Noun: You are a derp.
Verb: You derped.
Adjective: You are derpy.
Adverb: You acted derpy derpy.
This is one of those instances where I hate the Internet for its ability to spread "harmless fun" that's actually extremely oppressive and offensive. If you just look at that Know Your Meme page, you'll see lots of images of people with crossed eyes or below societally average levels of attractiveness behind the word "derp" or its forms. One of the most egregious examples is that gorram Derpy Hooves from My Little Pony:
I've actually been given a direct explanation from a Bronie over this character (on my favorite site, OTI, too, of all places- go figure), and he eventually comes down as defending it.Between this and other discussions about ableism and objectification, the same dude has basically pulled every trick in the book parallel to the MRAs arguing for sexism in video games- stuff like "But it's never said she has a disability, so no harm, no foul," and, "But we genuinely love the character/ what if people enjoy it?" and, "Isn't it empowering that she exists at all?" and (one of my favorites), "Well, how dare you speak for persons with disabilities- YOU'RE objectifying them and removing their autonomy by not letting them speak for themselves!" So I don't really think he understands or is willing to listen; he just thinks Derpy is funny and adorable and cool because she's "different," and he basically doesn't give two shits about if someone else gets hurt by something he finds amusing, because he finds it amusing. And I think his behavior is pretty representative of the whole Bronie community- after all, they're the ones defending Derpy.
I honestly don't understand how someone else can't understand how Derpy Hooves is offensive, though. I've seen the episode she first appeared in, as well as the one that featured her as a larger supporting character- the punch line is always her disability, and she has a speech impediment in the original version of her first appearance (because, knowing they'd effed up, the producers behind the show ret-conned it after enough anger from the disability community and gave her a new voice). She's a pony with disabilities, and she's funny because she has disabilities. How is that hard to understand? What happened there was a bunch of (mostly white) dudes thought she was funny and harped on the forums to get her a larger role on the show because they wanted to laugh at (not with) her more. They assigned to her the word that had been floating around the Interwebs for a while: "Derpy." And the writer was insensitive/unaware enough to roll with it in her quest to please her "fans" (and I have trouble believing some of the Bronies actually like the show and are "real" fans). So then a character whose only purpose is to be laughed at for her anomalies became a semi-regular pony on that show, and the Bronies would get up in arms (over the Internet) to preserver her and all her "derpines." Take a look at this, one of the images the Bronies spread when trying to keep her around:
Notice the textual simulation of speech impediment there, the derpspeak? "Ai promise," "scurry," "I will learn to talk better." That shit's not funny, and it's not harmless, it's offensive and colonialist- because when you think about it, it's quite similar to Blackface and notions that Whitey Knows Best. Know Your Meme has a page on her, and I think they lean more toward the Bronies- they don't say why some people found Derpy offensive, they just say that some people did. I guess they don't really argue overtly in favor of the Bronies' position, but neutral explanation is too often a form of obfuscating the ethical issues and, really, just amounts to tacit consent. Seriously, one of the most frustrating things I encounter online with douchebag MRAs and ableist champions is their need to "explain" things, thus making excuses, thus leaving no room for changing the status quo.
If you're still having trouble following me, let me spell it out for you more clearly.
"Derp" has spread like wildfire as a replacement for "retarded." It, like the pejorative sense of "retarded," has underlying ableist assumptions, hierarchical structures, and normative values embedded within it. You don't believe me? Look at some of those pictures on Know Your Meme again. And look at some of these- they all either have "derp" directly in the image, or use what I'm calling "derpspeak," the incredibly offensive and ableist dialect meant to simulate cognitive or learning disability; some use actual disabled persons, others have modified the faces to make the person in the image look more "derp-like," as in look more like stereotypical imagery of mentally disabled individuals:
I'm hoping you're understanding me now. These memes are all attempts at humor, and the punchline is disability. That's exploitative and entirely oppressive of persons with disabilities.
And here's the thing. The "no harm, no foul," or "all in good fun," arguments are deplorable. All that does is prove how little consideration persons with disabilities get on a regular basis, and just how entirely dominant the paradigm of ableism really is. Sure, no harm from an ablesit perspective- it's not like those pictures are meant for anyone with a disability, so what's the big deal, right? Well, it's not like white guys saying the n-word is meant for black people, yet that's obviously frowned upon. All in good fun? Well, some people like offensive humor, sure, but when the community being made fun of has no say in the matter, the joke is 100% at their expense- and they don't even get the opportunity to strike back. They're being completely suppressed.
If you use the word "derp," think about the last few times you used it, and why. What other words could you have used? Chances are, probably "retarded" at worst, or "stupid" at best. But whether you realize it or not, even "stupid" is ableist, too, because it implies social structures that place normative values on levels of intelligence, cognition, and capability. It may take more words, but it's never entirely necessary to say a shirt looks "stupid" or a movie was "stupid"- you can say the shirt looks too nineties, or the movie was badly written. And seriously, I doubt I need to convince you that saying something is "retarded" if not talking about an actual diagnosis is ableist, too. I mean, come on, "retarded" has become so dominantly pejorative that it was removed from the gorram DSM. And that's after being in it for ages as a legitimate diagnosis to give to persons with learning delays. The people determining the new DSM received enough entreaties from disability rights advocates that they were convinced there were too many negative meanings and undermeanings culturally surrounding the word, so they changed the diagnosis to try to add some humanity back for persons with that diagnosis. They realized that 90% of the people that could hear a legitimate diagnosis would associate it with a slur, an insult, with something you say when you're pissed at a situation or person or thing ("This is retarded, I should have been home an hour ago!" "Wow, good job dropping that bowl, retard!" "Ugh, this knife won't cut, it's so retarded!").
I have a brother that was diagnosed as mildly retarded (among other things), back when that was still a diagnosis to be had. I've never found that word "funny" or casual. And I think it's really messed up how people tell me I'm being hypersensitive and that I need to let it go or take a chill pill or have a sense of humor or whatever the fuck it is that day when I ask them not to say it. I've given up on some people (and in various ways- some by not bothering to ask anymore, others, I've had other reasons piled on top to not want to hang out with them, anyway), but others I know just hold it in and then let it slip every now and then by accident around me, meanwhile tossing "retarded" out for every other mildly annoying, unpleasant, or dissatisfying thing or situation they encounter when I'm not there. That's actually almost worse- it's being deliberately deceptive about what is, ultimately, an ableist insult and expletive. Because it's one thing to refrain from saying "fuck" in front of your parents but dropping the f-bomb every other sentence with your friends; it's another thing to use the equivalent of a racial slur in some company but not others. One is just about being "proper" or whatever; another is about not being oppressive.
I know I'm being morally high-horse-ee, here, but if you're a friend that cares enough about me to read this, then you'd most likely understand my perspective. And if you're someone that only knows me through the blog, then realize I have a very intimate history with oppression in a lot of forms, and ableism in particular. In either case, if you feel like I'm being annoyingly self-righteous or something, I want you to consider how quickly whistle-blowers on various "ism"s get accused of being hypersensitive or seeking out things to be angry about. And think about how many times you can remember someone claiming something was oppressive of persons with disabilities actually being taken seriously- you probably can't think of any, or can count them on one hand. Maybe Derpy Hooves and/or the stuff about "retarded" being removed from the DSM I just talked about are all you can come up with, hard as you try. I wouldn't be surprised, nor judge you negatively for it- it's society's fault, not yours. But think about that- why do we all hear so much more about other "isms" in society, when we don't even consider ableism as an option?
And I want you to consider the possibility that this isn't because there's nothing to get upset about, but rather that the positionality and perspective of persons with disabilities is so marginalized that those perspectives aren't even in the backs of the minds of the majority of your everyday person. So even acknowledging they have some claim to or semblance of legitimacy is actually impossible for some people to grasp. It's like trying to describe the taste and texture of Provolone cheese to someone that's never even had milk, let alone any other form of cheese- that person you're trying to explain it to will never fully understand until you put a piece of Provolone in their hand and they eat it. Even if it's sitting on the counter, they won't entirely get it until it's in their mouth.
I think there are genuinely people that, even after somehow getting connected to disability, be it because someone they know or love is born with it or becomes disabled, or they themselves become disabled- there are some people that still won't understand entirely because ableism is so hegemonic, so in-control, so dominant. So even a person that has an accident and ends up in a wheelchair devalues disability and thinks it makes them less of a person- ableism has trained them, subconsciously and indirectly, to believe that about theirself*.
Now apply this outwardly. Ableism conditions everybody to devalue disability and not even realize when a physical or speech act is oppressive. So you get people running around tossing words like "retarded" and "stupid" and, yes, "derp," around like it ain't no thang. So I'm not saying that using "derp" makes anybody a bad person- not if they don't knowingly act out ableism, at least. Often times, we're so caught up in discourses and hierarchies that we don't even realize when we're acting in ways that reinforce them.
Of course, if you defend the status quo once its oppressive nature is exposed to you, you're an asshole.
But I do ask a few things of anybody that has taken the time to read this.
1) Think about the power of words and how they serve to reinforce discourses of oppression and marginalization. (Also, keep in mind that by "discourse" I don't mean just speech patterns, but also norms of behavior and interaction.)
2) Consider that "derp" is a new(ish), Inernet-savvy way of saying "retarded," meaning it's pejorative and devaluing of disability and/or anomaly.
3) Consider checking yourself and avoiding using it in the future. Maybe even consider calling it out if you see it being used, either online or in person.
And of my friends that may be reading this, I respectfully ask you to not use "derp" around me. I'm sick of it, and I know none of you are assholes (like, say, this guy). If you honestly feel like I'm somehow oppressing you by making that request, then, well, talk to me. Or, you know, don't, and just use it when I'm not around- but don't be all shocked and alarmed when I call BS on you if you slip in my presence.
*Not a typo- separating corporeal mind from physical body is impossible, so the physical body directly influences the overall corporeal definition of self. They devalue their physical structure in their tangible body, but they also devalue the metaphysical makings of them as a person.