Sensitive writing or not sensitive enough? [using "blind" "deaf" and others in narration]

So, I’ve been having some thoughts recently about being sensitive to other people when writing fiction. If you were here to remember that discrimination post I made a while back, it’s kind of related.

Maybe I’m suddenly overthinking, but you know how we use the words “blind” or “deaf” to mean someone who isn’t facing the situation or not listening? Maybe we shouldn’t be using those words at all? I’m not talking about dialogue in fiction, but the narration parts.

Warning: I need to give examples because otherwise, you won’t know what I’m referring to. But I will be blurring these words because they are offensive. View at your own discretion. I might delete them later if even blurring them makes people uncomfortable. So, if you don’t even want to see their existence, let me know and I will delete them. I want this to be a positive discussion space after all :blush:

Remember when we might have once said “cripple” or “dwarf” (or midget, even worse) to someone with a physical disability? It might have been the norm then, but then we grow and learn that it’s offensive and hurts people.

I remember a time where people used the r word “retard” freely (You may or may not remember this time). But we have since learned that it is not a nice word to use. Extremely offensive. Do not use it. There might be people in here who used to use it but have since stopped because they learned. And that’s wonderful. Awesome.

Also saying someone is a “psycho” if they were acting “crazy” or did or said something extreme was a normal insult as well, but we have learned how offensive it is. If I remember correctly, it was even considered “cool” to use words like that. Oh my gosh.

That got me thinking about “blind” and “deaf”. Can we really claim those words if we’re not part of the community? Are those words not offensive? Should we stop using them like we have other words?

“Turn a blind eye” shouldn’t be used at all, perhaps? “His words fell on deaf ears” could be offensive? What about saying “It was like he was paranoid”? or “she couldn’t fall asleep like an insomniac” or “she was insane/crazy/mad to think of that” or “there was a method to their madness”?

What’s okay? What’s not? Where do we draw the line for words we can or cannot use? Is there even a line?

Or am I overthinking this whole thing and should relax about it. “Turn a blind eye” “fall on deaf ears” are idioms. It’s fine. Or is it?

You know how bad I am at keeping up discussions? I’m always like “ooh! good point” “ooh! another good point” “oooh! interesting” and take such a long time to form my own thoughts and ask additional questions. So, I might not respond right away, but I am reading the responses. And I might ask some people questions but not everyone. Just so you know.


This is the problem with overtbinking things
I suspect they will go out the widow with time, but overwhelmingly, I find those who advocate for things arent the person with the issue.

Technically, I’m partially face blind: I don’t pick up distinctive features in faces unless I’m exposed to the culture and people that face comes from regularly. That means I wouldn’t be able to describe someone I just met. Its probably got some to do with not thinking in pictures, too.

That means that I’m a full-sighted person who cannot see–literally. My husband can’t make out people without his glasses on, in the distance. My cousin is legally blind. My roommate is about on-par with my husband, but she was getting blind spots that do reoccur with blood pressure spikes from failing kidneys.

If I put this in front of each of us with our issues, I already know the response and rant (because we have these conversations regularly): “You are taking away a part of myself, an expression of who I am, which easily skewers the pretentiousness of people who dont have my problems, because you fear it might hurt my feelings? Are ya’ nuts?!”

Part of this is because we are over 40.

But is it feasible that someone is emotionally scarred by this? Sure. People are emotionally scarred by peanut butter. There’s a whole world of people who are left behind.

I think the answer for this would be: you avoid potential problems you are unwilling to fight against, and censor yourself to the level that leaves you feeling secure in being a nice person. Outside of that, the sensitive will announce themsleves and you wont have to go out looking for problems because they will find you. I promise, 10 years from now, someone will chew you out for something you are, and you will have to self-censor or not on something you consider “your birthright”.

Its tomorrow’s problem. Sufficient is the day for its worries.


I think it depends on the context and if they are said in a negative way because it’s different to say, “It was so dark, he went blind” than, “Can’t you see!? ARE YOU BLIND OR SOMETHING?!” because one is a metaphor (or whatever it’s called—figurative language, idioms, etc.) and the other is an insulting, derogatory sentence.

But using them in sentences, either which way, doesn’t always mean it’s hurtful to everyone since not everyone feels the same way. My dad, for example, has a ton of medical issues and a recent one that came up due to his neuropathy is charcot’s foot which is a condition where the bone in his foot deforms—the arch of your foot bends down and creates a ball-like formation and nerve damage, and the condition can be so bad that you may have to chop off the foot. But they caught the diagnosis in time for him to not have to sever it, so he’s supposed to not walk at all and wear a boot-like cast (in which he calls a space-boot), and he calls himself crippled, and we—his family—do too, jokingly. We all tease each other, and sometimes it can be hurtful (specifically to me and my little sister as we’re both overly sensitive at times), and other times it’s not.

The other thing is that we’re in a time-frame where everything becomes censored and everyone tip-toes around sensitive subjects or topics or words, some of which aren’t even needed to be censored or tip-toed around, but do so in case someone gets offended. And while, yes, it’s good to grow and learn how to not hurt others’ feelings, it doesn’t always mean that these certain phrases are going to offend someone when really, everyone becomes offended anyway over anything.

There was one time when my sister, who had worked at Discover (credit card company), where her computer started glitching and wasn’t working the way it was supposed to be and she said her computer was “retarded.” A co-worker overheard her say it and reported it to management, and even got her written up and in trouble, just because that co-worker got offended… because her son had special needs. And I think it was completely wrong of the co-worker to do such a thing because my sister wasn’t telling her son that he was a “retard.” That would’ve been a completely different thing. But instead, she was telling a piece of technology that is specifically designed to not malfunction in any kind of way because it’s specially programmed that it was being “retarded.” Perhaps she could’ve used “stupid” or “dumb,” but if we’re dealing with that co-worker, she might’ve done the same thing with those words being used, too. :woman_shrugging:


I think this is where I draw the line. Like the words “spaz” are clearly offensive.
But as an example, I have a book I’ve since abandoned (not for this reason) where the male lead had selective mutism after trauma, and when he meets the female love interest, they start healing each other through their various traumas.
In the book, they both use the term “mute” because he has mutism, and is a mute person.
I was talking about this with someone on a discord, and apparently using the term “mute” is offensive? I’m like… but how because the diagnosis is called “mutism” and the character calls himself that through non verbal cues and eventually verbal.

It gets to me how everything is “offensive” now. Like yeah. I get some things but for goodness sake. I don’t get offended if someone says they feel depressed. I have depression severely and it never even crosses my mind.

idk maybe its my age.


There’s nonspeaking and nonverbal but those are entirely different conditions.

Retard is still used in medical contexts today, believe it or not. Euphameism treadmill and all that.

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Not a big fan of the overpoliticization of words these days. I mean, yeah, there are some words that have always been used to demean particular groups, or that have taken on a discriminatory meaning for so long that you would have a really hard time claiming you meant anything else if you used them.

But it’s becoming more regular for people to not be able to differentiate between actually offensive terms, and normal terms that discriminatory people say in an offensive tone because they want to weaponize it.

And this leads to problems like how insisting on person-first language can enforce ableism by re-enforcing the idea that being disabled is bad and you shouldn’t acknowledge it (paraphrasing Molly Burke, an actual disabled person, here).

and I think if we extend this overpoliticization to otherwise harmless phrases like “turn a blind eye”, we’re contributing to that deeper issue of teaching disabled people that their disability is something bad that has to be tiptoed around.


Very familiar with Molly Burke. Watch her content sometimes :wink:

That’s true…

So, I suppose I am overthinking it.


Okay, you’re definitely overthinking this whole thing. I get what you’re trying to say, but you really are overthinking it. Blame political correctness

At the end of the day, it all comes down to context. If you’re using it to insult someone, then it’s bad. If you say it to someone in that community and they tell you not to say it because it’s offensive, then you apologise and ask what to say instead. But most of these things are, at this moment in time, okay to use. Maybe that will change. Maybe it won’t. Maybe new versions will come up.

Now before anyone has a go at me, I’m not saying its okay to call someone something with the intent to insult them or step on them. That’s not cool. I’m also not trying to speak on behalf of anyone. This is merely what I have observed.

And then there’s the people who really do just get insulted at everything you say for the sake of being insulted which is part of the reason so many people overthink. Ya can’t win this one.

No matter what you do in writing, no matter your intent or how sensitive you try to be, someone will always be offended


That’s why its best to have a list of what is worth offending people over, your hlls to die on, things you’re willingnto be wrong on to be true to yourself.

Those who cater to everything still get in trouble.