Friday, July 19, 2013

Let's talk about sex baby

It isn't all about sex, mind, just the general sentiment that we should talk about things.  Acknowledging realities instead of ignoring them is critical even when talking about them is challenging.  This is true of any social issue from homophobia to healthcare.  The only way for everyone to have some kind of understanding of a topic is to discuss it openly using proper terminology.  I watched a really interesting little video today talking about how when people are presented with a game similar to the old board game Guess Who? using real people and including minorities they shy away from talking about race.  That is, they ask things like "Is the person you chose a woman?" or "Is the person you chose wearing a hat?" but try very hard to avoid questions like "Is the person you chose white?"  The key is that people who avoided using racial terms did so to avoid the appearance of racism but ended up being viewed as *more* racist rather than less.  People can tell when someone won't address race and they don't think well of it.

Also, wow Guess Who? is an artifact.  Roughly 30 people designed to be very different in appearance and yet everybody is white.  And I never even saw that until now.

The same sort of thing applies to homosexuality.  When someone is comfortable using the term and is willing to refer to people as gay or straight (or bi, or queer, or whatever label they like) people naturally assume they are less biased than someone who wiggles about trying to say "those people" or other such wishywashyness.  Gay rights and acceptance requires that people be comfortable talking about it and accepting that is it normal.  Being cognizant of the standard labels and using them easily is a small but necessary first step.

This is true regardless of your minority group type or name.  Poly, trans, gay, black, female, mentally challenged, or any other group that has specific difficulties being accepted all start the path towards acceptance by getting everyone to understand the terms and use them.  The trick is that we don't get anywhere by simply pretending there isn't a problem and refusing to acknowledge what is in front of our eyes.  We all know we can see racial differences and that we are not colourblind even when we try to be.  We cannot solve racial issues by deciding to ignore race and burying our collective heads in the sand doesn't work for any other marginalized group either.

It all begins with saying "This is a group of people.  These are the labels they use.  This is what those labels mean.  This is how we use those labels."  There is much to do after that certainly but this is where it has to start.


  1. And speaking of which labels they use, it would be "people with developmental disabilities."

  2. I actually read about what to call people with developmental disabilities / mentally challenged and the distinction was made that some people have mental challenges that aren't developmental in nature - accidents, disease, etc. It was suggested that mentally challenged was a better umbrella term if you are referring to those sorts of people. I tended to agree, though your term seems better when referring to that specific subset.

  3. Well, there are various mental health disabilities out there. These days, though, people always says, "people with" rather than identifying disabilities and people. In fact, we're even saying "people with blindness" rather than "blind people."

    In the end the whole idea of finding new language because the old language has been co-opted as offensive is somewhat fruitless. I'm sure that a few years from now children on the school yard will say: "What are you? A person with a developmental disability?"