“Hey!” I thought when I first heard Weird Al’s new song Word Crimes, “finally I can dance to a Marvin Gaye ripoff that isn’t a rape anthem!” Unfortunately, what I found is that both songs offer microagressions for me as a woman with a Learning Disability, but have a good beat that I can feel oppressed dancing to. I have respected and liked Weird Al since I was in middle school when Like a Sergeon came out, so I always look at his songs with a feeling of comfort. This is why I feel uneasy bring this up, but as a Stuttering Dyslexic who’s blog openly discloses, “I am choosing to let the little green and red lines dictate my editing. I am not having someone look at this before I publish it. I am just going to write. I am smart, most likely smarter than most good spellers and grammerers (ya, that’s a neologism–live with it). Obviously I am defensive because this is a difficult process for me and I want the reader to beware of any disjointed-ness and PLEASE don’t correct my spelling or grammar–just like you shouldn’t complete my sentences [when I stutter].” I felt it my duty to comment on Word Crimes.
First of all, Weird Al appologized for the lyrics “Saw your blog post. It’s fantastic. That was sarcastic (oh psych!). ‘Cause you write like a spastic.” People with Disabilities took offense because spastic is durogatory, especially to people with cerebral palsy and he totally owned up to it. Personally, I think this was the tip of the abelist iceberg regarding this song, from a dyslexic perspective. I don’t think the abelism comes with malice or that he really thinks that someoone with grammar difficulties should “get out the gene pool” (direct quote from his song). I see the song as a difference in worldviews. For him, apparently grammar and spelling is important and a prerequisite to express yourself. There is a reason I started to do stand up comedy. I can’t express myself as good in written words and I get sentiments like the ones that Weird Al sings about because people see writing in a standard way. I turned to comedy so that I could express myself more easily, even with a stutter. I feel the song is grammar shaming in the song Word Crimes. I am sure that it was not directed at dyslexics, but we do make up 10% of the population so it is hard (ya, I said hard instead of difficult) to not personalize the message. Also, as a comedian I don’t think he should appologize or not write this. But as an artist/activist I feel that it is important to look at his song from my perspective and perhaps educate others about a perspective that may not be seen in the mainstream.
There is so much I could say about the topic of Learning Disabiltiies and what the issues of this community are. Like the inequalties of education for people with Learning Disabilties and the failure of the school system to create a pipeline to college and careers instead of to prison is something that people need to know about but those are the kinds of things that make me so mad that I am just going to site them here: http://www.nyclu.org/schooltoprison. Needless to say, grammar is the least of our problems but we don’t necessarily have the forum to discuss these things, nor do we write in a way that will let us be heard.
One of the sentiments in the song is that you have to learn how to spell and use grammar correctly before you can express yourself. Fuck that! You express yourself no matter what. Misspellings, grammar, punctuation, speech impairment, can’t sing a tune, move differently than everyone else, fuck it! You say what you want to say. Fight elitism by not letting other people censor you for not doing what you want to do in a standarized boring way. Write, speak, dance, or whatever no matter who is critiziing you. In the meantime I will be looking for a Marvin Gaye ripoff that I don’t have to talk about in therapy.
Some of the lyrics that make me sad (i.e. make me experience mild PTSD flashbacks from 7.5 years of pre-Americans with Disablities Act Catholic School Education–sounds like a joke but kinda not):
If you can’t write in the proper way
If you don’t know how to conjugate
Maybe you flunked that class
And maybe now you find
That people mock you online
Don’t be a moron
You’d better slow down
And use the right pronoun
Show the world you’re no clown
I hate these word crimes
You really need a Full time proofreader
You dumb mouth-breather
I read your e-mail It’s quite apparent
Your grammar’s errant
Saw your blog post It’s really fantastic
That was sarcastic (Oh, psych!)
‘Cause you write like a spastic
I hate these Word Crimes
Your prose is dopey
Think you should only Write in emoji
Oh, you’re a lost cause
Go back to pre-scho
Get out of the gene pool
Try your best to not drool