On the Word “Stupid”… an Apology


So a couple days ago I got the following comment:

Honestly, this has me a bit worried about your sincerity regarding ethical treatment of others. You come off like a smug hypocrite.

“I love making fun of stupid people.”

According to wikipedia, stupid is ‘a pejorative appellation for human misdeeds, whether purposeful or accidental, due to absence of mental capacity.

You use the phrase many times in this post and in your bio. Frankly, it’s way beyond the realm of a ‘gaffe’, humor, hyperbole, or ironic usage. You actually claim to *enjoy* making fun of stupid people. Did you also enjoy picking on idiots, dumb people, mentally disabled people when you were in school?

You are not referring to regrettable actions (e.g.: ‘deleting that file was stupid.’)
You are not expressing frustration with an object (e.g.: ‘stupid frickin’ door won’t open!’)
You are not referring to a less tangible concept, (e.g.: ‘there are no stupid questions’.)
You are clearly talking about *people* who have reduced mental capacity (e.g. ‘I love making fun of stupid people.’)

Even referring to a person as stupid could be more palatable. (e.g. ‘everybody knows that the world is full of stupid people’… ‘I was being stupid’ etc.) However, your stated intentions are repugnant, and not merely descriptive of a person’s behavior. Simply making fun of a ‘stupid person’ is derogatory and discriminatory.

So could y’all stop being ableist, please?

My response?

Yes. Yes I can.

And I’m sorry.

Now I’m sure some people are simply going to see this as more evidence that I’m a pussy, or brainwashed by the idea of “Political Correctness”…

I’m really sick and fucking tired of people using “Political Correctness” as a cudgel against those of us who actually give a fuck about our fellow human beings.

And don’t give me this “I see human beings as adults; you treat them as special snowflakes who can’t handle themselves” bullshit. Because that’s a lie and you know it. You aren’t treating human beings as adults when you’re more than happy to throw racist, gendered, and ableist slurs around. You’re telling these adults that they aren’t people, and you’re entitled to treating them like a punching bag.

Which you’re not, by the way.

So I’m going to stop using the word “stupid”. I’m not going to call people “stupid”. In fact, I’m going to do my best to stop attacking people all together, and instead focus on their arguments/ideas. Ideas can be idiotic. Ideas can betray a level of ignorance, and sometimes a level of dishonesty. But ad hominems do not advance an arguement… they hinder it.

Calling a person “stupid” is not only an ad hominem attack, but an ableist slur.

So yes, I will stop it.

I’m sorry I ever did it, and I will try my best to never do it again.

Thank you, commenter, for bringing this to my attention, and thank you to those at the A+ forums for giving me the resources to understand why it’s an ableist slur.

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About Nathan Hevenstone

I hate straight, white, cis-gendered, able-bodied men. I also play guitar and sing, and I'm an atheist and anti-theist. What now?
This entry was posted in Atheism+, Feminism, Secularism, Skepticism, Social Justice and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to On the Word “Stupid”… an Apology

  1. Pingback: Evaluating My Language | Atheism, Music, and More…

  2. Thetar says:

    Why you so upset with me, grasshopper? It’s great that you can make wild assertions about me in front of your friends* on PZ’s blog, while I can’t respond.

    * until they turn on you, like what happened to Ellenbeth Wachs and Julian.

    • That shit you said on that blog post? That was beyond uncool. It was quite literally lacking in empathy. My anger is not at your words… if you had posted them on the Thunderdome, I probably would just have ignored them. But you chose to post it on a blog about woman who was raped and then driven to suicide by bullying.

      Of all the threads to complain about the way PZ runs his personal blog, why the fuck did you choose that one?

      That’s why I asked you about when you lost your empathy.

      • Thetar says:

        First of all, PZ’s post wasn’t any sort of official memorial connected to the family or friends of Rehteah Parsons. I wasn’t disrespectful to her circumstances, was only making a comparison between Pharyngula and RR. You’re right though, I should have made my comments in the thunderdome, but by he time I realised my mistake the mighty banhammer wielded by the thin skinned coward had already fallen.

        i have empathy, how you can even question that when you don’t know about my personal circumstances is beyond me. That seems the way with FTB though, take he least charitable view of someone’s comments and fire away.

      • And for the record, I don’t want to be treated with kid gloves persay. I just want to know the contents of things I’m reading, and I want people to treat me as I would treat them; I would respect their boundaries and recognize if and when they might need some warning. I would hope they would extend the same courtesy to me.

      • Thetar says:

        Yes, PZ can run his blog the way he wants to, I have no dispute with that. What I (and many others) have a problem with the way some commenters are treated by the so called horde. The only thing terrifying about them is their collective obnoxiousness in dealing collective mob justice to essentially decent people who may disagree with them about certain issues.

        You are part of that, yet when you are removed from that toxic atmosphere you become a different person, a reasonable person who will listen and hear the other person’s point of view.

        We probably agree on 95% of things, yet these other issues cloud everything. You don’t seem to mind talking about all the shit you’ve gone through, fair enough and I think it’s a good thing for you. A lot of people aren’t like that, such as me, but everyone goes through hard times and tragedies, so I don’t think that is an excuse for Pharyngula members to lay into others just because they don’t like what they said.

      • Thetar, if you really are sorry, I’ll give you another chance and not ban you from posting here. And I’m sorry for questioning you about your empathy, but I hope you can understand where I was coming from.

        PZ handles his blog the way he does because of the people who comment there. You may think it’s “cowardly” to want to be in a safe space. You may think “triggers” are the hallmark of people who can’t get over it…

        I’m a victim of myself. I tried to kill myself 3 times. A joke as simple as “you should jump off a cliff” (made today… and it was meant as a joke, coming from a 4th-grade boy who was making jokes about being a “man”… I know he meant nothing by it) can bring back some pretty dark and fucked up thoughts and put me on edge. As someone who loves to cook/bake/fry/grill, I use knives a lot. I sometimes have to mentally prepare myself to handle those knives.

        And the shit that happened to me is mild… nay, insignificant… compared to what some of those commenters at Pharyngula have been through. They don’t take shit at Pharyngula and I really do think it’s a good thing.

        At one point, in a previous discussion, you put the word victims in scare quotes referring to them. I never called you out for that and I should have. I don’t know if you were questioning them or what, but that isn’t cool. You really need to consider that only you are you, and people do not all handle things like you do.

        No, I don’t know you’re history. I don’t know what you’ve been through in your life, and how you’ve chosen to handle that. What I do know is that the way you handle your past will only ever work for you. It can never work for anybody else but you. And you have to be willing to see that.

        The Pharyngula horde is terrifying… seriously. But they have exposed some dark and festering mold in certain communities that needed to be exposed, and I have a great deal of respect for them for that. Their anger does not come out of a vacuum. I really do think it’s justified.

    • As to EllenBeth, she was never turned on… most of them never knew her. For a lot of them, her posting was a first impression; and she kinda fucked up by calling a man who was quite literally triggering rape and abuse victims “rational and reasonable”.

      That episode shocked me because she is a wonderful Feminist and one of the best voices for Florida atheists and feminists. Her blindspot there is a major surprise for me and I’m still confused by it. Others who are friends with her are having a conversation with her (like PZ Myers himself, who hasn’t “turned on her”) to find out her thought process. I hope it comes to something.

      Ellen maybe didn’t deserve the vitriol, but she also stepped into a hornet’s nest and defended the person who stirred it up. The anger was legitimate.

  3. Good for you, Nathan! 🙂

    Your post prompted me to make my planned donation to your Women in Secularism hotel fund sooner rather than later. Best of luck!

  4. CatLadyJennie says:

    I’ve never been to your blog before, so I don’t know a lot about you, but I just wanted to say that I really appreciate this. You reflected instead of getting defensive. I hope I can do the same when I offend someone. Thanks.

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