I’m experimenting with changing some of the ablest language that I use. I’ve been against the r word for years, but it really isn’t ok to say something is “dumb”, or “stupid” either, and I do it all the time. I’m trying to be better though. I’ve been having a really frustrating week (and it’s only Tuesday) because I’m being really…careless. Things aren’t working out smoothly, and I’ve been making a lot of silly mistakes like filing open files in the closed file catalog at work, and messing up on mandolin. It’s really annoying, and I was very out of sorts tonight when I left my mandolin lesson after being told that I had been playing “Frere Jacques” wrong all week. That was a blow. My instructor told me that I was close, and he patted my shoulder reassuringly, but it was still sad, and I was very blue and whiney for a good hour afterwards. My mom was great about it though, and listened to me for most of that hour before taking charge and making me go vote and then taking me to the co-op for a pomegranate and salad bar dinner. That helped a lot.

We started our cat dissections in lab today. I had never dissected an animal before, and I’m a big cat lover, so I was nervous about it. My professor did a demonstration first, and it was kind of hard to watch. I have a reputation as the “brave” one at my table, but I honestly almost cried when he pulled the cat out of its bag.  A lot of people had a hard time watching the dissection, but I held it together and didn’t embarrass myself. My partner grew up on a farm, and doesn’t actually like animals, so she offered to do the cutting, but I like to take the lead on dissections. I pride myself on my strong stomach and enthusiasm for the class, so I sucked it up. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be once I got started. I figured the cats were probably feral, and so it was humane to euthanize them, but it also probably meant that no one had ever loved them, so I focused a lot of love on my kittie, and tried to be respectful of his sacrifice. I patted him, and made good kittie noises, and made a point of being gentle when I washed him. We even named him Chester (ok, we named him Daisy, and then when we flipped him over we re-named him Chester). He’s a huge cat, and I think he was probably very beautiful when he was alive. It made me kind of sad, but skinning him wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, especially once I got started. We didn’t have enough time to do the full dissection today, but it went well. I honestly would’ve stayed late and done the whole thing, but they wouldn’t let me. We’re going to be working with the cats for the rest of the semester though, so I’ll have plenty of time with Chester still. I’m weirdly attached to him (and yes, I know that I’m talking about a dead cat that I’m cutting up for class. I can’t help it that I form emotional attachments at the drop of a hat), when my TA tried to get me to change groups and give him back I balked (I don’t think she likes me very much- she was very impatient with my request for a not-striped cat. At the same time though, she almost fainted during the demo dissection, so I don’t care about whether or not she likes me). I sort of feel like he should be home with me (except, you know, alive). I know he’s a school assignment, but I like him, and thinking about him as not-dead makes cutting him up less sad. I’m very grateful to him for giving me this opportunity to learn- he’s a good kittie.


About turntowardsthesun

I'm a 23 year old Smith College grad, living in Buffalo, NY, and trying to figure out my life. I love to cook, and craft, and work out, and this blog follows my adventures while I do all of those things and more. Enjoy!

5 responses »

  1. First, petting and talking to a dead cat is extremely creepy. I get that you wanted to honor his sacrifice, and I respect that, but do you talk to chicken when you eat it? Treating it like it’s still alive doesn’t accomplish that, and it doesn’t make the act of killing any less problematic. It is necessary to acknowledge that it is dead, and you are, to some extent, culpable.

    Second, stupidity is not a disability. I agree with you that it’s not okay to use the words “retarded” and “lame” but I don’t think “stupid” and “dumb” fall into that category. Those words generally refer to people who are acting unwisely even though they have the ability or potential to do otherwise, not people who are inherently incapable of behaving intelligently. And what are you going to say instead when you are frustrated with your own or others’ bad judgement? “Foolish”? Why is that better? Or are you going to refrain from commenting on judgement altogether?

  2. Wow. Grumpy.
    1. Meh, maybe kind of creepy. In retrospect, I should’ve named him Patches, like Giles’ dead cat. And I wasn’t petting him because I thought he would enjoy it- I get the whole dead thing, but because it seemed preferable to doing a dead cat puppet show like some people were. It was once a living thing, and I wanted to be respectful. Plus, unlike a cooked piece of chicken, he looks like a cat still, so it just felt natural to pet and talk to him. And I don’t feel bad at all that he’s dead, I said that it’s humane to euthanize feral cats, and I believe that, and I know that it’s important for people to learn by doing dissections.
    2. “Stupid” is used in the same way as “retarded”, even if it technically means something different. “Using ability-descriptors as insults implies that we consider the existence of disabled people to be insulting, demeaning, and less valuable than those who are able-bodied. Ableist words reinforce a culture which places higher value upon the lives of temporarily able-bodied people than it does upon human beings who are disabled or differently-abled.” It offends people, I’m trying to be more aware of the impact my language has. I’m not saying I’ll never say something is stupid again, but I think about this kind of thing, especially because I’m going to work in the medical field, with people from all kinds of backgrounds and with all kinds of experiences, and I want to limit language that might be triggering or offensive.

    • Here’s an analogy: some people find it naturally difficult to be kind. We call them mean, and we criticize them for behaving unkindly – and so we should, because it is bad to be mean. But just because some people are inherently unable to behave kindly, or say interesting things, or exercise good judgement – just because they can’t help it – doesn’t mean that it’s okay to be mean or boring, and it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t criticize people for being mean or boring – especially those who COULD be kind or interesting if they tried harder.

      Now, some people are cognitively disabled, and they are therefore unable to make good decisions or engage in certain intellectual activities. That’s not their fault, and they doubtless compensate by having other good qualities. But the existence of those people doesn’t negate the fact that those who CAN be clever ought to do so, nor the fact that everyone (like Puzzle the donkey) should try to be as clever as they can. It’s entirely reasonable to criticize people for failing to behave cleverly or neglecting to develop their intellects to the best of their ability.

      • Of course it’s fine to criticize people in those situations, I wouldn’t dispute that, and it’s why I was struggling with describing my recent mistakes- because I know I can do better, and was annoyed that I was falling short. The problem is how to do it in a way that isn’t offensive to people who are living up to their full potential, but are simply less capable, and the language that people tend to use is offensive. It has historically been applied to people suffering from disabilities, as well as able-bodied people who are not living up to their potential and so are being compared to those who are less able, which suggests that having a disability makes someone less of a person. I know it’s a slippery slope of political correctness, but that doesn’t mean it’s ok to call someone stupid for working below their abilities. And I don’t know what language is more acceptable, but I’m working on it.

      • You could say “That was rather unwise,” or “You know better than that.” Or “Jim has a tendency to behave foolishly” or “I am frustrated by Jim’s lack of foresight.”

        I checked the OED and it looks like “silly” has historically meant “Weakly, feeble, sickly, ailing” so I guess that’s out.

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