Language… it is all about respect

Image source: Screen shot from ABC online

Image source: Screen shot from ABC online

There has been a national outcry by most Australians over the booing of Adam Goodes, the current Australian of The Year, and an elite Indigenous Swans AFL football player. I totally agree with it, and find the booing of anyone, at any level, for any reason in sport, or anywhere, is unacceptable.

In my opinion, it out of keeping with basic human respect, and with spectator sporting standards (not that we probably have any!). No-one deserves to be booed, for any reason.

Even if others don’t see or think it is racist in the current case of Adam Goodes, I totally get why he would feel like it is. If you are used to be taunted, disrespected, and treated with any form of ‘otherness’, including racism, you become super sensitive to everything. It is almost impossible not to take it to heart.

The ‘journalist’ Christopher Jay, in his despicable article in the Australian Financial Review a few weeks ago, got away with referring to people with dementia “mad, bad and feral”. However, this last week, the Prime Minister of the UK, Mr David Cameron was accused in news reports all around the world of being disrespectful to refugees with his term ‘swarms of refugees crossing the border’, used when referring to people.

The Australian Financial Review, and Mr Jay, people with dementia are also PEOPLE. Calling us mad, bad and feral is far more offensive (to us at least) than that!

By the way, I have still not had a reply from the Editor in Chief of the Australian Financial Review to my last letter of complaint to them. I guess they thought if they stayed quiet, we would go away. Dementia Alliance International asked for a public apology and a retraction of the article; Professor Rhonda Nay asked for his sacking! I doubt she received a reply other than the pathetic and unsatisfactory ‘cut and paste’ response the EIC sent to everyone initially.

When those of us living with dementia ask for language being used to refer to us in the public domain to be changed, all we are asking for is respect. No more, no less. Family carers, who often suffer watching the decline of the person they are caring for, and whom they love very much, often refer publicly to us as sufferers, demented, and all sorts of other terms WE find disrespectful, and many continue to argue loudly for their right to call us sufferers, saying things like, ‘but my mother definitely suffered’.

They and others may think all people with dementia are suffering, but no longer do they have the right to publicly use that and other terms that WE find offensive and disrespectful anymore.

Public versus private language is very different, and it is time, right now, that the public language of dementia RESPECTS the very group it is referring to. In the same way people living with disAbilities would not refer publicly to themselves or their peers as retards publicly (and nor would we), it is no longer appropriate even for people with dementia to use the term sufferer publicly, as it disrespects too many others living with dementia. Yes, we all suffer some of the time, but we are not necessarily all ‘sufferers of’ or ‘suffering from’ dementia.

I know I keep banging on about it… but it is simply a matter of RESPECT.

If you love us, care for us, or just want to help people with dementia, then please also RESPECT us and our right to determine what language is and is not offensive or disrespectful.

Please do download and refer to the most recently updated Dementia Language Guidelines, published last year during Dementia Awareness Week in September by Alzheimer’s Australia – Alzheimer’s Australia full language guidelines 2014

8 thoughts on “Language… it is all about respect

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  4. Kate, I agree with your goal to rid disrespecful language in the treatment of any group or person. It is a long road that has been well travelled probably over centuries in describing groups and even written into textbooks. This is going to take a long time to correct this disrespetful language
    The same applies to disrespectful visual confrontations.
    You refer to Adam Goodes. The reality is the media viewpoint is not shared by the majority of ordinary people. Adam Goodes has shown by his actions on field that he is as much a “racist” as he is “anti-racist”.
    He has booed the spectators visually by his confrontational demonstrations. They have responded verbally.
    He has taken his personal politics onto the sporting field and really nobody wants to know, and he is being told. There is nothing racist in the booing. The media has taken it on board because of Adam’s Aboriginality, but it misses the point. Let him play the game that he is superbly good at, and keep his politics off the sporting field


    • Thanks Jeff… although we will have to agree to disagree re Adam Goodes this time. Regardless, the point of respect, for all, and INCLUDING PEOPLE WITH DEMENTIA, is the one I was really trying to make. Hope all is well in your world?


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