[or other problematic habits] …you should direct your rage at society for telling you that this shit is okay.
I mean really. The problem is not that say, people are telling you to stop calling things “stupid” because it’s ableist, the problem is that society told you it was okay in the first place.
I AGREE WITH THIS SO MUCH.
(And I am totally open to being told I’m wrong, or I haven’t thought about the issue in a nuanced-enough way, here)…
I don’t think ‘stupid’ is ableist in the same way that words like ‘retarded’, ‘lame’, and ‘dumb’ are ableist.
From what I understand of the etymology of the word, stupid (from the word for “stupor”) was not a medical term used to describe/pathologize/oppress people with cognitive/intellectual disabilities. Its opposite, “wise” is a word to describe a type of intelligence based on life experience and general knowledge, NOT ability.
Here’s what you get from etymonline.com:
M.Fr. stupide, from L. stupidus “amazed, confounded,” lit. “struck senseless,” from stupere “be stunned, amazed, confounded,” from PIE *(s)tupe- “hit,” from base *(s)teu- (see steep (adj.)). Native words for this idea include negative compounds with words for “wise” (cf. O.E. unwis, unsnotor, ungleaw), also dol (see dull), and dysig (see dizzy). Stupid retained its association with stupor and its overtones of “stunned by surprise, grief, etc.” into mid-18c. The difference between stupid and the less opprobrious foolish roughly parallels that of Ger. töricht vs. dumm but does not exist in most European languages.
So, while calling a PERSON stupid is certainly MEAN (and, if you are commenting on their lack of intelligence based on ability, definitely ableist), calling SOMETHING stupid (aka “this stupid exam”) doesn’t seem ableist to me.
Of course, I’m all for the eradication of meanness, as I think we should treat everyone with kindness, so I’m willing to say that we should probably not call people stupid. I’m just not sure that ‘stupid’ is (always, or even primarily) a comment on one’s cognitive ability.
But again, I’m definitely open to dialogue on this issue, and definitely open to the possibility that my thought process is clouded by my privilege, etc.
The amazeballs feminists at FWD/Forward [RIP forever in my heart] consider “stupid” to be ableist not because it has been used oppressively specifically, but because it implicitly uses the concept of “intelligence," which has been used oppressively. This is not to say that the idea of intelligence, which I would loosely define as cognitive ability, is inherently oppressive, but the dominant way of thinking about intelligence privileges certain types of intelligences over others. I subscribe to the school of thought that posits there are different kinds of intelligence (spatial, verbal, emotional, etc) and of course some people are going to be more intelligent in a particular way than others. But there’s a systematic privileging of people who have lots of the intelligences that let them do well in school (“smart people”) and concomitant oppression of people who don’t necessarily have ‘book smarts’ but might have really good spatial skills or whatever.
So calling an exam ‘stupid,’ to use your example, I would consider to be moderately ableist because it legitimates the concept of “stupid” as it has been applied to people and assigns it inherently negative characteristics. Probably what you really mean is that the exam is “pointless” or “annoying,” and it might be better just to say that? I’m thinking of this example as the ableism-equivalent of saying “this party is crazy” when you might mean it’s “fun” or “out of control.”
And to echo your disclaimer, Margitte, I’m also open to dialogue and definitely not an expert.