Monday, 8 March 2010
Step aside sarcasm, you are no longer the lowest form of wit
A few weeks ago I was watching Big Brother’s Big Mouth (I know, I know, for shame!)
Davina McCall was interviewing Vinnie Jones.
A great meeting of minds it was.
At one point Vinnie said to Davina – “you walk like a retard”
Despite Vinnie Jones being unpleasantness personified I was still really shocked.
I was further shocked when Davina, instead of steering them away from this dodgy ground, replied – “I don’t walk like a retard”
Followed up with a funny ‘retard’ walk.
Because ‘retards’ are funny aren’t they?
The audience laughed uproariously and they blithely carried on with the show.
As the sister of someone with a learning difficulty, and as a right thinking human being, I was deeply offended.
I sat there expecting an apology after the first break, or the second break, or the third break...but nothing.
Neither the producer nor the director thought to have a word with Davina in her ear piece and inform her that she and Vinnie Jones had both just used a really unpleasant word in a derogatory and vicious manner.
It took disability organisations several weeks to get an apology from Channel 4, who at first refused to accept that there had been any wrongdoing whatsoever. Adding that it was all part of the fun, quick-fire nature of the show.
Of course - and I realise this is a clichéd observation, but nevertheless - if it had been a racist remark they would have apologised in a nano second.
And not because Channel 4 are a beacon of equality. If racism wasn’t such a headline grabbing, political hot potato they would doubtless ignore complaints about that too.
It is not, and quite rightly so, acceptable to use the words ‘nigger’ or ‘paki’.
But it’s still ok to use the words ‘retard’ or ‘mong’.
Better than ok; positively hilarious.
During my time on the comedy circuit I’ve been appalled at the way Down’s Syndrome in particular, provides stand-up comedians with hours of material.
I’ve even blocked a group of comedians on Twitter who spent an entire morning trying to think of ‘mong’ puns.
And why? What have disabled people done to offend so many people?
Ah yes, that’s right, precisely nothing. They’re just an easy target is all.
Anyway, Channel 4 eventually apologised, albeit half heartedly, and gave the genius excuse that the reason the word ‘retard’ was aired without an apology, was because the production team were ‘tired’.
Well if tiredness equals poor production values then the entire staff at Channel 4 must be permanently knackered.
(Surely they could get some kip during all those Come Dine With Me repeats?...)
Anyway, the point that I’m (finally) getting to - as I’ve covered this ground before - is this.
The word ‘retard’ needs to be made as unacceptable a slur as any racist or homophobic language.
It needs to be classed as hate speech. Just as crimes against the disabled need to be categorised as hate crimes.
So please support this campaign. It’s called The R Word, is supported by MENCAP and the Special Olympics, and is attempting to stamp out the use of the word ‘retard’.
Please visit them at their website, take the pledge and then tell your friends to do the same.
If a word has no positive usage or connotations, and is only ever applied as an insult or a form of mockery, then it has no value.
Anyone who wants to disagree with me, you’ve every right, but I’d be interested to know why you so desperately need to have this word in your vocabulary.
Get an imagination, or failing that a thesaurus.
There are plenty of decent slurs available to you: nincompoop, jackass, wanker, rogue, miscreant, bastard, botheration.
I’m rather fond of ‘twat’ myself.
And as for the freedom of speech argument?
Well, with rights come responsibilities. Just because you can say something, it doesn’t mean you should.