November 24, 2008

Protecting "Normal"...

Politically correct (PC) speech is interesting to examine. Like I suggested in my first posting, I prefer not to use it about myself. In my opinion, PC speech is irrelevant to my own experience as an epileptic.

A couple of nights ago I attended an Epilepsy Month panel and at the end of the panel discussion there was time for a question and answer period. A young man stood up and began to speak, but the first few words out of his mouth were “I am an epileptic” so one of the panelists stopped him in front of everyone to chide him about his use of the word “epileptic”.

I wasn’t very happy about it. So, it made me think…

What are we really doing with PC language, anyway?  Doesn’t our word-choice reflect on our experience as a disabled person? Don’t we have a right to choose how we will self-identify, without fear of recrimination from anyone? I think so.

A blogger friend of mine insists on employing “language amnesty” toward one another of us involved in a cross-disability dialogue. I think “language amnesty” is a good policy across the board. I think before we decide that an individual’s word-choice for self-identification is wrong or harsh or unacceptable, we need to pause and allow the person the room to express his or her own experience via his term for himself.

I know I spend a lot of time on language issues, but to me, if we cannot effectively communicate, then we have lost all power and all hope of being able to defend our lives as disabled folk. 

3 comments:

rsorrin said...

Hi Paula,

I love the idea of "language amnesty." PC is fine up to a point but it can also get in the way of expressing oneself in a comfortable way.

I am not offended when someone refers to me as an epileptic. There are other "ic" terms out there: psychotic, neurotic, diabetic,etc. I, as a matter of fact, am also diabet"ic."

I don't want people to think of me as an "epileptic" and only then "a person" which is, in a sense, what the suffix "ic" means. I also don't want people to say "Ick!!" when they see my seizures. But I also want people to refer to me in a way they see fit. Its not like they are using a derogatory word.

Thanks for your blog Paula. Its fun to look at when I get to work to see if there's something new I can blab about.

Reeb (or Rob)

FuturePharmer said...

Paula, I am a pharmacy student with E. I was actually researching a paper when I found your site. I agree with you, we should be able to identify ourselves any way we choose. I, however, am a little skiddish about calling myself an epileptic. It is not because I am ashamed, although I used to be. On the contrary, I relish the chance to talk to people about epilepsy now. In general, I refer to my self as a person with E. It's because I am almost ashamed that I do not suffer as much as other people. My seizures are ideally controlled. I take one medication, which I was almost able to come off of. I feel as if I sometimes do not understand what others are going through. I am almost more likely to identify myself to someone without E as I am to a fellow sufferer. We should never critcize a person for their method of self-identification, although somepeople might benifit from a healthy form of identification

GadgetGirl said...

In regards to the young man referring to himself as an epileptic, I am curious. What was he told he should call himself?

I wasn't aware that the term epileptic was not a PC term anymore.