AM on October 5, 2004


not to perpetuate the term, but "windowlicker". WTF? I don't get it.
posted by jmgorman at 7:57 AM on October 5, 2004


I feel that there is a real worry about offending crips (tnx for the vernacular kalessin); not knowing what to say without causing offence can lead to people saying nothing; the safe option. If someone is in a 'chair do you look down on them to speak, crouch next to them, much the same way as when you speak to a child, or do you take the safe option? Is it wrong to reach something off a shop shelf for some in a ‘chair who can't quite get their fingers up to it? The easiest thing to do is not try to help them at all; the safe option.

This, I think is partly why I found this information useful. It is an insight into a different perspective. Personally, I love a varied society and I really want to engage with everyone; but I don't want to offend any crips in the process! Maybe I am not the only non-crip who feels like that.
posted by DrDoberman at 7:58 AM on October 5, 2004


not to perpetuate the term, but "windowlicker". WTF? I don't get it.

Explanation: In the UK it is a fairly common sight to see a mini-bus full of crips being taken to or from their care facility etc. The term seems to come from the belief that they are all drooling and licking at the windows of the minibus.
posted by DrDoberman at 8:02 AM on October 5, 2004


jmgorman, mentally handicapped people with tactile issues will sometimes lick objects. Also those with low muscle tone will frequently have a protruding tongue.
posted by m@ at 8:07 AM on October 5, 2004


Personally, I love a varied society and I really want to engage with everyone; but I don't want to offend any crips in the process! Maybe I am not the only non-crip who feels like that.

You are not, and I wish more of this stuff was common knowledge. We used to have a tips/etiquette section on our website, but it got lost in our recent redesign. Now we just have tips for instructors. But this page has a few etiquette recommendations (scroll down to the bullet points).
posted by whatnot at 8:48 AM on October 5, 2004


this is very interesting, thanks for the link. I wish there was some more explanation on why some of these are offensive, like handicapped. would help some of us better understand so we can avoid similiar situations/words.

and reklaw may be saying that the word itself is amusing. I kinda think it is too as I've never come across it before. rolls off the tongue in an interesting way (well, it actually doesn't roll off the tongue at all, but I think you understand what I'm trying to say). rhymes with pong. not quite song. uh-oh, I think I'm going to playing with this word all day. mong. pong. mong. pong. mah-jong!
posted by evening at 8:50 AM on October 5, 2004


Which is worse? An attempt to communicate that may be condescending due to ignorance? Or, ignoring someone solely because of an obvious handicap?
posted by mischief at 8:58 AM on October 5, 2004


Reklaw and evening, might I suggest Hmong? A visit to Minnesota and/or Wisconsin and you can say "mong' to your heart's content.

Mischief. I was thinking that too. As my daughter grows I'm seeing more and more how people avoid addressing her. Servers in restaurants are a good example though we can't yet blame them. She's 4 but looks like she's 2 so it's usually "and what would she like to have?" but as she grows older I'm expecting that. The standard answer is already on the tip of my tongue "why don't you ask her?"
posted by m@ at 9:42 AM on October 5, 2004


Wait .. this is from the BBC and there is no "joey" on the list . WTF!?
Google search
posted by stuartmm at 9:42 AM on October 5, 2004


The standard answer is already on the tip of my tongue "why don't you ask her?"

How about "I don't know, shall we ask her"? This may be a little less of an in your face answer. It may also help the server to understand what's going on next time the situation arises, rather than perpetuating the divide you are already aware of. Maybe?
posted by DrDoberman at 9:51 AM on October 5, 2004


I am also baffled by the absence of "joey".
posted by influx at 10:07 AM on October 5, 2004


Which is worse? An attempt to communicate that may be condescending due to ignorance? Or, ignoring someone solely because of an obvious handicap?

Being ignored is much worse. I'd rather someone use say something that could be condescending than look right over my head.

Someone asked about helping those with a disability: ask them. If you see someone trying to reach something, lift something, open a door, etc. ask them if they would like help. The worst thing they can do is say no.
posted by SuzySmith at 10:23 AM on October 5, 2004


I thought "brave" was more applied to sick children than people with disabilities: be a child, acquire an illness (especially terminal) and get labelled "brave" (by the popular press, especially).

Also, I was puzzled by 'window-licker' ... until I realised it wasn't as I'd initially read it: 'widow-licker' (I mean, if she's hot ... what's wrong with that?)

'Benny' must have gone the way of the dinosaurs, then.
posted by Blue Stone at 10:28 AM on October 5, 2004


DrDoberman has a good point - that phrasing would certainly help me, if I was someone who didn't know what level your daughter is at - it seems that if asked a child something like that the possible response from the parent could be harsh as well, like, "she doesn't understand that," etc. Erring on the side of caution is many people's goal, especially in a restaurant situation - gotta get that tip!
posted by agregoli at 10:32 AM on October 5, 2004


Especially if you don't think of yourself as "brave", but just as someone who gets along given the body you've got.

A disabled person of my acquaintance finds brave annoying specifically because of the expectation by some that she should climb Everest or write a bestseller or something to prove how "un-crippled" she is.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:45 AM on October 5, 2004


A disabled person of my acquaintance finds brave annoying specifically because of the expectation by some that she should climb Everest or write a bestseller or something to prove how "un-crippled" she is.

Exactly. There's the supercrip thing again.
posted by kalessin at 11:06 AM on October 5, 2004


*glances around furtively, licks window*
posted by quonsar at 12:51 PM on October 5, 2004


windowlicker
posted by Kwantsar at 5:38 PM on October 5, 2004


« Older News Room [Oct. 4] From Germany, many Germans stil...  |  The U.S. Air Force is quietly ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments