Is the R-word okay to say?

“You’re so retarded,” “That’s retarded,” “I can’t believe I forgot that, I’m so retarded,” these are many phrases you hear quite often and has become casual to say. The word “retarded” can be heard everywhere such as social media, on television, and even family members, friends, and celebrities say it. According to, in the U.S, one out of every five individuals has a disability. With that statistic, the R-word should not be used because you do not know who has a disability and the R-word is derogative.

In the 2017 article The R-Word and Reasons to Stop Using It, Terri Mauro writes about the R-word (also known as “retard” or “retarded”) and how it is no longer acceptable. The word retard means to hinder or make something slow. Mental retardation was a medical term to refer to individuals with intellectual disabilities. There were advocates the are beginning to work to change the medical terminology from “mental retardation” to “intellectual disability”. In 2013 the change of the terminology was switched in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-5) and in 2015 in the eleventh edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) it was also replaced with the new terminology. A movement to remove the word from common use started after the use of the R-word in a 2008 movie. The organization Special Olympics started a campaign with the organization R-Word Spread the Word to End the Word, to ask people to sign a pledge to stop using the R-word.

The R-word campaign is important because the word went from medical terminology to a word used to degrade someone and from experience the R-word campaign is big in schools and ad many students sign the pledge. Our society and in the medical fields are changing for the better with the new terminology.

The article “That’s so retarded” written by Louise van den Bergh, talks about use of the word “retard” or “retarded”. The word was to refer to individuals with intellectual disabilities. In the 1980s the word “retard” was accepted in the medical field, however the word became substitutable with other words like “stupid” or “idiot” and soon became an insult or a way to show displeasure. There are some people who use the word “retarded” and say they are not doing it to offend someone with an intellectual disability, that it is just a word and it means nothing. The R-word when used is extremely hurtful to those with intellectual disabilities and to those that love someone with an intellectual disability. Many individuals with intellectual disabilities do not want to be defined by their disability, they want to be respected, accepted and loved for who they are. Using the R-word for displeasing things, people are perpetuating the idea the last you want to be is “retarded”. In 2010 the United States Senate passed the Rosa’s Law, which is a law the replaced the word the R-word with the term intellectual disability in all federal health, education and labor regulations. Rosa’s Law was named after Rosa Marcellino, whose parent campaigned to remove the word from their hometown. No matter your true intentions of using the word it can be damaging to many individuals. Ultimately, using the word “retarded” emphasize the negative stereotypes that individuals with intellectual disabilities already have surrounding them.

The word “retard” has a huge effect on people, I know from experience. My sister who has Down syndrome has the medical diagnosis of “Mild mental retardation” when she was born over twenty years ago and to me that sounds so ugly and so wrong. This word is demeaning to individuals with any type of disability. It is wrong that many people believe it’s just a word.

In the article Why I won’t ban the word “retard”, written by Stacie Lewis, writes about Ellen Seidman who wrote are article on not calling her child a retard with a campaign to end the word and how it is not understandable why the word “retard” is unacceptable. Lewis believes in Freedom of Speech and that you cannot tell people what to say. Lewis believes that people who want to feel good about themselves join campaign and in the end, it does not make a difference. The campaign was a failure before it even started because the word will never die out and people will feel they made a difference when they haven’t succeeded anything. Stacie Lewis does not think the word “retard” is the problem, the problem is the way others treat the disabled and that is worth campaign and fighting for.

Stacie Lewis is wrong in so many ways, campaigning to end the R-word will change the lives of disabled people. It will show individuals with disabilities that they are respected enough to not use a demeaning word that has so much hate in it.

In the article, An Open Letter to People Too Easily Offended By Words, Ali Lerman writes about how “bullying” use to be called teasing and that it made people tougher. Lerman writes about how people have free speech but still get told to not say certain words. Lerman believes that her being an adult, no one should be able to tell her what words she can use and what words she cannot. There is a never-ending list to words that are considers a “no-no word” and every day more words are being added. She believes in the “to each of his own mentality” and that everyone is entitled to their own choice in words. People should grow up and stop being a hypocrite when it comes to what people are saying.

Even though Ali Lerman does not specifically write about the R-word, it goes back to people believing that it is just a word and it does not do any harm when they say it. People like this who believe that with free speech they are used derogative words like the R-word is why the is the Spread the Word to End the Word campaign every year.

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