Neurotypical word usage and semantics a.k.a. NO MORE ISMS

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Niacin
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06 Mar 2024, 7:03 am

Poor semantic choice coming from mainstream neurotypical word usage generates confusionary discourse.

Think about the mainstream words "ableism" and "sexism" and how they are used in many different ways causing arguments and talking past one another that wouldn't normally happen if we used longer but more precise arrays of terminology, such as social exclusion based on ability, hatred based on ability, discrimination based on ability, prejudicial beliefs, postjudicial beliefs, and so on. Slightly more creative word usage goes a long way for clarity.

Let's take the definition of ABLEISM (straight from wikipedia, but it doesn't really matter which definition you get, they are all similarly badly worded)

"A set of beliefs OR practices THAT devalue AND discriminate against people with 1) physical, 2) intellectual, OR 3) psychiatric disabilities AND OFTEN RESTS on the assumption that disabled people need to be ‘fixed’ in one form another"

Do you see the problem inherent with this?

I understand part of the appeal of these words is to have them be as inclusionary of emotionally-unappealing "things" related to one topic ("ability", "race") and to have them be as vague as possible in order to be able to root out "antis" quickly, which is effective in cancel culture and moral-grandstanding against perceived evils, but it is not conducive to effective discourse and actively obfuscates the truth. Just because someone has a belief in something, doesn't mean they will practice it, for example. This concept ALONE throws a wrench in every one of these badly worded "definitions", and really "a definition" literally means "1" not many different criteria cobbled together no matter how reasonably they may sound to correlate.

These -ism words are so vague that all of us who care about having good discourse should strive to use more precise terminology. This does not only happen to -ism words, but they are one of the biggest offenders against productive discourse.

The exact same problem appears when we talk about "male" or "man" and "female" or "woman" as these can refer to EITHER gender expression or biological sex. On top of that, gender and sex are used as synonyms.

Hence, a statement like "there are only 2 genders" makes sense if interpreted as "there are only 2 biologically reproductively able sexes" but makes no sense if taken literally as "there are only 2 gender (expressions)". Likewise, talking about a "male" or "female" without expressing whether that is the gender or the sex creates confusion.

Poor semantic usage creates confusion in the head and we need clarity.
Just wanted to get this off my chest. Feel free to share your thoughts below.



belijojo
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06 Mar 2024, 7:22 am

The op mentioned the problem of the abuse of the word -ism, and it does exist.
It seems to be popular to use a few simple words to represent one's complex position on certain issues.

It has the advantage of allowing more people to participate in the discussion. It is convenient for non-professionals to express and discuss.

The disadvantage is that it is impossible to discuss the problem in depth.It's like you can't enjoy 4K video on a low-resolution screen.

So whether to use these words or not depends on the vocabulary Level of education of the discussant.I would love to be able to express ideas precisely in academic terms, but until then, -ism is acceptable.


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Cornflake
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06 Mar 2024, 7:22 am

Niacin wrote:
Let's take the definition of ABLEISM (straight from wikipedia, but it doesn't really matter which definition you get, they are all similarly badly worded)

"A set of beliefs OR practices THAT devalue AND discriminate against people with 1) physical, 2) intellectual, OR 3) psychiatric disabilities AND OFTEN RESTS on the assumption that disabled people need to be ‘fixed’ in one form another"

Do you see the problem inherent with this?
Nope.

I parse it as "ABLEISM is a set of [activities] that [generates negative action] against [people with a range of conditions] and often rests on [negative assumptions]".

What'd I miss? :chin:


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DuckHairback
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06 Mar 2024, 8:24 am

belijojo wrote:
It seems to be popular to use a few simple words to represent one's complex position on certain issues.


Any word is a representation of something else and is necessarily a simplification otherwise it would be the thing itself.

"Dog" is a simple word that can mean any number of things to any number of people. Do you mean a doberman? Or a terrier? A white dog? A brown dog? A puppy? A geriatric dog? That doesn't mean we can't talk about, for example, dog behaviours or dog attacks or dog food because the word doesn't contain specific enough meaning.

People who want to argue about the definition of 'isms' are, in my opinion, being disingenuous. The definitions are clear enough. What they tend to be objecting to is that some of their beliefs or behaviours fall within the accepted definitions and that makes them uncomfortable, usually because they're increasingly getting called on it. Rather than ask themselves difficult questions, they want to talk about the definition to see if it can be re-routed around them. Of course, this is done under the perfectly reasonable guise of wanting a more precise discourse.

The definition of Ableism as provided seems to me perfectly adequate as a guide to identifying something as ableist. You can debate an instance of ableism, of course, that's right and proper. However using the flexibility of the language to undermine the legitimacy of the concept being described suggests an ulterior motive to me, whether the person doing that is aware of it or not.


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TwilightPrincess
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06 Mar 2024, 8:42 am

I don’t see language usage as NT or ND. It’s just human language. If autistics use it, then it’s not solely “neurotypical word usage.” Not all autistics use language in the same way. We often tend to think that the way we talk is representative of autistics in general when that’s not the case. There’s a lot of diversity in the neurodiverse community. On WP, people can use whatever words they like and deem appropriate as long as they aren’t breaking the rules in some way.

In any event, I think of “sexism” * as an umbrella term for sexist beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. Using the word “sexism” to describe those behaviors rather than more precise terminology would not be inaccurate or an example of “poor semantic usage” although I think it’s important to point out that people on WP and elsewhere have different levels of ability when it comes to language. Not everyone is familiar with words like obfuscates, prejudicial, exclusionary, othering, generalizations, mansplaining, etc. I don’t think we need to be tedious in how we use language on WP. If people don’t understand what we mean, they can ask for more information and we can have a discussion about it, but most often, it doesn’t seem to be a problem.

* noun: sexism
  prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex.
  "sexism in language is an offensive reminder of the way the culture sees women"

I agree with this perspective:

DuckHairback wrote:
People who want to argue about the definition of 'isms' are, in my opinion, being disingenuous. The definitions are clear enough. What they tend to be objecting to is that some of their beliefs or behaviours fall within the accepted definitions and that makes them uncomfortable, usually because they're increasingly getting called on it. Rather than ask themselves difficult questions, they want to talk about the definition to see if it can be re-routed around them. Of course, this is done under the perfectly reasonable guise of wanting a more precise discourse.

The definition of Ableism as provided seems to me perfectly adequate as a guide to identifying something as ableist. You can debate an instance of ableism, of course, that's right and proper. However using the flexibility of the language to undermine the legitimacy of the concept being described suggests an ulterior motive to me, whether the person doing that is aware of it or not.


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