Do you know what really hacks me off, pisses me off, fucks me off so badly that it makes me want to punch someone in the face?
The phrase: ‘It’s Political Correctness gone mad.’
I come across it time and time again whenever someone is called out for using offensive ableist slurs like ‘mong’, ‘retard’, ‘window-licker’, and others. Rarely is there an apology or admission of a mistake made, just the petulant whine ‘You can’t say anything these days, it’s Political correctness gone mad’.
Political Correctness is simply a handy title for the concept of having respect for your fellow man.
No doubt you expect that other people will automatically show respect to you, and you’d be offended if they didn’t. Well then, you need to show that same respect to other people. Treat others as you would want them to treat you.
Show some respect for other people — don’t use language that demeans or dehumanises others, or slang words, like the ones above, that started out as derogatory terms for disabled people. If you do so inadvertantly, please apologise and admit your mistake: we all make them from time to time, and they can be a vlauable learning experience.
Have some respect for yourself, and some pride — don’t parade your ignorance and pitiful vocabulary in public. Learn better, kinder words — they speak for your character in the eyes (and ears) of the world.
I know, I’m preaching again, and nobody wants to hear that. But I’m not going to stop, because I believe I’m right, and when I’m right I won’t shut up just for the sake of being liked, of being thought nice. All the niceness in the world won’t do any good if it makes us ignore the bad things.
There’s a page on Facebook that calls itself ‘Positive Parenting: Toddlers and Beyond that has repeatedly used the word ‘spaz’ in its posts, despite many previous complaints about its use, none of which it has made any attempt to address. It has a lot of followers and looks ‘professional’. I won’t post a link to it, I don’t want to drive any traffic to the page if I can avoid it.
Positive Parenting, my arse! Such high-handed disregard for others flies in the face of everything Positive Parenting stands for. Anyone with an attitude like that couldn’t Positively Parent a cockroach, never mind a child.
But it’s only a word, they don’t mean anything by it, they aren’t talking about a disabled person, sticks and stones and all that … honestly, you can’t say anything these days without someone getting offended, it’s Political Correctness gone mad …
NO! If you’ve offended someone the problem lies with YOU for giving offensive, not with them for being the one offended against. And it doesn’t just cause offence, it causes actual harm. Because when you do this, even casually, or in jest, even if it is not aimed directly at a disabled person, you degrade disabled people by turning them into a living insult, a by-word for something inherently despicable or disgusting. This, in turn contributes to, and perpetuates, the negative perceptions of disability in society, and, by a slow, continuous drip-feed effect, leads to disabled people being viewed as something other than human, as ‘less than’, ‘invalid’, and so gradually they are disregarded and ignored, their needs a mystery that the majority population thinks it need not concern itself with. And this, again, by slow, eroding drips, leads to poor public planning, to a lack of services, and accessible buildings and facilities. Ultimately, this leads some in society, who pride themselves on being intellectually superior, rational, scientific beings, to assert that these pitiful sub-humans (as they view them) would be better off dead, and they should, therefore, be subject to eugenic abortion and/or euthanasia.
There is, of course, another word for the targetted extermination of groups of people based on a shared characteristic, but the intellectuals, the influencers, and the policy-makers never use it, because it carries a much more negative connotation than the rational-and-scientific sounding term ‘eugenics’. It is a term associated with criminality and evil: Genocide.
You see, words DO matter.
I’m going to say this very quietly, otherwise I may come under a hail of heavy missiles from my fellow parents …
We didn’t get up until ten o’clock this morning.
We (that is, Daddy and me) went to a wedding reception last night, leaving Freddie in the care of his big brother and sister, who are almost 21 and 18 respectively. They are both perfectly capable, and legally old enough, to look after him, and he is happy and confident in their care. In fact, big sister got him tucked up in bed and asleep before we left the house. We had a very pleasant evening; I danced for a whole ten minutes before my knees began to complain (with somebody young enough to be my son, but unfortunately Daddy didn’t notice – he was too busy with his duties as an elder, advising the Groom that he must now knock out a couple of kids as soon as possible, because to carry on living a carefree existence now that he has joined the ranks of married men simply wouldn’t be fair to all the others). We got home just after eleven, bearing milk and bread we had picked up on the way back (marital responsibility is never really very far away).
Freddie woke up at about 7.30. this morning. I made sure his stool and toilet seat were in place, fetched him a drink while he went to the loo, then got back into bed. He came in for a snuggle, and then amused himself quite happily while we snoozed (whether or not we will be happy with the way he chose to amuse himself remains to be seen, however — we’ve come down to find faces drawn on lampshades before …)
In our house we are close to declaring Christmas a Festival of Hibernation. Daddy usually has the whole week off work, but you won’t find us taking rictus-grinned selfies of ourselves engaging in regulation ‘Quality Family Time’, festively hurling missiles of compacted ice at each other in the local park (though it is much more tempting to visit when you can’t see the dog poo for the snow): or savouring the luxury of a crowded restaurant where your drinks come diluted with waitresses’ tears, because the kitchens can’t get the orders out fast enough: or enjoying the pay-through-the-nose priviledge of listening to a hundred or so other kids screaming and tantrumming at the Panto, while Freddie looks on, clearly mystified, perhaps wondering in his head if that’s how people are supposed to behave when they’re in a theatre. I know, I know, you shouldn’t complain about other people’s children, after all, kids will be kids, and they’re only young, and so on … unless it’s obvious that your child has a disability of some kind: then everyone and anyone has the perfect right to complain about your child, loudly, in your hearing, or even in your face, apparently. I say ‘apparently’ because I know many, many parents who have experienced this, but I never have myself. This is not because I am especially competant or especially blessed in some way, but more likely because I have been cursed with a case of Resting Bitch Face so bad it would make Medusa jealous. Nobody who didn’t have an active death-wish would bloody dare. Maybe this face is a blessing after all.
It’s not that we can’t go out and enjoy Quality Family Time, but because, at this time of year, we can’t be arsed. We really do just nestle down in the house for a whole week, enjoying the comforts of soft pyjamas, fleecy blankets, hot chocolate, films, books, and FOOD. I wish we could do that right through till March, to be honest. I’m sure I have evolved from some sort of hibernating species.
Actually, there was a small flurry of fully-dressed activity on Boxing Day (was that Tuesday?). Daddy put on his DIY clothes and built a Lego Triceratops with Freddie (well, you can never be quite sure how these things are going to turn out – even the most innocuous craft-type activity with children can easily result in the need to repaint walls). Lego seems to be very good for promoting the development of fine motor skills and concentration. In my day, though, we didn’t have all these fancy sets designed to build something specific, you just got a big tub of assorted components that required you to use your imagination to decide what you wanted to build. And, very often, even more imagination to see the resemblence of the finished model to the thing you intended it to be. I love Lego. there’s bound to be someone out there with an objection to Lego, but I love it. I think we should do more Lego with Freddie, especially through the winter months: living just a couple of miles away from an area knkwn as ‘The Marsh’ it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to use the basketball set before May, although I could probably run a profitable side-line in illicit mud-wrestling contests — you know, like underground bare-knuckle fights, but with swimwear and no skull fractures. I’m sure my neighbours wouldn’t object (especially if I gave them a discount).
This Christmas has been marked by a noticeable absence of plastic tat. Freddie has received mostly books (non-fiction, about animals), Lego (plastic, but not tat), and die-cast vehicles (also not tat, Cars 3 merchandise – therefore mainstream-interest, and yes, he has seen the film, at the cinema, with other kids). I stand by my unconventional choice of lamb for Christmas dinner, because all the leftovers have been eaten – very finely chopped the remaining meat made a tasty Shepherd’s Pie, something Freddie will eat till the cows come home (but obviously not till the sheep come home, because they’re not going to be coming home, are they…)
I know what you’re thinking: this is supposed to be a blog about Down’s Syndrome, and I haven’t mentioned it once.
That’s how little it has impacted on our day-to-day lives this Christmas. It’s true he has been on antibiotics for a skin infection, to which he is prone: but this is a far cry away from the promises the doctors made when he was born – that we would spend every Christmas at his bedside in hospital while he battled dire chest infections. Touch wood, he hasn’t yet been an inpatient since he was six weeks old. We’ve had only one major outbreak of stubborn non-compliance, when I forgot to warn him in advance that half-way through the morning he would have to stop playing, put on his coat and get in the car so Daddy could drop me off at the dentist, but that was my own fault for not following procedure.
Oh, and I was inordinately pleased to see actor Daniel Laurie appearing again in Call The Midwife on Christmas Day.
Footnote: a few days before Christmas my daughter announced that she had read that Brussels Sprouts are now being selectively bred to taste sweeter. This is not good. I like the distictive taste of sprouts, the fact that if you put a sprout in your mouth blindfold, you will know without question that it is a sprout and not anything else. Why should everything be made to taste sweet? Why do some people want the world to be forced into some endless parade of bland, homogenised conformity?
I must apologise profusely to everyone whose comments have gone unanswered, and whose blogs have gone unread and uncommented upon, over the last couple of months. The browser on my ancient laptop crashed and refused to work, and the phone I am currently using will not support the WordPress app. Technology is great, when it works. I’ve been active mainly on The Odd Sock Diary’s Facebook page. Limited function has been restored to the laptop by my eldest, who is home from uni for Christmas, but he advises me that, as there is no tech support available for steam-powered devices like mine any more, I can expect it to become terminal very soon.
Would this be a good moment to wave our Facebook page about and ask you to join us there, too?
I’ve had a bit of a blogging hiatus lately, largely due to setting aside November to take part in NaNoWriMo, (and partly due to breaking my phone and being unable to run the WordPress app or access photos).
Well, November’s over. We welcomed in December in true Alpha Mummy fashion with a wooden Advent chest, filled not just with chocolates, but also with handwritten rhymes and jokes of my own invention.
On the Friday night we made some special Christmas memories by curling up together in Freddie’s bed and watching The Snowman.
On the first Saturday of the month we went to a Christmas Tree Farm to personally select the most perfectly shaped tree while it was still growing in the ground.
On the Sunday we took Freddie to play cricket, and then went swimming.
During the second weekend of December I took this Alpha Mummy lark to the next level and went for a weekend away with the girls: shopping in Wilmslow, followed by bottles of bubbly in the hotel, and a delicious meal in a nearby restaurant, where we polished off rather a lot of wine.
OK, OK … So the rhymes in the advent chest haven’t been updated since the last time I used it ten years ago, and they were ever-so-slightly inappropriate then.
Watching The Snowman at story time was a shameless bribe to get Freddie to cooperate with his bath time routine since daddy, who usually does bath time, was out, and big sister wasn’t there to help me either.
The freshly exhumed Christmas tree, though it was a lovely shape, dropped a kilo of mud on my carpet, and is now dropping needles so fast that come actual Christmas it will be nothing more than a collection of bald twigs festooned with baubles.
The cricket and swimming session was specifically for children with disabilities: because I just know that at any regular sporting activity one of the real Alpha Mummies would start bumping her gums about her precious little one being held back by the presence of a kid like my son, and I’m enough of an asshole to call her out on it in front of everyone.
Even the weekend away was a shared adventure in imperfection: breaking down (cars not people), forgotten handbags, eating the wrong thing, and snow.
All of which brings me to the point of this post. I know what my blog is about – it’s an exploration of quality of life and happiness. But what I don’t really know is who my blogging tribe is.
I sit in an uncomfortable gap between being a SEND blogger and a Mummy blogger. I face far fewer challenges than most in the SEND blogging community, to the point where some people don’t believe I’m telling the truth, so a lot of what I write probably isn’t relateable to a lot of other ‘Special Needs’ parents. My child isn’t ‘disabled’ enough for me to fit in here.
On the other hand, he’s too ‘disabled’ for the Mummy bloggers to accept me as one of them. I mean, I can’t possibly be anything like them, can I? I must be different, otherwise what does it say about them and their kids?
Actually I’m not much like a lot of the mummy bloggers out there. I realise that being an expert on my own kids does not make me a parenting expert. Neither do I sit sobbing into my wine at night over how hard motherhood is when little Tarquin won’t eat his greens, or throws a tantrum in public. Such things really are not worth worrying about from my point of view.
So, where DO I fit in?
It’s been a day of wrapping and baking, in preparation for Freddie’s birthday tomorrow. Yes, I’ve got him a ‘proper’ birthday cake from a shop, but I wanted some egg-and-lactose-free ones too, so that mummy could have done cake too. I think I deserve some cake – after all, it was me who did all the hard work on that day nine years ago 😆.
As I was putting the smarties on the cakes (I’ll have to pick mine off), an Amazon parcel arrived addressed to the young man himself! From whom, I do not know. How exciting. Now I can hardly wait until tomorrow to find out what it is.
Should I be feeling guilty that most of his presents are books? This year is the first time he has asked for something other than cake, candles and balloons when asked what he’d like for his birthday – and it was a book.
Freddie still loves anything with big, bold pictures, but the stories in most picture books are perhaps getting too babyish for him. I’d already privately decided that perhaps it was time to invest in some factual books for him – as they often have great illustrations, diagrams, photographs, etc that will catch his eye, and he will learn something about the world while he’s at it. Handily, he has recently become almost obsessed with a book I bought him a couple of years ago – the Nat Geo Little Kids First Big Book of Dinosaurs. It’s aimed at children a little younger than him, but, though Freddie’s sight reading (whole word recognition) age is comparable to that of a typical child his age, his understanding of context and meaning is somewhat behind, so it’s probably just about right. It has a glossary in the back and we’ve already learned three new words – palaeontologist, hypothesis, and extinct; and because he currently wants to read it every night were getting lots of repetition of the meanings (cos I ask him to remind me what it means each time). The book he asked for is another one in the same series. So what if it’s a little young for a 9-year-old? If it piques his interest in a subject, and gives him the basic information, it’s a stepping-stone to the next level. There will be those who will say I am holding him back, that I should be pushing him to be ‘age appropriate’. But Freddie has a developmental delay, so chronological age means very little. I prefer to encourage him to be ‘Freddie appropriate’ and go at a pace that is comfortable for him. I’m not a mum who is desperate for all her kids to become rocket scientists or brain surgeons so she can bask in the reflected glory. I just want them to find happiness and self-esteem in being exactly the people they were born to be. It’s not unusual, when Freddie goes suspiciously quiet, to find that he’s not up to mischief but is,in fact, sitting on his bed looking at a book. So, it seems I may have answered my own question.
Do you think books make a good birthday gift, or are they an absolutely rubbish present?
So, I hear you ask, what’s the big deal about Nadine Dorries’ ‘window-licking trolls’ tweet? Let me explain:
Nadine Dorries wanted to shame the Twitter trolls by insulting them. When we want to shame others by insulting them we use language which suggest something inherently unpleasant or despicable, for instance, we might say ‘You piece of shit!’ Excrement is an unpleasant substance – nobody wants to be compared to that.
But Ms. Dorries chose instead to use a derogatory term for learning disability to shame the ‘trolls’, thereby implying that there is something so inherently unpleasant and despicable about people with learning disabilities that the malevolent individuals we call trolls should feel ashamed at the comparison.
Once again it seems learning disability is the last bastion of safety from which nasty, cowardly and small-minded individuals can fling insults at others without getting themselves into hot water.
But the use of such language is equally as wrong as the use of racist, sexist, or homophobic language, especially when you consider that people with learning disabilities are vulnerable, and may be less able to speak out and have their voices heard.
To invoke learning disability as an insult towards those we despise is dehumanising and demeaning to people who have learning disabilities.
Disability is not (only) a medical issue. Disability, like race, is a civil rights issue. It is a human rights issue. When MPs, and others, use learning disability as a term of insult to shame others, use derogatory language, or to make a cheap joke, they chip away at the humanity of all those people with a learning disability, subtly eroding it in the public perception. This leads not only to poor attitudes, but to poor public policy-making and planning, generated by a lack of understanding. It contributes, drop by drop, to the mindset of the politicians who fail to see disabled people and their families as potential voters, and so ignore our needs; who see disabled people as non-productive, and a drain on the public purse – ‘Eaters’ as the Nazis called them, when advancing their extermination policies.
Nadine Dorries has many constituents who have learning disabilities, and many of them are eligible (and perfectly able) to vote. So are their families. She’s not representing them very well, is she?