Swan Mothers

Discovering Ourselves through Parenting

Words Matter: Moving from Casual Cruelty to Conscious Kindness

on November 6, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-11-06 at 10.16.42 AMIn a whole wide world of color-related words to choose from, Sephora selected Celebutard as the name of a lipstick hue. I’m sad that we live in a world where people would want to buy something named “Celebutard,” or that marketing/sales thinks they would. We need to consider the effect of “clever” words before we send them into the world.

Before I had children, before I realized one of my children is autistic, I did not think about the misuse of words like retard or spaz. I did not think that saying, “I’m a little OCD,” to refer to my preference for order might be painful to someone listening. I didn’t think saying, “That’s retarded” when I meant, “That doesn’t make sense” was bad. I did not think about the power of words.

Becoming aware makes us kinder people.

I am a first-generation Ukrainian-American.  I grew up in an all-things-Ukrainian community.  We Ukrainians were perpetually deeply offended because most people, if they had heard of Ukraine at all, thought it was the same as Russia. (This has changed since November 2013.) I thought I was so smart because I knew where Ukraine was on a map and knew some Ukrainian history.  I knew not to say “The” Ukraine.

Then, in college, I started discovering what I did not know.  I had never heard of Cambodia and was uncertain of Pakistan and Indonesia’s locations in the world.  I did not know that people my age had, as small children, hidden in self-dug basements while bombs fell or terrorists searched for them.

Oops.  Not as smart as I had thought.

We know what we know.  And we don’t know much more.  None of us knows everything.

We are ourselves, with our own experiences, gifts, and challenges.

But we can learn — by listening to and reading stories of fellow humans.

I have found that it is impossible to hate someone once you know their story.

If you  think it’s okay to casually use the R-word or variations thereof as an insult, please read this post about a beautiful cognitively impaired girl.  Then, read more stories about people (you think are) not like you. Listen. Tell your story.

Another great post on what’s wrong with Celebutard.

Knowing and understanding are bliss.  Ignorance is not.


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