As the release of the 11th book P.C. and Kristin Cast's House of Night series nears, I couldn't help but think back to the Book Lantern's last encounter with Cast and her work. Previously, we have discussed Cast's cries of censorship when faced with criticism of her use of the word "retard" in her books, then we were faced with the weird aftermath as Cast wrote this criticism into a later book as a cheap punchline to defend her use of the ableist slur.
We tend to suggest that authors not take this approach to criticism. It doesn't reflect well on them and verges into bullying territory. There's no way an anonymous commenter or a lowly blogger can ever be on equal footing with a wealthy New York Times best-selling author. She's up high and punching down low. But even we didn't think she'd continue to dig herself into a hole with her ableism. Book 10, "Hidden", was released last year, so we're a touch late to the table with this, but better late than never.
(All extracts were found via Amazon.co.uk. I also highlighted a delightful example of slut-shaming, something else Cast is infamous for).
It's pretty obvious that Cast is still attacking those who called her out for her ableism. The "mean girl" character Aphrodite who is spouting these slurs is something of an antagonist but that's no excuse for her language, especially when other characters use similar slurs throughout. Even with the weak rebuttal of her use of such language, it's quickly glossed over and seen more as a punchline than anything else. No real action is taken for the use of the R word. Nobody learns anything. It's just an excuse for Cast to keep digging that hole because she can't understand why she's been criticised for this.
Ableism should be stamped out of our culture. There's no excuse for using a term like the R word to shame someone. Yes, the meanings of words change but the R word has not changed meanings. No matter how many times you try to justify your use of the word, claiming you didn't mean to be offensive or ableist so it doesn't count, or crying censorship when you're asked not to use it, that word is still a disgusting slur against the disabled. It is no skin off your back to stop and think about what you're saying and who it effects before you open your mouth. Language does matter. Words can hurt. They strengthen assumptions about our society and reinforce stereotypes that harm those who have already been excluded from the wider discourse.
If P.C. Cast is too immature and selfish to understand the hurt she causes with use of the R word (and "fucktard" because the suffix -tard clearly has the same implications), she really shouldn't be writing. Her editors need to step in and tell her to get a grip. She was the one who decided to make a cheap and nasty punchline out of ableism and the criticism levelled at her over her use of it. If she wants to dish it out from a position of power not allotted to her readers or those she slurs, she should be aware of the consequences. We will be keeping our eyes peeled to see if book 11 continues a tradition of casual ableism and ignorance.
Some important links.
The R Word.