I don’t know how well I am going to manage to write this post. It’s a topic I really want to write about and I increasingly find I have strong feelings about, but I doubt my ability to express myself in a clear and logical way. So this is just going to be my best try, and I suspect there is a good chance I will re-visit bits of this in the future.
It all started with the word “stupid.” With how I saw people using it. With how is always seemed to equate to “bad” and “wrong” and “personal failure.” It’s about the situations in which we use that word that way, and the overall trend associated with it.
So basically, let’s say you see someone who does not know a thing that you know. You think this thing that you know and they do not is incredibly obvious and there is no reason for a person to not know this thing – almost certainly ignoring the fact that at some point in your past you did not know that thing either.
So you respond with scorn. You sneer, you call the person who does not know that thing “stupid,” and when you say “stupid” you also mean bad, and wrong, and less than you. You get to feel superior than that person, while also feeling angry with them for not knowing the thing.
Now, I say “you” here because honestly, you almost certainly do this. I don’t think I have ever met a person who does not do this. I am ashamed to admit that I do this, though I am trying very hard to stop.
I see it regularly, with group A sneering at group B, because group B has yet to figure out that The Onion is satire. Or that DHMO is actually water. Or that whatever the latest hoax is, is a hoax. Nor is it just about who knows what. Someone enjoys a thing that you do not enjoy? Sneer at them and call them stupid! Someone cares about a thing that you do not care about? Sneer at them and call them stupid! Someone is interested by something that does not interest you? Sneer at them and call them stupid!
Years ago, a friend of mine sneered at me because I still sleep with stuffed animals in my bed. Apparently that is only for children, and adults who sleep with stuffed animals are bad and wrong and deserve to be looked down upon, even by their friends.
More recently, I saw a thread with a bunch of autistic people sneering at all the interest people had in That Dress, calling everyone stupid and vapid and bad and wrong because it was generating so much attention. I tried to speak up in favor of That Dress, because I find perception and brains and eyes and processing and such a vivid example of how people can look at the same thing but perceive it completely differently to be incredibly fascinating! Everyone ignored me, clearly preferring to sneer and judge people who were interested in a thing they did not care about.
It should be noted that this trend is used against autistic people all the time. It is very common for autistic people to have interested that are considered “not age appropriate” and I am no exception. And like that friend from years ago who sneered at me for having stuffed animals in my bed, people look down on us for it. People call us stupid when we are confused by social situations, and it is understand that stupid also means bad.
And then autistic people do it right back. I see it regularly, and I have not always managed to refrain myself. Sneering at other people’s interest in pop culture, or fashion, or parties, or whatever else. Or at people missing details we find easy to see.
And it’s not just about people looking for ways to feel superior to others based on petty differences. It’s also about the word “stupid” and how it always seems to mean bad or wrong or lesser. That’s an awful way to use the word stupid, it really is. I know people who have various sorts of learning disabilities, who find certain things challenging that other people may find easy. This does not make them bad in any way! I also know people who really are less intelligent than your average individual, who are more susceptible to scams and hoaxes, and they are sweet and lovely people!
Yet we live in a victim-blaming society, where anyone who is “stupid” enough to fall for a hoax or scam or whatever else must deserve it. Apparently we believe that people are capable of choosing their intellectual capacity, and I guess anyone who chooses to be “stupid” is a bad person.
The point is, we really need to quit doing all this mess. No more sneering at people whose only crime is to be different from us. No more using the word “stupid” to mean bad. No more looking down on people who are less smart than you in some area.
Maybe we can be more like that instead.