Language & Power

Avoiding ableist language as we fight for pandemic justice

We believe in the power and brilliance of our community to organize and resist in creative, passionate, and principled ways. We know struggles for pandemic justice can be frustrating – and unfortunately we’ve noticed some comments on social media using ableist language to describe recently proposed mask bans, so we are sharing some reminders and resources.

Let’s be intentional with our language and choose our words in the spirit of collective liberation. We can and should avoid stigmatizing language that references disabilities or impairments as insults – for example, using blindness to indicate ‘lack of awareness’ or ‘ignorance.’ And, instead of describing a mask ban as ‘crazy,’ we can be more specific in our critiques by using a different framing: anti-science, out of touch, dishonest, disingenuous, dangerous, etc. While some people own & reclaim ableist words or slurs as a political act, it’s disrespectful to use these words as insults or criticism.

We all make mistakes and we know unlearning oppression is a lifelong process, so thanks for learning & growing together.

Language is *one* tool of an oppressive system. Being aware of language — for those of us who have the privilege of being able to change our language — can help us understand how pervasive ableism is. Ableism is systematic, institutional devaluing of bodies and minds deemed deviant, abnormal, defective, subhuman, less than. Ableism is *violence.* “
– Lʏᴅɪᴀ X. Z. Bʀᴏᴡɴ


Glossary of ableist phrases | Lydia X. Z. Brown

Ableist language and phrases that you may unknowingly use | World Institute on Disability
Eradicating Ableist Language Yields More Accurate and More Humane Journalism | Marion Renault at

Language Justice


Have a resource to suggest?

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