Tuesday, May 20, 2008

"Crazy woman says 'what'?"

This is what MM greeted me with yesterday when I went to pick him up from school.

He was laughing all over himself about it and didn't understand why I wasn't. I wasn't laughing at all.

Several weeks ago, however, I would have laughed. I would have thought it was funny. But that was before Blogging Against Disablism Day and, especially, this post.

MM, however, kept on saying it. As six-year-olds will when they have a new joke. So after considerable thought about what I wanted to say to him, I sat him down and said this:

"The word 'crazy' is a mean word for someone who has a mental illness. Mental illnesses are when a person's brain isn't doing what they expect it to, and sometimes they need help for that. Saying, 'crazy woman says what' isn't being mean to the person you're saying it to...it's being mean to people with mental illnesses because you're using a mean word in a mean way. I'm trying not to use mean words. Will you try, too?"

He said, "I didn't know it was a mean word."

I said, "I think you did know, but you were saying it to tease ME, not to make fun of a whole lot of people."


"Well, do you see why I don't think it's a funny joke?"

"Yeah. I won't tell that joke anymore."


kathy a. said...

very good talk, liz. i remember similar ones regarding gay jokes, retarded jokes, etc.

i've been trying to avoid hurtful characterizations myself for a long time. since i work sometimes with mentally ill people -- and friends and family have had mental illnesses -- my kids have grown up with a compassionate viewpoint.

but still, i do use words like "crazy" sometimes -- usually in a self-depracating way [that makes me crazy] or to characterize an idea rather than villanize a person. food for thought.

purple_kangaroo said...

Good response.

Ramblin' Red said...

As a "crazy" woman - (who often does say, 'what?' due to a hearing loss) - thanks for having this conversation with your boy :)