Jen appeared on Regis and Kelly [Thursday] morning when Regis asked her about her recent Harper’s Bazaar photo shoot where she channeled Barbra Streisand.
Regis said, “You’re playing dress up.” Jen replied, “Yes, I play dress up. I do it for a living, like a retard.”
Jen’s unfortunate simile drew a strong reaction from actual retards:
Members of The Arc, a nonprofit advocate for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, are very angry by the comment. CEO Peter Berns released the following statement:
“She is using language that is offensive to a large segment of the population in this country. We estimate that there are probably in excess of 5 million people in the country with intellectual disabilities, and when you think about all of them, their family members and friends, you’re talking about tens of millions of people who find the use of that term to be really offensive. Every time folks hear that word, it kind of reminds them of all the discrimination and oppression they’ve experienced in their lives. Even if it wasn’t intended to insult them, that is the effect of it.”
As apparently the only person in America who has never experienced discrimination and/or oppression — or perhaps I was too retarded to notice it — I find myself without any highly-paid advocates at all, and therefore have to muddle through by myself.
Of course, before there was “retard,” there were, in decreasing order of IQ, “moron,” “imbecile” and “idiot.” These terms, however, are now generally restricted to politicians, television pundits, “nonprofit advocates,” and other folks who for whatever reason cannot, or dare not, escape the prison of their middle-school memories.
There exists no right to go through life without being offended. If there were, we’d have exterminated ourselves centuries ago, trying to defend it. If I learned anything in the Home for the Bewildered — yes, children, I spent time in a mental hospital, please note the utter lack of trauma inherent in that disclosure — it’s that outside influences damage our self-images only when we let them. And if I’d made up my mind to be hurt about something, I’d hope to God it was something more important than a throwaway remark on Regis and Kelly.