An apology

// 28 March 2012

Tags: , , ,

The word sorry written in vapour in a blue sky

I’m posting on behalf of the whole F-Word bloggers’ collective to apologise for the publication of a guest blog post containing disablist language on Monday. The post, On banter and why it’s for everyone, referred to writers and fans of the website UniLad as “idiots” and “cretins”. The post has now been edited to remove this language.

The words “idiot” and “cretin” are used to insult and oppress learning disabled people, and they were historically used as official medical diagnoses. Using them to describe people who engage in nasty and aggressive behaviour serves only to further that oppression, because it associates learning disability with unacceptable behaviour and with people we disapprove of. This was not the writer’s intention, but we recognise that a lack of intention does not mitigate the harm caused by disablist language.

These “lads” do not use sexist, homophobic, disablist, violent hate speech because their “intelligence” is lower than that deemed normal or acceptable by society, but because they choose to – for a whole range of reasons. Many people would call them “idiots”, because disablist language is sadly in widespread use, but this should not have happened on this site.

We fully accept that we made a mistake on this occasion – both by failing to spot this language and by not responding quickly enough despite being alerted to the issue – and we will take the following steps to try and prevent this from happening again:

Ensure that all members of the blogging collective have a good awareness of disablist language, so we can eradicate it from our own writing and better support guest bloggers in doing so too.

Update our guest bloggers’ guide to better explain what disablist language is and why it is problematic.

Agree on a process for dealing with any posts that fall through the net quickly and effectively. (Please note that we are all volunteers with multiple commitments and therefore will not always be able to deal with issues as quickly as we would like to.)

We are truly sorry for the hurt and harm caused by the inclusion of this language on the site.

Please see the Feminists With Disabilities ableist word profiles on “cretin” and “idiot” for further explanation.

Image by Dave Keeshan, shared under a Creative Commons Licence.

Comments From You

Jo // Posted 28 March 2012 at 5:44 pm

Goodness, thank you for listening – and for responding. Addressing this openly is painful but ultimately the right thing to do.

SC // Posted 29 March 2012 at 5:05 pm

Thanks for the headsup, nice to learn more about being more thoughtful about the words we use. I find myself scratching my head for alternative words; adjectives just don’t cut it when you want a noun. My collection is small as yet: toe rag, ruffian, scallywag. Am I safe to add “fool” to the list or does that too carry unwanted connotations?

Fio // Posted 3 April 2012 at 1:17 pm

I’m probably doing the thing of only commenting with a criticism here and when I first saw this post, I thought it was a good thing. I still do but was also surprised to see this from one of your writers;

Isn’t this insulting to both religious people and people with learning disabilities? I know anyone can make a mistake but I think it goes to show the need for you to ‘Ensure that all members of the blogging collective have a good awareness of disablist language’.

Laura // Posted 4 April 2012 at 11:37 am

Hi Fio,

Kate has written for the blog in the past as a guest blogger, but isn’t a member of the regular blogging collective. Since we have hundreds of different contributors to the site, I don’t think we can be held accountable for what they say and do on other platforms, but we will try to ensure contributors and guest bloggers are better informed about disablist language when they write for the site in future.

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