In December, DiabetesMine ran a post entitled "Using 'Diabetic' vs. 'Person with Diabetes' - Does It Matter?". It got me to thinking about the term "diabetic" as a noun and how outdated it is, but it also raised the question in my mind as to whether its really worth getting upset over.
Back in 1998, the late Deb Butterfield grappled with the issue of political correctness and the outdated term "diabetic" used as a noun (See http://ow.ly/Jrm66 for the article she wrote). Deb wrote "... if it's all right with you, may we take it for granted that we are all people and divide by that common denominator? May we describe 'people who have diabetes' as 'diabetics,' 'people who are citizens of the Unites States of America' as 'Americans,' 'people who work for companies' as 'employees,' and 'people who have medical degrees' as 'doctors'?" That sounded OK, but it missed the broader issue in my opinion.
In no other disease state are people referred to by their conditions, so why is it OK with diabetes?
For example, we don't ever call people with cancer "cancerians" or heart disease patients "cardiovasclarians" (that may be a bit of a mouthful, but it makes my point), so the complaint about diabetes and use of the term "diabetic" (as a noun) to describe people with diabetes is legitimate. The real issue is from my perspective is the fact that people who use the term really should be more sensitive to using the term "diabetic" (as a noun) yet really don't see anything wrong with it, and patients are the only ones that seem to complain about it; no one from the medical profession, diabetes nonprofits, or even English language teachers bothers to call them on it, so why should an editor know any better? If a person with diabetes wants to call themselves (or someone else) with diabetes a "diabetic", then I think that's their prerogative - they have every right to use the term AND they are entitled to do so. Many grew up in an era when that term was used regularly.
But this raises the question: Should something be done with the outdated noun "diabetic"? I propose we as people with diabetes re-appropriate the term. By that, I propose that we as people with diabetes may use the term diabetic as a noun, but if you're a newspaper editor or someone else, tread very, very carefully - you should probably NOT be using the term "diabetic" as a noun, its politically incorrect. My logic is as follows:
In sociology and cultural studies, there is a term is called "reappropriation" which means the cultural process by which a group reclaims or re-appropriates terms (that were previously used in a disparaging way to describe that group). Examples include African Americans using terms like "nigger" amongst themselves, or gays and lesbians using terms like "faggot" or "dyke" to describe one another. The idea is to de-base the negative connotations associated with the terms by reappropriating them.
I propose that we re-appropriate the term "diabetic" as a noun, but that means we need to be vigilant in not permitting non-diabetic (adjective) people from using it, or we fail to reclaim the term.
Thoughts from other PWD's?