I was literally just going to write a post on almost exactly the topic. I still might, but int he meantime, please read Ozy’s take on insulting people for things they can’t possibly be expected to change, and/or insulting people by comparing them to people with mental illnesses/disabilities.
I take a very firm line on insults. I think that insults are a form of social punishment, and therefore you should only insult people if the trait is (a) actually harmful and (b) something that might change in response to punishment.
So, for instance, I basically don’t think there’s a good reason to non-jokingly call someone ugly. There is nothing wrong with having a face that doesn’t fit someone else’s standards of aesthetics– prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked ‘human’– and most ugly people can’t do a hell of a lot about their appearance anyway. Don’t call people “obsessive”, because obsessiveness shouldn’t be punished; obsessive people are the reason you don’t have to light a candle when it gets dark out. And don’t mock people for having cancer, because while having cancer is bad, mockery will not make people have less cancer.
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