is the word “stupid” ableist? I keep trying to explain to people that it’s a really important word for a really important concept but I can’t seem to put into words WHAT exactly that concept is.
I don’t think “stupid” is an ableist word, and I’ve also been struggling to explain why. At some point I’ll write about that in more detail. I have not yet been able to do so, so this is not that post. But I want to address something else that I see in your question. I think that, to an extent, what you are asking is more along the lines of:
- Everyone is telling me a word I use is a bad word
- I have something to say that I think is important
- I can’t say it without using that word
- And I can’t explain why that word is important
- And people are upset with me
- Is it ok for me to keep using the word anyway, or should I shut up about the thing until I can explain why I need that word?
And my answer here is:
I think that it is almost never a good idea to give up using a word that you feel like you need. I think you should probably keep using that word, unless you are able to find an alternative that still allows you to communicate the concept that is important to you.
Sometimes when people feel overly attached to a bad word because they are attached to expressing the bigotry associated with that word. If you’re worried that might be the case with you, work on addressing that. If that’s the problem, becoming less bigoted will probably make you less inclined to use the word anyway. If you stay bigoted, changing the word you use is unlikely to help.
You can’t avoid this issue by just saying that you don’t mean it that way. It has to actually be true. And, if you’re using a word that a lot of people object to, it’s worth considering whether you’re actually saying something worse than you think you’re saying.
That said, sometimes bigotry or hatred has nothing to do with why you feel like you need a word other people want you to stop saying. Sometimes you feel like you need the word *because you actually do*. Take that possibility seriously; don’t let people pressure you out of communicating. And, as you consider these things, keep in mind the difference between basic morality and personal piety.
There may be worthwhile attempts to move away from certain words that you are not in a position to participate in, because you might not be able to give up those words without damaging your communication. I think that people should use whatever words they need to use in order be able to communicate.
Words matter. But communication matters more. Don’t give up words you depend on to communicate clearly lightly.