20 January 2012

UPDATED: Dear Typo. Using the word 'retard' in your products is not acceptable.

I stopped into Typo to buy a card in my lunch break. I am still on my lunch break - I've popped into an internet cafe to write this. Because I feel so strongly about it.

On the wall of cards - some cute, some kitsch, and some retro, I saw this.


It is never right to use the word 'retard', or to suggest people with disabilities are any less intelligent or valuable than those without.

After Typo's reference to pornography on their stationery recently (and Ruth Limkin's fantastic blog alerting me to the issue), I thought other offensive products may be removed from the shelves too.

Shame on you Typo for ridiculing and devaluing people with disabilities. Shame on you for trying to make people laugh with this card. I would never give it to anyone, and would hate to receive one.

You may have removed the pornography products to protect children, but you're not doing them (or the wider population) any favours selling this discriminatory attitude toward people with disabilities either.


Typo’s parent company is Cotton On. Send them an email at customerenquiries@cottonon.com.au
Or you can write on the Typo Facebook Page or Tweet them.


Typo responded to my tweets, Facebook message and blog entry via Twitter and Facebook.

"Hi Carly, this product was introduced 12 months ago and was not intended as a comment on people with a disability. We thank you for your comments. All remaining stock of this product will be removed as part of our current review".

Thank goodness.

Though I am not sure what it was supposed to be a comment on. It is a quote from Megan Fox - so perhaps it was reiterating how thoughtless she is?

The fact this product was designed, approved, manufactured and placed on shelves indicated Typo's design department needs some more stringent checks and balances.

In the comments below, people have discussed boycotting Typo. I don't think I'll be boycotting them - I like their stuff. I actually bought a book on New York and some (tasteful) cards there today. But I will be on the look out for more of these disrespectful and discriminatory products and speaking up.

To those who think this is an overreaction, or that myself and commenters are being wowsers - think about this: if we want to change the way people think about disability, and encourage acceptance and inclusion, we have to start by speaking up against acts like this. And this wasn't a small act like someone in the street calling someone else a retard. This was a big corporate, with social responsibility (endlessly plugging the charities they (want their customers) to support at the registers) who used the word 'retard' on a product for sale. 

There is no justification for this word. Intent, word origin, colloquialism, youth speak - I don't accept these reasons. This card indicates people with disabilities are less than valuable.

People can argue about word origins and colloquialism all they want. But it's not acceptable to use the word 'retard' or 'spastic'. So don't.


  1. what! are they at it again! obviously they are a store to steer clear of. I find it hard to believe that they are allowed to put this kind of stuff on the shelves. Shame on typo.....AGAIN!

    thanks for letting us know so I really can avoid them now!


  2. Honestly, what the holy heck is wrong with COTTON ON???!!!


    Remember when CottonOn kids also had an issue with their baby clothes being offensive??! They've been overstepping the mark a lot. Give it rest!

  3. Will they ever learn?

    A boycott of both typo and Cotton On is in order.

    SSG xxx

    Sydney Shop Girl blog

  4. OMG get over it. It is a little something called satire, that most intelligent people are able to distinguish. My sisters (twins) have a learning disability and neither they nor I found this distasteful.
    Let's take a better look at the card. Typo are not "ridiculing and devaluing people with disabilities" - they are ridiculing an abel-minded person who is suggested to be a bit of an idiot. Do you have an issue with the term 'idiot'? How about 'dipstick'? The word "retard" comes from the latin "retardo" - meaning LATE.
    Suggesting that someones brain is late to develop is NOT having a go at people with disabilities! Honestly I find it a bit of a stretch.
    I am disappointed that TYPO bent to the will of the masses recently for the sole purpose of protecting their bottom-line. And disappointed that a small collection of noise-makers continue to de-contextualise humorous stationary as being evil or perverse and blow things completely out of proportion.
    Please keep calm and carry on. A satirical statement on a card is not an ode to the end of humanities decency.
    Comments like yours are as bad as the current stories on Today/Tonight and A Current Affair.

    1. Dain, just because you and your sisters do not think it is distasteful doesn't mean it's not. It is to me and to Carly, and from other people's comments we're not alone.

      The card IS devaluing people with disabilities because it's suggesting that people with mental retardation are lesser than able-minded people. That is offensive.

    2. Dain - what you and your sisters find offensive is not necessarily what others find offensive. If You took the time to read my blog more, you will see I have received discrimination and ridicule because of a disability, and I'm also a disability advocate.

      The sentiment of this card is that disabled people are less than valuable and intelligent, and Megan Fox has to defend herself against being one. Oh the shame.

      And please note - in this case, the correct spelling is stationery.

    3. Hi Carly,

      Thanks for your response (and spell-checking). I did post further points below but they seem not to have come through - which is a shame.

      Your initial point exactly sums up what I was saying. Yes I don't really find it offensive - and yes I understand the history of the word and its usage. I understand that others WILL find it offensive and that is reliant on the individual.

      @Queen V - I (personally) believe you are reading into it too much. That's my opinion & you're welcome to disagree, get angry, whatever. If I were to take your comment from an entirely logical perspective then the argument is that - yes - a person with mental retardation IS less able than you or I - but I will be the first to state that they should not be treated as such. Growing up with my sisters and working with my mother in ability services (job placement) I have my own understanding of what would be found offensive by others.

      This card, I do not find offensive.

      Therefore I find a movement to boycott a store because of it a silly notion.

      Again, that's just MY opinion.


    4. I'm sorry that you were teased at school and have been discriminated against, there is no excuse for that... but this card is not a personal attack on you or any people with disabilities in my opinion.

      "Intent, word origin, colloquialism, youth speak - I don't accept these reasons."

      Fair enough, but people are entitled to think you're overacting and disagree. Isn't part of acceptance being accepting of other views?

      "This card indicates people with disabilities are less than valuable."

      Maybe to you, but not to everyone. I disagree.

    5. Dain ... are you by chance being paid by Cotton On? This smells a lot like astroturfing to me....

  5. I really cannot understand why Cotton On continues to sprout rubbish like these over and over and over again? Is it to gain publicity over their idiocy? I mean they were selling so well (Typo), then they started their "porn" thing. I guess they will never learn huh?

  6. I'm boycotting both of their shops. Disgusting and so wrong!

  7. @Dain... You say that you don't find it offensive and justify your point of view with the fact that you're related to someone with disabilities. Good for you. That doesn't mean other people who actually HAVE a disability aren't allowed to be offended!
    You should have heard some of the things our dear blogger was called at school. Insults that implied mental deficiency even though her disability is physical along with other things. I didn't add to those comments, but I didn't stop them either which made me just as bad.
    I tell you what, the day you suffer from any sort of indignity or insult because of a disability, and no one stands up for YOUR rights, we'll all start giving a shit about your misguided and uninformed opinion. You, sir or madam, are a jerk.
    You're right to be outraged Carls, I am too.

  8. Ughhh, really? Did someone really come up with this idea, someone else approved it, people type set it, etc, etc and no one had an issue with it? I really wonder about this stuff sometimes.

  9. I don't think it's appropriate either. The word retard is used to often without consideration.

    Seriously, why couldn't they have said something like
    "I resent having to prove that I'm not an airhead"

    I think I would even consider buying it then :-)

  10. Dain I read your comment with 'disdain'. The card is inappropriate and utterly offensive, plain and simple.

  11. @KittyExpress and anonymous - I understand that individuals will be offended by certain remarks - everybody will find something offensive.
    I don't believe a mass call-to-action of boycotting stores is an answer though. The point I was trying to make is that if it offends you, fine. Be offended. Have a rant. Feel better.
    There is a heavy difference between a satirical card and something truly offensive like somebody waving their genitals around in public.
    I accept being uninformed before commenting on this post - I do not know the blogger or her story, coming instead through a link on Twitter and commenting on my reading of the post at face value.
    I DO take issue though from your uninformed or misguided assumption that I have never been ridiculed, never suffered any sort of indignity (which when sticking up for kin at primary school there was a lot of) and having nobody stand up for my or my sisters rights. I'm honestly glad I survived high-school and never have deal with certain people again.
    And I'm sorry you feel I'm a jerk. In all honesty I am a kind and caring person. I just really dislike drinking the kool-aid - which is what I feel is going on here.
    To conclude, I will not be boycotting Typo or Cotton On. If I find something offensive on their shelves, I won't buy it. Simple.

  12. I personally don't feel strongly about this, but that's because I think retard or retarded is used these days not to suggest that a person is disabled, but just generally silly or dumb. In teen speak, "OMG LOLz you are so retarded!" or "That is so retarded!". I think that to some degree is has become a part of the collective vocabulary and when people use it, they don't intend to be offensive.

    Given the history of the word however, I can see how some people see it as derogatory, and therefore while I don't find its use offensive myself, I don't use it. There is actually a whole campaign in the US centered around removing the word from everyday speech: http://www.r-word.org/

  13. http://www.thepunch.com.au/articles/how-do-you-spell-hypocrisy/ for a few reasons why "Retard" *is* offensive.

  14. Regardless of it's origins, the word 'retard' is used colloquially as a derogatory term to describe someone who may be 'slower' than the accepted norm. I would ask, by whose standards?

    This phrase clearly communicates a negative & offensive tone...

    Good on you Carly for standing up and saying so.

  15. A boycott would be even more retarded than the card.

  16. They must be enjoying the controversy so much they've decided to keep going with it. It's just so stupid and offensive.

  17. Completely offensive on all levels.

  18. Lol agree with the other anonymous a boycott is just as bad as the card!
    It won't solve or change anything! People are still going to shop there!
    I agree the word has become commonplace and it's not a nice thing for people who have disabilities to hear but think its going to be used by the teenagers regardless.

  19. making the world a more politically correct place is not going to make it a better one for people with disabilities.

    1. So holly why do you feel so strongly about using 'gay' as a slur, but 'retard' is ok?

    2. It is interesting - http://forums.vogue.com.au/showthread.php?t=378071

      "I hate it when people use the word gay or the f-word as an insult. I think it demonstrates blind hate and ignorance. I've just had a super heated discussion with my boyfriend about this. He doesn't actually use these words, and he couldn't care less about someones sexual orientation, but he thinks it's ok to call someone the f-word as an interchange for idiot or whatever. He thinks words 'change over time' to have different meanings.. I'm too angry to explain it to him otherwise. Help?"

    3. Interesting indeed. Funny how people jump on some aspects of political correctness and not others.

    4. when did i say it is ok to call someone a retard? WHEN?

      "making the world a more politically correct place is not going to make it a better one for people with disabilities."

      it's not interesting or funny how some people seem to jump on opportunities to place words in other peoples mouths :-////

  20. I think you have taken a very sensible line on the issue Carly (something we all admire you for). I personally wouldn't have thought twice about it seeing the card - but I am pretty guilty of using some horrible words. Don't get me wrong, I would never dare to use that word in relation to anyone with an intellectual disability, unless that person with that disability was being a 'dick' - cos we all know that 'not judging a book by its cover' does not necessarily mean that every book is good.
    But I do use it in it's pure form, to retard, as in music, to make slow or be retarded, to act slowly. If a person, by choice, or ignorance, acts in a manner in which they are 'behind the times' or purposefully displaying, with arrogance, their ignorance then they are, in my books, retarded. A classic example of this would be the person who calls another person with an intellectual disability a retard. Quite obviously that person is not PC, and PC is in, and no desire to become even vaguely PC shows ignorance and arrogance, thus confirming that the original person is quite retarded.

    I hope you can see my humour here. Don't get me started on the word gay...

    I think you approached it beautifully Carly. It was big enough a deal to be of concern to many and therefore worth mentioning to the people who made it. But, as you say, not huge enough that they should be boycotted (there are other beautiful aspects of Typo).

  21. Nice work Carly ! :-D and you got a result, so even better, i certainly dont want to see things like that,and i am glad that you spoke up for all that feel the same x

  22. I miss humor being able to be distasteful. People are way too sensitive. Just because a few people can't see the humor in a JOKE doesn't make it wrong. To think it should be taken off the shelves just because you don't agree with it is very arrogant, and very close to censorship.

    1. Close to censorship? It's actually against the law to discriminate against people based on appearance, gender or disability in Victoria so if anyone's pushing the limit it's Typo. I love edgy humour but as the aunt of a niece with cerebral palsy and given the way we leave people with disabilities to squander & die in sub-standard facilities I think they are way off the mark if they think they can pass this off as satire!

  23. Well said Carly and good on you for getting a result.

  24. Totally agree - I would be shocked to see such a product on the shelves of a major store too. The problem with the word "retard" is that it has actually (somehow) become an acceptable term in the english language. People use it all the time without clue-ing in that the word is actually an insult. I have no idea how this word morphed from being a derogatory term to a common one, but it's pretty shocking. People think we have come such a long way in terms of inclusion in our society, but when it comes right down to it, norms still exist that put people with disabilities on a lower rung of the social ladder and classify them as "different" than "normal" people. There is not nearly enough empathy in our society - people need to put themselves in other people's shoes before they say something, or put something like the above product out to the masses. How about we actually start THINKING about our words and actions ahead of time and consider how they might make someone else feel? What a concept! I'm all for joking around too and I don't generally agree with censoring humour or commentary - but I don't agree with traditionally derogatory terms being used to get laughs (and I'm sorry but if someone used the word "nigger" or "faggot" people would be outraged, so why is it ok to use "retard"? IMHO those words are part of the same category, so why the double-standard?) Thanks so much for the post Carly! Good on your for complaining to the company about that

  25. I abhor bullying and that's what this is. No question. NO dressing it up as "humour" or "freedom of speech" or "opinion" or "satire"... that's what bigots, racists, homophobes and hate groups hide behind. Words have power. Teasing does hurt. and kids are dying because of it.

  26. "This product ... was not intended as a comment on people with a disability." It never is. But the word retard is always meant to demean, dehumanize and devalue. Bottom line: If folks with intellectual disabilities have decided the word retard is hurtful and offensive, the rest of us should shut the hell up. It doesn't matter what non-disabled people meant, or what non-disabled people want. It's about having respect for those who get the most shit when that word is used and respecting their dignity.

  27. Carly, well done! I, for one, would be one of those people who would see this merchandise as distasteful but not even think of approaching somebody to change it. I think that many other people are passive like I am, not used to stirring the pot, and accustomed to being barraged by offensive products and advertising without considering an avenue of complaint. Thank you for speaking up for all the gooses who don't or won't.

    I often walk with a pronounced limp when I am in the throes of an arthritic flare-up, and have been called a retard by people who think it's funny. It's not. It's never OK. And it shouldn't be celebrated in popular print products. Go you!

  28. Hi Carly, I agree it's never o.k to insult people with a a disability, especially when retailers are making money.

    Nicky Singh

  29. Oh, honestly! Who even refers to disabled people as 'retards' anyway? 'Retard', when used colloquially, is really more akin to saying, 'idiot'. The only people still associating it with disabled people are whingers such as yourself who need to be tip-toed around lest your dainty ears hear a bad word.

    Sometimes the meaning of words change among the general population. Is it a bad thing that disabled people are no longer being referred to as retards? Is it bad that they're referred to as disabled or differently abled, or even by whatever their specific impairment is? Or by their names (shock horror!).

    I get that the internet has given a voice to those who would otherwise not be heard...but maybe that's for a reason. Get off your high horse and come and talk to some people in the real world. No, not arts students or bloggers: real people. Not everything in life needs a crusade.

  30. i cant even believe some people are defending the use of the word in this sense. disgusting. it just demonstrates a total lack of insight and disregard for the issue.

    anonymous, funny i thought that "arts students" and "bloggers" WERE real people too. im neither, but as a "real person" who reads your blog, carly, i say bravo for taking a stand.

  31. Well said Carly! It's an offensive word - to so many people in our community. Pull your socks up Typo, being mean and bigoted is NOT ON!


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