Sticks and stones may break my bones and names will probably hurt meBy Donna Economidis | Oct 24, 12 08:15 AM
A deeply personal post from Premium member Donna.
Growing up, I remember my parents telling me that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” It’s the line they used to wheel out when I’d come home from school after the school bully had been at it again. It was supposed to give me comfort. I suppose it did a little bit, but as I’ve gotten older and now have children of my own who face the same playground taunts I did all the way back then (some things never change!), I think that phrase completely misses the point. Names do hurt us. They hurt us more than we care to admit. And, with an expediential increase in the use of social media name-calling has become easier and even more vicious as faceless online personas display more bravado then they would if they were actually standing in front of the person they are intending to hurt.
There are many names that can hurt people, but I think names hurt more if it is borne of something really personal. Before I had Luca I was guilty of using the words ‘retard’ and ‘spaz’ to describe stupid behaviour on a regular basis. It was part of my vernacular and I didn’t give a second thought to the real meaning behind those words. Everyone I knew used the same terms and they all laughed when those words were used to describe someone else. Even worse, I had a cat for many years whose name was Jasmine or Jazzy for short. I used to call her spazzy Jazzy frequently. I feel physically sick now as I type these words. And yet, at the time those two words meant nothing to me. Now if I hear these words uttered in my presence I recoil in horror. Those two words are like a slap across the face, I often react physically when I hear them; my heart beats faster and I shake. Why? Because my son has an intellectual disability, which means by definition he is retarded. So, to jokingly call someone a retard is to say that my son is an idiot. He isn’t. And it hurts more than anything in this world to have people speak about him in that way. Luca doesn’t have spasticity, but many of our beautiful friends have children than do. Spasticity affects muscle tone and causes painful stiffness and often twisting of the body. It is definitely not funny and it doesn’t make a person stupid.
Many times I’ve challenged people on their use of these words and many times I’ve been told I shouldn’t take it personally, they’re just words and they aren’t directed at me or my son. Wrong! It is personal and it is directed at my son and his little friends because they do suffer from these very disabilities. Every time someone uses either of those words in jest it reinforces society’s attitude toward people with disabilities. It says they are stupid and therefore should be treated as such.
Names will hurt me; they will hurt me a lot. When will we learn to think before we speak? When will the word respect become so ingrained in our culture that we make it a part of the way in which we treat each other?
This short video on the right has been shared a lot via social media of late, but I feel it warrants yet another airing because it’s so good and because it says what I’m saying far more eloquently than I do. Take a moment to watch it, really watch it, and then think about it.
Donna is a Premium member of Business Chicks, request her online business card and connect with her here.
Donna Economidis is the CEO of the LyceumGroup Foundation, a charitable organisation that supports children and adults with disabilities and their families. She is also the proud mother of two young boys, Luca 11, who has cerebral palsy, and Noah seven.